The Q that I knew…

First in the Q: issue one of a…..lot.

So, that’s it then. Q is no more.

The self-styled “modern guide to music…and more” bites the dust this month, another victim of changing times, and that thing we once called the Information Superhighway (cover story Q Magazine, September 1994) also known as the “internet”.

Mark Ellen and David Hepworth, creators of Smash Hits, were given the task of putting together something new, something for the more mature music fan, but something that had the same sense of informality and self-deprecation.  In September 1986, the inaugural monthly edition hit the shelves; a glossy, fairly weighty tome with an enigmatic one letter title (Q) and what now seems a ridiculously cheap cover price (even allowing for inflation) of £1.10. A hundred and ten pence!

The format was instantly established…big name stars on the cover (hello Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards…), a bit about the “music business”, as well as typically Rock N Roll cliches concerning drug use or bands splitting up, or arguments/scandals of varying types. There would also be the odd feature on a comedian, or actor, just to keep to the “music….and more” promise. Oh, and the reviews. Pages and pages of them. With star ratings!

Issue #2 was where I came in, having been alerted to its existence on the shelves of WH Smiths (some things still haven’t changed) by my Dad, one random Saturday in October 1986. The main interview was Rod Stewart (hmmm, the 15-year old me thought), but the cover also had Frankie Goes To Hollywood (about to launch the floptastic Liverpool album), The Pretenders (back in the charts with Don’t Get Me Wrong) and Paul Simon (enjoying a renaissance with his just-released Graceland). £1.10? Yeah, why not….and so it began.

When it ended for me, is less clear. Sometime in the Noughties, as the tone and layout became too laddish and cluttered, while the reliance on lists (which, of course, I absolutely loathe!) became overwhelming and reductive. Tales of drinking and general debauchery simply never interested me at the best of times, so the latest <insert Indie/Alternative/Rock Chancers> banging on about their exploits sadly had zero appeal.

I treated myself to the 25th Anniversary special with a unique Manic Street Preachers gatefold LP, and the 300th issue for nostalgia’s sake, but that was it.

The exclusive edition of Manic Street Preacher’s National Treasures: a design for life.


34 years is a very long time, anyway. Not even my personal charts lasted beyond 2010, and they only started two years before Q appeared. The magazine did what it had to do, moved with the times and tried to keep up with the fashions of an ever-changing culture (and industry). Whether it did that successfully, and whether it became a better/worse magazine in the process, comes down to personal preference and perspective. The era which holds the strongest, and fondest, memories will remain the years from about 1987 to some point in the mid-1990s; before Britpop, Dadrock, and all the rest.

Q was born at the perfect time in my musical journey – disillusioned with the Top 40, weary of daytime Radio 1, growing up too fast to still get much out of Smash Hits or No. 1 magazine anymore. I was also just about to dip my toe into the world of Compact Discs. The target audience was doubtless much older than my demographic, and it would take a little while for me to become attuned to the kind of artists regularly featured and prominently reviewed.

By mid-1987, I was a firm Q junkie, awaiting the next issue and eager to flip straight to the fantastic, extensive review section to see which albums would get the featured “boxes” with the giant headline, and which would be awarded the magic 5stars

It’s a box! Just the 4 stars for Suede’s debut, March 1993.

Q‘s reviews had a significant influence on my buying habits during those years, along with Johnnie Walker’s Saturday slot on Radio 1. Pop was given short shrift most of the time, which was regrettable but completely predictable. Record Mirror took care of that, thankfully, leaving me to discover the likes of Randy Newman’s Lonely At The Top, Welcome Home by ‘Til Tuesday, the 1987 solo album from Robbie Robertson, Gail Ann Dorsey’s The Corporate World….and many, many more.

Occasionally, there would be a misstep; the 2-star verdict on Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing in 1987 (under the banner DEPRESSING) sticks in the memory, and still had the power to make the lady bristle when I mentioned it to her over a decade later! A New Flame, Tango In The Night, and famously (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? were all dismissed by the reviewer on release, only for the magazine to alter its opinion come their traditional Year-End lists.

Assorted highlights included the epic feature on Tears For Fears’ torturous efforts to finish their third album The Seeds Of Love, the glowing review of Hats by The Blue Nile which only intensified my longing to hear the thing for myself, Sting revealing rather too much about his private life in 1993 while in the company of Bob Geldof, the sheer chutzpah of putting a naked Terence Trent D’Arby on the cover the same year, and discovering the rich history of artists such as Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen in 1988.

Plus, of course, the thrill of seeing what version of the iconic Q logo would appear on the latest issue….this before the days of every edition being adorned with the red/white scheme that became such a well-known brand that it had to become a permanent fixture (ho hum). But…fear not! Here, we bring you a veritable smorgasbord of variations that adorned the front of the magazine until Issue #69…


Q Got The Look! No peach-and-black unfortunately, but the full range of special colour schemes used between the 2nd and 68th issues.

As a final tribute to the magazine’s passing, AFDPJ will look back at the best…I mean, our favourite…100 albums that were released in Q‘s lifetime. That’s from September 1st 1986 until July 27th 2020 (but don’t hold your breath for too many from the last few years!).

Yes, another bloody list.

It’s what they would have wanted….




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