Record Mirror

Record Mirror

Record Mirror was a national tabloid consumer weekly pop music newspaper founded by Isadore Green in 1953, [ [ "Simon Blumenfeld - Columnist, author, playwright, theatre critic, editor and former light entertainment editor of The Stage"] 06 May 2005 "The Stage" accessed 10 September 2008] then priced 6d (2½p in decimal currency) featuring news, articles, interviews, record charts, record and concert reviews, readers’ letters, and photographs.


Launched a year after the New Musical Express (NME), Record Mirror never attained the circulation of its high-profile rival, but during the 1960s and early 1970s did achieve a reasonable circulation based on its reputation among both mainstream pop music fans and serious record collectors as the most interesting—and often quirkiest—of the then four competing pop weeklies (Melody Maker, NME, Record Mirror, Disc). The first ever UK album chart was published in "Record Mirror" in 1956, and in the 1980s it was the only consumer music paper to carry the official UK singles and UK albums charts.

1953-1969: 116 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1

Isadore Green, like NME founder Maurice Kinn, was formerly a sports newspaper editor, and the same combative form of journalism was initially encouraged. Staff writers included Dick Tatham, Peter Jones, and later Ian Dove. But Green’s greatest love was with the world of show-business and as the ’50s progressed he devoted increasing column inches of Record Mirror to show-business articles and interviews, especially the British music-hall tradition (by then virtually dead), theatre, stage musicals, Hollywood musicals, and the comings-and-goings of mainstream show-business entertainers from TV, radio, stage and screen. This did not help circulation. For almost two months in the middle of 1959 Record Mirror failed to appear due to the national printing strike. On its return, Green had re-named it Record And Show Mirror with the majority of space being devoted to traditional show-business. It was a financial disaster. By the end of 1960 the circulation had fallen to 18,000 copies and Record Mirror’s main shareholder, the major Decca Records group, was unhappy. Decca had been buying shares for years in order to support Record Mirror, although they were gentlemanly enough not to influence editorial content. Nevertheless their involvement precluded much advertising from rival major EMI. In March 1961 Decca sacked Green and brought in their own editor, Jimmy Watson, a former Decca group press officer, who changed the title to New Record Mirror and considerably streamlined the paper, ditching the show-business element. Watson, with the enthusiastic editorial team of Peter Jones, Ian Dove and Norman Jopling, and well-respected free-lance columnists James Asman (traditional jazz, and country & western), Benny Green (modern jazz), and DJ David Gell (singles reviews), oversaw a rapid circulation rise, helped also by an innovative chart coverage. This eventually included the official UK Top 50 singles, Top 30 LPs, Top 10 EPs (as compiled by Record Retailer), the US Top 50 singles (compiled by Cash Box), Top 20 five years ago, Top 20 R&B singles and Top 10 R&B albums – a far broader coverage than any other pop weekly. Over the next few years such regular features as Ian Dove’s Rhythm & Blues Round Up, Peter Jones’ New Faces, and Norman Jopling’s Fallen Idols and Great Unknowns, plus New Record Mirror’s specialist music coverage helped the circulation rise rapidly to nearly 70,000 copies weekly. New Record Mirror became the first national publication to publish an article on the Beatles, and the first to feature many other groups from the Sixties’ UK beat boom era including the Rolling Stones, the Searchers, The Who, and the Kinks. Bill Harry, founder and editor of the influential Liverpool music paper Mersey Beat, was brought in to write a column on the Liverpool scene, and other local columnists reported the burgeoning beat scene in Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, etc. Record Mirror also heavily championed black American rhythm & blues, becoming the ‘bible’ for UK R&B fans, as well as maintaining a regular flow of articles on classic rock’n’roll.

During 1963 Decca Records’ chairman Edward Lewis sold a substantial share of Decca’s interest in Record Mirror to John Junor, editor of the Sunday Express. Junor had been intrigued by his MP friend Woodrow Wyatt’s new enterprise, a four-colour web-offset printers in Banbury, and Junor subsequently began looking for a guinea-pig to test the web-offset printing process with a view to printing the Sunday Express in colour. New Record Mirror became that guinea-pig.

Junor temporarily moved in his own Sunday Express production team to 116 Shaftesbury Avenue and decreed that New Record Mirror should become more mainstream pop-oriented. Thus it was re-relaunched in November 1963, once again titled Record Mirror, and featured a colour picture of the Beatles on the front…the first music paper in full colour. Although the entire first print run of 120,000 sold out, the following issue saw the circulation fall back down closer to 60,000. Junor swiftly sacked editor Jimmy Watson and replaced him by promoting Peter Jones. Jones knew RM was in danger of losing its considerable specialist fan base and over the next few months achieved the feat of maintaining the paper’s new pop pin-up image, but also retaining sufficient specialist articles, interviews and charts to satisfy the connoisseur element of the readership. The circulation recovered. Jones also hired notorious ex-NME journalist Richard Green (“the Beast”), and RM successfully continued with essentially the same editorial format throughout the Sixties.

Following the acquisition in 1962 of NME by the publishing giant Odhams, RM was the only “independent” pop music newspaper, and throughout the ’60s its tiny offices above Drum City became a haven for pop business mavericks and misfits, while Peter Jones’ “second office” around the corner at DeHems Oyster Bar was a mecca for artists, publicists, and assorted hangers-on. All this ended late in 1969 when RM was acquired by Record Retailer, later to become Music Week, and was incorporated into the larger Record Retailer offices in Carnaby Street.

Other journalists and present and future music business luminaries to work at Record Mirror full or part-time during the Sixties included Graeme Andrews, Derek Boltwood, Roy Burden, Terry Chappell, Lon Goddard, David Griffiths, Tony Hall, Valerie Mabbs, Barry May, and Alan Stinton. The Record Mirror photographic studios were run by legendary lensman Dezo Hoffmann, whose colleagues and apprentices included Bill Williams, Eileen Mallory, Alan Messer, Feri Lukas, David Magnus, Keith Hammett, (more names here)

1969-1977: Carnaby Street, London W1

The acquisition of Record Mirror by Record Retailer (itself owned by the US music periodical Billboard) also saw RM change printers, drop the full-colour pin-ups, and increase its size to a slightly larger tabloid format. Peter Jones continued as editor, supported by staffers Valerie Mabbs, Rob Partridge, Bill McAllister, and broadcast specialist Rodney Collins, whose influential links with pirate radio obtained RM a healthy continental circulation (a Dutch supplement was frequently included). Terry Chappell resumed as production editor, with Bob Houston supervising the change in layout format. Group editorial manager Mike Hennessey also contributed many outstanding articles including the first Beatles “who wrote what” interview with John Lennon. The former RM photographic studio became independent, remaining under the control of Dezo Hoffmann who continued to supply photographs to RM.


In 1977 Music Week (formerly Record Retailer) and Record Mirror were sold by the Billboard organisation by Morgan Grampion, and both offices moved to Long Acre in Covent Garden. Morgan Grampion then moved in 1981 to Greater London House (the famous Black Cat building) in Mornington Crescent.

In an effort to boost sales it changed to a "Smash Hits"-style glossy magazine format in 1982, but ceased publication in April 1991, with sister publication "Sounds" closing in the same week (of the above mentioned publications only NME survives today.) Its final cover stars were Transvision Vamp. In its final years it veered wildly from being a largely humourless imitation of Smash Hits to attempting to gain credibility as the magazine of record for the emerging rave and acid scene.

Record Mirror was continued as a four-page supplement in "Music Week", driven by the chart section, although in later years the supplement concentrated solely on dance music. The RM dance charts were later incorporated into "Music Week" itself.


The Record Mirror is mentioned in the song "Last of the Skinheads" and "Bring Back the Skins" (Both versions of the same song) by Judge Dread as being as he regarded "the best thing about". The reggae page was also mentioned.


Articles and features in a typical edition of "Record Mirror" were as follows:

* News - including release info and tours.
* Index - New bands and competitions
* "Great Pop Things" - comic strip by Colin B. Morton and Chuck Death
* Lip - gossip with Nancy Culp or Lisa Tilson
* Dance pages - with "Cool Cuts" Top 20 chart
* Independents - reviews and new acts plus chart rundown for indie singles and album
* 33 - Album reviews
* 45 - Singles reviews
* J Edward Oliver's cartoon page
* Alan Jones' Chartfile
* The "Natural Blonde" column by Paula Yates
* In 1984, when British tabloid newspapers started running bingo competitions, "Record Mirror" became the first (and possibly only) music paper to experiment with something similar. Free cards were attached to the front of the magazine, inside which would be printed a number of song titles from that week's Top 40. The winner would have to match the chart positions of those records with the numbers inside the card. The competition was short-lived and had no discernible effect on sales.
* In later years the magazine became well known for its idiosyncratic sense of visual humour: for example, urban rap pioneers Public Enemy could be superimposed on a surfing or laidback Californian surf scene, photographs of sheds were used to randomly illustrate spurious articles about hi-nrg, and the iconic pipe-smoking trilby-hatted character "Mr Acid Head" was later picked up by rave-based record label and used repeatedly as sleeve art.

=BabbleJohnny Dee's late 1980s star-spotting gossip pages also feature a number of comedy articles such as:
* Phil's World Of Wigs - Each week a picture of Phil Collins with new novelty haircuts. Created weekly by maverick art director Ian Middleton in response to reader's suggestions.
* The Stone Roses New Line Up - Each week a new photo of a gurning celeb would be added to The Stone Roses 1989 line up (for example various muppets, Harry Enfield as Loadsamoney and Benny Hill).
* Spot The Imposter - photoquiz with a misplaced face in the crowd.
* B's Cheeseboard - Soul 2 Soul star Jazzie B 'reviewed' various types of cheese
* Sonia's Best Buys - value for money purchases apparently made by late 80's singer Sonia
* Star Scene - pop stars answering questions about items in the news. Invariably included a 'quote' from Samantha Fox to the effect that she was out of the country
* Pete's Poems - a weekly poem by producer Peter Waterman, as edited by Neil Wilson
* Tanita and Guy's Psychic Joke Hut - jokes told by House Of Love singer Guy Chadwick and Tanita Tikaram

DJ Directory

Also known as BPM in earlier editions and edited by James Hamilton
* Beats and Pieces - dance gossip
* Hot Vinyl - Track listings of new records
* Remixes
* Pop Dance Chart
* Hi-NRG Chart
* The Club Chart (also known as the Disco chart)


As well as the above listed charts:
* Vintage Chart
* USA Billboard Singles
* USA Billboard Albums
* USA Billboard Black Singles
* Music Video
* UK Top 100 Singles
* UK Top 100 Albums (from 1989 Top 75 Albums and Compilations)
* Twelve Inch Top 20
* Compact Disc Top 20
* This Week's Chart and Chart File - chart facts by Alan Jones
* Reggae (dropped in 1987)


ee also

*UK Singles Chart
*Hit Music
*Music Week

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