Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Trouser Press - Issue #95 (March 1984)
This is my final post for now about Trouser Press magazine. Maybe in the future I'll scan more, but this is it for the time being.
This particular issue the next-to-last one they did. The very last one, with Joey Ramone on the cover, came the following month. What to say about the demise of a magazine that shaped so many people's musical tastes? I think it's apt to draw a comparison to the career trajectory of the Beatles, since they're familiar to most everyone.
Like the Fab Four, Trouser Press started with boundless enthusiasm and came up with fresh ideas that no one else was doing. Then they both had a middle period that was unassailable. As the end drew near, both raised their standards of professionalism, but a cynical tone started to creep in. With the Beatles, that feeling reached its apogee with the White Album. With Trouser Press, it came with this issue.
The cover story about Big Country seemed like it was more about the writer wanting to make sarcastic comments about the band and its image than imparting why their music was popular. This approach can be amusing, but it gets tiresome. It's also why readers like me had turned from the smart-ass Creem to Trouser Press to begin with. The group's MTV-ready visuals might have been contrived, but their guitar-oriented rock was pretty enthralling. And the songs of the late Stuart Adamson still hold up.
Then there's the article on JoBoxers, who had just cracked the American Top 40 with "Just Got Lucky." This feature was just plain weird, concentrating way too much on the band's groupies, which the writer called "gorgons." Huh? Some of this is so over-the-top that I remember at the time thinking maybe the writer was pulling my leg. This is not what readers should have been thinking.
The fact that these two pieces were penned by writers outside the Trouser Press sphere could account for the difference in tone from the mag's usual articles. But there's also the lead album review of Adam Ant's Strip album. It was basically an "eff you" to the singer and his record company, since there was a feature story on him in this very issue. Yes, the review is funny. And yes, it also makes a point. Heck, the Nov. 1978 review of Boston's Don't Look Back even set a precedent for this type of writing. But that review wasn't the lead item, and it wasn't accompanied anything like the aforementioned feature articles.
So, to conclude my Beatles-Trouser Press comparison, reading this issue is like hearing "Piggies," "Yer Blues" or that creepy "Can You Take Me Back?" snippet, and realizing the band now had a much more downbeat worldview than when they were singing things like "And I Love Her," "When I Get Home," and "A Hard Day's Night."
This seems to be the inevitable effect of being part of any marketplace for too long. Any task, no matter how important or fun, can get to be a grind after a while, especially if there's a downside. More on that below.
With all that said, Jim Green's article on remix artist John "Jellybean" Benitez is not only interesting, but forward-looking considering where music was heading. There is also a now-hilarious reference to "disco/pop/rock crossover hopeful Madonna," which is amusing considering how big she became. Actually, Green's phrase was a pretty good description of a singer who would straddle genres and rewrite the rules of popular music.
Finally, the review section of America Underground column was written by John Leland, one of the magazine's regular writers who would go on to work for the New York Times. It starts with a favorable look at the Rain Parade's now-classic Emergency Third Rail Power Trip and also touches on releases by Sonic Youth and Suicidal Tendencies.
Reading this column (which I praised a few days ago for its top-flight regional coverage) you wonder if these new indie acts were what the editors wanted to assign the big articles on but couldn't due to the economics realities of keeping a glossy magazine afloat. If that's the case (and I remember reading somewhere it was), then I don't blame them for closing shop -- and getting cynical. I just wish I could have had one item published by them before they did. But I was still in my teens and submitted nothing because I felt I was too inexperienced. Who knew that Cameron Crowe got his start at age 16? Apparently not me.
Other scanned issues of Trouser Press:
Trouser Press - Issue #09 (June-Aug. 1975)
Trouser Press - Issue #42 (Sept. 1979)
Trouser Press - Issue #44 (Nov. 1979)
Trouser Press - Issue #59 (Feb. 1981)
Trouser Press - Issue #63 (July 1981)
Trouser Press - Issue #67 (Nov. 1981)
Trouser Press - Issue #70 (Feb. 1982)
Trouser Press - Issue #71 (March 1982)
Trouser Press - Issue #72 (April 1982)
Trouser Press - Issue #84 (April 1983)
Trouser Press - Issue #85 (May 1983)
Trouser Press - Issue #92-93 (Dec. 1983-Jan. 1984)
1. Paul Young
3. Jason & the Nashville Scorchers
4. Los Lobos
5. Big Country
6. Jellybean Benitez
7. Adam Ant
8. Marc Almond