CAST your mind back to your first experience of pop music. If like me you’re a child of the early 80s, the chances are it will have happened while watching Top of the Pops. Mine was seeing Adam Ant – still one of the finest pop stars these islands have ever produced. But I was lucky. Very lucky.
If we’re all being honest our formative years as a music consumer are rarely cool. Adam, the dandy highwayman, may have lit a fire somewhere in my fertile mind but a quick look at my early singles shows I was just as big a fan of Bucks Fizz, Eddy Grant and Bros . A few years later my first gig was going to a Bryan Adams concert with my mum and dad.
I’m pretty sure this pattern is repeated among most music fans. The posters on the wall may change as do the band’s names scrawled on the pencil case but the rite of passage from a love of pop music to becoming a fan of indie, heavy metal, dance or whatever floats your boat in later years stays constant.
Bearing all this in mind, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the news last week that NME readers had voted One Direction as the Worst Band, and Harry Styles Villain of the Year in their annual awards ceremony.
Although I can slightly forgive NME readers for their petty smugness (hey I was a teenage NME reader once too), I couldn’t help thinking their anger was misdirected.
Getting all hot and bothered about pop music when just a few years previously you were clutching The Wanted’s latest release rather than Palma Violets’ debut album shows just how pointless it can be trying to hold yourself up as some all-knowing arbiter of taste.
The main thrust of the NME reader’s argument regarding Harry and co seemed to be that it was laughable to even call them a band because, hey, they didn’t write their own songs or play an instrument.
Rewind 50 years and NME readers would have been astonished at the notion of an artist writing his own material. Elvis was king but he didn’t write a note. The Rolling Stones’ first album features nothing but covers and even worthies like The Byrds and Beach Boys didn’t play on many of their own hits.
Frankly I don’t care if One Direction never pick up a guitar in their life because thankfully I’ve got to that stage where I know there’s more to life than indie rock.
NME teens may sneer and use phrases like “manufactured pop” and “Simon Cowell” to add grist to their mill but have they ever listened to Motown, The Monkees or the best of Stock, Aitken and Waterman? The answer is probably not because these days we seem to applaud the dull worthiness of Ben Howard rather than the pop explosions of Girls Aloud or Cher Lloyd.
In truth, by criticising pop music NME are merely biting the hand that feeds them. Pop music as every person who’s gone from clutching a copy of Madonna’s Immaculate Collection to owning Sonic Youth’s Dirty can attest, is a gateway drug.
Once you’re hooked by that excitement, that buzz and that joy of being fan you can go either way: maybe you’ll experiment, check out your dad’s record collection or yes, even buy the NME or maybe you’ll stay a fan of the charts, lapping up the sounds of Juice FM while queuing up for Beyonce tickets. Both are equally valid choices and no music press snobbery should convince us otherwise.
Those girls who’ve bombarded the NME twitter ever since defending One Direction are merely heading out on a long road of music fandom. Whichever path they take is the right one.