Power brokers of the fourth estate
In the vanguard: The monthly magazine The Face celebrated Britain’s move away from traditional adult-oriented rock music during the 80s, while in its template as a fanzine i-D elevated Britain’s inventive street style to world-class status … Not forgetting Flexipop and a cuckoo-in-the-nest magazine that stole the name Blitz without even noticing the context in which everybody else was using it! … Plus that awkward television show out of Oxford Road, Manchester, and another from the pop powerhouse of the North, Tyne-Tees, plus the posh chappie with the plummy voice from Harpers & Queen – we’ll get round to them all soon. First: the cool glossy magazine that all mainstream media were aping before the decade was out …
In 1980, a respected ex-editor of NME staked his house on launching a new magazine that was to make style the focus of youth culture, as much as music. The Face was quickly dubbed Britain’s “style bible” and soon ranked among only half a dozen publications that had changed the direction of journalism since the Second World War. It had an impact not only on the pop press, but the mainstream media too which spawned style pages and “yoof” TV shows. Yet that May, Logan placed his faith in Jerry Dammers to launch his oracle…
First published in the Evening Standard May 1, 1980
❚ NICK LOGAN IS EITHER A MAVERICK or a masochist, depending on your view of the music business as a meat grinder. Now 33, Logan spent 10 years as writer with New Musical Express and then, as its editor, declared war on the rock-star-as-god convention with a pithy new style of pop journalism.
This week Logan makes his debut as a publisher, launching The Face, an impressive kind of new-wave Life magazine for 16-to-25-year-olds. It bears the healthy stamp of someone who do does not see the pop press as another wheel in the publicity machine.
“I’m looking for the kids who participate in the music scene,” says Logan. “The ones who have a good time rather than just sit at home listening to the hifi. I’m a fan and I know the excitement of being caught up with something new.” Like a junkie craving a fix, he adds: “I need a magazine.”
The rock world desperately needs the likes of Logan, experienced enough to be cynical, yet totally receptive to what’s new. With radio stations constipated by cosy playlists and deejays so uninformed they are babes at the hands of pluggers, it’s still down to the feuding music publications to pursue new trends and break them.
And if the names featured in the first issue of The Face are familiar copper-bottomed sellers, they’re very now: John Lydon “at home”, Jerry Dammers of the Specials admitting that Two-Tone has become almost a cliché, Ian Dury reviewing Wertheimer’s recent Elvis photobook.
The writing is mercifully articulate, Logan having recruited from his earlier days writers like Adrian Thrills, Tony Parsons and Julie Birchill. And the photo-spreads are sure to become a talking point – like the anti-fashion feature titled “You’re not going out dressed like that”.
“I enjoy having my finger right on the pulse,” Logan says. “It’s so easy to lose touch. I remember when I started at NME, the Monkees were on every cover and a feature would mean interviewing Davy Jones’s butler. I hated them. Everyone was waiting for something else to come along. It was up to every writer to find his own bands to write about but there was such a lull. Then I got caught up with people like Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and Marc Bolan. They were the underground then. After I became editor in ’73 we went through that dull period when the charts were ruled by all those tax exiles but punk proved enjoyable.”
In the past 13 months Logan has notched sales of 200,000-plus with his fortnightly Smash Hits largely by printing chart-hit lyrics. The print order for The Face, although monthly, sounds all too tentative at 75,000.
Logan says: “I am determined to do the kind of music I like whatever marketing people say. When punk went out people were still fascinated by it. I’d jack it in if readers wanted more Abba. What The Face does is combine racy copy with a lot of photography – people do underestimate the power of good pictures. I’m still following my own feelings and I’ve put the Specials on the cover because they’ve given me a lot of pleasure over the past year. It’s groups like them who inspire me to sweat out a magazine.”
© Robin Katz, contributor to On The Line
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This was the mantra declaimed
in issue one by Caroline Baker,
original fashion editor.
It was to reverberate down through the rest of the 1980s…
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1980 ➤ New Sounds New Styles, the New Romantic playpen
➢ CLICK – The crucial forecasts New Sounds New Styles canvassed from the Romantics in 1981
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1980 ➤ When new media meant a bendy Flexipop freebie
On Dec 2, 1980 a new music magazine appeared called Flexipop! It was invented by music journalists Tim Lott at the age of 24, along with his business partner at the time, Barry Cain. Even after a year of the New Romantic sounds, here was another new title that thought the 2-Tone label was the saviour of British pop. Even so, Flexipop! lasted three years and 32 issues. Here’s Lott celebrating the mag’s prescience in the Guardian in 2010…
❚ IN SOME WAYS IT WAS A BAD MAGAZINE. The design looked as if it had been executed by a chimp. The paper quality was poor and the contents were puerile. However, it had one characteristic that made it stand apart from all the other pop music magazines of that time – something that made it prophetic. Aware that it needed a gimmick to sell itself in a time of intense competition, the magazine gave away a free gift with every issue – a flimsy, coloured 7in record printed on plastic, called a flexidisc. Thus, Flexipop! was born.
That first issue had an exclusive track by the Selecter, then at the vanguard of the 2-Tone movement. It later featured artists such as Adam and the Ants, the Jam and the Boomtown Rats… Flexipop!’s innovation [was to represent] the first reaction against the previous decade of music reportage, dominated by the NME, which were ultra-serious, almost sociological organs. Writers such as Paul Morley and Ian Penman would rarely get through 500 words without mentioning Baudrillard, Rimbaud or postmodern theory. Photos were grey, the attitude was deadly serious. Barry and I believed that pop music should be fun again…
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1981 ➤ Over four years, TV’s Oxford Road Show lapped up many a New Romantic band
Launched Jan 16, 1981, presented by Jackie Spreckley and others, it aired on Fridays on BBC2 until Mar 29, 1985. Early new bands who played included Blue Rondo a la Turk, The Cure, Duran Duran, Simple Minds, Spandau Ballet and The Smiths.
➢ VIEW ♫ ♫ Fine Northern Soul footwork from Rondo mentalists performing Klacto Vee Sedstein in this live TV performance on ORS :
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2013 ➤ Flipside of the 80s fashion revolution
One former Blitz Kid set out this year finally to provide a long-needed corrective to the version of 80s cultural history mainly dominated by the pop music wheelerdealers. Iain R Webb is the St Martin’s graduate who went on to become the savviest fashion editor in the mainstream national press, but first proved his mettle by hijacking a moribund magazine which by chance had picked itself the right name.
As Seen in BLITZ, Fashioning 80s Style, is his book documenting his own distinctive take on the decade of egotism as he blazed a five-year trail while marshalling in his maverick pages a Who’s Who of the fashion shapers of the 80s, all of whom put London Fashion Week on the international agenda.
OTHER MEDIA TALES YET TO COME…
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