I recently did an interview for SOS’s Classic Tracks feature, which delved into how I managed to have an international number one song from a bedroom in Derby, UK. That song is often called one of the first charting ‘bedroom pop’ songs, which is debatable. What I think is more ironclad is that it’s a chart hit shaped by Sound On Sound.
It’s the early ’80s. I’m a synth‑obsessed teenager, worshipping Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, the Human League, Ultravox and Japan. These are my gods. And I want to make music like them. But how do you record? What is a synthesizer? Do I have to go to a studio? Nowadays, questions like these are trivial, with solutions a click away. Before the web, not so much.
So I devoured magazines. One Two Testing, Electronic Soundmaker, Electronics & Music Maker and Home Studio Recording. Then, in October 1985, a new pup arrived: a very slick, colourful magazine called Sound On Sound. Immediately, I loved the level of writing in SOS. it seemed to hold itself to higher standards than other mags. It became my Bible of not only what to buy but also why to buy it and how to use it. I bought a Tandy PZM mic because of an SOS feature and I recorded everything with that mic for years, including the vocal on ‘Your Woman’. I didn’t have much money for gear, but what I had, I spent wisely thanks to SOS.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that SOS was my equivalent of taking a never‑ending music tech degree.
Other magazines came and went and were important to me (shout out to Sequencer One free on a floppy with ST Format!) but SOS was my main source of technical info. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Sound On Sound was my equivalent of taking a never‑ending music tech degree.
The reason I’m unloading this Gen X nostalgia onto you is that these days we have myriad sources for information. Frankly, we’re swamped. But using terminology I first learnt from SOS, the signal‑to‑noise ratio is low. When every other YouTuber is blatantly shilling in return for free gear, how is a kid meant to know what’s good and what’s merely lucrative for the reviewer? Now, more than ever, we need unbiased reviews.
I believe SOS still stands out. If you look at its coverage of events like Superbooth, I think you can see that difference. Obviously, there are other great sites/reviewers but when I have gear lust, the first thing I search for is the Sound On Sound review. It’s a kind of ritual.
Now that I write for SOS myself, I always have teenage me in the back of my mind: small money but huge dreams. I write for that person. I’m paying it forwards. I’m excited and intrigued to hear what that person, what that next gen of self‑taught bedroom producers, is going to throw at us wizened old people.