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Totally Wired

The Rise and Fall of the Music Press

Paul Gorman


A raucous yet reflective look back at the evolution of the music press and the passionate rock and pop journalists who defined the music of the 20th century

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Totally Wired is the definitive story of the music press on both sides of the Atlantic, tracing its rise and fall from humble beginnings nearly 100 years ago. Along the way, this potent creative breeding ground for scores of writers, publishers, photographers, designers and music-makers tested the very limits of journalistic endeavour and influenced the wider worlds of film, media and pop.

Focusing on developments from the 1950s to the 2000s, a period that witnessed rock ’n’ roll, mod, the Summer of Love, glam, punk, pop, reggae, dance music, R&B and hip-hop, Paul Gorman chronicles the stories of individual magazines from their Tin Pan Alley beginnings and the countercultural foundation of Rolling Stone and the underground press. He explores the 1970s heyday of NME, Melody Maker and Sounds plus such punk-rock publications as Sniffin’ Glue and Temporary Hoarding; tracks the emergence of dedicated monthlies Q, The Face and Mojo as well as dance-culture independents like Boy’s Own and Jockey Slut; and spotlights feminist and Riot Grrrl ’zines Ben Is Dead and Girlfrenzy along with the rise of media by and for people of colour, from Black Music and Black Echoes in the 1970s to The Source, Vibe and XXL in the 1990s. Evoking the music press’s kaleidoscopic visual identities, Totally Wired is illustrated with rare and legendary magazine artwork throughout.

Painting a complete picture of the scene, Gorman discusses the role played by such writers as Lester Bangs, Charles Shaar Murray and Nick Kent in the development of the careers of, among others, David Bowie, the Clash and Led Zeppelin. He also tackles the entrenched sexism and racism faced by women and those from marginalized communities by highlighting publications and individuals whose contributions have been unfairly overlooked.

The resulting narrative, containing stories of unbound talent, blind ambition and sometimes bitter rivalry, makes Totally Wired a riveting and roller-coaster read.

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'Once, music was the centre of every cool kid's world. And the music press that grew out of that culture was the most exciting thing on the newsstands. Paul Gorman has given us the book that the music press deserves: fun, factual, glamorous, gritty, packed with mad anecdotes as well as cold-eyed truth. Essential'
Miranda Sawyer

'The music press as we knew it barely exists any more, which makes 'Totally Wired' the perfect eulogy - a broad, deep, fascinating exploration of its 100-year lifespan'
Alexis Petridis

'You simply can't separate pop music from its coverage in the greatest publications of the past half-century. I learned so much from this riveting sweep through the birth and evolution of the music press. The characters in it are almost as fascinating as the stars and scenes they wrote about'
Barney Hoskyns, Rock's Backpages

'An illuminating treatise … Gorman expertly combines first-hand interviews with his own insight from inside the trenches to paint a vivid portrait … essential reading'
Electronic Sound

'Exalts the heyday of music magazines, when electric prose reigned and egos collided... Totally Wired does a fine job recounting, and eulogizing...a fertile era when magazines like Creem, Crawdaddy, Pressure Drop, Kerrang! and even boomer stalwarts like Rolling Stone served as a counterweight to the larger culture industry'
New Republic

'A fascinating story'

'Bold in scope … takes a historian’s eye view of an industry that once made the morally reprehensible mainstream British tabloid press look as pastoral as a parish newsletter'
The Quietus

'Nobody is better qualified to write the history of the music press … there’s no doubt that he does a fine job of telling the whole story, from the launch of the Melody Maker as a monthly for dance band musicians in 1926 through to the closure of all the big titles in the 21st century'
David Hepworth, New Statesman

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 23.4 x 15.3 cm

Extent: 384 pp

Illustrations: 54

Publication date: 29 September 2022

ISBN: 9780500022634

About the Author

Paul Gorman is the author of many books on music, fashion, design and pop culture, including The Story of the Face: The Magazine that Changed Culture, The Look: Adventures in Pop & Rock Fashion, The Life and Times of Malcolm McLaren and The Wild World of Barney Bubbles.

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