Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Thursday, 2 February 2006

The lasting legacy of Smash Hits

By Caroline Briggs
BBC News entertainment reporter

First ever Smash Hits cover
The first ever Smash Hits was prepared on a kitchen table

Smash Hits, which is to close after 28 years, was 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.

In 1981, it is rumoured that the then Smash Hits editor David Hepworth sent a memo to record companies saying he intended "to reverse the entire direction" of pop music publishing in favour of trivia, demanding to know the colour of their artists' socks.

The approach worked.

Before long, Smash Hits' irreverent and witty style was pulling in a regular readership of half a million readers.


Hepworth - and the two editors before him - had gathered together a sharp team of writers, including Mark Ellen, who is now editor of Word Magazine, and Neil Tennant, who would go on to front the Pet Shop Boys.

They helped shape the tongue-in-cheek style of the magazine that triumphed throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

Where else would the pop royalty of the day be known as Dame David Bowie, Sir Clifford of Richard and Fab Macca Wackythumbsaloft?

Nick Logan (Chris Hall)
Ian Cranna
David Hepworth
Mark Ellen
Steve Bush
Barry McIlheney

Bros were nicknamed Matt, Luke and Ken - after third member Craig was declared irrelevant - while Brother Beyond were somewhat shortened to The 'Yond.

"Corky O'Reilly! It's Kylie" and "Legs akimbo!" were often used phrases among it vernacular.

Pop stars were not pandered to on the pages, but asked both probing and silly questions of the "do you have smelly feet?" ilk.

They often received equally silly replies.

But the magazine also succeeded in appealing to the teenager with a wide taste in music, as anyone who was anyone in the charts making it onto the hallowed pages.

Morten Harket's Bottom

Interviews with artists like The Cure and the Cocteau Twins were sandwiched comfortably between gossip on pop acts like Duran Duran and Wham!

Letter writers to Black Type mused on the songwriting ability of their favourite stars, wrote poems, and argued amongst themselves.

Richard Lowe
Mike Soutar
Mark Frith
Kate Thornton
Gavin Reeve
John McKie
Emma Jones
Lisa Smosarski
Lara Palamoudian

They signed their letters Morten Harket's Bottom, Neil Tennant's Chest Wig, or Jesus and Mary's Chainstore.

Smash Hits was the brainchild of former NME man Nick Logan, who thought about calling his protegee pop bible Disco Fever.

The first test issue - featuring Belgian one-hit-wonder Plastic Bertrand on the cover and Sham 69 as the centre spread - was put to together on Logan's kitchen table.

But unsure of how it would go down, Logan refused to print his name as editor, using instead the pseudonym Chris Hall - a combination of the names of his children Christian and Hallie.

After just three issues, Smash Hits moved from monthly to fortnightly, and its impact was immediate and lasting.

I think these days, a lot of pop music is invented in boardrooms at record companies
Mark Frith, former editor

During the 1980s, appearing on the Smash Hits cover equalled BBC show Top of the Pops in determining when an act had finally arrived.

Morrissey cuddling a kitten inside his cardigan was just one of the memorable covers of the time.

Even footballer Paul Gascoigne made the cover when Gazza-mania gripped the country during the 1990 world cup.

"End of an era"

Smash Hits not only launched the careers of the pop stars on its pages, but it also gave its creative editorial team a leg up the ladder.

Founding editor Logan went on to launch The Face in 1980, while broadcaster and columnist Miranda Sawyer was also one of the magazine's early writers.

Celebrity Big Brother's Preston will be the last cover star

Perhaps the most high-profile editor was X-Factor presenter Kate Thornton who took the helm in 1996 aged just 21.

She said the magazine's closure was "the end of an era" but added that "times were changing".

In recent years the magazine was sold with free gifts from notepads to coloured pens for its increasing pre-teen readership, as teenagers turned to new technology to influence their musical direction.

Mark Frith, who now edits Heat magazine, said the music industry itself may also be to blame for the demise.

"I think these days, a lot of pop music is invented in boardrooms at record companies and it kind of ticks all the boxes and appeals to the right demographic," he said.

"Where are the characters coming through now and making pop music? It's not just there.

"I think Smash Hits particularly thrived on those kind of people."

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