The cover of NME was still coveted by bands right to the end – but for readers themselves, it was a different story. Ex-staffers, publishers and musicians tell the inside story of how a once-mighty media brand lost its cool
When the Manic Street Preachers formed in Blackwood, south Wales, in 1986, the band had three goals: “Top of the Pops, Radio 1 and the cover of NME,” says bassist Nicky Wire. Within six months of releasing their debut album, they had landed all three. “It felt so fucking easy!” says Wire.
The band’s history (and that of countless others) is intertwined with the magazine. Wire cites reading NME as a formative teenage education, and says he preferred the company of its journalists to his 1990s musical peers; in an infamous 1991 interview, frontman Richey Edwards carved “4 REAL” into his arm. The Manics made their 25th and 26th appearances on the cover in summer 2014 – their last. It still felt significant then, says Wire. But he wasn’t surprised to hear that last week’s issue would be its final one, two and a half years after the magazine moved to a free publishing model. “For me, it died when it went free,” says Wire. “There was barely anything to read in it, and I like paying for things that have a certain quality. I don’t wanna go into Topshop as a 50-year-old man and feel like I’m nicking something off a pile.”