In yesterday's Guardian, John Harris wrote a piece saying 'I love The Beatles but even I think this a bit out of hand'.
In it, he says this:
It may not be [all about marketing], but The Beatles' machine has its uses. The NME's 13-cover extravaganza was partly paid for by Apple and EMI, and when I speak to Hamish McBain, the NME staffer who put together their coverage, he sounds delighted with the outcome. "There was certainly some dissent from some of the younger, more angry faces at the magazine," he says, "a bit of 'What the fuck are we doing the fucking Beatles for?' But there isn't another band we'd do like this. The Beatles are part of the atmosphere of British pop music."
The 13 cover extravanganza - or, the point where the NME finally gave up three decades of rubbing-up against the mainstream and started to trail behind it - was partly paid for by Apple and EMI. Obviously, there's always been connections between record label marketing departments and what appears on the cover of the magazine - a New York trip here, some exclusive access there. But a big, thirteen-variant special effectively having been underwritten as part of a marketing campaign seems to cross the line towards product placement. And when that placement seems so at odds with what you'd have hoped the NME response would be - something a little more questioning, something a little more focused on what The Beatles mean now, something a little more like Little Boots dressed up as John Lennon - you have to ask where the soul of the magazine has gone.
An event with lots of covers because the NME feels its an event - well, at least we know where we are. An event with lots of covers because it's partly underwritten by the company which is flogging the records it's celebrating - well, we still know where we are.