Memories of "Q" - a personal journey

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Eric_Generic, Aug 1, 2020.

  1. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
    OK, so as suggested by several kind people in the "Q Magazine closes" topic, here is one specifically dedicated to the various articles and lists I'm posting on my blog at the moment. Please feel free to add to the discussion, it's what the thread is here for :)

    The Q that I knew…

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    First in the Q: issue one of a…..lot.


    So, that’s it then. Q is no more.

    The self-styled “modern guide to music…and more” bites the dust this month, another victim of changing times, and that thing we once called the Information Superhighway (cover story Q Magazine, September 1994) also known as the “internet”.

    Mark Ellen and David Hepworth, creators of Smash Hits, were given the task of putting together something new, something for the more mature music fan, but something that had the same sense of informality and self-deprecation. In September 1986, the inaugural monthly edition hit the shelves; a glossy, fairly weighty tome with an enigmatic one letter title (Q) and what now seems a ridiculously cheap cover price (even allowing for inflation) of £1.10. A hundred and ten pence!

    The format was instantly established…big name stars on the cover (hello Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards…), a bit about the “music business”, as well as typically Rock N Roll cliches concerning drug use or bands splitting up, or arguments/scandals of varying types. There would also be the odd feature on a comedian, or actor, just to keep to the “music….and more” promise. Oh, and the reviews. Pages and pages of them. With star ratings!

    Issue #2 was where I came in, having been alerted to its existence on the shelves of WH Smiths (some things still haven’t changed) by my Dad, one random Saturday in October 1986. The main interview was Rod Stewart (hmmm, the 15-year old me thought), but the cover also had Frankie Goes To Hollywood (about to launch the floptastic Liverpool album), The Pretenders (back in the charts with Don’t Get Me Wrong) and Paul Simon (enjoying a renaissance with his just-released Graceland). £1.10? Yeah, why not….and so it began.

    When it ended for me, is less clear. Sometime in the Noughties, as the tone and layout became too laddish and cluttered, while the reliance on lists (which, of course, I absolutely loathe!) became overwhelming and reductive. Tales of drinking and general debauchery simply never interested me at the best of times, so the latest <insert Indie/Alternative/Rock Chancers> banging on about their exploits sadly had zero appeal.

    I treated myself to the 25th Anniversary special with a unique Manic Street Preachers gatefold LP, and the 300th issue for nostalgia’s sake, but that was it.

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    The exclusive edition of Manic Street Preacher’s National Treasures: a design for life.


    34 years is a very long time, anyway. Not even my personal charts lasted beyond 2010, and they only started two years before Q appeared. The magazine did what it had to do, moved with the times and tried to keep up with the fashions of an ever-changing culture (and industry). Whether it did that successfully, and whether it became a better/worse magazine in the process, comes down to personal preference and perspective. The era which holds the strongest, and fondest, memories will remain the years from about 1987 to some point in the mid-1990s; before Britpop, Dadrock, and all the rest.

    Q was born at the perfect time in my musical journey – disillusioned with the Top 40, weary of daytime Radio 1, growing up too fast to still get much out of Smash Hits or No. 1 magazine anymore. I was also just about to dip my toe into the world of Compact Discs. The target audience was doubtless much older than my demographic, and it would take a little while for me to become attuned to the kind of artists regularly featured and prominently reviewed.

    By mid-1987, I was a firm Q junkie, awaiting the next issue and eager to flip straight to the fantastic, extensive review section to see which albums would get the featured “boxes” with the giant headline, and which would be awarded the magic five stars.

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    It’s a box! Just the 4 stars for Suede’s debut, March 1993.

    Q‘s reviews had a significant influence on my buying habits during those years, along with Johnnie Walker’s Saturday slot on Radio 1. Pop was given short shrift most of the time, which was regrettable but completely predictable. Record Mirror took care of that, thankfully, leaving me to discover the likes of Randy Newman’s Lonely At The Top, Welcome Home by ‘Til Tuesday, the 1987 solo album from Robbie Robertson, Gail Ann Dorsey’s The Corporate World….and many, many more.

    Occasionally, there would be a misstep; the 2-star verdict on Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing in 1987 (under the banner DEPRESSING) sticks in the memory, and still had the power to make the lady bristle when I mentioned it to her over a decade later! A New Flame, Tango In The Night, and famously (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? were all dismissed by the reviewer on release, only for the magazine to alter its opinion come their traditional Year-End lists.

    Assorted highlights included the epic feature on Tears For Fears’ torturous efforts to finish their third album The Seeds Of Love, the glowing review of Hats by The Blue Nile which only intensified my longing to hear the thing for myself, Sting revealing rather too much about his private life in 1993 while in the company of Bob Geldof, the sheer chutzpah of putting a naked Terence Trent D’Arby on the cover the same year, and discovering the rich history of artists such as Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen in 1988.

    Plus, of course, the thrill of seeing what version of the iconic Q logo would appear on the latest issue….this before the days of every edition being adorned with the red/white scheme that became such a well-known brand that it had to become a permanent fixture (ho hum). But…fear not! Here, we bring you a veritable smorgasbord of variations that adorned the front of the magazine until Issue #69…

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    Q Got The Look! No peach-and-black unfortunately, but the full range of special colour schemes used between the 2nd and 68th issues.


    As a final tribute to the magazine’s passing, I will look back at the best…I mean, my favourite…100 albums that were released in Q‘s lifetime. That’s from September 1st 1986 until July 27th 2020 (but don’t hold your breath for too many from the last few years!).

    Yes, another bloody list.

    It’s what they would have wanted….


    EG.
     
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  2. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
    Q: The Music, Part 1 (1986-1987)

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    Q Magazine – “the modern guide to music and more” – first appeared in September 1986, and published its final issue in July 2020. Here’s a personal and highly subjective look back at the best music released in that period…

    Yes, it’s another one of those list things, but with a difference. Rather than attempt to rank them in any sort of order (which would be too similar to my Top 100 Albums Of All-Time feature anyway), I’ve chosen to work chronologically through the lifespan of Q Magazine. Information such as release dates, plus the particular issue the album was featured in and its star rating out of five, will make a change from the usual stuff about chart positions and tracklistings.

    We begin, appropriately enough, right at the very start of the Q era….

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    5 stars (Q1) September 1986

    Paul Simon’s first album of new material for almost 3 years bucked the trend for legendary/established artists from the 1960s and 1970s experiencing a “challenging” time in the middle of the 1980s. 1986 had thus far bestowed upon music lovers the likes of Knocked Out Loaded (Bob Dylan), Landing On Water (Neil Young), Dirty Work (The Rolling Stones) and Mistrial (Lou Reed)….not to mention Press To Play by Paul McCartney, which perhaps owing to Macca’s appearance on the front cover of the first Q was – generously, some might say – awarded four stars for its troubles.

    Graceland was one of Q‘s earliest 5-star recipients, and one of the occasions when they got it absolutely spot-on. It also made my most recent (i.e. 2016) Top 100 Albums list:

    All-Time Albums: #89

    EG.
     
  3. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
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    2 stars (Q2) October 1986

    Needless to say, yours truly did not appreciate the dismissive review metered out to one of my favourite acts of the time! Q really didn’t care for pop music, and synth-pop, in general during those early years. Some snarky comments about the album “only being of interest if you fancied them” typified this attitude, and sold the actual record extremely short.

    Despite now ranking as merely my 3rd favourite a-ha album, Scoundrel Days was one of my go-to records that autumn and winter. I’m surprised I ever bought another issue of Q after that review!

    EG.
     
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  4. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
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    3 stars (Q4) November 1986

    Already written off by Record Mirror on the week of its release, Notorious was treated more fairly by Q, with some grudging praise; safe one presumes in the knowledge that Duran’s commercial, teen-girl pin-ups peak had passed. No need to be coy, Roy….it’s a great album.

    EG.
     
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  5. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
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    5 stars (Q7) March 1987

    Half a dozen issues into its existence, came the album which helped to define the magazine for over a decade. U2 were synonymous with Q for a long time; that sense of (affected) authenticity, the nods to rock’s storied heritage and deliberate use of iconography from its past.

    They were blokes. They played real instruments. They had a Rock God guitarist. Their frontman was never shy of a mannered pose or a quotable quote. They drank and partied but also spoke plenty of mystical bollocks and loved…just loved…to play to the biggest audience imaginable.

    U2 were Q‘s darlings and it helped that the band had essentially made one of the greatest albums to warrant such adulation and coverage.

    EG.
     
  6. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
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    3 stars (Q7) March 1987

    Just a week after The Joshua Tree, the new Level 42 opus arrived and duly took my attention away from Bono and co., though unsurprisingly the verdict from Q was less enthusiastic. Running In The Family was given the kind of “will this do?” middling 3-star review that often smacked more of indifference than actual praise.

    EG.
     
  7. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
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    5 stars (Q8) March 1987

    The classics kept on coming! Before the month of March was through, Prince’s seminal double crashed into my world, as detailed here. Happily, the people at Q were also under the Purple spell, even running a small headline about their album review on the front cover of issue #8 in April.

    EG.
     
  8. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
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    3 stars (Q8) April 1987

    The return of the Mac was bound to be greeted with some fanfare chez Q, what with all that troubled history – the drugs, the affairs, the breakdowns, the ever-changing line-ups, the bizarre ways that band members would leave.

    No wonder their initial review of Tango In The Night itself managed to miss the mark slightly, although in fairness it correctly identified the most alluring aspects of the album were Lindsey Buckingham’s dense, intricate production and a handful of songs which harked back to the dark magic of Tusk (namely Caroline, Big Love and the title track). In fairness, too, even in my passion for Tango In The Night I would never have imagined the way things would eventually pan out, Lindsey quitting and Christine’s songs taking sales to another level entirely. Who knew?

    EG.
     
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  9. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
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  10. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    Location:
    Colorado
    Funny, I have a completely different recollection of Q

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  11. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
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    3 stars (Q9) May 1987

    Another reviewed-down-their-nose 3 star award for Swing Out Sister’s sprightly, chart-topping debut LP. Probably not Rock enough for Q, or something. Still, at least they didn’t call it Sophisti-pop…

    EG.
     
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  12. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
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    3 stars (Q10) June 1987

    Upon release, the Q review of Marillion’s final album with Fish was more interested in making silly jibes about the band’s hair than properly judging the record’s contents. In fact, by the end of 1987, the magazine’s stance on Clutching At Straws had altered enough for it to be featured in their special Top 50 Albums of 1987 mini-brochure which came attached to the cover of that year’s December issue.

    This was a key album for me in the summer of 1987, as I allude to in this very long piece about its second single, Sugar Mice. I’d thought about giving Clutching At Straws its own “featured” slot, but a quirk of timing meant I was due to write-up a piece on the single as part of my ongoing #1s On My Personal Top 40 1984-2010 countdown….


    Next time, we pick up the story in August 1987 and make it through to the early part of 1988.


    EG.
     
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  13. Bobby Morrow

    Bobby Morrow Forum Resident

    I love this album too. I admit I bought it in February 1987 just for something ‘new’ to listen to, but it was a great surprise. Side one may be the best side of their career. The CD sounds wonderful too. I didn’t bother with the remaster.
     
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  14. Bobby Morrow

    Bobby Morrow Forum Resident

    A friend at work was always trying to get me into Marillion. This was in the early days of CD when I’d listen to just about anything. It won’t shock you to learn that (outside of Kayleigh) he failed miserably. Where were the tunes and the choruses?:) I don’t even remember Sugar Mice. Was this the album with Incommunicado? My mate bought an expensive CD single of that because he couldn’t wait for the LP.:)
     
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  15. Bobby Morrow

    Bobby Morrow Forum Resident

    I had this for awhile when it came out. Should probably give it another go. Bought it mainly for Luka., which was a great single.
     
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  16. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
    Same here. Heard bad things about the other remasters, and it's perfect as it is anyway.

    EG.
     
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  17. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
    Yes, Incommunicado was the lead single, and sounds like nothing else on the album. This was about as commercial and straightforward as Fish-era Marillion ever got (and they would have gone even more away from Prog, I think, had Fish not fallen out with the band). Aside from the first 3 tracks, nothing is segued or part of a continuous suite.

    EG.
     
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  18. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
    One of the most spacious-sounding albums ever. The production is beautiful. And, apparently, the acapella Tom's Diner was used as the basis for creating the mp3 sound format.

    EG.
     
  19. brownsound2112

    brownsound2112 Forum Resident

    Great thread - thanks Eric!
     
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  20. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
    Q: The Music, Part 2 (1987-1988)

    In part one, we covered the earliest months of Q‘s lifetime, reaching the summer of 1987. I still wasn’t altogether in sync with the magazine’s general outlook, but had already become aware of artists such as Randy Newman, Jennifer Warnes and Warren Zevon. Q had effectively supplanted even Record Mirror as my favourite source of music reading.


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    4 stars (Q12) August 1987, album released July 1987

    Thank goodness, then, that the magazine’s penchant for a bit of funk had extended to the new Jam & Lewis-created masterpiece. Hearsay had been eagerly anticipated in some circles, with lead single Fake displaying an almighty power only hinted at on O’Neal’s previous album in 1985.

    Although I recognised it as an instant classic, the album took a while to build up commercial momentum, and was impossible to find on CD when first released (much like Terence Trent D’Arby’s Introducing The Hardline According To… , which only just missed out on featuring here).

    EG.
     
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  21. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
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    3 stars (Q13) September 1987, album released August 1987

    Inevitably accompanied by the tagline “Are you ready to RAWK” or something similar, Q approached soft-metal with the same distanced bemusement as the school swots would regard the scruffy kid in class with long hair and an Iron Maiden T-shirt. Not openly hostile, but the subject of much mirth and bemused ridicule.

    Hysteria gave Q a problem because it was simply impossible to ignore. A quite fantastic record. Big production, big choruses, big hair. And huge sales. Along with Michael Jackson’s Bad (which they oddly awarded 5 stars in the same issue), Hysteria dominated the US charts at the end of 1987 and all through 1988.

    EG.
     
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  22. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
    You're welcome :)

    I've tried to keep as much of the original content from the blog as possible!

    EG.
     
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  23. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
    [​IMG]
    4 stars (Q13) September 1987

    No such issues of acceptance for Pet Shop Boys, obviously (Neil Tennant being a former colleague for many of the staff who wrote for both Smash Hits and now Q). Their debut, Please, was from pre-Q days, so Actually was the duo’s first album proper to fall under the magazine’s gaze.

    Like just about everyone (including myself to some extent), they underestimated the sheer genius on show and its imminent status as the defining pop record of its era, being distracted by the new Michael Jackson LP and attendant hype.

    EG.
     
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  24. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berkshire
    [​IMG]
    3 stars (Q13) September 1987

    They were blindsided, too, by the sudden demise of The Smiths that was announced as their Strangeways Here We Come arrived in stores. Q had giddily pronounced it a masterpiece, giving it 5 stars and featuring it prominently in one of their “box” reviews.

    However, released the very same day was an album by another major alternative (dare we say “indie”?) UK band, who would go on to become one of the key players in the rise of “alt. rock” over in America. Music For The Masses was barely acknowlegded by Q, one of those non-committal 3-star efforts that said very little other than “more of the same old same old”.

    I have some sympathy for them, because even as a total DM nut (which I was at the time) there wasn’t any obvious sign that the album would alter the course of their career and take them to a completely new level of success and influence (not to mention decadence). The two singles – Strangelove and Never Let Me Down Again – were absolute monsters, but my overall reaction to the rest of the album was mild disappointment; nothing (excuse the pun) really stood out and there was a sense that the band had begun to plateau.

    Yet, 30-odd years down the line, it’s become the Depeche Mode album that I return to the most often!

    EG.

     
  25. Bobby Morrow

    Bobby Morrow Forum Resident

    Actually has become my favourite PSB album. For years it was Please. If I’m not mistaken, Actually came out the week after Bad, and the latter was certainly the one I concentrated on. If I’m being picky, I’d say Shopping and Hit Music are the weakest cuts on the record.
     
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