Back pages

Maybe it’s stating the obvious on a blog like this, but there’s little that’s as evocative as the smell of a back issue.

The things we read when we were younger aren’t merely collections of words and pictures from bygone days; they are repositories of memories of how we used to live. One whiff of a yellowing comic, a dog-eared inky or a crumpled weekly and you’re transported back to another, usually better, age.

That most of those back issues now belong now defunct titles adds a layer of wistfulness to the proceedings. Not only do the publications hail from a portion of your life that no longer exists, but the publications themselves no longer exist, either then or now. Once-ubiquitous legends of the newsstands feel like remote relics, with no ties to today.

All these titles seemed better in the days when you first read them. This surely isn’t just the process of nostalgia. In many cases they were better in the days when you first read them, because that was when they were still fresh, exciting and fun.

The pinnacle in the lives of Smash Hits, The Face, Select and the newly-deceased Arena fell in the first half of their existence, which was, to essay a rash generalisation, when most of the people reading this blog probably also read those magazines.

arena

On the other hand older titles, such as Look-in, Melody Maker and Sounds, were most likely already at their peak when you stumbled upon them. Look-in certainly was, and if inconsistency was a problem for MM and Sounds, they could always turn out a decent issue one week after turning out a crap one, thanks entirely to whoever was on the cover.

The extinction of so much childhood wallpaper keeps on getting faster as the rest of us keep on getting older. There’s possibly no more hurtful reminder of the passing of time, or the passing of fashions.

You could argue it’s difficult to mourn the non-existence of something that, say, turned so rubbish and fell so far. You could also argue that’s like saying Marlon Brando should only be remembered for Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, or Leonard Rossiter for Tripper’s Day.

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3 Responses to Back pages

  1. Claire says:

    Nice article. I currently have a nice pile of 80s issues of Smash Hits I’m going through (not mine, my Mum threw everything out). Although Smash Hits turned into a rubbish mag aimed at tween girls before imploding, I still mourned it when it went, the same way I would if they cancelled The Simpsons. I think the house style had a huge influence on many writers- including, dare I suggest, the writers of TV Cream- it’s something I think I’m still looking for in what I read now.
    It’s a shame that kids now don’t have all these mags but on the other hand, they have got the Internet.

  2. Mark Jones says:

    Good piece. Quite honestly, when I’m on one of my infrequent trips to a car boot sale, there’s little more exciting than stumbling over a box full of early-90s copies of The Face or Empire going for 10p an issue. Seeing a column of the latest laserdisc reviews is like a strange trip to a bygone age.

  3. ksw1980 says:

    I wonder if the stack of Sky mags I bought in my adolescent days (less embarrassing than getting FHM from the local shop….) will be worth anything one day. Not very likely then.

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