Sunday, September 13, 2009

Perhaps the most interesting paragraph in all The Beatles coverage

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.


Anonymous said...

"But there isn't another band we'd do like this. The Beatles are part of the atmosphere of British pop music."

Isn't this the big point? These people are supposedly journalists but can't see the most important story of their time right in front of them. They can't see the fact that they should be dedicating a whole issue to this one problem. They should have different journalists dealing with each aspect of the issue. They should be asking contemporary musicians. And yet they've completely missed the opportunity. Why isn't there a band out there worthy of a dedicated issue? In the 70s or 80s it would've made for a great issue. Today it would get in the way of the adverts for hair products.

Anonymous said...

that's only one side of the argument youre talking about. what you view as a 'problem' a lot of other people would see a reason to celebrate (or, if youre being thin skinned, jump on the bandwagon i spose).

and your argument - that an entire issue discussing why there arent other bands as 'global' as the beatles is what nme should have done - doesnt wash with me at all. i wouldnt pay for an entire issue covering the dullest musical argument ever; an argument that is entirely rhetorical and has been done to death as pub talk for three decades now. boring.

nah, i'm quite happy to simply be indulged and read page after page of 'beatles-love'. i dont want half-inched histories, or cherry-picked facts either - reviews and opinions are fine.

that's just my view, of course.

also, other bands do get special issues - the nme originals series ran for a couple of years and covered everyone from the clash to britpop.

Anonymous said...

This isn't the first time EMI have paid for an NME front cover, or the first time they've ran a Beatles advert there. Admittedly it was quite a long time ago...

simon h b said...

@2nd anonymous
The NME Originals weren't the NME, though: they were stand-alone special publications which borrowed from the NME archive; the Beatles special last week was just a regular edition of the NME.

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