This is a page from Australian Smash Hits magazine, as reproduced in the book “Pop Life: Inside Smash Hits Australia 1984-2007” along with the “David lies about his age” annotation. I remember this page well. It was published in around 1987, which would have made lying journalist David Nichols about 15 years old, had he really been born in 1972. That made him only a few years older than me, and I thought, “Crap, if it’s normal for 15-year-olds to be features editors at pop magazines, I’d better hurry up and get really good at writing so I don’t miss out.” A while later I realised he was a lying liar and that he was probably closer to 25 than 15, but it actually did me good, inspiring me to delve deeper into the world of pop.
I’m in an official state of mourning (wearing black, but also lots of black eyeliner and therefore looking fabulous) at the news that Smash Hits magazine has come to an end after 28 years.
Now, for those unfamiliar with ver Hits, it might be easy to think that Smash Hits was lame pop magazine for teen girls with lame interviews with lame pop artists. No, no, that was all the imitators who came after Smash Hits. Ver Hits was the originator. It was the one that decided that pop took itself too seriously and it was time to have some fun. Sometimes knowing what’s in a pop star’s fridge is more revealing than hearing about their arsehole stepfather.
What I’ve learned from the various obituaries for Smash Hits is that the mag’s zenith came in the late ’80s around the time that Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan (wait – do I really need to use their surnames?) ruled the world. And it just so happens that this was the time when I was a regular Smash Hits reader. Yes, I read almost every Smash Hits in 1987 and 1988. (Actually, “excitedly devoured” is a better description than “read”.)
I got the Australian edition, which was the English edition with a few pages replaced with features on local acts, but that made me like it even more. It meant I was in on the Kylie and Jason phenomena even before it arrived in England, let alone New Zealand. Smash Hits were gleefully covering Kylie’s first single – a mediocre cover of “The Locomotion” and fuelled her poptastic fire.
When I was 13, I did a project for third form music where I compared four of the leading music magazines (Smash Hits, Number One, RTR Countdown and some other one). Smash Hits, I declared, was the best. Not only that, but the teacher singled me out as having one of the best projects (everyone else had done stuff like a biography of Belinda Carlisle).
Smash Hits was a huge inspiration to me. When I was 12 I co-authored “Bon Jovi Mini-Mag” (which despite its name, was not really about Bon Jovi, and ended up being burnt by co-author Caroline’s dad when he declared it was obscene), and then later did two editions of “Perv” (which despite its name, was not obscene). And indeed Smash Hits’ lively style has been an inspiration to be right to this day.
Occasionally I’d buy a contemporary Smash Hits, but, you know, it’s not the same any more. Pop stars don’t sit down and answer questions about what’s in their fridge, without their publicist – eager to avoid mentioning eating disorders – jumping in and abruptly changing the subject.
A few months ago I discovered the joy of buying old Smash Hits yearbooks on eBay and got a complete set from 1983 to 1991 (cos after that came grunge and everything changed). As a memorial tribute, I had a look through the ’87 and ’88 editions and was reminded of the variety of stories issues included. Things like:
- A Neil Tennant board game.
- A pin-up poster of Midge Ure.
- A six-page biography of Bob Geldof.
- “A day in the life of Terence Trent D’Arby”.
- An analysis of popstars’ handwritten lyrics.
- Never-ending Paul Weller coverage/worship.
And here are a few photos of bits and pieces from the yearbooks.
But while Smash Hits is about to cease being published, its spirit lives on (yay!). One of my favourite www interweb sites is Popjustice, which I heartily recommend if you like pop music.
Other Smash Hits links
Early ’80s Smash Hits – was it any good? – a discussion.
Like Punk Never Happened – old issues of ver Hits, scanned in for your pleasure.
(That’s enough – ed.)