NME at 70: Steve Lamacq
A few weeks ago, NME turned 70. For seven decades, it has been an important presence in music journalism. Like many others, I grew up with it as a source of information, recommendations and opinions. After flicking through the magazine I would spend many an hour cutting out photographs and sticking them on my wall, creating a kind of teenage shrine to whoever I was idolising at the time.
To celebrate the 70th anniversary, Mark Beaumont has written a story of NME in 70 (mostly) seminal songs, which conveys the NME's remarkable longevity and variety. Mark is the author of Bon Iver: Good Winter, and several other books published by Omnibus Press.
Another Omnibus author who has written for and about NME is the legendary BBC 6 Music disc jockey Steve Lamacq. In his 2019 autobiography Going Deaf for a Living, he writes about working at the NME in the 1990s: from sniffing out emerging bands in pub gigs, to witnessing the troubling '4 Real' Manic Street Preachers incident in 1991.
A whole lot has changed over the NME's seven decades. As Mark Beaumont recently observed, the NME's core mission is to stay young. Most strikingly, its format has changed; the NME became online-only in 2018. One thing that seems to remain consistent across the years, though, is the notion that NME is a place for passionate music writers and musicians to collaborate, argue and express themselves.
In Going Deaf for a Living, Steve Lamacq recalls the atmosphere he found there in his first few months:
'On day two I stood quivering at the gents urinals next to Mark E Smith from The Fall. On day three, long-standing skinhead writer Steven Wells stomped into the subs room and slammed a heap of copy down on the desk in front of me, while barking: “YOU! NEW BOY! Who are you then?” Bloody hell. It was like Tom Brown’s Schooldays.'
Lamacq notes that Steven Wells' bark was worse than his bite and he writes with great warmth and fondness about his colleagues' generosity and comradeship:
'I am honour-bound to claim that the team at the NME at the start of the nineties was one of the all-time greats. OK, we disagreed at length – at least once every week – and me and the LP editor Stuart Bailie tried unwisely to launch a ska revival at one point, but we were pretty good [...] Together, it was a precariously balanced but determined team.'
Reading through recent posts and articles about the anniversary, it becomes clear that generations of music journalists have felt the same way about their own time at the New Musical Express.