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Logo of the Melody Maker used in the 1970s

Melody Maker, published in the United Kingdom, was, according to its publisher IPC Media, the world's oldest weekly music newspaper.[1] It was founded in 1926 as a magazine targeted at musicians; in 2000 it was merged into "long-standing rival"[1] (and IPC Media sister publication) New Musical Express.



Originally the Melody Maker (MM) concentrated on jazz, and had Max Jones, one of the leading British proselytizers for that music, on its staff for many years. It was slow to cover rock and roll and lost ground to the New Musical Express (NME), which had begun in 1952. MM began its Melody Maker LP charts in November 1958, two years after the Record Mirror published the first UK Albums Chart.[2]

On 6 March 1965, MM called for The Beatles to be honoured by the British state, which happened on 12 June that year when all four were made MBEs.

By the late 1960s, MM had recovered momentum, targeting an older market than the teen-oriented NME. MM had larger and more specialised advertising; soon-to-be well-known groups would advertise for musicians. It ran pages devoted to "minority" interests like folk and jazz, as well as detailed reviews of musical instruments.

A 1968 Melody Maker poll named John Peel best radio DJ, attention which John Walters revealed may have helped Peel keep his job despite concerns at BBC Radio 1 about Peel's style and record selection.[3]


Melody Maker covers 1932 - 2000
March 1966
January 1979
April 1984
January 1996

Critics such as Richard Williams, Chris Welch and Steve Lake were among the first British journalists to write seriously about popular music, shedding an intellectual light on such artists as Steely Dan, Cat Stevens, Led Zeppelin and Henry Cow.

Melody Maker supported glam rock and progressive rock in the 1970s.

In 1978, Richard Williams returned again as editor attempting to take MM in a new direction influenced by what Paul Morley and Ian Penman were doing at NME and with Jon Savage, Chris Bohn and Mary Harron providing arty coverage of post-punk and New Wave while Vivien Goldman who was previously at NME and Sounds, gave the paper much improved coverage of reggae and soul music, an area in which it had fallen short of its competitors.

Internal tension came to light, principally between Williams and Ray Coleman, by this time editor-in-chief, who wanted the paper to stick to the more "conservative rock" music it had continued to support during the punk era. Coleman had been insistent that the paper should "look like The Daily Telegraph" (renowned for its old-fashioned design), but Williams wanted the paper to look more contemporary. He commissioned an updated design, but this was rejected by Coleman.


In 1980, after a strike which had taken the paper (along with NME) out of publication for a period, Williams left MM. Coleman promoted Michael Oldfield from the design staff to day-to-day editor, and, for a while, took it back where it had been, with news of a line-up change in Jethro Tull replacing features about Andy Warhol, Gang of Four and Factory Records on the cover. Several journalists, such as Chris Bohn and Vivien Goldman, moved to NME, while Jon Savage joined the new magazine The Face. Coleman left in 1981, the paper's design was updated, but sales and prestige were at a low ebb through the early 1980s, with NME dominant.

By 1983, the magazine had become more populist and pop-orientated, exemplified by its modish "MM" masthead, regular covers for the likes of Duran Duran and its choice of Eurythmics' Touch as the best album of the year. Things were to change, however. In February 1984, Allan Jones, noted for sardonic, boozy interviews with Lou Reed and Ozzy Osbourne, and a staff writer on the paper since 1974, was appointed editor: defying instructions to put Kajagoogoo on the cover, he led the magazine with an article on up-and-coming band The Smiths.

In 1986, MM was invigorated by the arrival of a group of journalists, including Simon Reynolds and David Stubbs, who had run a music fanzine called Monitor from the University of Oxford, and Chris Roberts, from Sounds, who established MM as more individualistic and intellectual. This was especially true after the hip-hop wars at NME, a schism between enthusiasts of progressive black music such as Public Enemy and Mantronix and fans of traditional white rock - ended in a victory for the latter, the departure of writers such as Mark Sinker and Biba Kopf, and the rise of Andrew Collins and Stuart Maconie, who pushed NME in a more populist direction.


While MM continued to devote most space to rock and indie music (notably Everett True's coverage of the emerging grunge scene in Seattle), it covered dance music, hip hop and post rock and electronica. Two of the paper's writers, Push and Ben Turner, went on to launch IPC Media's monthly dance music magazine Muzik. Even in the mid-1990s, when Britpop brought a new generation of readers to the music press, it remained less populist than its rivals, with younger writers such as Simon Price, Taylor Parkes and Neil Kulkarni continuing the 1980s tradition of iconoclasm and opinionated criticism. The paper printed harsh criticism of Ocean Colour Scene and Kula Shaker, and allowed dissenting views on Oasis and Blur at a time when they were praised by the rest of the press. In 1999, Melody Maker descirbed Muse's debut album, 'Showbiz' as 'Painful alienation in a seaside town, where no oneuUnderstands the genius of Kurt Cobain except me'. This article rivalled with NME, who praised the new band for their unique style.

The magazine retained its large classified ads section, and remained the first call for bands seeking musicians, and musicians seeking bands. Suede formed through ads placed in the paper. MM also continued to publish reviews of musical equipment and readers' demo tapes - though these often had little in common stylistically with the rest of the paper - ensuring sales to jobbing musicians who would otherwise have little interest in the music press.

In early 1997, Allan Jones left to edit Uncut. He was replaced, somewhat controversially,[citation needed] by Mark Sutherland, formerly of NME and Smash Hits, who "fulfilled his boyhood dream"[4] by editing the magazine for three years. Many long-standing writers left, often moving to Uncut, with at least one writer, Simon Price, departing because he objected to an edict that coverage of Oasis should be positive. Its sales, which had been substantially lower than those of the NME, entered a serious decline.

In 1999, MM relaunched as a glossy magazine, which hastened its demise. It folded in 2000, merging with the NME (published by the same company, IPC Media), which took on some of its journalists and initially its musical instrument reviews.

Bands using MM adverts

Advertisements in Melody Maker helped assemble the lineups of a number of major bands, including:


  1. ^ a b Melody Maker to merge with NME, a December 2000 BBC article
  2. ^ The Album Chart (1950s) from the BBC Radio 2 website
  3. ^ John Peel Day 2005 from the BBC Radio 1 website
  4. ^ Mark Sutherland's Biography from the BBC 6 Music website
  5. ^ [ Bill Bruford's official website
  6. ^ Supertramp from Stuart Maconie's Critical List on the BBC Radio 2 website
  7. ^ David Coverdale from the BBC website
  8. ^ 2003 Interview with Erasure from the BBC website
  9. ^ Seven Ages of Rock: Suede from the BBC Radio 2 website
  10. ^ [1] from Steve Hackett's official site
  11. ^ [2] from Wang Chung's official site

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