Polluting young minds? Smash Hits and ‘high Thatcherism’ | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 8, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-6134
  • E-ISSN: 2040-6142



This article is an analysis of the British popular music publication Smash Hits at the peak of its commercial power in the late 1980s. Whereas academic attention has been diverted towards its early, more ‘alternative’ period in the late 1970s, as Railton suggests, like many similar publications it has not been widely studied within the academy and particularly not in relation to its engagement with overtly popular music. On the rare occasions it is discussed it is broadly dismissed as being conservative and overtly consumerist, merely a ‘teen glossy’ that provided posters for teenage girls’ bedrooms. Through a content analysis of issues published in 1987, with a specific focus on an interview with Margaret Thatcher conducted by Smash Hits in March of that year, this article will attempt to redress this imbalance. It aims to demonstrate that as a guide to the politics of popular music and youth culture at the end of ‘high Thatcherism’, Smash Hits deserves to be studied with the same respect as it’s more credible ‘inkie’ and ‘indie’ peers of the period. It will also suggest that the very nature of Smash Hits as a reflection of populist taste allowed it the scope to cover, as cultural texts, a range of musical performers and styles far broader than that seen in the indie press of the time and that, in turn, this allowed it to visualize key youth movements they ignored. Finally, it also hopes to outline how it’s representation of gender, sexuality and race was very much at odds with mainstream, and specifically Thatcherite, ideals in this period.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): identity; music press; NME; popular music; Smash Hits; Thatcherism; youth culture
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