Sent off

76574-blenderBlender’s dead. Yes, another magazine obit — who cares, right? Magazines are toast, right? Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t — whatever the case, Blender’s not the canary in the coalmine. But Blender’s end, to me, is a sad final gasp for the British Invasion that was never as good as it ought to have been. I read Loaded when I lived in London in the mid-90s, when I had no particular plans to go into the magazine business, and I thought it was brilliant. I would read every page of every issue, it was that good. Even the music reviews were funny (many delivered by a stuffed animal, Cheeky the Monkey). Maxim in the UK was a clone, but Felix Dennis had the brilliant idea of bringing it to the US in 1997, where it kicked ass from the get-go. It kicked ass in that it sold a bunch, and put the fear of god into all other men’s magazines, and inspired EMap to send over FHM (with British editor Ed Needham), and spawned a kid brother in the US version of Stuff. It kicked ass in those respects, but it didn’t kick ass editorially the way Loaded did. Maxim, FHM and Stuff were crass, often funny, but never clever the way Loaded was. I wanted to love them but never quite could. Loaded ran a column by legendary drug smuggler Howard Marks, doled out creepy advice from the sinister Dr. Mick (Mick Bunnage), and celebrated strange elderly celebrities in a regular column called Greatest Living Englishmen. Yes, there was a lot in it about drinking beer with your friends, but there was also a genuine fondness for dodgy characters amd crazy old coots. Whereas American Maxim had a silly Japanese art intern named Hiroki! and FHM regularly sought the advice from the Love Boat’s grinning bartender Isaac — that’s 100% irony. That’s laughing at, not at all with. Loaded also took aim at magazine conventions — such as the typical what’s-hot/what’s-not garbage often represented as a “meter” or “index” or “barometer.” Loaded preferred to judge the day’s trends with an archaic device — The Style Sextant, which was often just nonsense. (“In: East End boys. Out: West End girls. Eye of the Storm: Dead end world.”) So I was disappointed — the American lad mags could do stupid-funny (and I’m not saying they were never funny), but didn’t bother with clever-stupid-funny. When Dennis announced Blender, I thought maybe this time they’d get it right: I was hoping for an American Q, and Dennis imported Andy Pemberton, a Q editor, to launch Blender. Yet Blender never got it right either, I’m afraid. Putting Janet Jackson on the cover of the first issue sort of says it all. Q wrote for an obsessive audience with a discerning ear; Blender bothered to write for everyone, even readers who had plainly bad taste in music. Just going feature to feature, page to page through Blender, it was hard to imagine that even the music omnivore could care to read about Pussycat Dolls and Led Zeppelin.
So the British came, saw, conquered and are now all but dead. Maxim will persist, but it’s thoroughly American. The British techniques certainly changed the way magazines are made in the states, and Dennis/Emap veterans were industry darlings (Needham of FHM was tasked with revamping Rolling Stone, Maxim’s Jim Kaminsky same deal with Playboy). But sadly the wit never made the trip over. Sure, I’m an insufferable anglophile, and I think British dumb humor is superior to American dumb humor but all the originals are still alive in the UK — Maxim, FHM, Loaded, Stuff and Q. And they all might be trying to keep up with FRONT these days, which will never see a US version. Or will it? Interested publishers should contact me here, I will be editor in chief if you need one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *