Based in England
; the world's longest-running pop
paper. Became legendary for its hiring in the 70s
of "2 hip young gunslingers" to cover punk
: Julie Burchill
and Tony Parsons
. They were the antithesis of the laid-back long-haired hippy
types covering progressive rock
and guitar solos for the NME at that time, and with Nick Kent
they gave the paper a cleaning out. To paraphrase Burchill and Parsons, it was more important to sit up and ask questions than lie down lapping up answers; and this is what then-editor Nick Logan
(who went on to found The Face
), Charles Shaar Murray
, Danny Baker
(who later had a career in television
), Ray Lowry
, Gavin Martin and others did for the rest of that decade and into the Thatcher
NME at the start of the 80s was best known for the convoluted prose of Paul Morley and Ian Penman, who worshipped 45 rpm singles (specially those on the Postcard, Factory Records, Ze and Les Disques du Crespescule labels) like these had the answers to life's mysteries. They analyzed pop's appeal and dragged in the texts of Jacques Derrida,Jean Baudrillard and other French bigshots to help them sort it all out, provoking frustration in some readers and hilarity in others. Still, their reviews, articles and interviews were magic (if sometimes incomprehensible, prompting one person to wonder whether Penman knew the difference between a paradigm and a parachute).
It was during these heady post-punk years that pop kids around the world bought their NME every Thursday without fail, and spent hours poring over every word (even the small-print ads). NME was their left-of-center culture Bible, taking precedence over the utterances of parents, teachers, politicians and religious leaders. 2 popular topics on the Letters page were politics in the NME and Burchill's inflammatory polemics. This latter caused then-editor Neil Spencer to defend Burchill's right to free speech even if her opinions weren't shared by the rest of NME; and Burchill reportedly stated that it was important for some things to be said even if she didn't believe in them or they were factually incorrect.
Maybe it was a coincidence that Burchill, Morley, and Penman began to disappear from the NME and that for a couple of years in the mid-80s it was hardly worth reading. The paper came back to life with the infusion of fresh blood including Steven Wells (who elsewhere staged performance art political rants under the name of Attila the Stockbroker).
NME, in the midst of an internal struggle about whether hip hop and rap were worthy of mention, gave minimal space to these types of music and preference to guitar rock, but was forced to sit up and take belated notice when the Beastie Boys, T La-Rock, Public Enemy, and Def Jam in general became huge towards the late 80s. Madchester, the Happy Mondays, the ecstasy/rave lifestyle and techno rolled over the planet; NME introduced color into its pages, changed its layout, and gained a website.
It's possible that NME's heyday is now past and that the 90s' specialist magazines like Mixmag, Mojo and Uncut have undermined it; but historically (and to many who read it while they were young and impressionable) it remains a part of "rock's rich tapestry".