Found In Sounds #1

Last year I purchased a huge pile of Sounds newspapers from a seller on eBay covering the years 1980-1983. I’m slowly going through them day by day and either scanning or snapping things that I find interesting. This can be news items, adverts, interview snippets, comics, covers or other trivia that has become more interesting with the passing of time. Sounds was a weekly music paper along the lines of the NME and Melody Maker in the UK, all three published on a Wednesday and all now defunct except for the NME, which is recognisable in name only from its 80’s heyday.

Sounds was always known for favouring Rock, Heavy Metal and Punk, with a straighter, less arty bias to groups. They didn’t have the Paul Morleys, Ian Penmans, Nick Kents or Simon Reynolds‘ writing for them, instead they had Garry Bushell who championed the Oi movement with its dodgy skinhead bootboy overtones. During the period that these issues cover, the ‘Futurist’ movement is emerging, what’s now known as ‘Post Punk’ or ‘Synth Pop’ but back then was a product of digital technology becoming more affordable mixed with the Blitz-era nightlife and the ‘New Romantic’ scenes.

I’ve been posting images daily on my Facebook account but will do weekly round ups here if I can as the material can be illuminating with the benefit of 30+ years of hindsight. What smacks most is that nothing really changes much, bands are still built up and lauded only to be ridiculed and knocked down once they’re successful. You can spot the hype from the hope and certain names crop up again and again, week on week, clearly getting the preferential treatment afforded by friendships with certain journalists regardless of their merits. The industry is always on a downturn with profits threatened by some new format, this time it’s the cassette that’s killing music with just the first hints of the CD revolution to come. Albums and singles, now considered bonafide classics, are savaged in the review columns and information on forgotten or lost bands is ripe for rediscovery via the all-knowing web.

All in all I find it a fascinating weekly soap opera and I’ll be sharing the highlights here.

First up, a ‘Futurist’ chart followed by photos from a Futurist ‘summit’ interview where members of The Human League, Throbbing Gristle, Non, Nurse With Wound and Lemon Kittens largely argued against being labeled with the term.

Next, ‘Cassettes: Is this the Future of Rock’n’Roll?’ with Island Records‘ 1+1 tapes causing a stir because they feature an album on one side and a blank side for recording your own sounds on the other. Then, as the ‘tape war’ hots up, labels are too busy scrambling to notice a certain ‘laser disc’ quietly arriving on the scene.

The cassette hoo-ha was one that was largely antagonised by Malcolm McLaren, who was an open advocate of home taping and used it as a gimmick to sell the band he was managing, Bow Wow Wow. It was a lucky coincidence that the fashion of the day was a swashbuckling pirate look and the combination of that and the term ‘pirate’ being someone who made bootleg items was too good to resist.

Record prices rise shock! Vinyl goes up from 99p to £1.20 and labels want the shops to bear the brunt. In other news, heavy band get banned from working mens clubs for being too loud and not packing away fast enough. Rock n Roll. Lastly, as he’s been in the news this week for playing live in London, Prince’s first gig in the UK, advertised at the back of the paper amongst all the other concerts that week, only £3.00 on the door.

4 thoughts on “Found In Sounds #1

  1. @Simon – I never even read these mags at this time, only being 11/12 years old and having just discovered Smash Hits and The Face. I’m very much looking back and taking them as I find them, week on week, and noticing little cliques forming. I find this kind of musical archeology fascinating (as I’m sure you do) and have done similar treks back through the NME and MM before – except not as far back as this.

    I too was an NME or Melody Maker buyer (it largely depended on who was the main cover feature that determined how I spent my money that week) but I rarely touched Sounds as the rock bias just wasn’t to my taste. I see now that there was merit there – albeit in smaller doses maybe – and that there was coverage of all sorts back at the turn of the decade (they regularly had Roots sections and review pages separated from the rest and Edwin ‘Savage Pencil’ Pouncey wrote for them too.
    I already posted the ‘Cold Wave’ feature pt.1 last year with the excellent Kraftwerk cover here –
    This was back in ’77 though and the run I’m going through at present is heavily riffing off the ‘Futurist’ term, even going so far as to feature Gillan on the cover with the headline, ‘Heavy Futurist?’. Maybe it sold papers back then?

    I’d noted Dave McCullough’s name amongst the fray actually, mainly for a scathing review of ‘Computer World’ that I’ll post soon. Garry Bushell I have little love for from what I’ve read, mainly because none of the groups or articles he wrote interest me in the slightest although he did do a fair critique on tour with the Nolans in one issue which was a surprise.
    I’ll stick the facebook link in the main text in a bit, thanks for the info (always appreciated)

  2. Imagine, Prince £3 in ’81 by 83 he was HUGE, by 87 he was playing Wembley!
    And have to say, seeing as this comment follows Simon Reynolds that I’m not so much a “Retromaniac” more “about 19 years after everybody else”!

  3. hi kev, awesome.

    i was a NME diehard but Sounds did have a bunch of excellent writers through this period. in the punk / early postpunk phase there was Jon Savage, Jane Suck, Vivien Goldman (who also went on to write for Melody Maker and NME – a rare clean sweep of the inkies), Sandy Roberts. They did a two issue special on The New Musick aka Cold Wave that was ahead of its time in its focus on what would become known as industrial and postpunk. Then a bit later they had John Gill, very good on the weirdo fringe of out-rock (famously gave Nurse with Wound’s debut a five question mark rating because he couldn’t decide if it was genius or drivel), and Dave McCullough, a real cult figure at that time, Sounds approximate counterpart to Paul Morley, covering postpunk and new pop, with a unique writing style and barbed passion.

    And although Garry Bushell backed Oi!, and later wrote about “telly” for the Sun, he was actually a smart and stylish writer. When I went through the old music papers researching Rip It Up, I was surprised by how insightful and entertaining his reviews were – referencing Brecht’s “A Worker Reads History” when talking about Gang of Four’s “Not Great Men”, hilariously brutal in a takedown of Howard Devoto. He was also very much on the left politically, I think he was SWP in those days, his enthusiasm for Oi! would have been workerist, seeing it as proper proletarian rock c.f. effete art school postpunk. Which is a position that could be argued, I wouldn’t obviously, but there was a lot of snobbery towards Oi! and even towards the ska revival stuff from some critics.

    How can i find your facebook?

    all best
    Simon R

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