STEAL IT – on the pop theft epidemic


NME 1987 STEAL IT issue: now available at

I’ve kept this part of the NME for 22 years because of the excitement I experienced when reading it at the time. The articles here show music journalism at its best – people who care about music getting swept away in the moment when they realise that everything is up for grabs – that there are infinite possibilities. The future looked bright.

Reading all this changed my mind about what music could be, and joined up the dots between hip hop, punk, avantgarde noise and everything in between. It made me want to make music.

But… a cursory browse of the classified ads in Melody Maker and Sounds told a slightly different story. I had just turned 18 and was still living at home with my parents. Certainly all this new technology meant that anyone could do it, it was just that the hundreds of pounds needed for computers, decks, sampler, drum machine etc was still way out of my reach. Years later, I still found grappling with cubase too much of a pain in the arse. The sounds in my head generally have to stay there until somebody else manages to make noises in the real world which sound a bit like them. I’ve stuck with words, for better or worse.

But… this issue of the NME still changed the way I thought about things – provided a way for me to appreciate a particular approach to creativity and art. And… the thrill of the illegal. Theft, on the front cover of a national music paper. Perhaps the issues are different but you would never get a publication in 2009 inciting people to download copyrighted music for free. In fact the only similar example I can think of is The Wire’s “Unofficial Channels” issue.

Back in 1987, Stuart Cosgrove got himself into some serious trouble for the NME’s “Censorship” issue. I also devoured this at the time, but don’t seem to have kept it. The proposed cover was going to feature the H.R. Giger’s “Penis Lansdcape” image, which had got the Dead Kennedys into hot water after including it as an insert to their “Frankenchrist” album. The cover was vetoed by IPC and so obscure indie band Motorcycle Boy appeared on news-stands across the nation instead. I’m not sure if that was retaliation from the staff or whether no other images were available at short notice, but Cosgrove apparently lost his job over it all.

Anyway – happy reading!


  1. let’s face it – the REAL reason you kept it was the Fish interview.
    “i like to think we’re kind of prog punk, y’know? Shall we have another drink?”

  2. ha ha, yes that is on the reverse side of one of these articles. Basically Marillion are a poor man’s Genesis, and Fish is an alcoholic. Quite a contrast…

  3. “I also devoured this at the time, but don’t seem to have kept it.”

    John Eden in actually throwing something away scandal!

  4. Thanks for posting this, this is a really good read. Myself I was about four months old when this came out, good NME articles is one thing I feel my lot have really missed out on. The state of that magazine since then, it is unreadable.

    I have enjoyed reading this because it is an intellectual way of explaining why Public Enemy and Lee Perry will never die.

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