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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Jul-18 > Rock the books

Rock the books

The current gang of pop writers are the best we’ve ever had. But are they eulogising a dying art form, asks DJ Taylor
Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine by Joe Hagan (Canongate, £25)

For a generation of middle-aged and mostly male British rock fans, 8th March 2018 was a date fit to be carved in stone. On that day the proprietors of the New Musical Express, founded in 1952, announced they would be closing the print edition and, like other magazines blasted by the zephyrs of technological change, concentrating on the website. Curiously, none of the people who took to newspaper columns to lament the NME’s passing seemed to have much interest in the contemporary magazine—the final incarnation was a flimsy free-sheet handed out in student union bars and HMV. No, their grief was focused on a golden age—the period 1974-81— when the magazine offered a template for how you might approach the notoriously tricky subject of writing seriously about rock and roll.

Forty years ago, as the Sex Pistols slid rancorously off the map, there were a quarter of a million NME kids. I was one of them, drawn not only by the lustre of the journalistic talent (Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray, Mick Farren, Julie Burchill) but by the suspicion that it offered a gateway to a bohemian and vaguely counter-cultural world. It was in the NME that I first read an interview with Ian McEwan, heard mention of JG Ballard (a great influence on the punk dystopians) and, a bit later, when the writers expanded to include theory-minded egg-heads like Paul Morley and Ian Penman, came across the names of Baudrillard and Derrida.

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In Prospect's July issue: Editor of Prospect Tom Clark tackles the major fault lines developing in the Conservative Party over Brexit, arguing that the issue could be one of those few occasions where the Tories can’t overcome a significant challenge. Alongside his lead essay, Andrew Gamble, professor of politics at the University of Sheffield, examines why many European parties on the right are struggling and why the continent should be worried. Conservative MP Lee Rowley charts what some of the policy areas that the Tories will have to deal with beyond Brexit if they are to get it right. Elsewhere in the issue: Nabeelah Jaffer tries to answer one of the most difficult questions of our time: how do you de-radicalise an extremist. Using examples from both the UK and Denmark, she argues that the UK model needs more work to be effective; Philip Collins asks why Britain’s towns have fallen by the wayside while its cities have thrived; and Sam Tanenhaus profiles “the real deal-maker” in Donald Trump’s White House, Mike Pompeo, after the Secretary of State oversaw the US-North Korea summit.
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