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Wed, Dec 17, 2003 8:51 pm


JAMMING!s 1-12:
The covers and their contents

JAMMING!s 13-24:
The covers and their contents

JAMMING!s 25-36:
The covers and their contents


Interviewed in 1979

interviewed in 1981

Interviewed in 1978

interviewed in 1978

U2 interviewed in 1984.

from 1982

The Story That Spawned Creation from 1982

interviewed in 1978

interviewed in 1985



The first two spreads of Jamming! covers show the real progression of a magazine and of my own life: issues 1-12 were separated by four frantic teenage years and saw a 6-page school publication turn into a multi-color national buzz; issue 13-24 saw the magazine go from an annual to a bi-monthly to a bust via a 30,000 circulation while I ran a record label, co-hosted a TV show and got my band signed to EMI! These next twelve issues - 25-36 - are also the last twelve, they span but a year, and they don't excite me much at all. Simply put, the magazine was not very good in this last year - and even when it was good, it wasn't Jamming! as I knew and loved it. I take responsibility, albeit allowing that I was distracted by the financial pressures, then by venturing into band management, and then by being frozen out of my own magazine. When I did work on Jamming! in 1985, it seems to have been mostly on flexi discs and vinyl giveaways, pull-out sections and promotional concerts. Having just penned the review of the Sniffin' Glue book, I realise now as I put these covers up, just how many similar pitfalls I/we fell into - and how they're almost unavoidable unless you can plan your creativity with all the cool distance of a businessman. That was not my style, but as the year 1985 kicked off, Jamming! was more of a business than ever - albeit no longer mine. Each issue came out a week or two before publication date.
Number 25: February 1985.
The first issue since the bust, and you can tell that we were otherwise pre-occupied. The cover was widely and rightly derided for looking like 'Oh Boy!' or some such teen mag: Jamming! always walked a thin line between pop and cred, and on this occasion, under my watch, we crossed ut. The rest of the magazine is actually quite hardcore, though acts like the Redskins, Jazz Butcher and The Men They Couldn't Hang look, in hindsight, just incredibly ugly! Bruce Dessau writes of Creation Records that the label's brightest hopes are The X Men. It was that kind of issue. Only Tony Parsons writing about Prince and the colorful Readers Poll results (Smiths sweep - of course) saves me from binning my copy! Alan McLaughlin was the one job casualty of the new business set-up, a loss that he took like the pro he always was.
Number 26: March 1985.
A stronger cover - and an apology inside for the last one! But an incongrous collection of artists - Terry Hall (who I have no recollection of interviewing!), Tears For Fears (?), the Ramones, the Associates, and Ralph Steadman. There's also a good story on fox hunting: there was a near-official policy of having at least one solid left-wing story in each issue. Under the name Porky, a young fat poet called Phil Jupitus started doing cartoons for us, as did veteran artist Ray Lowry. Personally, I was spending most my time going to meetings with liquidators and bank managers and lawyers, wearing my 'cole not dole' badge in an act of "defiance". But then even the miners were about to admit defeat.
Number 27: April 1985.
The miners go back to work, Jamming! goes back to being a proper 'zine. A strong cover interview with Frankie Goes to Hollywood thanks to Chris Heath, who prints verbatim the abuse heaped on him by the group's three "lads" . Jonh Wilde tackles Lloyd Cole, who seems to be Jamming!'s kind of new artist, and there's a flexi disc featuring the Big Sound Authority and an act called Faith Brothers whose single I had reviewed a few issues earlier which then started a chain of events resulting in them landing a massive record deal at the height of Jamming!'s woes. The duo/band were pushing me to manage them; I was seriously considering it. A free pull-out section on Glasgow showed some kind of collective desire to push content beyond the last couple of dire issues.
Number 28: May 1985.
One step forward, another one back. This was our peak of dourness, as exemplified by the cover, with its terrible new logo and photo of Pete Townshend in which he looks like he's still on heroin. (The actual interview is pretty damn good though and I will put the whole manuscript up as soon as possible.) We write about International Youth Year, feature Simply Red, and cover comedy (not, sadly, all on the same page). I start a section called 'Group Therapy' partly to help people get on in the biz, but also, I suppose, because we needed to expand our ad base from its current minimal status of back cover ads for Echo and the Bunnymen videos. I shouldn't blame him, because he was working on as tight a budget now as the rest of us, but designer Russell Tate was clearly running out of ideas.
Number 29: June 1985.
And then suddenly we're back on track. It's total nepotism for the Faith Brothers to make it onto the front cover the month I start managing them (which was itself the week of my 21st birthday!) but in fairness, they really did seem to many of us the most exciting new act of the year - and they were "our" find. Another new media/industry fave, Simply Red, were featured on a free flexi disc alongside 10,000 Maniacs, which seems an astute commercial choice in retrospect. Scritti Politti, Icicle Works, Afrika Bambaataa and the Streetsounds story make it seem like we're almost multi-cultural! There's also a pull-out on LIverpool that actually looks quite sharp. One can't help but conclude that if Jamming! was bi-monthly at this time instead of monthly, it would have been consistently good, instead of just occasionally.
Number 30: July 1985.
Mike Scott/The Waterboys on the cover, rightly so given that 'Whole of the Moon' was one of the best rock singles of the year. 10,000 Maniacs get the full feature. But I no longer have a copy of this issue and can't remember much else about its contents just from the cover: I was rarely in the office due to the madness of managing Faith Brothers, who I loved dearly despite their desire to change the world before breakfast (every day). Jonh Wilde was elevated to Editor and I took a role as Editor-in-Chief around this time; a thorough redesign was planned and there was a feeling that if we could get through the next couple of issues things might yet work out. Another free flexi featuring The Floor and Wet Wet Wet: in the mid 80s, white soul seemed as positive a step forward for music as the Redskins or the Smiths. Or so we sometimes convinced ourselves. Much thanks to David Patrick of the Floor for sending through a picture of this missing cover.
Number 31: August 1985.
I wrote less for this issue than ever before. The editorial was mostly coming from Jonh Wilde, Chris Heath, Bruce Dessau, Hugh Morley and Paul Davies. Heath was unstoppable, handing in a couple of solid stories every issue despite our pathetic rates of pay. The brightness of the front cover (Talking Heads turn out to be the only Americans ever to make it onto our front cover; why we never took the risk with R.E.M. I'm not sure) fades the further you get into the mag, concluding with a back cover 'Heroin Screws You Up' ad. They should have used the Pete Townshend cover picture from three months earlier.
Number 32. September 1985
The last of the old time Jamming!s. The re-design is right around the corner, and I announce my upstairs promotion in the editorial. I figure I've done the right thing by handing the editorial reins over to Jon Wilde; after all he's been here since early days, he understands the Jamming! spirit. We get so few adverts that we put one for the Cure on the back cover. Most people notice that The Cure are also on the front. Is that how the ad game works, they wonder? Yes, if you don't get any other ads, it is.

If the relaunch is to be done properly, then Jonh WIlde obviously needs an assistant editor. Assumptions that Chris Heath or Hugh Morley, Bruce Dessau or Paul Davies, Ross Fortune or Dave Jennings will get the post prove unfounded. Jonh has started knocking about with young Melody Maker contributor Paul Mathur and convinces me that someone brand new to the magazine would be right for the "brand new" relaunch. Figuring that Jonh's the one who has to work with whoever gets hired, I go along with him. The flip side of having new blood, of course, is having no loyalty. As I would find out.

Number 33: October 1985.
The redesign comes courtesy of Dunmore & Brown, whose deliberately corporate name is matched by the new-look corporate Dexys that are featured inside. But that's the 80s for you, when you couldn't tell if wearing a suit was a statement of irony or of open conceit. Still, I readily admit, the cover looks damn good. A free EP with the Communards, Daintees, Then Jericho and Redskins didn't hurt either. But it's already hard to tell what the focus is: none of our three major stories, on the Bunnymen, Dexys and Simply Red are that complimentary. Sure, Jamming! hasn't been a fanzine for a long time, but can we not still be fans? Enthusiasm is reserved for Creation Records' latest 'saviors' Slaughter and the Jasmine Minks. I spent most of the month leading up to publication organizing a week of Jamming! concerts at the Electric Screen cinema on the Portobello Road as part of the relaunch. They're a triumph, with appearances by Wet Wet Wet, the Icicle Works, Faith Brothers, the Fire, Virginia Astley, the Daintees, comedians, poets and movies. Only problem: the Faith Brothers sack me the week of the show, which is also the week of the relaunch of a magazine from which I've more or less resigned editorial control. Laugh? I don't remember doing so.
Number 34: November 1985.
But hey, at least the magazine is looking good. Russell Young's cover shot is a beauty; no wonder he went on to do George Michael's 'Faith' sleeve. Patsy Kensit shows up in full color on page 4, finally fronting her own band after years of hanging around the scene. Elsewhere, Hüsker Dü share space with Fine Young Cannibals, Kenneth Williams, the filmmaker Derek Jarman and James Last. Yes, that James Last. Cover shots aside, musical direction is not currently Jamming!'s - or should I say J's -strong point. Nor is team spirit. I get in a big fight with Jonh Wilde who thinks that running photos from the previous month's concerts is somehow a conflict of interest - as if the NME or Q or indeed GQ ever passes up opportunity to cover its own promotional events. It all feels very weird. Editorial meetings take place without me. The new designers barely talk to me. I console myself by falling madly in love. It's a lot more fun.
Number 35: December 1985
The covers are never going to be a problem as long as Russell Young is taking the pictures and Dunmore and Brown are designing around them. It's beautiful isn't it? But its hard to see what else there is to be excited about inside. Mad lefty Derek Hatton? The Men They Couldn't Hang? (Again?) Cameo? Yes, that Cameo. More importantly, the writing is all a little too knowing, too ironic and conceited. But again, that's the 80s in a nutshell - and clearly we were now swimming with the tide, rather than against it as had made Jamming! so exciting in its youth? Ads remain a problem, however, and sales don't seem to be demonstrably higher than at the launch of the bi-monthly (Sep 83) or the monthly (Sep 84). As such, our publishers are still refusing to budget more than one issue ahead at a time, constantly threatening to close a magazine that just can't make money.
Number 36: January 1986. Appropriately enough, Elvis Presley is Jamming!'s last cover star, albeit in cartoon form. But the focus on comics also seems apt in hindsight. Because by now, that's what I thought Jamming! had become: it was covering the same subjects as the weeklies, using the same writers (Mick Middles and Frank Owen were also now on the masthead) and this issue even featured a full page ad for the NME - the appearance of which shocks me even now and represents our final absorbtion into the "system." Not surprisingly, I was getting a hard time from old school Jamming! readers who rightly accused me of selling out its ideals. In fairness, there was also a new school who saw Jamming! as a potentially interesting arts monthly. But there just weren't enough of them. I went off to interview Rock Gods Simple Minds in Brussels - my first foreign assigment and supposedly great kudos for Jamming! - but then over the Christmas holidays I fell madly out of love. Not with my girlfriend (who had however, fallen madly out of love with me!) but with Jamming!. . . I realised it just couldn't continue like this, with constant squabbling, lack of direction and lack of long-term finanical support, and told our publishers as much. Perhaps feeling their bluff was being called but most likely just relieved, they agreed. The plugs were pulled in the first week of January, and the news of our closing was a lead news item in the next week's NME. Which, I suppose, all things considered, is quite an apt conclusion.


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