Review- Pop Life

My pocket money when I was 14 was pretty much spent on buying Smash Hits. Every fortnight, I would ride to the milk bar on the way to school and pick up my copy to read from cover to cover, savour the lyrics, the interviews and the posters.

My Smash Hits obsession overlapped with my obsession with all things Durannie. Now, there is a book called Pop Life which celebrates what I considered to be the best magazine in the world (when I was 14), written by Marc Andrews, Claire Isaac and David Nichols, some of the writers who put it together.

The Australian Smash Hits emerged from the British magazine of the same name* and was the creation of James Manning, radio broadcaster and record-shop owner. While the Australian version recycled a bit of content and images from the English version, the rise of home-grown pop stars such as Kylie Minogue and INXS achieving international stardom saw Smash Hits Australia emerge as a publishing entity in its own right.

My days of devotion span the early days, from 1984 to 1986/7. My musical tastes began to expand, mainly to the 60’s and I wasn’t really enamoured with the latest bunch of popsters. I think one of the last Smash Hits I bought was one which featured New Order, probably the only time they ever featured in Smash Hits. It may have been when Bizarre Love Triangle came out.

The demise of the magazine is discussed and attributed to several factors. Changing musical tastes, the availability of information online are just a couple which forced the magazine to close.

What is also revealed in the book are the motivations for the writers- for Claire, it was about meeting her idols. For Marc, the pop world was an outlet for expressing his sexuality and for David, it was something he fell into, and gave him an excuse to watch a lot of Neighbours, Home and Away and E-street.

What was also  enlightening was how the early readers of the magazine, now parents, interacted with music in a different way to that of their children. For Penny, part of the love of Smash Hits music was its tangibility- you could look at a poster, read the interview, have the tape or LP with accompanying photos and lyrics and artwork. For her daughter it was about searching for articles or lyrics online and downloading the song onto an MP3 player. Just like Penny, the music for me was tangible- you could hold it, read it, listen to it and see it. The invisibility of a music collection on an iPod or on a hard drive begs the question- do we value it less if it’s no longer tangible?

Pop Life is published by Affirm Press an independent publisher with, by the looks of it a few cool titles. I bought my copy directly on the Wednesday and it had arrived the following day- great service!

*and right here I will not mention Mr BG’s obsession project which entailed tracking down the English Smash Hits from 1979-1981 on eBay.


2 thoughts on “Review- Pop Life

  1. I’m very keen to read this. Once I went with David to some record companies in Sydney for Smash Hits. We previewed a video of, I think, Wa Wa Nee and later he interviewed SPK (in their industrial pop phase). Good fun.

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