Sing Me to Sleep
8 — November — 1986
This was my first NME cover story. I’m proud of the fact it has become one of the best-known NME pieces – partly because Richey Edwards from Manic Street Preachers had it on his bedroom wall, and Kurt Cobain cited it as a major influence. There was heated debate in the office about whether it should be a cover, and I remember a passionate NME editorial meeting where one side of the room wanted to put indie band Felt on the cover, and the other half argued for Youth Suicide. In the end the latter ‘won’. At the time I wanted to write a political piece about the rise in youth suicide, and whether the legacy of bands like Joy Division romanticised ‘auto-destruction’.
It has gone down in NME history as one of the worst-selling covers when it came out in 1986, but ironically since then the issue has become a retrospective classic and a collectable item – selling out whenever it appears on Ebay and the vintage magazine market.
PJ Harvey Records a New Album in Public
No. 170 — April — 2015
For this feature I watched Polly Harvey recording an album in real time in the bowels of Somerset House. She turned her recording into a live installation, complete with musicians and producer Flood. She was very at home in that environment, and I remember being struck by how clear, loud and confidently she sang. I loved the way she focused on the creative process as art, rather than the end product. Redrafting and failure is as much part of art as the finished article.
The Sound of Grown Up Scotland: an Interview with Roddie Frame
9 — June — 2014
I first met Roddie Frame in 1980, a small indie punk boy with a fringe from East Kilbride. It was nice to catch up with him to discuss everything from major label politics to Postcard Records and the Labour Party...
Iggy Azalea: The New Classic Review
29 — April — 2014
Madonna: For the first time, her friends and lovers speak out
1 — September — 2007
An extract from my Madonna biography, serialised in the Independent on Sunday.
The Making of a Girl Band
August — 2000
Invasion of the Booty Snatchers
September — 2000
I spent the day with Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle at a photography studio near the Hudson river. Beyonce was a focused, determined young woman. She took time to answer my questions in full, thinking hard and punctuating each point by punching her right fist into her left palm. I was very impressed. Kelly had a lighter energy, perfect back-up and support for Beyonce. Michelle, meanwhile, came across as spacey and other-worldly, as if she wasn’t quite sure why she was in the building. While Beyonce was having her hair done she started singing, trilling up and down the octaves. ‘Stop showing off,’ admonished her mum, who at that point was the band’s stylist. Beyonce immediately shut up. With Mum, Dad and sister Solange Knowles all at the shoot, it was clearly a family affair.
In Search of the Crack
January — 2001
I loved doing this piece because it was so funny. I interviewed a wide range of roadies and tour managers, getting their ‘on-the-road’ war stories. There is a side to music journalism that is very ribald and Spinal Tap, a mischievousness that I hope I captured here.
An Inconvenient Woman
The Guardian Weekend
26 — April — 1997
How We Met: Mick Fleetwood & Lindsey Buckingham
Independent on Sunday
8 — March — 1998
Mick Fleetwood: droll, unhurried, very British. Lindsey Buckingham: anxious, wiry, crackling with musical talent.
Call of the Child
October — 1995
How We Met: Patti Smith & John Cale
Independent on Sunday
26 — August — 1996
Memorable for the way Patti Smith riffed as if she was back in the studio recording Horses. John Cale couldn’t get a word in edgeways...
Rising Star: Jude Law
31 — March — 1994
This was an early interview with Jude Law. I didn’t know that he was going to be that famous. He was just a goodlooking young actor who liked jazz. I particularly liked his story of learning how to race cars on the set of Shopping, then totalling a car one day on his way to work. He smiled with faint embarrassment, ‘They sent a car to collect me after that!’
How We Met: Brian Eno & To Phillips
Independent on Sunday
13 — September — 1998
Eno sat in his West London mews house surrounded by vintage tape machines. Everything has a place and everything in its place. A clear rapport with his former art tutor Tom Phillips...and nice to see how creative teaching inspires innovative work.
Thelma & Louise film review
May — 1991
I was Film Editor of Select magazine at the time, and had to sit through a lot of very bad films. By contrast Ridley Scott’s film was so enjoyable to review; it stood out immediately as vivid, memorable and explosively feminist. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were compelling in the title roles and it made the name of newcomer Brad Pitt.
Hardcore: do you know the score?
6-13 — February — 1992
In the early ‘90s hardcore techno was a small but intense subculture that laid the sonic foundations for jungle. I like doing pieces like these, interviewing the main players in a growing scene – from The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett to DJ Colin Favor. That way you capture the excitement of something as it emerges.
(Head) Case Histories: Courtney
30 — May — 1987
First interview with Courtney Love.
From the Terraces
21 — June — 1988
I began contributing to the Guardian Women’s page in the late 1980s, and this was one of my early pieces. At this point there was a lively football fanzine culture, and Balls was the first girls’ football magazine. There were only a handful of women’s football teams in the UK, and they received zero coverage in the media. It’s gratifying to me that 25 years later there were hundreds of professional female teams and the women’s World Cup was broadcast on mainstream TV.
The Queen Rocks On
15 — August — 1987
I’ve always been excited by the way women – from MC Lyte to Lady Leshurr - hold their own within rap music. I have a soft spot for Roxanne Shante because she was a teenage pioneer. I did this interview in New York one blazing hot summer during the New Music Seminar. Roxanne was both sweet and filthy and ready to play, pretending to be shocked for our NME photographer Lawrence Watson, opening a porn mag in mock horror. ‘Like Diana Ross, I’m the boss,’ she rapped. Indeed.
NME Singles page, Run DMC ‘Walk This Way’
30 — August — 1986
The review room at NME had a turntable, speakers, a desk and a typewriter. It was also full of cigarette butts, discarded vinyl and stray record sleeves. Each week the designated reviewer would sit and work their way through the new releases. Inevitably there would be a lot of dross, and you would get very good at playing 30 seconds and writing your review. Then every so often a single would leap out at you and grab your attention for the full three minutes. I was lucky to be doing the singles column the week that ‘Walk This Way’ came out. That collision of heavy rock and hip hop truly felt like the ushering in of a new era.