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10 years is a long time.
Almost an eternity in pop music.
10 years ago exactly…Kylie was Number 1 in the singles AND album charts and taking over the world (with CGYOOMH & Fever)…Aaliyah was being mourned…Destiny’s Child were too Bootylicious…Steps were about to split-up…Westlife were showing no signs of following suit…and a certain Stefanie Germanotta and Robyn Fenty were 15 years and 13 years old respectively (Lady Gaga and Rihanna to you and me)…crumbs!
On the way home last week I saw an advert for a brand new magazine called ‘We Love Pop’ on the back of a bus…I wondered if it was the first in the way of such a magazine since Smash Hits’ demise in 2006.
Starting in 1978, Smash Hits was a music magazine aimed for teens. But unlike any I can think of nowadays, it was lauded by kids and grown-ups alike. Like NME & Melody Maker aimed for adults, it was a powerhouse of great journalism and was seen as one of the ‘movers and shakers’ of the music industry. Alongside asking about ‘favourite colours’ or ‘best pizza topping’, it pulled no punches in getting down to the nitigriti, searching for the truth behind musical influences, personal experiences, in-band rifts, artist rivalries and much much more. Even surveying readers’ lifestyles including sex and alcohol.
In it’s heyday it sold millions, and along with the Top Of The Pops music show it was seen as vital in breaking new singers. Previous featured editors and journalists include Nick Logan, the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, Mark Ellen, Alex Kadis, Sylvia Patterson, Miranda Sawyer, Mark Frith, Kate Thornton, Lisa Smosarski & the recently deceased Tom Hibbert to name quite a few. AND not forgetting the most appealing aspect besides the free stickers or gifts often attached…much sought after song lyrics!!! And all for 70p!!! (Yes, I know, £0.70!?!?)
I started buying Smash Hits in 1993 when I fell in love with Take That and (especially!) Jason Orange…and then couldn’t be bothered to buy anymore at the ripe old age of 20. Every 2 weeks I’d eagerly buy the latest issue, soaking up the interviews, chart analysis, music reviews and the unique humour Smash Hits injected. I was hooked. Inbetween homework, coursework and the troubles of teen life it was a welcome lifeline to the music world in the days before the internet, reading all about my favourite popstars. Reading it, I could be a popstar!
So I simply had to dig out my old collection for a trip down memory lane!
7-20 JULY 1993 : TAKE THAT
I never liked boybands, but the only one I totally did was Take That. Perhaps puberty or just Jason Orange, all I remember is one day suddenly being obsessed…I had to know everything about them and my beloved! In this issue Alex Kadis joins them in an earlier promotional trip to try and crack the States and interviews them along the way. Not being famous over there they have a hectic workload, but being anonymous there’s time for plenty of tomfoolery. HIGHLIGHT: Reading about their chemistry and Gary being highly keen on how much all the big houses cost and on renovating, and practicing keyboard before bed…that’s Gary!
27 APR-10 MAY : KURT COBAIN R.I.P.
The world was in shock to hear of Nirvana’s lead singer’s death, with Smash Hits not shying away from reporting ‘he committed suicide by blowing his head off with a shotgun’. It published that he was ‘painfully shy and his inability to cope with fame led to problems with heroin and depression. But millions of fans ‘will remember him as a great singer, guitarist and songwriter.’ The suicide note left for his wife Courtney Love and their two-year old daughter Frances Bean ended ‘”I love you, I love you”‘.
31 AUG-13 SEPT : KYLIE’S POST-SAW COMEBACK
I’ve loved Kylie since Neighbours and before she became a legend. Her first release since leaving PWL records and the pop producers Stock, Aitken & Waterman was HUGELY anticipated. By that time she was well and truly a huge gay icon but I was clueless, but discovered this shortly after. Here she talks about her new music, about finally being seen as ‘cool’, movies and men…the interviewer notes something that is often famously said, Kylie is very guarded in revealing information. But also that she looks stunning and is a pop force to be reckoned with. HIGHLIGHT: Being bored stiff with Madonna comparisons, hanging out with Prince, and snogging Lemonheads hottie Evan Dando. Plus THAT eyebrow and her hearty ‘infectious guffaw’! P.S. The comeback, Confide In Me, is one of my favourite songs EVER.
24 MAY-6 JUNE 1995 : MICHAEL JACKSON’S POST-ABUSE CONTROVERSY COMEBACK
Friend and journalist Adrian Grant details the goings-on since Jan 1994, dealing with the sexual abuse allegations by Jordy Chandler, it’s impact, marrying Lisa Marie Presley and releasing new album HIStory. HIGHLIGHT: He talks of his hurt about the allegations, his love for his fans, new songs, and enquiring about blue hair extensions in London…!
21 JUNE-4 JULY 1995 : DEUCE
Favourite band during my GCSEs. Pure dance-pop with Kelly O’Keefe (now owns a restaurant in West Hampstead), Lisa Armstrong (now Mrs Ant McPartlin), Craig Young (varying success in the States) & Paul Holmes (did songwriting for a while). Kelly was hot. Lady Gaga-esque imagery. Yes I am cringing a little. Better than Steps though.
2-15 AUG 1995 : ROBBIE LEAVES / (WAS SACKED FROM) TAKE THAT
A pop milestone. Millions of fans in tears. Smash Hits – with a sombre cover – detailed all the information. Did he quit? Was he pushed? Celebrity reactions and remembering 15 golden Robbie moments. HIGHLIGHT: Emphasising that what is likely to be the truth is that Robbie told the boys he wanted to leave but would stay till the end of the tour, but then a few days later the rest of the band said it would be best if he left sooner. That and contacting the then prime minister John Major and The Queen’s spokespeople for comments…none given.
16-29 AUG / 30 AUG-12 SEPT 1995 : BLUR vs. OASIS
Britpop mania reached fever pitch when Blur’s Country House & Oasis’s Roll With It were both released on 14 August 1995. Both sold well over 200,000 copies in the first week. Blur won. But Oasis had longer success. Smash Hits decided to print both bands on their covers in consecutive issues, but Blur first, perhaps because Blur answered reader’s questions in their edition.
16-29 AUG 1995 : LOUISE LEAVES ETERNAL
The biggest UK girl group at the time. Hailing from south London, debut album Always and Forever sold over 4 million units worldwide (over 1.2 million – 4 x Platinum – in the UK alone). Then Louise left. The white one out of three blacks. Was it racial? No, Kelly Bryan and Louise Nurding were best friends. Louise enjoyed success as a solo artist for a while while Eternal carried on as a trio. Kelly left and then the two remaining sisters’ called it a day after the hits dried up.
9-22 OCT 1996 : THE SPICE GIRLS
Just when you thought pop music had died…BAM!!! The Spice Girls launched with a blaze of publicity but – mainly – top quality pop songs. They took over the world. They were huge. They’ve sold over 100 million albums and singles worldwide. HIGHLIGHT: Loving Louise’s breasts, gatecrashing Courtney Love’s hotel room, and being honest and warts and all. Victoria does a rare smile on the cover.
3 JUNE 1998 : 5IVE
Jason ‘J’ Brown. My last teenage crush. (What is it with Jasons and colours?). Phwoaar. That is all.
18 NOV 1998 : STEPS
Love ’em or hate ’em, Claire, H, Faye, Lee & Lisa grew ever popular and sold loads of records, with a string of Top 10 hits. Bright, cheery pop music with dance ‘steps’, hence the name. They disbanded acrimoniously on Boxing Day 2001. HIGHLIGHT: Claire sometimes forgetting to bring the right underwear for performances, such as wearing a white outfit and having black knickers, but H never having that problem. H stands for hyperactive apparently…not for homosexual then.