When music was booming, all of it was booming—the artists, the businessmen, and the journalists. In the late sixties and early seventies, one of the premier music magazines was the British Melody Maker. It began as a jazz publication, but during the sixties, it became difficult to ignore the groundswell of pop music. That’s where Melody Maker turned its attention and where it came to be defined.
The film of almost the same name, Melody Makers, directed by Leslie Ann Coles, gives the writers and photographers of the magazine’s golden era a chance to tell the stories behind the stories. There’s Barrie Wentzell, who photographed some of the most iconic images of the most iconic cultural figures of the 20th century, music or otherwise. Wentzell’s lenses captured nearly every notable name of the era, from Keith Moon dressed as Hitler to Jimmy Page playing the guitar with a violin bow to Mick Jagger dancing on dead butterflies. Some of his best photographs are the simplest, such as one of a shy, visibly burned-out Jimi Hendrix.
“…gives the writers and photographers of the magazine’s golden era a chance to tell the stories behind the stories.”
With the merits of journalism being very much in the public consciousness these days, it’s fun to hear the writers for Melody Maker be blunt about their friendships with musicians. In fact, many who were interviewed for the magazine didn’t even have a manager, but would just show up at the offices to talk. The writers and photographers would try their hardest to be objective, but at the end of the day, they enjoyed being part of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, to the point of choosing not to report on some of its more salacious aspects—unthinkable restraint by today’s standards. As is covered in the movie, once people like Brian Jones and Keith Moon started dying, the behind-the-scenes gossip of the rock-star became of greater public interest than the music itself.