- 24 Oct 19
A magazine’s loyal readers are essential to its success – and longevity. Without those generous and hugely valued foot-soldiers, a publication like Hot Press could not exist. Aaron Govern is one such. A resident of Warwickshire in the UK, he began subscribing to Hot Press all the way back in 1984 - and has done so continuously ever since. To mark our 1,000th issue, we asked him to tell us his story.
Well, well, well. The 1000th edition of Hot Press? Who would have believed it possible.
I was born in the UK and grew up there. Apart from my parents, however, all my relatives lived in Ireland. Every summer, my father and mother would visit home – Dublin and Wexford respectively – to see their own parents. So I always felt a very strong connection to the island of Ireland.
By the early 1980s, music had became a huge passion for me. I was at an age where rock ’n’ roll was beginning to have a significant influence on the way I looked at the world. My father had taken me, in the late ’70s, to see rock behemoths like The Who, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. And I had fallen in love, entirely off my own bat, with the Two-Tone music scene that originated in Coventry, not far from where I have lived most of my life, with bands like The Specials and The Selecter to the fore.
Other family members were also to have an influence on me. A family visit to Ireland meant meeting up with my cousin Hugh, a DJ in Dublin, who bought records by the proverbial bucketload. He would pass tapes and vinyl on to me, to listen to – and one year he gave me a copy of U2’s October album. It was a life-changing moment: I was completely hooked by this new rock sound.
As a result of hearing that tape, and playing it over and over again, by early 1983 – following the release of the band’s third album, War – I had already seen U2 twice in Birmingham, catching them in full youthful flow, as they began their ascent to the dizziest heights of rock ’n’ roll stardom.
Rush of Excitement
By 1984, I had become a regular buyer of the weekly UK music publications – the ‘inkies’ as we fondly knew them – mainly the NME, but also Melody Maker and Sounds. Then on a visit to Ireland with my parents in August 1984, I went into Eason’s on O’Connell St, and saw my first ever copy of Hot Press – an instant purchase, helped no doubt by the fact that it was the copy that featured Bob Dylan and Bono on the cover, after the latter had bounded on stage to join Dylan, in an early Slane Castle concert that same summer.
Holding that unique edition in my hands, I was utterly transfixed by the content of this previously undiscovered magazine, which at the age of 16 was good beyond my highest expectations. Here was a publication which would not only connect me to my Irish heritage, but also offer stunning and wide-ranging articles and features on music, the arts, politics, books, film, sport and theatre.
And it did. This was a magazine that would become an intrinsic part of my life ever since, and which has greatly influenced me, in my thoughts and beliefs.
Following that initial purchase, I realised that I couldn’t reliably buy Hot Press in England, and so I subscribed. Over 35 years later, I still get that rush of excitement at the sound of the letterbox opening and closing on a Saturday morning every fortnight, with the newly published edition of Hot Press landing on the mat.
It never fails to excite me. Time stops. I literally rip off the wrapping, and turn straight to the front cover, and then the contents page. I anxiously think about which part of the issue to read first, before ploughing on into – and through – the rest of the writing.
Much Needed Light
Hot Press is a tour-de-force. There are no weaknesses in this magazine: each and every page is worked on and finely-tuned by some of the best journalists in the industry.
And what journalists there have been in the 35 years of reading some 900+ copies of Hot Press: the late, great Bill Graham; Neil McCormick; Declan Lynch; Michael D. Higgins (I wonder what ever happened to him?!?); Liam Mackey; Eamonn McCann; Stuart Clarke; Olaf Tyaransen; Lorraine Freeney; Anne Sexton; and numerous more. And let’s not forget that some of the most incredible photographers have graced those pages too, notably including Colm Henry.
Hot Press has been home to some of the most talented people – and they, in turn, have been loyal to the magazine over the years, their work revered by readers and industry participants alike.
But the main reason I love Hot Press is the big man himself – Niall Stokes. The founder and editor of this magazine since its inception in 1977, his editorials are like no other. They cover the main issues of the day, and are always on the pulse.
Rarely do I read one and not agree with the sentiments and views that he manages to get from pen to page. Niall is, and has always been, masterly in his prose, fully focused on highlighting the injustices, the mistakes and the downright incompetencies in the great world that we live in…
Injustices and causes have been highlighted consistently in his editorials, over the years. I honestly believe that Hot Press has been at least partially responsible for getting much overdue legislation passed in the Dáil, by campaigning for action to be taken on issues from the legalisation of contraception back in the late ’80s through to more recent concerns such as gay marriage and support of feminism – not least the role Hot Press played in ensuring the passing of the Referendum on Repealing the 8th Amendment, and the subsequent successful introduction of legislation.
Since 1977, Hot Press has chipped away at the gargantuan task of demolishing the old and antiquated structures of the Catholic Church, which had exerted such control over almost all aspects of Irish life. In the process, Hot Press brought some much needed light, following many decades of a very dark past – and, as a result, a new, liberal Ireland has emerged.
Player and Manager
I have so many great and fond memories of the journalists and columns of the past. What’s more, the letters page always used to make me laugh out loud, with some of the readers becoming legends in their own right. Remember the contributions by Pete the Roz? And who can forget the regular missives of a loyal reader called Kathy Evans, who constantly wrote in to Hot Press – and even got her very own section on the letters page called ‘The Kathy Evans Corner’. Great memories indeed.
I am proud to discover that – as far as the official records go! – I am the longest, unbroken, fully paid-up, independent subscriber to Hot Press. I have subscribed continuously for all of 35 years – and long may that continue.
So thank you Hot Press. Thank you Niall. Keep an eye on the ‘wrongs’ of the world like you do.
And one last thing: may your knees not be knackered, and long may you continue in your role as player and manager of the wonderful Hot Press Munchengladbach 1891 football team!
Here’s to the 1000th edition. Already, I am I looking forward to the 2000th.