I was going to use my allotted space this week to talk about how Steely Dan were one of the specialist subjects on Mastermind earlier this week. Having an older brother who likes that sort of thing, I was brought up listening to Steely Dan, and thought I could have a stab at answering the specialist questions for once. I was wrong. Still, brilliant group all the same.
I’ve decided to give Steely Dan the swerve for now because there is news just in… Q has been given a new-look this month. Not particularly exciting news, you might say, but they’ve actually put some real effort in. The November issue is on sale today. They’ve brought back the “Who The Hell…?” feature which helped make Q’s name but which was abandoned in 1997 (this month they feature Will Self, but it’s not exactly scornful of the man). Back also, are the Q Charts. They’ve also got John Harris, Dorian Lynskey, Billy Bragg and - best of all - David Quantick as regular columnists. There’s still lots of Bob Dylan and articles about Snow Patrol and Keane, but that’s what Q is there for (and by the way Keane’s new album looks like it could be really good). Why the interest in Q? Because it’s cheering to see printed music journalism take a step in the right direction, and once upon a time Q was a really great read.
It was launched in October 1986 by Mark Ellen who now edits Word. He established Q as a monthly, more grown up version of Smash Hits (Ellen and fellow Q founding staff members David Hepworth and Tom Hibbert had been Hits writers). It had a good word count, and a great sense of humour. Tom Hibbert’s “Who The Hell..?” column was the best thing about it, his interview with Ringo Starr was priceless (e.g.: “Ringo doesn’t like my question and lunges forward in the chair almost doing himself a mischief, and scowls ‘What’s wrong with you man?! This is a bloody legend sitting in front of you! I’m not asking you to comb the bloody legend’s hair but you could at least mention the new album!’”). It’s too much to hope that they get Tom Hibbert back. But with lengthy features on AC/DC, New Order and a lighter feel throughout, it is a good start. Here’s hoping they’ve left the stupid “100 Best Beatles Albums” stuff in the past.