24 03 2018


So, farewell New Musical Express, or as it was more commonly known, the NME.

After nearly 66 years of keeping music fans informed about the latest fads, fashions and falls from fame, the once esteemed music weekly has pulled the lead out of the amplifier and staggered off to a final backstage party.

In a bizarre coincidence, our very own, homegrown, weekly music magazine, The Newvalley Musical Express has also just announced that it will no longer be appearing on the shelves of Tommy Nicolson’s or Roddy Smith”s.

The paper began in 1952 as the “Newvalley Musical Express incorporating Orduighean Times” and very quickly became the paper you had to be seen with to enhance your musical ‘coolness’. If you read the Newvalley Musical Express, you were the first to know when the hippest bands were playing, what the latest chart hit was going to be, and when the Barvas communions were going to be taking place.

The NME appeared just as rock and roll hit Lewis, and swiftly ignored it. Instead, the NME directed its energy mainly towards accordion and fiddle music and half drunk coves singing Gaelic songs in Stornoway pubs. In its early days it also reported on really good church precenting as well – for example, if everyone who claimed to have been present in the High Church at the February 1959 Stornoway Communions (from the NME article ‘I’ve seen the future of Precenting and his name is Donald MacLeod) had really been there, you would have needed almost the full use of the Church Hall as well.

The paper also carried regular ‘gig’ reports from impromptu musical sessions in various secret Ness Bothans. Very often these reports included details of police raids and the number of half bottles confiscated.

The NME was also the first local paper to publish a singles chart, based on the returns from Maciver and Dart’s shop. The charts were hugely important to local music fans who would queue up outside the papershops every Friday to see who had reached Number 1 that week. Who can forget the media hype behind the mid 90’s Oasis vs Uncle Ethan race to the Number 1 spot with their songs, respectively, ‘(Do You Want a) Roll(mop herring) With It?’ and ‘Council House’.

In the early 1970’s the ‘real’ NME gained a reputation for ‘Gonzo’ journalism. This was largely believed to have been heavily influenced by the Lewis NME’s ‘GalsonShow’ journalism, where the paper carried reviews of live ‘gigs’ held at the various summer Cattle Shows (which was always three coves with melodians sitting in the back of a trailer and playing “Haoidh-o Haoidh-ram, Chunna Mis’ a’ Raoir Thu” on repeat).

The paper also dabbled in the glittery realms of Glamb Rock in the early to mid 70’s and regularly carried features on artists such as Marag Bolan & T-Rubhachs, The Suet (famous for Flockbuster, Balallan Blitz and Teenage Ram-graze), Gearraidh Gritterlorry and Skye band Sleit, featuring Roddy Holder, who had massive success with ‘Coz I Luv Ewes’, ‘Ferry Christmas Everyboaty’ and ‘Curam Feel The Noize’.

But by the mid 70’s, the NME was starting to get stale. Rival publications such as the ‘Free Church Monthly Record Mirror’, ‘The Melodian Maker’ and the ‘Fleekin’ Sound’ were catching a bigger share of the market whilst NME sales were plummeting.

The editor decided to take a risk and employ a couple of young, unknown writers, who were tasked with making the paper relevant again. These two were Julie Birchilldrive and Tony Parishioner, who became known as the Hip Young Psalmsingers. They originally championed genres such as Fank Rock (The Seggs Pistols, The Darned and Shader 69) and later Post Fank (such as Mark E Smithshoeshop and The Offall)

Another writer who made his name at that time was Poll Maw-erly, who went on to act as publicist for ruppish Hearach pop sensations Fankie Goes To Horgabost.

Charles Shaader Murray also gained a sizeable reputation, particularly for his moving obituaries to dead rock stars, many of which have been reposted on The (Made Up) History Of Stornoway page.

The life of a rock journalist could be hazardous, with a bad review or an impertinent question leading to fisticuffs with irate musicians. Famous run ins between journalists and rock stars included the battering dished out to J*hnny S**sage by punk rock karate enthusiast Jean-Jacques Shoeburnel for an insufficiently enthusiastic review of The Strondglers’ “No More Hearachs” in 1977. In 1983, Danny Bakersroad was hung by his feet over the railing of the Suilven in mid-Minch by notorious rock ‘n roll hardman Prof, after criticising Swedish TV’s “Nous Sommes Merde”. And of course there was also the mysterious demise of NME journalist Barrach Miles after he’d published his scathing “This is what your fathers fought to save you from…” piece on Kroftwerk’s “Dautomahn” album in 1975. Kroftwerk’s former chief robot, Rött “Der Aktorrr” Mörison, remains famously reticent on that subject to this day.

Co dhiù, music fans of all ages (except the under 50s) will no doubt miss the Newvalley Musical Express print experience. On the plus side, it leaves readers no worse off on the emergency bog roll front, as its famously smudgy black newsprint rendered it unsuitable for that purpose except under the most desperate of circumstances.