Harry Evans “on the stone”: pictured by Sally Soames in the days of hot metal production at The Sunday Times
❚ SIR HAROLD EVANS, who has died aged 92 and known to all as Harry, was not only a legendary crusader for investigative journalism but, along with Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post, one of the two greatest newspaper editors of modern times. Crucially he embodied the editor as a lightning rod through which a savvy team can channel their expertise.
I have personal reasons to be grateful to him after seeking a job interview when badly needing a change of direction in 1978. At his office at The Sunday Times in Gray’s Inn Road Harry was armed with a checklist of newspaper know-how on his clipboard which I seemed to be ticking copiously as an all-rounder used to multi-tasking on a variety of projects in print. (Most people in this business tended to do one thing only: Columnist, or Reporter, or Commissioning editor, or Designer etc.) So eventually he asked: “What exactly is it that you do?” – “A bit of everything,” said I. – “Ah,” he replied, “you do what I do.” – “Do I?” (deeply flattered). – “Yes, you’ve got the impresario skills – able to execute every stage from bright idea through to printed page.” Well that put a spring in my step and from there on, my career flew!
Visual flair was an ingredient as important to Harry as the words themselves – wisdom he spelt out in five definitive manuals published in the 1970s under the series title of Editing and Design. Here he shared with the rest of Fleet Street how his dramatic impresario skills were key to defining the rigour and astuteness which quality journalism demanded in each of its presentational crafts: Newsman’s English, Newspaper Text, News Headlines, Pictures on a Page, and Newspaper Design.
Easily the best account of journalism’s cut-and-thrust is his 1983 book Good Times Bad Times which nails the pitiless manners and mores of British newspaper execs and the proprietors they serve. Written in anger after his falling-out with Rupert Murdoch, it also reads like a racy thriller.
➢ Tony Allen-Mills in The Sunday Times on the man
who changed the way we tell the news
➢ Columnist Hunter Davies on “the best journalist
I ever came across”
➢ Observer editorial on the formidable career and
legacy of Sir Harold Evans – plus Donald Trelford’s
personal tribute to his “rival without peer”
➢ The master craftsman – obituary in the Financial Times
by Lionel Barber, its editor for 15 years
➢ The most admired newspaper editor of his generation –
obituary by Godfrey Hodgson in the Guardian
➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2012, Sir Harold’s memories of Fleet Street:
cut and thrust, or be cut dead
❚ ON THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY of The Sunday Times publishing its encyclopedic Abba-to-Zappa partwork, 1000 Makers of Music, let’s recall the first pop biography in its 1,000 music-makers. The Swedish four-piece Abba won the Eurovision contest in 1974 with their Waterloo wall of sound, not to mention instant celebrity for their self-selected kitsch costumes from the age before stylists had been invented. We’ve dug out from the vaults my assessment of Abba to remind us how these deeply embarrassing Scandinavians went on to transform their reputation from cheesemakers to the most ironic definition of Pure-Popsters!
Within a decade Abba were utterly rehabilitated in the UK by London’s subcultural opinion formers. Most memorably, Shapersofthe80s witnessed (sadly without a camera to hand) an immaculate recreation of Abba’s Dancing Queen video by clubland’s coolest Blitz Kids cutting the rug at designer Fiona Dealey’s 1983 birthday party. Spontaneously, movers and shapers such as Dylan Jones not only fell into dance formation but knew all the words, plus Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s hand moves too! It was, in that frozen moment of time, a shockingly unbelievable sight. It marked the birth of a much-loved cult.
1000 Makers of Music: six-week partwork from The Sunday Times
FROM 1000 MAKERS OF MUSIC, MAY 1997:
Abba – Swedish, 1973-82, vocal group
As cheesy now as when they won the 1974 Eurovision song contest singing Waterloo, Abba embody a perennial contradiction: you may make the quintessential pop music of the decade but you must remain for ever a bad joke if that era proves as tasteless as the 1970s. Abba’s lovingly coupled foursome – the acme of glitz in their satins and flares – were derided because Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, as journeymen songsmiths, wrote singalong melodies epitomising Europe’s dreaded folkloric tradition. Worse, their sentimental lyrics about love and money – in English – nauseated purists who preferred Anglo-American guitar heroes who mouthed youthful dissent.
Yet Abba scored eight consecutive No 1 albums in Britain and 25 Top 40 singles so catchy that everybody can hum one. In 1992 Abba’s hits were revived ironically by Erasure and ingenuously by a tribute band called Björn Again. Today Abba enjoy cult status in Britain as new generations, numbed by the joylessness of techno and talent contests, recycle yesteryear’s kitsch to discover ecstasy in pure pop.
❏ Keywork: Knowing Me, Knowing You (1977)
MORE PURE-POP AT SHAPERS OF THE 80S:
➢ Kylie dazzles London with laser-love
➢ Wise words for Only The Young from PJ (he’s The Daddy)
➢ My pantry, my memoir – ‘Scoop’ Simper relives the flamboyant decadent 80s
➢ 1000 Makers of Music; Steve Dagger on Duran Duran
➢ 1000 Makers of Music: Robert Craft on Stravinsky
➢ 1000 Makers of Music: John Peel on Smith and The Fall
Posted in Clubbing, dance music, Fashion, History, London, New Romantics, Pop music, pure-pop, Swinging 80s, Tipping points, Youth culture
Tagged 1000 Makers of Music, Abba, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Blitz Kids, Eurovision, Sunday Times