What's in a Name ?
So, Hip Young Gunslingers – what’s that all about ?
I’m glad you asked…
Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you have just stepped out of a hot tub with John Cusack and it’s July 1976. Michael Jackson is still black, the UK is in the midst of a heat wave, news footage is full of strikes and economic turmoil and most importantly music is on the brink of a revolution.
A month before, at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester, The Sex Pistols had played to a room of around 40 people. Not something any band would normally boast of, but this gig was a turning point that announced the arrival of punk. It would act as a springboard to new forms of music, new attitudes to music creation, a new breed of record label and a shift in attitude from commercial to creative output. In short, things were changing and they were changing fast.
In London the New Musical Express, or NME, was struggling to keep abreast. The weekly music paper had established itself as a must read and had enjoyed significant success but by 1976 it was out of step with the music buying public. It didn’t understand the shift in musical tastes and was viewed by many as part of the establishment that this new music was violently kicking against. Some new thinking was needed.
For two weeks in July 1976, the NME ran a small advert in it’s classified section:
“Attention hip young gunslingers. The NME has a vacancy for a STAFF WRITER. Previous experience in either journalism or the music business is not essential, but a good knowledge of rock and enthusiasm are, together with the ability to write lively and incisive prose. All applications must be accompanied by a sample 5-600 word review of any album of the applicant’s choice.”
From over 1200 applicants, two were appointed; Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons. At 17 and 22 respectively, they were the young, new thinking, musically aware writers that the NME needed. They championed punk and the shape-shifting nature of music at the end of the seventies and their witty, irreverent writing redefined music journalism at the NME and quickly turned around the paper’s fortunes.
Since then the phrase ‘hip young gunslingers’ has entered popular culture as a shorthand for new, disruptive thinking. For shaking things up and kicking against the norms.
Here at Hip Young Gunslingers, this is very much the attitude and approach we want to bring to online music journalism. Watch this space…