Melody Maker

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Melody Maker (or MM) was a weekly newspaper about popular music published in the United Kingdom by IPC Media. It was one of the oldest established music newspapers, founded in 1926 by London music publisher Lawrence Wright, until its eventual merger with rival publication New Musical Express in 2000.[1]

Originally intended as a journal to promote the publisher, it soon became an independent monthly aimed primarily at dance band musicians. Following founding editor-in-chief Edgar Wright's departure in 1929 to manage Jack Hylton's band, Melody Maker focussed on its jazz coverage.[2] Composer Spike Hughes assumed the role as record reviewer, and the paper sponsored a groundbreaking 1933 concert tour by Duke Ellington.[3] In that year, Melody Maker became a weekly with a newspaper tabloid format. Ray Sonin succeeded P. Mathison Brooks as editor in 1940 and was in turn supplanted in 1949 by Pat Brand. With black beret-wearing Max Jones as its ace jazz columnist, by 1955, Melody Maker was selling 97,000 copies a week. However the ambivalence to rock 'n' roll by some writers, and hostility by others, witnessed the publication lose ground to New Musical Express (founded in 1952) and to the newly launched Record Mirror. In 1956, Melody Maker published its inaugural Top 20 singles chart but it did not wholeheartedly embrace the burgeoning popular music aesthetic until 1963. It published its first Melody Maker LP charts in November 1958, two years after the Record Mirror posted their first UK Albums Chart, but as the overall majority of the record buying public at that time were buying 45 singles, the Melody Maker held little appeal other than for the dedicated music connoisseur.

When Jack Hutton superseded Brand, the paper was redesigned and Chris Welch was commissioned as its first dedicated pop journalist. One of the most important readers' sections of Melody Maker was its classified advertisements, notably the "Musicians Wanted" page. Wishbone Ash and Camel were among the countless British rock groups that found band members through the Melody Maker small advertisements. It was also one of the few publications with detailed reviews of musical instruments. The paper was also credited in promoting the British blues boom of the 1960s.[4] On 6 March 1965, Melody Maker motioned for the Beatles to be honoured by the state, which happened on 12 June that year when all four were individually made a Member of the British Empire (MBE).[5]

With the addition of other, younger writers, Melody Maker provided full coverage of the progressive rock and folk rock scenes of the 1960s,[6] until it was surprised in September 1970 by the defection of Hutton and some of his staff to set up a rival weekly, Sounds. Under Hutton's deputy, Ray Coleman, however, Melody Maker achieved its most successful era in the early 1970s, with sales reaching a near peak of 300,000 copies.[7] With the magazine's serious approach to rock music and culture,[8] journalists such as Chris Welch, Roy Hollingworth, and Richard Williams were among the first British writers to review and shed an intellectual light on such artists as Traffic, Free, Led Zeppelin and Yes.

Melody Maker remained conservative in its musical editorials when punk/new wave became prevalent in the late 1970s, continuing to feature progressive rock, hard rock, and blues rock despite its rivals New Musical Express and Sounds embracing the new genres.[9] Richard Williams returned as editor and tried to appeal to followers of the new music, devoting more column space to reggae and soul music. However continued embittered strife within the establishment caused the resignations of Williams and later Coleman, and the paper began to lose both its traditional target demographic and the younger readership. By the early 1980s, Melody Maker tried to appeal to a new audience and as the decade passed new journalists forged new changes in the now magazine format. The publication was devoting most space to rock and indie music but it also covered dance music, hip hop, post rock and electronica by the 1990s. IPC Media made the decision to merge Melody Maker with New Musical Express in 2000, after claims online music sites had affected a drop in audited circulation.[10]

Notes

  1. Melody Maker to Merge with NME, BBC News, 15 December 2000. Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  2. Scott, Derek B (2003). From the Erotic to the Demonic: On Critical Musicology, 1st. New York: Oxford University Press, 13. ISBN 0-19-51519-5. 
  3. Cohen, Harvey G. Dawn of the jazz age: Sir Duke Ellington's adventures in Britain, The Independent, 13 November 2008. Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  4. Schwartz, Roberta Freund (2007). How Britain Got the Blues: The Transmission and Reception of American Blues Style in the United Kingdom, 2nd. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 43. ISBN 0-7546-5580-0. 
  5. Strinati, Dominic and Wagg, Stephen (1992). Come on Down?: Popular Media Culture in Post-War Britain, Reprint. London: Routledge, 308. ISBN 0-415-06326-4. 
  6. Sweers, Britta (2005). Electric Folk: The Changing Face of English Traditional Music, 1st. New York: Oxford University Press, 13. ISBN 0-19-51587-8. 
  7. Welch, Chris. From Armstrong to Led Zeppelin, we had it covered, The Independent, 15 December 2000. Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  8. Jones, Steve (2002). Pop Music and the Press, 1st. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 45. ISBN 1-56639-966-1. 
  9. Harris, John. I Liked It, I Liked It, Yes I Did, The Independent, 10 October 1999. Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  10. Hodgson, Jessica. IPC considers future of Melody Maker, The Guardian, 14 December 2000. Retrieved on 20 April 2009.