Looking through back issues of the UK music weeklies for a mention of North East bands, I came across a screaming headline from a Motorhead gig review – Raw Meat in the Sonic Mincer – Yep, that be ‘reet for the ‘heed.
Sounds or NME was always knocking about our house, pocket money bought a copy for 25p. We could read exclusive interviews with bands out on tour promoting their latest album, check forthcoming UK gig dates or look at artwork for new albums.
The music weeklies were always something to look forward to – even though half the print rubbed off on your fingers.
Sounds mixed rock and punk interviews from Ozzy/Halen/Upstarts. NME featured alternative and post punk bands Damned/Cramps/Costello. Take your pick of front covers splashed with Debbie Harry/David Coverdale or Joe Strummer.
Turnover was high with a new issue in shops every week. We can’t underestimate the amount that researchers and journalists worked to put together pages of news, interviews and reviews, which also needed to be illustrated with up to date pics.
A team of music photographers stepped up to the challenge and packed the weeklies with iconic captures of Kate Bush, David Sylvian and Ritchie Blackmore, along with vintage shots of Black Sabbath and Van Halen.
A band on tour/single/album promotion cycle, would get a page or two inside. Or the much sought after moment ‘Here I am, I’ve arrived ma’ I’ve got a real job’ – an eye catching image on the front cover.
Sitting next to daily newspapers, the front covers of music weeklies decorated shelves of newspaper stands around the UK – and eventually your bedroom wall. The look and style had a clean simplicity. The name header was bold across the top and above that were names of bands who featured in that issue, small enough not to be intrusive on the main picture, but large enough to read.
For me newspapers and magazines featuring black & white images with grainy quality and true to life look, had real impact. Today shelves are full of shiny mags featuring plastic looking celebrities holding stuck on hair-do’s – all buffed up and polished within an inch of their lives. There’s always been a bit of showbiz, but how much camouflage do you need?
When Sounds front covers went full colour they never had the same impact. Check the cover from 1983 with Def Leppard and their tacky Union Jack t shirts and shorts – symbolising the ‘Leps UK invasion into America – or Joe Elliott’s outfit in the music video for their single Photograph?
1970s & ‘80s Newcastle City Hall photographer Rik Walton (links below), shot promo pics of North East bands Raven, Tygers, Fist, Venom and the Upstarts.
‘The Angelic Upstarts were doing a gig in Tynemouth and Phil Sutcliffe (journalist) from Sounds was doing an interview with the band. The Upstarts manager, who had a fearsome reputation, came up to me and said very calmly ‘Rik, I like you, and I want you to know, that if you have any problems me and the lads will sort it out’.
‘I felt that he’d be true to his word’.
Rik’s images also appeared in the Sounds and he remembers an assignment for the music weekly….
‘A couple of years later I went along with Sutcliffe on a Peter Gabriel tour for a few days doing an in depth story about him for Sounds. I remember playing croquet with Peter at 1am outside our hotel, being a public schoolboy he carried a croquet set around with him on tour.
He was a very nice guy. I found him very shy compared to his on stage persona. I did get to know him but always keeping a slight distance’.
Sellers on EBay are flogging pre-owned copies of music weeklies. They go for anything from £2.99 to £35 depending on who is on the front cover and featured inside. What you waiting for, get yer bids in and take a step back in time.
Gary Alikivi January 2021