Tag Archives: Magazines

2015 ➤ Brace positions! Flexipop aims to drag us all back in time

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books, Glen Matlock

80s survivor: Glen Matlock, bass guitarist in the original Sex Pistols line-up, relishes Flexipop-the-book-of-the-mag

◼ THE MOST RAUCOUS OF ALL 80S POP MAGS was Flexipop, dedicated to pricking pomposity and kicking the egos of the jumped-up nobodies shrewd enough to bunk into the UK pop charts for the obligatory two singles – and an album if they had the staying power – such was the state of the geriatric music industry bequeathed by the 70s, the decade of corporate megagroups.

The unashamedly puerile Flexipop was unleashed “like an explosion in a paintball factory” by two ex-Record Mirror journalists, Tim Lott and Barry Cain, designed “by a chimp” so it claimed, and determined to put the larks back into pop, in contrast to the earnest Baudrillard-heavy NME. It ran for three years from Dec 1980 and now it’s back with revengeance as The-Book-of-the-Mag, being launched tomorrow by invitation, and for J Public at a charity bash with bands on Friday.

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books,

Now The-Book-of-the-Mag

According to the Flexipop manifesto, 35 years ago “a golden future beckoned and our hearts beat to a fusion of punk, soul, Motown, new wave, new romantic, rock’n’roll and reggae”. Its verdict on the 80s was “a haphazard, ludicrous mish mash of genius. Such a moment required a haphazard, ludicrous mish-mash of genius to reflect it all”.

Though the rest of us had rather higher standards and wrote eloquent essays in praise of the new “pure pop” that was creating world-beating British supergroups, Flexipop insisted in dragging us all down into the gutter to enjoy its unique view of the stars.

Its big draws were zany photo stories and a thin plasticky 7-inch flexi-disc featuring an exclusive track from a major chart act taped to the cover of every issue. Many of them are collector’s items today, such as Adam and the Ants doing A.N.T.S. to the tune of YMCA. Guests to the party will receive an original flexi-disc and a copy of the magazine (presumably unsolds stashed in a warehouse for three decades).

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books,

Madness songwriter Lee Thompson photographed by Neil M Matthews for Flexipop – for sale at the 2015 book launch party

➢ The big public Flexipop! book launch party starts at 7.30pm Friday 25 Sept at the Red Gallery, London EC2A 3DT. The Flexipop! photographer Neil M Matthews exhibits his iconic 80s photos, while three intrepid bands attempt to recreate the hysteria of the 80s. Tickets £20 available online and on door. The event is in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust and the National Foundation for Youth Music.

➢ The first Flexipop! book launch party is an invitation-only event at the Red Gallery on 24 Sept that will include the official launch of the book and a limited edition Flexipop! photo/poster exhibition by Neil Mackenzie Matthews.

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: When new media meant a bendy Flexipop freebie


➤ Smash Hits and other mould-breakers of the 80s

Neil Tennant ,Smash Hits, Radio 4, documentary

1983: Neil Tennant as Smash Hits writer. (Photo by Virginia Turbett)

❚ ANOTHER NICELY PACKAGED Radio 4 documentary today celebrated the crucial years 1982–85 which Neil Tennant describes as “the golden age of 80s pop”. They luckily coincided with his tenure as a writer on Smash Hits magazine before stepping into the pop charts himself as half of the Pet Shop Boys. Obviously in a prog titled Neil Tennant’s Smash Hits Christmas Tennant and his cronies were full of back-slapping at the moulds they broke with the mass-selling fan mag, driven initially by two selling points – song lyrics and pull-out pinup posters.

Smash Hits, Radio 4, documentary,Pete Murphy

1982: Peter Murphy of Bauhaus (you really don’t want to see its Christmas cover star)

Launched in Nov 1978 as a monthly title, Smash Hits trailed “The words to 18 top singles” as its key feature. The mag was the invention of former NME editor (and later founder of The Face) Nick Logan who conceived it on the kitchen table and initially toyed with the title Disco Fever, presumably in homage to that year’s horror movie Saturday Night Fever. He chose the Belgian new-wave joker Plastic Bertrand for the cover of a pilot issue in the post-punk vacuum when any new direction seemed significant, but actually launched with Blondie. Smash Hits soon went fortnightly, ran for 28 years, and died with Celebrity Big Brother’s Preston gracing its last cover in 2006. In his Guardian obituary for the mag, Alexis Petridis wrote: “The period between the rise of Adam and the Ants and the collapse of Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s ‘Hit Factory’ empire may prove to be the last truly great pop era, in that it produced not just great pop music, but great pop stars.”

Tennant ignores the fact that 80s classic pop began with the music of Spandau Ballet and Adam Ant a couple of years earlier than his joining the mag. Also unmentioned in today’s doc was that the mould-breaking writing of this era was actually led by The Face and the subcultural flagship magazine New Sounds New Styles, which gently parodied the posers of the New Romantics movement and closed in 1982 through lack of promotion by its publisher Emap, who also happened to publish Smash Hits. The fresh rebel writers of NSNS had adopted a tongue-in-cheek tone which kickstarted a shift of power away from stars and their publicists into the hands of writers themselves. Once the 80s had revived the long-dead credibility of pop music – dubbed “pure pop” in vigorous public debates – Smash Hits took its cue by adopting a knowing approach to pop journalism and providing a cheeky foil to Britain’s four seriously po-faced weekly rock-music newspapers. We cannot underestimate how its humour helped sophisticate the Smash Hits reader, pragmatically described by Tennant as “the 12-year-old girl in Grantham”. Which was a neat way of deflating his own pomposity.

Spookiest quote today came from Toyah, after remarking that the pop scene has lost the airy optimism of the 80s: “We now view fame as something dark and faintly abusive.” Oo-er.

Neil Tennant ,Smash Hits, Radio 4, documentary, Pet Shop Boys

April 1985: Tennant as cover star and Pet Shop Boy with Chris Lowe


1980 ➤ Why Face founder Nick Logan said: Publish and be Dammers

The Face, magazines, style bible, Design Museum, Nick Logan,

Five landmark issues: Without a cover-worthy photo, Nick Logan says of the New Order cover, July 1983, the radical crop was his suggestion. The “Shock report” on Thatcher’s art-school budget cuts was an epic piece of crisis reportage by yours truly. (Guardian collage)

❚ 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 the half a dozen publications that had changed the direction of journalism since the Second World War. On Dec 1 London’s Design Museum announced that it had added The Face magazine (1980-2004) to its permanent collection, among other newcomers, the Sony Walkman and the AK47 rifle.

➢ In today’s Guardian, Nick Logan, the owner and founding editor of The Face, chooses five of its landmark covers, and explains why…

Issue 1, Jerry Dammers cover, May 1980 — This was the launch issue. I knew I could find something more current for a first cover than the Specials. But they embodied everything the magazine aspired to — they had a look, a passion, and great music — so there was never an alternative. In a sentimental way too, I owed 2 Tone a debt for the inspiration to pursue the idea. And, as it was my savings at risk, I could call it what I liked — after all, The Face was to be my escape from a career where too often I struggled to explain myself to publishers or committees. No focus groups here: I was purely, wholeheartedly, following instinct.
/ continued online

➢ The Evening Standard announces the launch of
The Face in May 1980

➢ 30th anniversary of the magazine that launched a generation of stylists and style sections


2010 ➤ Robinson takes the Cowell shilling — so whose bum is on the throne at Popjustice?

X Factor, X magazine, launch, Kelly Clarkson, American Idol, Simon Cowell

From the makers of The X Factor: a new magazine, edited by the man who toyed with Kelly Clarkson like a cat with a mouse

❚ WE LOVE HIM, THEY LOATHE HIM, the worst of them. One of the most influential and passionate commentors on the pop scene appears to have jumped ship in the direction of Simon Cowell’s entertainment goldmine. Peter Robinson, the 30-something wag and one-man Girls Aloud fanclub, has made his Popjustice blog a compelling read for fans who favour his surreal version of the truth, but a gunk tank for stars who imagine there’s any such thing as an even break.

Yet this morning’s Media Guardian unequivocally describes him as “formerly” the editor of PJ, while announcing the launch of X magazine, whose own website gives him the title of Senior Editor there. Sounds like a golden-handshake welcome to X which is to be the weekly print offshoot of the Cowell TV franchise, The X Factor. A 100-page launch issue appears tomorrow to coincide with series seven of the ITV talent show, and distribution is initially through Tesco supermarkets, price £1.95, even when the show is off-air.

Peter Robinson, Popjustice, previously editor, formerly editor,Senior Editor, X magazine

"Senior Editor" of X magazine: no, not the Peter Robinson who dresses as Marilyn, the other Peter Robinson

A “surprising” level of access to contestants is promised, though Robinson is reported to have feared that X would be “pretty much a glorified fan magazine”. The big cheese at its publisher, Haymarket Media Group, convinced him that the owners were happy for X to “not always toe the party line”. Some might think this a risky ploy. Is the cheese actually familiar with the Robinson technique? Does the cheese know how often his notoriously cringe-making interviews must have turned a star to jelly? In fact, has the cheese read the all-time car-crash sofa-chat Robinson conducted with American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson? In which he provoked her to confess: “I’m not a man and I don’t claim to be.”

There hasn’t been a decent mag purely about pop since the upstart Smash Hits doled out respect and ridicule in equal measure. It ran for almost three decades as a fortnightly, shuffling off-stage only in 2006. Channel 4’s Popworld spin-off died after two issues in 2007. Nevertheless, according to another Haymarket cheese, women’s weeklies are reckoned to be on “vibrant” form, and Robinson is talking up his new title: “Our editorial team is the strongest of any British pop magazine in almost 20 years and this certainly feels like the biggest pop magazine launch in Justin Bieber’s lifetime.”

Robinson was working as a freelance in 2000 when, for the love of it, he founded Popjustice as a music site with attitude. He has overseen its successful monetisation in cahoots with w00tmedia, and bolted on a record label called Popjustice Hi-Fi. The Times reckons PR is one of the music industry’s Top 20 star makers while The Observer rated Popjustice the world’s most powerful music blog. So has he truly relinquished the crown after 10 years? No, of course not! What? Give up the most powerful throne in pop? That was just “a mistake/assumption on Media Guardian’s part” PR assures us. Not for nothing have hacks long dubbed it the good old “Grauniad”! So rest assured that a familiar bum stills sits in the PJ hotseat, while steering the pop universe with his left hand.