Remember Smash Hits Magazine…?

Smash hits cover ian dury.png

Let’s compare Smash Hits to its modern day equivalent……

It’s very tempting to look at how things were with either misty-eyed nostalgia, or like one of the Four Yorkshiremen in that Monty Python sketch (“Luxury! Kids today don’t know they’re born!”) One thing that appears to have been much better in the eighties is the pop music magazines, at least if a comparison of the ones I glanced over today in WH Smith (We Heart Pop and Shout! Magazine) is anything to go by.

We Heart Pop

This week, We Heart Pop leads with an Ariana interview (no, me neither) entitled “Fans, Fears and Fairly Odd Parents” whilst on the back page “Cher takes our Diva Test” referred to X-Factor’s Cher Lloyd rather than the other, more famous, one. Free sweets, make up set and One Direction Activity book complete the package aimed squarely at nine year olds.

Shout magazine

In the meantime, Shout! aims at teens, and tries to create the OK! Magazine readers of the future with celebrity tittle tattle including such gems as “Has Kylie Become The Coolest Kardashian?”, promises a “Katy Perry Dating Tip” which is presumably “Don’t marry someone hairy and British”, plus “tips on how to look like your favourite celebrities”, including having Riri’s (Rhiana’s) nails, Cheryl (Tweedy / Cole / whatever her name is now)’s hair, Mich’s (no, not a clue) tan and Taylor’s (Swift, not John, Andy or Roger’s) lips.

It’s tempting to believe the end result might be The Gruffalo…

The reason I can say these magazines won’t match up to those eighties pop mags with confidence is that all those years ago we had Smash Hits.

Smash Hits Magazine first launched in the UK in 1978 as a monthly title, and quickly established itself as the UK’s leading pop magazine, away from the indie sensibilities of Record Mirror, Sounds and NME. It was funny, but took its subject seriously, and it’s influence on pop writing is immeasurable.

Recently, I found a 35 year old issue of Smash Hits. It’s a little time capsule to August 1979. Here are the highlights:

1. Steve Wright Announces Himself To The World. (From Luxembourg).

“Hi, I’m Steve Wright, the newest jockey at Radio Luxembourg – and also the ugliest” he says, ignoring many others no doubt. Under the heading “Steve Wright’s Disco Pick”, Wright declares his love of Cher’s “Wasn’t It Good” as 3 minutes 50 seconds of sheer ecstacy. “My only criticism is that it isn’t long enough” he states with incisive wisdom.

2. An advert:

“Boots cut singles to 79p”. Yup, it appears that Boots the chemist used to sell records. I don’t remember this…. The normal price was 89p – this was a 10p off discount for a limited time.

Smash hits boots record advert.png

3. News:

The Specials played the Electric Ballroom which “blocked traffic” in Camden. They have a new single coming out called “Too Much Too Young” and great things are expected from another 2 Tone band: the label’s second release will be “a tribute to bluebeat legend Prince Buster” and will be by “a London group” called Madness…

Silly name for a band – I don’t suppose they’ll do anything.

4. Gary Numan is still single.

Smash Hits specifically states “there’s no news of a Gary Numan fan club yet”, meaning Numan has yet to meet his future wife….*

Smash hits advert radio cassette recorder 80's eighties.png

5. John Travolta Already on the Skids.

Travolta’s record company are complaining his album is overdue whilst his “new film has been hammered by the critics, (and) his last two UK singles flopped”.

  1. Ian Durie Is Great

Scribe David Hepworth (previously an Old Grey Whistle Test presenter and later the man behind The Word Magazine) writes a two-page feature and gets some great quotes, including Durie stating “I’ve always thought that “All The Way From Memphis” would have been a lot better if it had been “All The Way From Watford”. I think if Ian Hunter had writing about Watford since Mott The Hoople started then… I think we’d love him more”.

Smash hits in duty David hepworth.png

  1. Eclectic Album Reviews

Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps gets 8/10, whereas the B-52s debut “gets tiresome very quickly” and 5/10. Also reviewed: Atlantic Starr, The Knack, Deniece Williams and The Korgis…

I’m trying to imagine a world where “We Heart Pop” reviews a Neil Young album…

  1. The Letters Page Rules

I remember the letters page always being fun in Smash Hits. This doesn’t disappoint.

There’s a letter from the Queen (well, it is signed “Your supreme ruler, Liz” so I assume it is she) which reads “Listen you morons! I want a colour spread of Gary Numan / Tubeway Army”.

There’s also one from Karen and Andrea in Weston Super Mare wanting to tell people that “punks / punkettes can be posh and polite”. Karen and Andrea then sign off by saying rather confusingly “About us being posh is a load of crap, we are very middle class”.

Very classy. At least we can say that’s cleared that up then…

  1. Posters for the Wall.

Some things remain popular, and Smash Hits came with posters – he may not be as cool as The Vamps (the poster in “We Heart Pop”) but there’s one of a Mr David Bowie here in full Thin White Duke mode. At least he’s not described as the coolest Kardashian…

Smash Hits David Bowie Poster.png

Interestingly, Smash Hits didn’t come with a free “How to dress like a Punk” kit or describe the best ways to resemble Adam and the Ants. Funnily enough, kids still dressed like their idols anyway.

One thing is for sure, I don’t think “We Heart Pop” will be as good a read as Smash Hits still is, some thirty five years later…but maybe I’m just showing my age.

* Numan married a member of his fan club in 1997



Categories: Music

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7 replies

  1. In the 80s we had Hit Parader which should have been called Motley Crue magazine because there would be an article about them in every issue.

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  2. Smash Hits was also often very well designed. Luckily I had a younger sister so could sneak a look at her copy each week! I think a lot of them are still in my loft. But I do recall buying the Smash Hits “annual” a couple of times (it was a softback affair) as it simply looked brilliant. And of course Boots sold singles. And albums, and all associated stuff to keep your records safe (plastic LP covers, liners, brown card polylined singles bags, etc.). These days of course the Boots shops look like jumble sales inside, why anyone would even go in is beyond me…

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  3. I just found an old Hit Parader in the basement with Jon Bon Jovi on the cover. Though I am American, I remember Smash Hits due to being acutely sensitive to the fact that I was missing out on all the Duran Duran issues, plus I lived for a while in the UK. One thing that I’ve noticed about following pop music these days is that it seems even less about the music and more about “lifestyle” sorts of things, just like the music seems less genuine and more manufactured. I guess that’s what happens when only a few share-holder-beholden corporations own most of the contracts with artists.

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  4. Great post. From the hundreds of issues I bought as a teen in the eighties I only held onto one – the Live Aid issue (“He Did It!”) – which also contains a review of The Cure’s In Between Days.

    I think you’ll find that this site was why the internet was invented. It’ll keep you busy for a while:

    http://www.likepunkneverhappened.blogspot.co.uk

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