Of course the death of Loaded isn’t really the “end of an era” ((c) all newspapers). That ended ten or even fifteen years ago or, arguably, when the first “me-too” copy was rushed out by a rival desperate to emulate the magazine’s success.
The parallel is with Elvis: something genuinely new and different, rapidly absorbed by the system it originally seemed to stand outside; bought off, compromised and reduced to irrelevance.
Because the tawdry and constipated magazine that has just closed bears no relation (other than the title) to the original Loaded. Love it or loathe it, the 1994 incarnation was sui generis – gonzo journalism reborn for the ’90s – and not even its creators knew what made it work (as the less than fabulous subsequent career of James Brown shows).
Plenty of people tried of course – FHM, Maxim, Front, then the execrable Nuts and Zoo – but they lacked the wit of the original, reducing everything to the lowest common denominator. And Loaded went the same way – because no one knew what made it work, no one knew that they’d broken it – and we ended up with the dismal procession of sub soft porn content and the replacement of genuine humour with ‘banter’.
The surprise with Loaded is that it managed to limp on for so long, passed from company to company like the rolled-up £20 notes so widely used in Loaded’s visits to the PPA Awards in the 90s. These ‘sales’ always came with some flatulent outpourings that the glory days were going to be reclaimed, that the brand was so strong it could be profitably extended and the millions would roll in again. (Oh, and something to do with digital, and websites, and reinventing the brand for today’s men.)
Presumably that’s how they continued to persuade freelances to write for them and printers to produce copies despite many, many others being shafted by previous owners going into administration. (A special reaffirmation of contempt here for the cynical management of IPC. So desperate were they to offload their raft of under-performing magazines without the cost and embarrassment of closing them that they performed the most perfunctory of due diligence, selling a handful of titles to the chancers at Vitality Publishing. )
But apart from the creditors, no one cares about Loaded’s end. The press coverage is nostalgia, a remembrance of things past, when we were all younger, less careworn, more stupid and when we believed the magazine industry would go on for ever. Ah, those far off distant days.