From humble beginnings in 1952 when publisher Maurice Kinn bought the title The Musical Express & Accordion Weekly for £1000 and re-branded it as New Musical Express, the NME became an essential weekly purchase for generations of music fans, populated by characters as notorious and celebrated as the stars they wrote about.
Aware of the growing interest in popular music – particularly the records and artists coming out of America – Kinn printed the Billboard list of best-selling records in a September issue of the NME. The chart only ran from #1 to #5.
Two months later, page eight of the NME carried Britain’s first history-making chart under the banner heading, “Announcing the first record hit parade”. It was accompanied by a story which explained that “an authentic weekly survey of the bestselling ‘pop’ records has been devised and instigated” and went on to credit the “willing cooperation of the largest gramophone record retailers in all parts of the country.”
Al Martino took the historic debut top spot with Here In My Heart.
The 1970s and 1980s were arguably its golden age with such great writers as Charles Shaar Murray, Nick Kent, Julie Burchill, Tony Parsons and Paul Morley.
In tandem with John Peel’s radio shows, the NME was an unfailing barometer of cool; later triumphs such as their on-the-pulse coverage of Madchester, Acid House and Britpop kept it in the eye of music’s ever-changing storms.
It is unlikely the NME will ever be such a vital part of the fabric of pop culture again. In 2012, its weekly sales average of 27,000 copies was 1/10th of what the record-breaking issue after the death of Ian Curtis in 1980 shifted.