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Episode 151 : Sylvia Patterson on Smash Hits + George Michael audio

8 May 2023

In this episode, we welcome the excellent Sylvia Patterson to RBP’s Hammersmith HQ and ask her all about her life as a music journalist from Smash Hits to the NME and beyond, referencing her excellent memoirs I’m Not With the Band and Same Old Girl

We begin with her start in writing at Dundee publisher D.C. Thomson, including as music editor for the short-lived Etcetera, which led to her applying for a staff job at irreverent pop paper Smash Hits. Sylvia reminisces about what it was like working on a magazine that never took the business of popular music too seriously, reflecting that the lack of a cynical ulterior agenda engendered a fun atmosphere for both the writers and (most of) the musicians.

Touching on Sylvia’s 1987 interview with newly inducted Rock Hall of Famer George Michael, whom she dubbed "the glummest man in pop", we hear clips from an Adam Sweeting audio interview conducted on the same day. The man born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou cut a serious figure at the time, contemplating his relationship with the press and the nature of political gestures from pop stars as well as rebuffing "rumours" that he’s gay after Boy George has outed him on the radio. 

Moving on to the 90s and beyond, at which point Sylvia became a freelancer for publications including The Face and the NME, we talk about her experience interviewing The Artist Formerly Known as Prince before discussing the chaos of the Britpop era. Defending her chosen side in the Oasis vs Blur debate, she recounts the hilarity of speaking with the Gallagher brothers in 2001.

To bring Sylvia’s story up to date, we ask her about her new memoir Same Old Girl, published in April, about her diagnosis in late 2019 with breast cancer and the treatment amidst a global pandemic that followed. 

We then spotlight three articles on Donna Summer ahead of a new documentary directed by her daughter and pay tribute to recently departed Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. Finally, Mark and Jasper quote from a few new additions to the RBP library including interviews with Jet Harris and Chris Cornell and a profile of Christian Scott/Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah.

Many thanks to special guest Sylvia Patterson. Same Old Girl is published by Fleet and available now.