In the absence of commercial radio in the UK–it was the BBC or nothing for decades–the main source of music info were the weekly music papers. If you wanted to know what was happening in music, you bought The NME, Sounds, Smash Hits, or Melody Maker.
MM first appeared in January of 1926 (that’s not a typo) and a place where one could learn about the dance bands and musicians of the day. From there, it morphed into covering mostly jazz before arch-rival The NME forced them into the rock’n’roll space. But when they finally took up that mantle, MM because essential weekly reading.
Like all of the weekly and monthly British publications, the goal was to discover new sounds, build up new artists (and, when necessary, tear them down), and offer interviews with established acts. With no commercial radio to act as a tastemaker or cultural gatekeeper, The Maker and its peers directed the course of British music.
The magazine employed some legendary writers and critics, Caroline Coon, Jon Savage, Ian Penman among them.
The Maker outlasted almost all of its competitors but was forced into a merger with The NME in 2000. But it was fun while it lasted.
There’s now a documentary entitled Melody Makers that started making its way to VOD services last week. Directed and produced by Canadian filmmaker Leslie Ann Coles, it’s bound to resurrect some memories for longtime fans of British music. See if you can find it somewhere. Meanwhile, here’s a trailer.