The most telling thing about BBC4's Inky Fingers and its look back on the past 50 years of the NME, is how little they dwelled on the present. Conor McNicholas was given two minutes to dismiss critics of the current era as 'granddads', and the Steve Sutherland era of the 1990s wasn't even mentioned. A shame really, as Andrew Collins' recollection of Sutherland's appointment is fairly amusing:
1992. Popular, rotund, football loving NME editor Danny Kelly leaves for pastures Q. Various NME staffers publicly apply for job - in name of continuity at what was a great time for the NME - Steve Lamacq, Stuart Maconie, Andrew Collins, Gavin Martin, James Brown and Brendan Fitzgerald (the people's choice, non-nonsense Antipodean Deputy Ed). None of whom even got the courtesy of a second interview - instead we were all shocked to find that MM deputy ed Steve Sutherland would be "crossing the floor" from Melody Maker to be our new boss - just weeks after a pathetic live review in MM which he wrote saying that Suede were all that MM stood for (grace, glamour, originality) and Kingmaker were all that NME stood for (lumpen, crappy stude rock). It was typical of his useless writing style and his imagined "feud" between the papers - both owned by IPC and one floor apart in the same building. We at NME did hate the MM, but mainly because they all crossed an NUJ picket line that very year, despite our pleading of solidarity. So we were going to be run by a scab who'd tried to turn NME vs MM into column inches for cheap effect. And we'd heard he was a tosser.For an hour-long documentary, it did its job fairly well, although as expected, events had to be compressed and details left out; the programme covered the 'hip-hop' wars of the 1980s in a rather jaunty tone, neglecting to just how serious it was - rumour has it that the police got involved over anti-editorial graffiti sprayed onto the office building. As expected, it left me nostalgic for a time I never really knew. Danny Baker says that the best era of the NME is whenever you started reading, but I know that's not true for me. During the 1980s, IPC found itself publishing a music paper that reviewed music from a philosophical point of view, a New Pop point of view, and all the others it could find, never compromising in the face of label pressure. When I was reading the NME, Be Here Now was passed around the office; the requirement of taking the album was that you had to write a positive review. Admittedly, there was still interesting bits and pieces throughout the 1990s, as issue-based features crept back into the paper, and yes, I used to find Steven Wells entertaining at times (far too in love with Hunter S. Thompson, but his review of Sleater-Kinney's The Hot Rock made me rush out to a Manchester record shop and buy the album, so I do have a little soft spot for him, although I imagine he wouldn't approve). As for 'granddads', well, sure Conor, if you say so. It's not that we've too old for your paper. It's that the NME is now little more than a multimedia brand, designed only to cosy up to record labels and rubberstamp their new acts (while at the same time, blackmailing the labels not to talk to any magazines). The quality of the writing has plummeted, with the reviews section in particular being a pale shadow of even its 1990s self. It was better; even accounting for the most rosiest of lenses. One final note: Charles Shaar Murray's TEETH! MY GOD!