Melody Maker

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Melody Maker
MM logo.jpg
FrequencyWeekly
First issueJanuary 1926 [1]
Final issueDecember 2000
Company IPC Media
CountryUnited Kingdom
Based in London, England
LanguageEnglish
ISSN 0025-9012

Melody Maker was a British weekly music magazine, one of the world's earliest music weeklies, and—according to its publisher IPC Media—the earliest. [2] It was founded in 1926, largely as a magazine for dance band musicians, [3] by Leicester-born composer, publisher Lawrence Wright; the first editor was Edgar Jackson. [4] [5] In 2000 it was merged into "long-standing rival" [2] (and IPC Media sister publication) New Musical Express .

Music journalism journalism genre

Music journalism is media criticism and reporting about music topics, including popular music, classical music and traditional music. Journalists began writing about music in the eighteenth century, providing commentary on what is now regarded as classical music. In the 1960s, music journalism began more prominently covering popular music like rock and pop after the breakthrough of The Beatles. With the rise of the internet in the 2000s, music criticism developed an increasingly large online presence with music bloggers, aspiring music critics, and established critics supplementing print media online. Music journalism today includes reviews of songs, albums and live concerts, profiles of recording artists, and reporting of artist news and music events.

Lawrence Wright was a British popular music composer and publisher. He was born in Leicester and opened a music shop in the city in 1906. A short time later his first song, "Down By The Stream", was published, and by 1912 he had established the Lawrence Wright Music Co in Denmark Street, London. Wright went on to write over 600 songs under his own name and as Horatio Nicholls, including the World War I propaganda song "Are We Downhearted? No!", and would receive an Ivor Novello Award in 1962 for Outstanding Contribution to British Popular Music. He was one of the very rare composers of popular music in this period to make a substantial amount of money - it had not been unusual to see composers who had written dozens of hits die in poverty.

Contents

1950s–1960s

Melody Maker (7 September 1968 issue) Melody-Maker-7-September-1968.jpg
Melody Maker (7 September 1968 issue)

Originally the Melody Maker (MM) concentrated on jazz, and had Max Jones, one of the leading British proselytizers for that music, on its staff for many years. It was slow to cover rock and roll and lost ground to the New Musical Express (NME), which had begun in 1952. MM launched its own weekly singles chart (a top 20) on 7 April 1956, [6] and an LPs charts in November 1958, two years after the Record Mirror had published the first UK Albums Chart. [7] From 1964, the paper led its rival publications in terms of approaching music and musicians as a subject for serious study rather than merely entertainment. Staff reporters such as Chris Welch and Ray Coleman applied a perspective previously reserved for jazz artists to the rise of American-influenced local rock and pop groups, anticipating the advent of music criticism. [8]

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Ronald Maxwell "Max" Jones was a British jazz author, radio host and journalist.

Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s from musical styles such as gospel, jump blues, jazz, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues, along with country music. While elements of what was to become rock and roll can be heard in blues records from the 1920s and in country records of the 1930s, the genre did not acquire its name until 1954.

On 6 March 1965, MM called for the Beatles to be honoured by the British state. This duly happened on 12 June that year, when all four members of the group (Harrison, [9] Lennon, McCartney, [10] and Starr [11] ) were appointed as members of the Order of the British Empire. By the late 1960s, MM had recovered, targeting an older market than the teen-oriented NME. MM had larger and more specialised advertising; soon-to-be well-known groups would advertise for musicians. It ran pages devoted to "minority" interests like folk and jazz, as well as detailed reviews of musical instruments.

The Beatles English rock band

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. The line-up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr led them to be regarded as the most influential band of all time. With a sound rooted in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock and roll, the group were integral to the evolution of pop music into an art form, and to the development of the counterculture of the 1960s. They often incorporated elements of classical music, older pop, and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways, and they experimented with a number of musical styles in later years, ranging from pop ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock. As they continued to draw influences from a variety of cultural sources, their musical and lyrical sophistication grew, and they came to be seen as embodying the era's socio-cultural movements.

Folk music Music of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.

A 1968 Melody Maker poll named John Peel best radio DJ, attention which John Walters said may have helped Peel keep his job despite concerns at BBC Radio 1 about Peel's style and record selection. [12]

John Peel English disc jockey, radio presenter, record producer and journalist

John Robert Parker Ravenscroft,, known professionally as John Peel, was an English disc jockey, radio presenter, record producer and journalist. He was the longest serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, broadcasting regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004.

John Walters (broadcaster) British radio producer

John Walters was a British radio producer, presenter and musician. Initially a schoolteacher and a jazz enthusiast, he played trumpet in The Mighty Joe Young Jazz Men and the 1960s pop group The Alan Price Set before joining BBC Radio 1 in 1967, where he was John Peel's producer from 1969 to 1991.

BBC Radio 1 British national radio station

BBC Radio 1 is one of the BBC's two flagship radio stations, specialising in modern popular music and current chart hits throughout the day. Radio 1 provides alternative genres after 7 pm, including electronica, dance, hip hop, rock and indie. The choice of music and presenting style is entirely that of programme hosts, however those who present in the daytime have to rotate a number of songs a specific number of times per week. It was launched in 1967 to meet the demand for music generated by pirate radio stations, when the average age of the UK population was 27. The BBC claim that they target the 15–29 age group, and the average age of its UK audience since 2009 is 30. BBC Radio 1 started 24-hour broadcasting on 1 May 1991.

1970s

Starting from the mid-60s, critics such as Welch, Richard Williams, Michael Watts, and Steve Lake were among the first British journalists to write seriously about popular music, shedding an intellectual light on such artists as Steely Dan, Cat Stevens, Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd and Henry Cow.

Richard Williams is a British music and sports journalist.

Michael Watts (journalist) British journalist and broadcaster

Michael Watts was a British journalist and broadcaster best known for his ‘Inspector Watts’ column in the Sunday Express and other publications, which ran for over 35 years. He is not to be confused with another journalist of the same name, who was the US editor of Melody Maker for much of the 1970s.

Steely Dan American rock band

Steely Dan is an American rock band founded in 1972 by core members Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. Blending rock, jazz, traditional pop, R&B, and sophisticated studio production with cryptic and ironic lyrics, the band enjoyed critical and commercial success starting from the early 1970s until breaking up in 1981. Throughout their career, the duo recorded with a revolving cast of session musicians, and in 1974 retired from live performances to become a studio-only band. Rolling Stone has called them "the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies".

By the early 1970s, Melody Maker was considered "the musos' journal" and associated with progressive rock. But Melody Maker also reported on teenybopper pop sensations like The Osmonds, the Jackson 5, and David Cassidy. The music weekly also gave early and sympathetic coverage to glam rock. Richard Williams wrote the first pieces about Roxy Music, while Roy Hollingworth wrote the first article celebrating New York Dolls in proto-punk terms while serving as the Melody Maker's New York correspondent. In January 1972, Michael "Mick" Watts, a prominent writer for the paper, [13] wrote a profile of David Bowie that almost singlehandedly ignited the singer's dormant career. [14] During the interview Bowie claimed, "I'm gay, and always have been, even when I was David Jones." [15] "OH YOU PRETTY THING" ran the headline, and swiftly became part of pop mythology. Bowie later attributed his success to this interview, stating that, "Yeah, it was Melody Maker that made me. It was that piece by Mick Watts." [16] During his tenure at the paper, Watts also toured with and interviewed artists including Syd Barrett, Waylon Jennings, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

The Osmonds American family singing group

The Osmonds are an American family music group who reached the height of their fame in the early-1970s. The group consists of siblings who are all members of the Osmond family, a family of musicians from Ogden, Utah, who have been in the public eye since the 1960s.

The Jackson 5 American pop music family group

The Jackson 5, later known as the Jacksons, were an American pop band composed of members of the Jackson family. The group was founded in 1964 in Gary, Indiana by brothers Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine, with younger brothers Marlon and Michael Jackson joining soon after. They were among the first black American performers to attain a crossover following, preceded by the Supremes, the Four Tops, and the Temptations.

David Cassidy American actor and musician

David Bruce Cassidy was an American actor, singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He was known for his role as Keith Partridge, the son of Shirley Partridge, in the 1970s musical-sitcom The Partridge Family. This role catapulted Cassidy to teen idol status as a superstar pop singer of the 1970s.

Caroline Coon was headhunted by Melody Maker editor Ray Coleman in the mid-1970s and promptly made it her mission to get women musicians taken seriously. Between 1974 and 1976 she interviewed Maggie Bell, Joan Armatrading, Lynsey de Paul and Twiggy. She then went on to make it her mission to promote punk rock. [17]

In 1978, Richard Williams returned - after a stint working at Island Records - to the paper as the new editor and attempted to take Melody Maker in a new direction, influenced by what Paul Morley and Ian Penman were doing at NME. He recruited Jon Savage (formerly of Sounds), Chris Bohn and Mary Harron to provide intellectual coverage of post-punk bands like Gang of Four, Pere Ubu and Joy Division and of new wave in general. Vivien Goldman, previously at NME and Sounds, gave the paper much improved coverage of reggae and soul music, restoring the superior coverage of those genres that the paper had in the early 1970s. Despite this promise of a new direction for the paper, internal tension developed, principally between Williams and Coleman, by this time editor-in-chief, who wanted the paper to stick to the more "conservative rock" music it had continued to support during the punk era. Coleman had been insistent that the paper should "look like The Daily Telegraph " (renowned for its old-fashioned design), but Williams wanted the paper to look more contemporary. He commissioned an updated design, but this was rejected by Coleman.

1980s

Melody Maker redesigned as MM MM-Melody-Maker.jpg
Melody Maker redesigned as MM

In 1980, after a strike which had taken the paper (along with NME) out of publication for a period, Williams left MM. Coleman promoted Michael Oldfield from the design staff to day-to-day editor, and, for a while, took it back where it had been, with news of a line-up change in Jethro Tull replacing features about Andy Warhol, Gang of Four and Factory Records on the cover. Several journalists, such as Chris Bohn and Vivien Goldman, moved to NME, while Jon Savage joined the new magazine The Face . Coleman left in 1981, the paper's design was updated, but sales and prestige were at a low ebb through the early 1980s, with NME dominant.

By 1983, the magazine had become more populist and pop-oriented, exemplified by its modish "MM" masthead, regular covers for the likes of Duran Duran and its choice of Eurythmics' Touch as the best album of the year. Things were to change, however. In February 1984, Allan Jones, a staff writer on the paper since 1974, was appointed editor: defying instructions to put Kajagoogoo on the cover, he led the magazine with an article on up-and-coming band The Smiths.

In 1986, MM was invigorated by the arrival of a group of journalists, including Simon Reynolds and David Stubbs, who had run a music fanzine called Monitor from the University of Oxford, and Chris Roberts, from Sounds , who established MM as more individualistic and intellectual. This was especially true after the hip-hop wars at NME, a schism between enthusiasts of progressive black music such as Public Enemy and Mantronix and fans of traditional white rock – ended in a victory for the latter, the departure of writers such as Mark Sinker and Biba Kopf (as Chris Bohn was now calling himself), and the rise of Andrew Collins and Stuart Maconie, who pushed NME in a more populist direction.

1990s

Melody Maker (21 August 1993) Melody-Maker-21-August-1993.jpg
Melody Maker (21 August 1993)

While MM continued to devote most space to rock and indie music (notably Everett True's coverage of the emerging grunge scene in Seattle), it covered house, hip hop, post rock, rave and trip hop. Two of the paper's writers, Push and Ben Turner, went on to launch IPC Media's monthly dance music magazine Muzik . Even in the mid-1990s, when Britpop brought a new generation of readers to the music press, it remained less populist than its rivals, with younger writers such as Simon Price and Taylor Parkes continuing the 1980s tradition of iconoclasm and opinionated criticism. The paper printed harsh criticism of Ocean Colour Scene and Kula Shaker, and allowed dissenting views on Oasis and Blur at a time when they were praised by the rest of the press.[ citation needed ]

In 1993, they gave a French rock band called Darlin' a negative review calling them "a daft punky thrash".[ citation needed ] Darlin' eventually became the electronic music duo Daft Punk.

Australian journalist Andrew Mueller joined MM in 1990 and became Reviews Editor between 1991 and 1993, eventually declining to become Features Editor and leaving the magazine in 1993. He then went on to join NME under his former boss Steve Sutherland (who had left MM in 1992). [18]

The magazine retained its large classified ads section, and remained the first call for musicians wanting to form a band. Suede formed through ads placed in the paper. MM also continued to publish reviews of musical equipment and readers' demo tapes -though these often had little in common stylistically with the rest of the paper- ensuring sales to jobbing musicians who would otherwise have little interest in the music press.

In early 1997, Allan Jones left to edit Uncut . He was replaced by Mark Sutherland, formerly of NME and Smash Hits , who thus "fulfilled [his] boyhood dream" [19] and stayed on to edit the magazine for three years. Many long-standing writers left, often moving to Uncut, with Simon Price departing allegedly because he objected to an edict that coverage of Oasis should be positive. Its sales, which had already been substantially lower than those of the NME, entered a serious decline.[ citation needed ]

In 1999, MM relaunched as a glossy magazine, but the new design did not help. The magazine closed the following year, merging into IPC Media's other music magazine, NME , which took on some of its journalists and music reviewers.

Bands using MM adverts

Advertisements in Melody Maker helped assemble the line-ups of a number of major bands, including:

See also

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