The NME. Was there ever a weekly publication that had such a perfect confluence of writers, attitude, cultural flux, zeitgeist, popular mass appeal, content and photography? But where can one find scans of the NME music paper in its ‘golden era’ 1978-1984 run, from the Winter of Discontent to the defeat of the Miners’ Strikes?
Sadly it appears there’s still no facsimile archive, and copies sell for £10 per weekly issue on eBay. At 2019, here’s my run-through of the options:
1. The Rock’s Back Pages archive website appears to have full-text for the NME‘s ‘most important’ reviews and interviews from that period, though stripped of their inky grandeur and surrounding context and strapped into a mundane generic Web page format. As if the plain text was all that was important about such a monumental cultural and historical artefact. Back Pages appears to be pitched mainly at subscribing universities, and apparently about half in the UK currently have a subscription. Personal subscriptions are available, but cost £150 a year or £70 for three months. Even the ‘free’ articles require registration to view…
2. The British Library appeared to have facsimile page scans of the NME for 1946-2000 until about 2013, when a blog post appeared touting their “Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive 1880-2000, an “exclusive database”. But even then you could only access it in person at their London reading room. In the Archive’s current format, the NME appears to have been removed from the titles list (see the full spreadsheet for the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive).
3. The pirates don’t seem to have yet filled the resulting public void, with their own torrent of complete scans of vintage copies of the NME. Possibly the oversized nature of the weekly newsprint NME is rather offputting, requiring a large scanner. Nor would the likely fragility of the newsprint encourage use of an automated sheet-feeder. Nor do scans of individual copies seem to have quietly filtered into Archive.org.
4. What about a CD set of scans, perhaps issued pre-Internet in the 1990s? No, that doesn’t seem to have happened.
That appears to be the state of play in 2019.