In search of Smash Hits

Carnaby Street London
Carnaby Street, home to Smash Hits

Like many youngsters who grew up in the 1980s, the fortnightly pop magazine Smash Hits was a must-read. It was irreverent, funny, and colourful and supplied its young readers with an endless supply of posters for their bedroom walls. It was also a great way to keep tabs on who was currently poptastic and who was hurtling down the dumper to hang out with Belouis Some and Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Famously, Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys worked for the magazine from 1982-1985, alongside Word in Your Ear stalwarts David Hepworth and Mark Ellen. The magazine folded in 2006 but it is still well remembered and loved amongst people of a certain age.

Neil Tennant on the front cover of his old employer’s fanzine

The Smash Hits office was at 52-55 Carnaby Street, in the Soho area of London. The New Musical Express (NME) offices were right across the street from them and apparently, these rivals weren’t having half as much fun as the Smash Hits journos. What never occurred to youthful me was that these offices were to be found upstairs over swankier shops and that they didn’t have shiny pop stars sashaying in and out through their doors all day.

Smash Hits HQ editorial meeting

There is a plaque on the wall of the building where Smash Hits used to be but there’s no mention of the iconic magazine. Instead, it commemorates the offices as being used by notorious rock manager Don Arden (father of Sharon Osbourne). Hopefully some day “they” will erect plaques for Smash Hits and the NME because for generations of music fans these magazines really were a big deal.

Smash Hits HQ (or was it Towers?), not that you’d know it

Carnaby Street in the 1960s was synonymous with swinging London but these days it’s about as cleaned up and nondescript as you can get. Even a nod to its past with a Rolling Stones pop-up shop doesn’t do much. Oh well, at least me and my frightwig were there. It’s just a shame it was 35 years too late.

If you’re of a certain age, you might enjoy looking back at old issues of Smash Hits. There are oodles of them online