The next issue of OMM will be more or less entirely devoted to a list of the 100 greatest British albums of all time. It’s the sort of feature that makes me despair when I see it elsewhere: too Nick Hornby-ish. But we’ve polled about 100 critics, pop stars and industry figures asking them for their personal top 10 Brit albums.
Ten days before our 68 pages head off to the printers, almost everyone who has promised us a 10 has delivered; among them Ozzy Osbourne, Mick Jones of the Clash, Mike Skinner of the Streets and Baby Spice. But a handful of A-list stars still eludes us, so much of today is spent harassing PRs: pleading, begging with them. This is unusual because most of my life involves PRs pleading with me: will you review A? Why not B? Didn’t you like C? Have you got the record? Have you listened to the record? Why are you speaking to me like that? Or as often as not, the dialogue takes place by email. Over 20 emails in my inbox when I arrive in the office and over 20 packages with promo CDs in them.
Then there are the conversations about access to the talent: would we think about writing about X? And can we interview Y? Then there is the chat with the advertising and marketing departments, with our subs, designers, picture editors and, occasionally, with our writers.
It should be a bit more rock’n’roll, shouldn’t it?
Lunch with my deputy Luke Bainbridge, previously the editor of City Life in Manchester, and our writer Garry Mulholland. We go to the pub and two of us share a bottle of wine.
Garry is working on a sequel to his brilliant book This Is Uncool – The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk and Disco: the new book will do the same for albums. We talk about which of the 100 albums in our list he might like to write about and he suggests some features ideas. I’m not sure that our readers are ready for five pages on the band Selfish Cunt – but pleased that we are able to consider as much. When OMM was launched nine months ago, we became the most widely-read music magazine in the country by a country mile. Protected from certain commercial pressures -because we’re not on sale on our own on newsstands – we can also write about
Ozzy: Tipping his top 10 Brit hits
what we like, rather than what The Man wants us to like. Pretty much.
Two hours later we’re back in the office, where our assistant, Sarah Boden has been manning the desk. I take the bus to a pub in Archway to see another regular contributor, Paul Morley. We talk about Ikea, Big Brother, Cher and how the PR game has changed. Somehow, we conclude by deciding he should interview Peter Hammill, once the singer with Van Der Graaf Generator, for our pages.
At a barbecue with friends, I cannot persuade anyone to come with me in the evening to see a group that I’m really excited about: Daara J. It doesn’t help that I can’t avoid but billing them as ‘the best hip hop group in Senegal’ – they are that, although no-one believes my assertion that there are 3,000 groups in Dakar alone – nor that the gig is at midnight.
A solitary trip on a night bus to Camden allows plenty of scope for observation of the contemporary pop tribes – or it would do if it wasn’t for the fact that I am somehow quite drunk and busy wishing I was in bed.
Daara J are incredible. Later, once I’ve got home, I try and write down some thoughts on them and decide whether we might write a feature on them. As the man who runs their label told me by email, it was a review of their debut album by Charlie Gillett in OMM that got the ball rolling for them in this country. Later this summer, they headline the Womad festival.
Before I decide, I collapse.
I check my my emails from home.
Great news: a leading contemporary artist has agreed to photograph one of the world’s biggest stars for the cover of the magazine later in the year (to coincide with the star’s new album).
It’s a plan concocted with the star’s PR, although the star and the artist are already friends so we suspected all parties would fancy it. It should be fantastic.
Seriously pissed off that some of the A-list types whom we’re still chasing for our poll won’t play ball. Or rather, you suspect, their respective representatives haven’t pushed the request on to them. Editing copy.
Finally saying definitely no to a piece on Z.
More like it: a meeting with yet another star of the modern art world to discuss a brilliant project with which the magazine wants to get involved. After work, a launch party for a book of Glastonbury photographs where we meet the festival’s press office and discuss something we’re trying to do with them. And I bump into Mark Ellen, godfather of modern pop publications and now the editor of The Word, and we talk about Machiavellian press strategies. Then, with a former colleague from the Daily Telegraph arts desk, I go and catch the last 20 minutes of an upcoming guitar band playing at the 100 Club on Oxford Street. Disappointing.
Then on to another bar and then a friend’s house. At home, collapse again. Miss a text on my phone: the band’s PR, asking what I thought.