We have to be able to laugh at ourselves. I had a big chuckle when I saw the headline: “Man working from home forced to hot desk with cat”. Fred, my feline friend, seemed equally amused.
And I came close to tweeting “lol” after reading the story about northernness being a state of mind.
“Whether you live in Sheffield, Selby or Skipton,” it advised, “here’s how not to be a soft Southern ponce.” The first example it gave was “finding a Malteser that’s been under the settee for three months and eating it ..,all this talk of sell-by dates is for London stomachs gone soft from smashed avocados.”
The Mash’s most recent parody followed the announcement that Q magazine was to close after 34 years. Q’s editor, Ted Kessler, explained that “the pandemic did it for us”. This news triggered myriad end-of-an-era articles lamenting the death of music journalism.
“Without wishing to sound melodramatic,” wrote The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis, “its closure seems to signal the final passing of the music press as we once knew it.”
As I looked at the piles of early back copies staring at me accusingly on my shelves and began to pine for the good-old-bad-old days when rock stars threw typewriters out of their hotel windows, hacks compiled endless lists of the greatest gigs of all time and prime ministers sipped champagne with the Gallaghers at Downing Street, I was brought back down to earth by The Daily Mash.
Its “story” about a 46-year-old man who was more upset by the Q news than the declining health of his grandmother put things in perspective. Wondering what he was going to base his music persona around in the absence of “the Led Zeppelin of British rock journalism” he sighed: “I’ll just be any other middle-aged bloke in jeans and a leather jacket without being able to list the Buzzcocks’ greatest live performances.”
Ouch! As a Buzzcocks-loving, jeans-wearing, middle-aged bloke that really hurt. Although, in my defence, I discarded my black leather jacket a few years back.
The demise of the rock press cannot be compared with the devastating impact the pandemic has had, and continues to have, around the world.
And yet, during the Covid-19 era – with over 45,000 deaths in this country alone – journalists have been prone to such melodramatic statements. At the same time, I would like to reflect on the closure of a magazine which championed in-depth, passionate and consistently funny writing.
I can remember buying the first issue, in October 1986, which featured Paul McCartney on the cover. I loved its breezy irreverence, its acerbic interviews and its respect not only for the Buzzcocks, but also for rap, dance and more mainstream forms of pop music. And the fact that it was co-founded by that fine West Yorkshire scribe, David Hepworth.
One of its interviewers, Tom Hibbert, made me want to become a journalist. Long before Louis Theroux emerged on the scene, Hibbert was getting celebrities to relax and reveal their true selves.
You can’t argue with the figures, though. Twenty years ago, its average monthly circulation was 204,014. Last year it was 28,359. The digital revolution has changed everything. Even before the virus, a lot of the publishing world was struggling to cope with a fall in sales and advertising.
The pandemic has simply accelerated the process, having a knock-on effect on the UK’s newspapers and magazines. Reach, the owner of The Daily Mirror and The Daily Express, is to cut 12 per cent of its workforce.
The Guardian could see up to 180 jobs axed after a £25m drop in revenue. The world has moved on since the golden age of Q. The printed music magazine looks to have had its day.
“Music journalism was a product of the age of print and paper,” admits Hepworth. “Put it on a screen and it no longer crackles.”
So, let’s not get too carried away. And let’s banish all talk of mourning and grief. But I shall miss it.
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