It’s been ages since I last bought a copy of Q, the music magazine. Literally years. And years. It had got to the point where I didn’t even buy a copy in an airport as an act of desperation to ease the pain of a long haul flight. Being a sucker for music writing I still subscribe to MOJO and Uncut magazines but Q went under in my world long before it went under for real. That it has come to the end of its life is neither a surprise nor a tragedy; it’s just another of those things that have had their time and now have finished. Like an electric carving knife it seems that nobody really needs a Q Magazine anymore. It was well past its sell by date and ultimately will only leave behind a faint aroma.
In my twenties I devoured Q. My sister had saved up dozens of copies, which she then passed onto me for safekeeping (at least that’s how I remember it). Box after box to be rifled through to soak it all up in an attempt to appease, as Ross Geller said of his super hero ‘Science Boy’, my unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Back then a copy of Q was not to be trifled with. They were massive, phone directory sort of publications, stuffed full of advertisements just like Vogue or Cosmopolitan, to keep up the revenue and because the internet wasn’t quite where it is now. In those days making the front cover of Q in some iconic pose or thoughtful close up was big stuff and to me it seemed that almost every other issue had a photo of Bono on the front of it. Q, it appeared, were U2 and U2 were Q, and their love for one another was unconditional.
As time went by Q got thinner and thinner, both physically and it terms of what it had to offer the world of music journalism. As decades have passed music has changed and so has the quality of intercourse that the average musician has been able to offer. By this I mean simply that musicians just aren’t as interesting as they used to be – would you rather plough through an interview with The Stone Roses or Foals? Would you rather read about Elton John’s coke binges or Adele’s knicker size? Blimey, even Mick Hucknall seemed to be able to offer something a bit more fizzy than John Legend. It also suffered because generally speaking it played safe and most big new albums from big acts usually scored 4/5, just to keep things simple – U2 once again seeming to profit from a policy that rated every album equally as good as the last, no questions asked.
What Q could do was funny. It was funny. It wrote good captions and asked clever bollocks questions and drew up entertaining lists, but there was a feeling when I finally gave up buying it that even that appeal had started to drain away. Lack of charisma and music that had less to deliver meant that the way forward, counterintuitively, would have been to look back in more depth but Q instead just turned into the Grazia, or perhaps TV Quick, of music writing. It tried to keep current with the modern, regardless that the modern was just repetition or a talent vacuum, and then occasionally paid lip service to the ghost of Kurt Cobain, as if everything before him was good for the bonfire.
I’ve read a few stories in the last couple of days about how much musicians loved Q magazine, or at least those that got famous enough to be in it did. And of course they did. It gave them oxygen and glossy photos of themselves and it dutifully printed all their opinions; about music, hair, breakfast cereals, existentialism, mouth wash. The Q Awards were loved by those who won them and an excuse to get pissed without paying for those who lost – basically Q had turned into the publishing wing of the Brit Awards, and that could never be good news. All artists have ego lurking in them somewhere and for musicians Q was just a way of stroking it. Sometimes gently, often vigorously.
I won’t miss Q at all. It had its stretch in the sun (and quite a long stretch it was too) but to paraphrase Michael Caine in ‘Harry Brown’ it had ‘failed to maintain its weapon’. Some are mourning the slow death of printed journalism and I can kind of see their point but only to the extent that I would miss Uncut Magazine a bit and MOJO quite a lot more if they both decided it was time to fold. If there’s one thing the world isn’t short of, however, it’s people who write about music and like everything (yes, like this) it won’t all be for everyone. Such is the nature of music that there’s always something for someone but rarely is there everything for everyone. Q Magazine didn’t notice that truly decent music is hard to come by these days and no one will ever want to read about bland music by bland musicians for very long. It managed to write its way into a cul-de-sac many years ago and now it just ain’t coming back. Who’s next? R.I.P.
G B Hewitt. 23.07.2020