From a smoking Gary Oldman to a bikini-clad Kylie Minogue and trouserless Jack Dee, we present the cream of the cover stars who knew better and helped seal Loaded’s place as the biggest-selling men’s magazine in Britain.
Fag-puffing Gary Oldman stares from Loaded’s debut issue with the same black-eyed, coiled menace as one of his film nuts. But the innards of the first edition didn’t take themselves as seriously as the London thespian.
Kurt Cobain killed himself three weeks before the magazine launched and an advert ahead of publication proclaimed Loaded would provide an antidote to grunge grief by “cheering up Britain’s newsstands”.
Editor James Brown introduced the title by asking in his first editor’s letter, ‘What fresh lunacy is this?’ He was quoting Oliver Reed, who bellowed the line in Ken Russell’s The Devils as he watched a crocodile weave through a demented nun orgy.
Brown continued, ‘Loaded is a new magazine dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of sex, drink, football and less serious matters. Loaded is music, film, relationships, humour, travel, sport, hard news and popular culture. Loaded is clubbing, drinking, eating, playing and eating. Loaded is for the man who believes he can do anything, if only he wasn’t hungover.’
The Body’s 6ft frame fronted issue three. Macpherson declared in the interview she would be keeping her acting career “classy” and not “doing a Sharon Stone”. Australian Macpherson, then aged 30, spoke to Loaded of her upmarket intentions not to be typecast as an actress who just gets naked… in her trailer on the set of Sirens. The film was eventually only notable for the fact Macpherson got naked in it, a lot.
Goals & Girls
Times have changed since Loaded illustrated a football issue with two models dressed in replica kits. At least the shirt choices were a good choice – the Premier League was in its infancy in 1994, and Leeds United were one of the most powerful teams in Europe.
Skinner happily exposed his wink-wink, nudge-nudge “world of smut”, while an amazingly fresh-looking Shane MacGowan posed inside with a gaggle of models, drink in hand, fag in mouth.
When Naz was thin… and Paula Yates was alive. Inside this issue a 35-year-old Yates (who died six years later of a heroin overdose) gave an interview admitting she was “only famous for being a flirt”. She also revealed she used to read Loaded to then-husband Bob Geldof in bed. They divorced 18 months after the issue went to print.
Gushingly dubbed “the Ava Gardner of Liverpool” by Loaded, Lloyd just managed to keep her cleavage within corset. As the cover says, this issue came with a giant poster of Lloyd and some other ‘blahblahblah’. Note the bottom banner – Stuart Hall also featured. He was named one of Loaded’s ‘Greatest Living Englishmen’ inside. Times really have changed.
Liz Hurley (Almost)
Less than a year after an appearance in the first issue, and after she was famously photographed in a dress held together with safety pins, Hurley landed herself a spot on the corner of the front of Loaded. Unfortunately, she was elbowed to the side by a pissed-up, bloody-nosed Santa being arrested. The amount of drugs being consumed by Loaded staff by 1995 probably had a lot to do with the cover choice.
Loaded’s writer nearly exploded in his shorts when he met Mrs Mia Wallace. He gushed Thurman was “as close to heaven as I’ve ever seen on this earth”. In her honour the magazine’s tagline ‘for men who should know better’ was changed to ‘thurmen who should know better’. Cocaine use was said to be at an all-time high in the Loaded offices at this point.
‘The Whirlwind’ admitted his eyes were set on a world snooker title, if only he had the willpower to stick a sex ban on himself and focus. Elsewhere, there was a serious piece of investigative journalism on the growth of crime in kebab shops after closing time.
Reeves & Mortimer
Vic and Bob critiqued Liverpool for some reason in their cover interview. Reeves declared, “Liverpool looks like a dustbin stick on a spire”, while Bob Mortimer said, “Liverpool looks like my cock on Halloween night”. The pair also discussed the state of churches around the country. Elsewhere inside, a fiercely ambitious actress from the Valleys called Catherine Zeta-Jones stripped in a hotel bathroom and sat on the toilet in her nightie for a photoshoot and chat during which she eulogised about the charms of older actors in Hollywood.
Among the gems from the Happy Mondays veteran during his cover chat were, “You see the woman behind the bar; she just said to me, ‘Oh Shaun, I never knew you were the singer in the Happy Mondays. I always thought you were a drug dealer’.” These days he’s busy UFO spotting and being back on the road with Bez and Co.
Another cigar being sucked on for the cover. Letterman told of Peter O’Toole riding a camel onto the set of his US chatshow, and Loaded celebrated being voted Magazine Of The Year by the Professional Publishers Association.
The staff decided pictures of Kylie in a swimsuit spoke for themselves so loudly they didn’t bother to include an interview with the singer. The magazine later claimed that by sticking Minogue in a gold bikini it inspired her to wear shimmering gold hotpants in her Spinning Around video – the video that led to Minogue’s backside being worshipped.
Poor Gazza moaned, “Once you’re famous, it’s horrible. That’s what it’s like for me. Horrible. Fucking horrible.” Things would only get worse.
Well, Noel to be precise. True to form, Liam didn’t turn up for the shoot. Gallagher spoke about eyebrow culture in a lowbrow world and some less serious matters. Editor James Brown admitted in his letter the Loaded team’s better halves were beginning to tire of their debauchery, saying one staff member had been given ‘the “It’s the drugs/drink/having a good time or me” lecture’.
The art director really pushed himself on this one and came up with a shoot of a bloke smoking. Besides Suggs, a post-Neighbours, pre-Torn Natalie Imbruglia posed in her underwear.
A page three bird graces the cover for the first time. Guest’s appearance on the front of a magazine which had championed writing by female columnists including Barbara Ellen led one wit to critique the mag around this time by saying Loaded was becoming the magazine ‘for men who still live with their parents and wank to posters of girls’. At least they got the posters free with subscriptions. Guest would later front the issue that coincided with Labour’s 1997 election win.
Dah dee dee da do do da da dee do dee do… dee do, dee do, dee do! Men Behaving Badly’s squalling saxophone theme was part of the soundtrack that accompanied Loaded’s relentless rise to becoming Britain’s biggest-selling magazine. Thus, the inevitable Clunes cover. He made revelations including how the biggest tragedy of his life was his inability to practice kissing himself because he had “fat lips”.
Mr Bean before his modern day renaissance on Game Of Thrones. He told how he’d swap Hollywood for a night watching Sheffield Wednesday. The issue was curated by the magazine’s first female guest editor, comic Jenny Eclair, who was happy to label herself ‘a filthy bitch’ on the cover.
Multi-million-pound transfer deals, Premier League glory for Newcastle – and Sugar Puffs. Keegan spoke of his quest for Newcastle glory and filming a cereal ad which saw the Honey Monster become a Geordie for a day. Again, art direction was at a peak with glasses and a ’tache scrawled on Keegan’s mug, seemingly just to annoy him.
The Loaded staff said it: this one sucks. Danniella Westbrook (not sans septum yet) holding a box of Chupa Chups and talking about Brain Harvey. It’s only worth including in our greatest covers selection because Westbrook admitted inside she was spending £600 a night on cocaine. Lines like that don’t come out of celebrity mouths anymore. Not even the mouths of Z-list wonks.
Skinner & Baddiel
A Euro ’96 special resulted in Three Lions stars David Baddiel and Frank Skinner appearing in England kits, surrounded by a ‘team’ of models. (Skinner getting the cover blonde to paw his balls was surely a smart bit of physical comedy on his part referencing the red card penalty implications which can result from shirt pulling.) Loaded won the PPA Magazine Of The Year award for the second consecutive year.
The team missed a trick with this one by not weaving in Leary’s “I’m an asshole!” catchphrase on the cover. Inside, the magazine called him “the vitriolic wise guy whose mouth’s been on the butt end of a fag more often than Freddie Mercury”. The New Statesman it wasn’t.
Irvine On Noel
Two icons on one cover, a year after the release of Trainspotting. Welsh wrote an ode to Gallagher, saying, ‘The reason Noel Gallagher is the most successful songwriter in Britain today is because he has the two most essential qualities any true artist needs: empathy and courage’. Noel later wrote a short tribute to Loaded to mark one of the magazine’s anniversaries. It read, ‘I don’t know how you sorry shower of bastards have gotten away with it for so long’.
Dee, interviewed in his pants and a T-shirt emblazoned with his initials, told how while working as a waiter in his twenties he gained a reputation for being “a right bastard” to customers as he used to give them boiling water in finger bowls. Important other features included the Loaded staff travelling to Glasgow and getting off their heads on wine and other substances before they addressed a group of readers.
Loaded’s entertainment editor Jennifer O’Brien is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively about popular culture as a national newspaper columnist and author. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_OBrien1