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Bieber and the Bittersweet Memories: This Is Not About Us

13/11/2015 12:43 GMT | Updated 12/11/2016 10:12 GMT

This Bieber stuff is nothing new. In 2003, my horror at Avril Lavigne featuring on the cover of the NME was in part of the driving force that made me want to start my own music website (that and effing up the chance to do reviews for actual NME, sigh). And that decision genuinely changed my life, it gave me a career and introduced me to my husband. So thank you very much, Avril and NME.

But the horror was born from a proprietorial feeling for the NME. That was the point, that's how it made you feel. Throughout my teens and (unlike a lot of my friends) into my twenties, getting the NME was a highlight of my week.

Now maybe it's just because I follow a Twitter echo chamber of thirty and forty-somethings who are just like me, but it does seem like a hefting chunk of the people up in arms about the Bieber cover are people for whom getting the NME was a highlight of their weeks, like twenty odd years ago. I think we need to butt out, we need to let it go. For our sake.

If I was being deliberately provocative, I'd say you get the NME you pay for. But that's way too simple. I think the reason people are cross, even those who would not picked up this week's NME regardless of who was on the cover, is because of what NME represents. Our teens. The time when we had the luxury of caring about music above almost anything else. The time when we belonged to a pack, a gang, identified by our band t-shirts or our lumberjack shirt or our Adidas zip-up or our ripped jeans or our Cure make-up or our... and so on.

It felt wonderful to belong like that. I miss that. I know I'm not alone. And we'll never get that back. A zillion books have been and will continue to be written that plunge back into those teen waters, those years that are like nothing else. But they're temporary and irreplaceable.

I can feel a shadow of it now, if I concentrate and ignore my kids for a bit. That bittersweet feeling of lying in suburbia or (in my case) rural Devon, feeling utterly alone because that's how teenagers love to feel, and also entirely connected to faceless, exciting others via music.

How heavenly to throw hours into daydreaming about meeting the most exciting bands, to copy phrases from interviews and drop them, like an awkward litterbug parrot, into every possible conversation with absolutely everyone.

For my generation of indie kids, NME went hand in hand with listening to Mark and Lard, John Peel, Steve Lamacq and Jo Wiley at night. To write band names on our hands in Bic ink and then wait to buy the single on vinyl with coins when the Our Price opened. NME wasn't just for reading either, it was for cutting out pictures of Richie Edwards or Kurt Cobain or Brian Molko or Siouxie Sioux or Julian Casablancas or Debbie Harry or Jarvis Cocker or Louise Wener (delete according to era).

Those days are over. There's no Our Price anymore. And to really inelegantly paraphrase Eminem: We're too old, let go.

It's not up to me who NME put on the cover. It's not about me. I'm 35-years-old. I'd be concerned if my reading habits hadn't developed and changed in the last 20 years. It's up to them. Those teenagers over there getting their news from Snapchat and laughing at their 'rents' for thinking that they call us 'rents'.

They don't give a shit about the NME cover like we did, they have a million other fish to fry. Because internet.

Bieber on the cover of NME makes us sad the way my mum threw a shitfit in 1990 when she heard someone describing New Kids on the Block as "bigger than the Beatles".

Speaking of which, throughout the sixties, the Beatles were frequently on the cover. So too were Cliff and the Shadows in their shiny suits, Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark, Cilla Black and Lulu. Hardly Titus Andronicus.

And let's not zone in too much on the glory years of Nick Kent, Julie Burchill, Tony Parsons and Danny Baker through to Stuart Maconie, Mary Anne Hobbs and Steve Lamacq. On some level I wish I'd been a reader then, but actually I'm sure it's better just getting the highlights after the fact. During the seventies heyday the NME still managed to slate Kraftwerk (and then featured them on the cover a couple of years later). I'll admit, it's hard to find a duff cover act from 1972 through to the late 80s. But those covers still included Bananarama and Wham! It wasn't all Scritti Polliti and the Ramones.

I realise I'm leaping around decades, but NME too has swung hither and thither, sticking its flag to many masts. And it's often got it wrong. So let's not get too carried away with the mythology.

And NME's roots were in pop, lest we forget. In 1952, the New Musical Express established the first UK singles chart. You don't get more pop music than literally listing the most popular music.

Yeah, I don't like Bieber's music much. The kid seems like a hot mess and I wouldn't want him dating my daughter. But mostly I look on as an adult who has seen the rise and fall of many a jumped up little prick, has watched news of overdoses and rehab, watched early marriages breaking and shaken my head at the screwed up parental-financial relationships that bubble around these kids like cold sores. When I see Justin Bieber on the cover of NME, his little boy arms covered in tattoos, I just see a kid that has nothing to do with me, on a magazine I once loved.