Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Smash Hits RIP

I know I've missed the boat on this by weeks, but seeing as music journalism is one of the coursework topics we do, and some of you still need inspiration, here's a story about the sad demise of a once great magazine, Smash Hits.

In this article on the BBC website, Smash Hits is described as
the bible for many teenagers discovering their musical tastes in the 1980s and 1990s. Every fortnight, Smash Hits thumped through the letterbox dishing out gossip, interviews, pull-out posters - and perhaps most importantly - lyrics to the top tunes of the day. The whole kit and caboodle was served up in a typically playful house style that would go on to set a new standard in magazines.

(Not that I would have admitted that in the 1980s, being as I was a devout NME reader, who considered Smash Hits too poppy and shallow, sniff.)

But it's not so much the music that made Smash Hits such an influential magazine - thank God, as they covered such dreadful rubbish as Brother Beyond, Bros and Sinitta - but their linguistically creative house style. As another article on Smash Hits tells us:

As the 80s went on, so Smash Hits became bolder, eventually inventing its own argot, affectionately mocking the hyperbolic language of pop. Any pop star whose career was failing was held to be "down the dumper": by contrast, any pop star who returned after a period in the wilderness was invariably "back, back, BACK!!!!!" A female singer who overdid the sexiness was automatically a "foxtress", and a rock star who overplayed the social conscience bit - usually the luckless Weller again - was addressing "ver kidz". It may have been like punk never 'appened, but you caught a whiff of the movement's scorched earth puritanism in the mocking disdain with which Smash Hits addressed rock-star hedonism. Any ageing rocker who surrounded himself with nubile females was referred to as "Uncle Disgusting". Any remarks Uncle Disgusting made about the comeliness of said nubile females were countered in print either with an onomatopoeic representation of someone vomiting (which, if memory serves, went "SPEEEEEEEOOOOOW!") or with the phrase "pass the sickbag, Alice".

Alcohol was "rock'n'roll mouthwash" - Smash Hits themselves alleged toasted success with "a cup of milky tea and a cream horn". Pop stars had their names mangled beyond repair. Having noted both his resemblance to Britain's most famous missing aristocrat and his flexible attitude to sexuality, Freddie Mercury's name was altered by degrees to Dame Frederick Of Lucan. For reasons never fully explained, Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy was always Stephen "Tea Towel" Duffy.
The true impact of such genius wordsmithery is hard to gauge, but the influence of Smash Hits' language is obvious in the style of the NME of 2006, Popbitch, and magazines as grown-up even as The Word. Good bye, Smash Hits... sob.

Useful for:
EA2C - Language Production

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