Pat Long, who passed away last week, was a much-loved member of NME staff in the 2000s and went on to write the definitive history of the magazine. Friend and former colleague Alan Woodhouse remembers him
When the news broke of Pat Long’s death aged just 41 last Friday (August 24), hundreds were swift to pay heartfelt tribute to the former NME journalist and author of its definitive chronicle, The History of the NME: High Times and Low Lives at the World’s Most Famous Music Magazine. In among all the wonderfully touching messages and memories, there was one tweet that recalled how, during Pat’s fledgling steps into music journalism at the now-defunct Select magazine, the staff there used to call him ‘Rocking’ Pat Long. Why? “Because he was the only one of us who could have been on the cover. A lovely man and a fine writer.”
Sharp in both dress and mind, Pat has a special place in the long, illustrious history of NME. He was an avid reader of the magazine while growing up in Hertfordshire, where he and his younger sister Jane formed a close bond over their mutual music fanaticism. After school, he studied English at UCL, joining Select almost immediately after he graduated in 1999. From there he moved on to NME in 2002, taking the role of Live Editor. From the outset he oozed class, humour and passion, his dedication and commitment to the job clear for all to see. Although his fandom bordered on obsession – his arcane knowledge of music and popular culture in general put the rest of the staff to shame – he never forgot that the world of rock ‘n’ roll was supposed to be fun, and what we were paid to do really was a privilege. This was reflected in his own writing, which was crisp, incisive and wonderfully witty, and also in the good-time, carefree nature of the bands he played bass in, The Action Time and Wheels.
His role saw him take many young, inexperienced writers under his wing and show them the ropes. Many of the writers who blossomed under his tutelage became big NME names themselves, and went on to forge successful, high-profile media careers – including Tim Jonze, James McMahon, Leonie Cooper and Krissi Murison (who was NME editor from 2009 to 2012).
Despite sending me to review Stereophonics at V Festival a few weeks into his tenure, Pat and I quickly became firm friends, sharing a love for psychedelic pop, Guinness, curry and making each other laugh. At one point we started making up stories to fill the ‘On This Day’ part of the Recommender section at the back of the magazine, whereby the anniversary of a famous moment in rock history would be recalled. For a few months we got away with putting in things like:
1990: David Bowie’s chicken kiev range is withdrawn from sale
2004: Shaun Ryder eats a live grey squirrel while high
As well as his love of raking through music’s margins for forgotten, far-out relics, Pat had a keen ear for new stuff, and many of his discoveries and acts he helped champion in the pages of NME went on to enjoy fine careers. He was an early supporter of north-east post-punk revivalists The Futureheads, and it was down to his persistence that The Horrors made it on to the cover in 2006 when they were barely out of nappies, Pat of course writing the typically persuasive piece himself. Some of his other passions included lute-brandishing proggers Circulus (whom Pat and I tried to claim were kings of a new genre we titled ‘Crazy Prog’ in homage to the novelty hit of the era) Swedish psych outfit Dungen and a stockpile of Detroit-based garage rockers. Pat later went on to become Associate Editor, his role’s main focus being on making sure the paper’s print and digital content shared a similar voice, his contribution helping the iconic name move with the times, and confirming that Pat was as much about the future as he was the past.
It was also while working at NME that Pat met the woman who went on to become his wife, fellow journalist Kat Lister, although their romance did not begin until after Pat had left in 2008. When Pat went on to write The History of NME: High Times and Low Lives At The World’s Most Famous Magazine, released to universal acclaim in 2012, the book was dedicated to Kat, sweetly pointing out that they first crossed paths in the lifts of the building NME was housed in on London’s South Bank.
Pat’s passion for music also saw him run an avant-folk club, In The Pines, in Kings Cross, central London the mid-2000s and later Cosmic Slop, a “disco for the discerning” which packed out a basement bar in his old stamping ground of Stoke Newington, north London, for a few years around the end of the last decade. Pat also set up his own label, Heron Recordings, from which he released outstanding records by bands he loved such as The Beep Seals and Goldheart Assembly.
Pat had begun working at The Times when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2012, but in typical style played down his illness, as it simply was never his way to draw any kind of attention to himself. With the unequivocal support and love of Kat, whom he married in 2013, he faced down his cancer with courage and determination, never resorting to self-pity. He even used his experiences to start writing a book, Among A World Of Ghosts, about the effects his condition had on his brain and with the intention of providing fresh insights into memory and consciousness. He was still trying to complete it in the weeks leading up to his death, with help from Kat and Jane.
The flood of heartfelt reflections following his passing, with not a single bad word among them, reflected perfectly who Pat was. Colleagues from throughout his career, including many from his days at NME, made it abundantly clear just how much he was loved. Pat was a total gentleman to everyone who met him, a wonderful husband to his true love and soulmate Kat, a fabulous brother to Jane and a loving son to his mum and dad (who sadly passed away in 2014). He was also a loyal, kind and utterly irreplaceable friend. His life has been cut tragically short, but what a life. Pat Long, you were rocking.
Pat was cared for in his last weeks by the wonderful staff at St Christopher’s hospice in south London. It takes £20 million a year for them to deliver their services and community outreach. The NHS only provides a fraction of what they need to survive. If you would like to make a donation, click here.