Richard Williams (journalist)
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As a writer, then deputy editor, of the weekly rock magazine Melody Maker, he became an influential commentator on the rise of new forms of rock music at the end of the 1960s. Williams and MM, as it was known, helped to promote and contextualise styles such as progressive rock and folk rock. In particular, Williams wrote several key articles around 1970 which first drew UK audiences' attention to the importance of a then-obscure (and disintegrating) band, The Velvet Underground. Melody Maker was then a magazine which still covered jazz and Williams wrote about the more progressive developments in this field also.
The magazine's serious approach to rock music and culture, under the editorship of Ray Coleman, secured MM a huge circulation by the close of the 1960s and the start of the 1970s. It left New Musical Express, a more pop-oriented weekly, in its wake as MM caught the mood of a new generation of rock followers at a time when the music had transcended its Top 40 roots to become a powerful symbol of social and cultural change. Williams was the most vocal and influential supporter of Bob Marley during the early seventies. He wrote several key features at the Melody Maker which resulted in Marley's first important cover stories.
Williams moved on to new challenges in the early 1970s. Beginning in May 1970, he contributed to The Times, becoming one of the first people to write seriously about any form of popular culture in a newspaper historically associated with the old British establishment, and he continued to write for that paper until October 1989, by which time it had been taken over by Rupert Murdoch and moved to Wapping. He also wrote regularly for Radio Times. His career detoured when he left journalism to join Island Records A&R department in 1973, becoming department head. For two years, he signed and developed artists including Pete Wingfield, Stone Delight, Bryn Haworth and John Cale. The first presenter of BBC TV's rock show The Old Grey Whistle Test (launched in 1971) while still a member of the MM team, and shortly thereafter its producer, he later became editor of the new London listings guide Time Out and returned to MM as editor from 1978 to 1980.
After a period as features editor at The Sunday Times he became editor of the Independent on Sunday's Sunday Review. His music journalism has been gathered in the volume Long Distance Call: Writings on Music and biographies of Bob Dylan (A Man Called Alias), Miles Davis (The Man in the Green Shirt), and Phil Spector (Out of His Head) are among his list of other publications.
Williams remains an active journalist and is the Chief Sports Writer of the UK daily newspaper The Guardian, covering a full array of sports from football to Formula One, cricket to golf. He has written several books on Formula One including The Death of Ayrton Senna, Racers (an analysis of the main participants of the 1996 F1 season), Enzo Ferrari: A Life, and The Last Road Race (a study of the changing balance in Formula One between British and Italian teams, using the 1957 Pescara Grand Prix as the backdrop).
- Old Grey Whistle Test DVD Vol 3; Bob Harris speaking before Track 3