Charles Shaar Murray mourns the passing of the NME print edition

The NME of my NME is …

David Bowie, NME, Charles Shaar Murray

Guess who got THIS scoop

Don’t start me talkin’ … I’ll tell everything I know. Because there’s so much things to say …

The news that the NME – where, during my twenties and half of my thirties, I worked and played and did my best to mess with the culture for fun, profit and the chance to make the world, in small and peculiar ways, a better place – has ceased to exist as a printed thing after many years of slow and steady decline gives rise to a plethora of remixed emotions.

Is it like seeing a dear old friend, braindead and paralysed after a protracted illness, having life-support finally switched off? Nahhhh … way too morbid, not to mention too melodramatic. I guess it’s more like passing somewhere you used to live and, even though you’re well aware that different people live there now, that the locks have long been changed and that you’re glad you moved, it’s still a shock to discover that it’s now been converted into a branch of Poundland.

Nevertheless, the NME is still a part of me, and some aspect of me is still a part of the NME. It was where I discovered that – despite all evidence to the contrary – that there was something I could do which people liked, and seized, with both hands and both feet, the opportunity to be part of an attempt to reboot an ailing and obsolescent music paper on the brink of potential cancellation into a mass-market underground-press rock rag capable of capturing the imagination of a significant chunk of the nation’s smartest and most inquisitive yoot-dem.

Long story short: we did it. And when I say ‘we’, I mean those who were there when I arrived in the summer of ’72 (Alan Smith, Nick Logan, Tony Tyler, Roy Carr, Julie Webb, Robert Ellis, Fred Dellar and others), those who arrived soon after I did (Nick Kent, Joe Stevens, Pennie Smith, Neil Spencer, Ian MacDonald) and them what came along in the next few new waves (Andrew Tyler, Mick Farren, John May, Pete Erskine, Chris Salewicz, Tony Benyon, Kate Phillips, Julie Burchill, Tony Parsons, Paul Morley, Ian Penman, Paul du Noyer, Anton Corbijn, Danny Baker, Chalkie Davies, Mat Snow, Barney Hoskyns, Chris Bohn … the list goes on and continued to do so long after my own departure ). No single one of us ‘was’ the NME. None of us ever could have been. We all were. And we all made contributions to building this … thing … which were as irreplaceable as was the thing itself.

If it hadn’t been for the NME, I have no idea what my life would have been like (apart from grievously bereft of sex, drugs and rockanroll). And I know that the demise of Printed Stuff is about as inevitable as a very inevitable thing can get, and that there’s no use crying over spilt beans and the passing times.

So let’s raise a glass and/or spliff for those no longer on the set: I.Mac, the Terrible Tyler Twins, Micky Farren, poor old Pete Erskine, Fiona Foulgar, the recently departed and already massively missed Cliff White.

Most of us had fun. A few of us (not me!) got rich. All of us made a difference.

Songs? Try The Beatles’ In My Life, Dusty Springfield’s Goin’ Back and Johnny Cash singing Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down for how I feel now. For how it felt then … compile your own playlist, depending on when your own zeitgeisty NME ‘then’ was. Mine would run from Starman and All The Young Dudes to Ghost Town and The Message.

NME was a perfect storm, coming together from a set of social, cultural, technological and economic conditions which had never coincided before and will never coincide again. One of our distinguished alumni recently suggested bringing together the survivors of the 70s team for ‘one more issue’ but hey, fugeddaboudit … you can’t dip into the same river twice, or expect to look into the mirror of your teenage bedroom and see the same face again.

(Unless, that is, you could bring back I.Mac, the Terrible Tyler Twins and Micky F from wherever they’re currently hanging out …)

We only meet at funerals

Fewer of us each time

At every station somebody leaves

Approaching the end of the line …

These we have loved, these we have lost along the way … and the stars look very different today.

Charles Shaar Murray NME

Pic Pennie Smith

Charles Shaar Murray (finally) re-reviews Bowie’s Low

Waiting for the gift of sound and (re)vision …

Hey, so nobody’s perfect … not even me.

(ESPECIALLY not me …)

As any veteran of my rapidly-disappearing profession will confirm (especially after strong drink has been taken), it’s often the pieces in which you got it wrong (or, to be more euphemistic, found yourself on the wrong side of a later-emerging consensus) which are remembered longer than the ones in which you nailed it correctly. I still recall, with only the tiniest dollop of schadenfreude, the occasion on which one distinguished former NME colleague reviewed Bowie’s somewhat inglorious 1973 Earls Court show as ‘another nail in the coffin in which the Bowie mystique will soon be laid to rest.’ Or words to that effect.

It was therefore a pleasure (albeit of the bittersweet variety) to be invited to step back four decades and reassess and contemplate an error of critical judgement perpetrated back in 1977. So here we have a mea culpa, a little bit of personal background and an opportunity for me to second-guess my 26-year-old self.

So, whilst clearing a space on your shelf for the next Big Bowie Box (scheduled for landing any nanosecond now), enjoy the following. And cruise the rest of the site when you’re done.

For the reassessment AND the original review, click THIS

Two schtoopid ways to lose £80 —

Elvis Bowie

…  both of which concern smoking, and neither even involves the cost of buying the dyam tings in the first place.

This morning, I stepped out onto the front porch for the second cigarette of the day. Because smoke tends to drift indoors when the door isn’t fully and firmly shut, thereby prompting protests from my emphatically non-smoking sweetie, I have been attempting to train myself to close said door behind me on these occasions. And so I did.

It was only when smokage had been completed that two awful realisations struck, more or less simultaneously. Realisation the first: because, somehow, my keys (which normally reside permanently in the front-right pocket of my jeans) had gotten tangled in their ring, I had simply dumped them on the coffee table and not reinstalled them in their proper trousery location.  Hence: locked door … no keys. I blame it entirely on the after-effects of celebrating the shared birthday of two one-time jewels in the crown of was once RCA Records — David Bowie, now 67 and Elvis Presley who, were he still amongst us, would’ve been 79. Or maybe I’d been prematurely celebrating Jimmy Page’s 70th. Or mourning Phil Everly  – the only people as divinely ordained by the universe to sing together as The Everly Brothers were Lennon & McCartney and Sam & Dave.

Wha’evah …

Realisation the second: since aforementioned sweetie was away on an outtatown visit, I couldn’t simply buzz the door, get called an absent-minded idiot and then readmitted to the premises to continue the designated activities of the day.

In other words … I was oudoors, in jeans, slippers (no socks), T-shirt and a lightweight jumper, sans keys, phone, wallet or even cigarettes. Total assets: £15 in cash, a Zippo about to run out of fuel, a copy of Bill Bryson’s A Short History Of Nearly Everything … and, of course, my wit, charm and personality. None of which were, in this eventuality, of the slightest bit of use.

Fortunately, my Lovely Upstairs Neighbour was hand with a mobile on which to call a locksmith, and to provide cups of coffee, offers of a sandwich and even to pick up extra cigs from up the road. Just as fortunately, the weather was only mildly inclement as opposed to full-on Biblical.

Locksmith duly arrived on a Vespa after a shivery hour, did summat arcane to door which obediently swung open, waited patiently while I added socks, shoes, jacket, hat, wallet, phone and keys to the Tout Ensemble, escorted me to the nearest cashpoint, accepted £80 in notes and scribbled me out a receipt.

I reflected, in a philosophical kinda way, that a friend of mine had recently been separated from an identical sum in a different variety of cigarette-related incident: fined by a representative of his local council for being spotted ditching a ciggy-butt in a gutter. At least, in his case, he hadn’t had to freeze on a doorstep for an hour. Many years ago, I’d committed a similar offence  outside San Diego airport and had an Actual Proper Gun pointed at me by an off-duty cop cunningly disguised as an overweight middle-aged  woman. ‘Pick that up!’ she ordered in a scarily Clint Eastwoodesque tone of voice.

There were several hundred ciggy butts at my feet. ‘How can I tell which one’s mine?’ I asked.

She made the gun do the clicky thing. My American compadre elbowed me in the ribs, hissing ‘Shut the fuck up!’ out of the corner of his mouth. I bent down, picked up the nearest butt from the carpet of similar items, walked a few yards and dropped it in a bin. Off-Duty Cop Lady grudgingly nodded, holstered her piece and waddled away. It was very scary, but on the other hand it didn’t cost me £80.

So what should you do with £80 rather than give it to a locksmith or a representative of your local council? Easy-peasy. Add it to the sum you’ve been saving up to buy yourself a place on the upcoming session of The Hothouse Project!