Pages of innocence: Devotees are creating an online archive of the magazines that chronicled their youth

All over Britain, there are attics cluttered with them: crateloads of studiously compiled pop-culture magazines from yesteryear, now yellowing and dusty, that mums and dads are under strict instructions never to throw out. Men and women (though it's almost always men) of a certain generation can have a strange relationship with the magazines of their youth. Whether it's a stack of Smash Hits from the Eighties or every copy of The Face from the early Nineties, we may rarely go back to read them but we just need to know they are there should we ever need an emergency portal back to the good times they helped to narrate.

Now, some of these diligently preserved collections have been liberated from their darkened lofts, painstakingly scanned into computers and posted online for other mag-fanatics to enjoy. Last month, Richard Beckett, a 33-year-old web developer, became the latest amateur archivist to do just this. With a large pile of Select magazines cluttering up his home, he decided to share them with the world to see if there was anyone else out there who might want to relive the Nineties via the pages of one of the most popular music magazines of the time.

"I've always enjoyed flicking through old magazines for the memories they bring back," Beckett says. "I thought it might be something other people might enjoy looking at too." It was. After being tweeted by a couple of fellow Select enthusiasts, the link to Beckett's site spread quickly as people found a whole new exhilarating day of wasting hours of the working day on the internet. It is truly amazing (or possibly depressing) how much time it's possible to spend reading an article from February 1994 about how much the lead singer of Lush enjoys a pint of cider.

Beckett's scanning endeavours (which can be found at selectmagazinescans.netii.net) followed similarly successful efforts by collectors of The Face, Melody Maker and Smash Hits. Whole communities of mag-nostalgists are being formed around these brilliantly immersive archives.

"I went home for Christmas a couple of years ago and saw that my mum was clearing out all my old Melody Makers," says Charles Batho, a 39-year-old digital creative director from London. "I saw the boxes by the back door and said, 'Noooooo!' These were an important part of my youth! So I took them home and, one bank holiday Monday, decided to start scanning them all in." The resultant blog (archivedmusicpress.wordpress.com) has thrived since 2009, with fans poring over the articles Batho has meticulously archived from the late Eighties and early Nineties. "I did it mostly to give something back to all the other people who had selflessly posted content on the web that I had enjoyed over the years." The posts on his site reflect a sometimes euphoric level of appreciation from fellow Melody Maker fans. "Reading this blog is like seeing my psychological DNA unfold," reads one. "It's no over-claim to say that Melody Maker was both an education and a kind of imaginary best mate."

And that's the essence of the appeal. These were magazines from a pre-internet age when they were many people's only guidance through a less accessible pop-cultural landscape. While they all represented different strands of youth culture, what Melody Maker shared with Select, The Face and Smash Hits was an all-important ability to involve intimately their readers in what felt like a club. "It was the little touches that got me into Smash Hits," says Brian McCloskey, 41, who has been scanning an early-Eighties issue of the seminal pop magazine on to Flickr every fortnight for the past two years. "Putting the mags online made me realise that when I was a 10-year-old in my bedroom in Derry obsessing over the lyrics of "Up the Junction" in Smash Hits, I wasn't alone. There were thousands of others like me – it just took me 30 years to find them." Certainly, excitable discussion of McCloskey's archive thrives on the accompanying blog (likepunkneverhappened.blogspot.com) and Facebook page.

For Mark Ellen, who edited Smash Hits in the Eighties (and was later editor of Select), the magazine was always about cultivating this sense of community. "It was like the Facebook of its day," he says. "We had readers from completely different parts of the country who were all somehow bonded by all the little made-up phrases and in-jokes we'd put in the mag. It's thrilling to think that these kindred spirits who were all obsessing over the same stuff in their youths are now discovering each other and forming a sort of group around it."

Nostalgia, it seems, doesn't come in a more neatly packaged form than a digital rendition of a magazine page. "Nothing skews a moment in time, a youth movement, like a magazine," Batho says. "You can probably find some of the same info elsewhere on the web but it's about more than just the words. It's about seeing the pages as a whole – the pictures, the layouts, even the ads." Beckett concurs: "Magazines are great for [nostalgia] since they cover the peripheral stuff that time has forgotten about and which will never get mentioned in documentaries."

Ellen compares it to tearing up carpet and discovering an old scrap of newspaper underneath. "It's like a time capsule. Every last detail is riveting because it nails the day on which it was printed so perfectly. And once you pick it up, you just can't stop reading."

Given their popularity, it's somewhat surprising that the publishers of these defunct titles haven't ever digitally archived them themselves. "There probably isn't much profit in doing that," Ellen points out. "Plus, Bauer Media [owners of the rights to Smash Hits] published a Smash Hits Christmas annual a few years back, which did quite well. If they published the same material online they'd ruin its exclusivity."

In any case, it would surely be a more sterile experience to read these magazine pages on a corporately endorsed website. Google Books has archived numerous American titles, from Ebony to Men's Health and, as of this week, Graydon Carter's cultish Spy, but there's something less satisfying about the experience of reading them via the world's most popular search engine. Unearthing the hard work of fellow fans is part of the fun. But be warned, if you grew up in the Eighties or Nineties, these archives may prove almost too hypnotic.

"People keep writing to me via the blog to tell me they've wasted days on a 1981 copy of Smash Hits," McCloskey says. "That's fine by me. I mean, what a great way to waste a day!"

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape