Were you NME or Melody Maker? Come on it’s an easy question for those of you who were young in the late 70s/early 80s.

The answer of course was that if you were Melody Maker you were square with an iffy taste in music and if you were New Musical Express you were cutting edge, in the know (even though you lived in small provincial town) and already understood

that punk would change things for ever (it didn’t).

The NME and Melody Maker were, of course, two weekly music papers that sold hundreds of thousands of copies on the back of a music renaissance that replaced the Bee Gees with The Birthday Party (NME readers will know what I’m talking about.)

I raise the issue for two reasons. Firstly for want of anything better to do on a rainy Sunday recently I brought down from my son’s shelf The History Of The NME by author Pat Long.

It’s a rattling good read especially on the period mentioned above. The drugs, sex and rock and roll are all there of course.

But so too are the king-sized egos and the brutal passionate debates about music as if life and death issues. Brighton’s Julie Burchill is in the thick of it so too Tony Parsons and other rocker writing legends like Charles Shaar Murray

and Nick Kent.

It took me right back to the days when I too was a humourless agitator for post punk music prepared to sit in a circle for hours arguing for the right of the Talking Heads to be compared to Picasso.

The second reason is that I’ve just seen what the NME has become and it is truly heartbreaking. I picked up a copy of the thin glossy giveaway in the supermarket the other day.

It’s a ragbag of listicles, TV reviews and mainstream star interviews. None of the articles is longer than a few hundred words each which would have some of the 70’s writers spinning in their life-style induced early graves. Even live reviews

back then could stretch to more than 2,000 words.

Online is not much better but at least it has video.

I suppose the fact that it is still going is remarkable enough. Melody Maker, Sounds, Smash Hits, and The Face have all long gone. I fear my old bible may soon follow.

In a sense this is not surprising. Publishing is undergoing seismic changes as is the music industry.

Attention spans are shortening all the time under the digital onslaught. Just as a list of Ten Things You Need To Know is replacing in-depth analysis so challenging music that doesn’t resort to its repeated hook within the first few seconds

is becoming harder to dig out.

Look some of the writing back then was pretentious drivel (hang your head Paul Morley) that drove readers away but it’s hard not miss the days when you could cause a near riot by claiming Cabaret Voltaire were just a Throbbing Gristle rip-off.

(NME readers will know what I’m talking about).

The Argus: A tractor on the road

Inner city dwellers need not read any further but to fellow semi-urban inhabitants I pose the following question. Just like spiders at this time of year are there more tractors on the roads than ever before?

I say this because my street currently resembles some kind of nightmare 24 hour Le Mans circuit for the dam things.

I’m certain it wasn’t as bad last Harvest time.

To make matters worse I’m sure the contraptions are bigger than ever before. They barrel up my tiny road at terrifying speeds all lights on like something out of Close Encounters.

You can hear them coming (usually at 6am) from miles away and the rumble shakes your fillings as they go past.

I swear I’d have more peace camping alongside the runway at Gatwick.