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I'd been writing a blog for a few years when I opened my mailbox and was gobsmacked by a CD package addressed to "Simon Reynolds c/o Blissblog". It wasn't so much the fact that I was being of thought of as music blogger (as opposed to a professional journalist who'd written for the Observer since forever). It was more that it took me right back to receiving my first freebie as the co-editor of a fanzine, Monitor, some 20 years earlier. A canny indie music publicist had realised that not only did band buzz typically start with the fanzines, but many zine writers went on to join the music press, making it a shrewd move to develop relationships early on. The arrival of a free LP certainly had an instantly corrupting effect on Monitor, which we'd founded on a strict policy of "no reviews, no interviews, just thinkpieces". From then on we instituted a review section in hopes of encouraging the promo flow. These days blogs are where most aspiring music journalists train for the big league and in the interim release their pent-up geyser of opinionated-ness. Blogs have enormous advantages over fanzines: they cost nothing and are vastly easier to produce, their distribution reach is potentially infinite, and instead of long gaps between irregular issues they can be updated constantly. They are also more interactive than fanzines, which often felt like they were thrown out into the void: you get links from peer blogs or reactions in the comments box, exciting conversations and spats develop, particular corners of the blogosphere can feel like a community (albeit with the problems of real-world villages: idiots, busybodies, know-it-
the fanzine ought be on its last legs. a 22 year old French girl who lives in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. where cassette labels are all the rage. In the age of Blogger." She says she carries issues of Applejack around with her in her schoolbag and gives them away to "people with friendly faces. drone and free folk. creeps and stalkers). Applejack's sole concession to digital modernity is having a free CD-R instead of a flexidisc. Sounds of analogue provenance. you often hear anti-digital sentiments expressed. I like to feel in touch. a relic of another era. Roy aligns herself with the "anti-folk scene". beyond our control. with each page as loose leaf vellum and every image screen-printed. The internet is a bit scary to me – it is bigger than us. because then they're just a faceless. I'm not interested in having one million people reading my writing online. something working against the intimacy of a real. often graduating to intermediary webzines like The Quietus. Music journalist Jon Dale operates a long-running zine called Astronauts and has extravagant plans for the next issue: "I want to do it as beautiful old wooden box. There is no romance involved with MP3s. Although it's hard to quantify. they sit on your shelves. It makes sense that today's mouthy-git critics serve their apprenticeship on blogs. you may as well make a good one!" As a contributor to Signal To Noise and similar esoteric music magazines. punk rock to riot grrl) but younger people who've never known a world without email and the web. is now on its fourth issue and is a defiantly old-school affair made from photocopied and folded sheets that are illustrated with hand-drawn black-and-white graphics and held together by a sort of belt of ribbon (Elodie doesn't own a stapler). I figure if everyone's gonna harp on about fetish objects. This interest in the limited edition and hand-customised is a common thread within the new zine scene. distant audience. Dale is an expert on underground sounds like free folk and noise. "Fanzines say 'hello it's me. the books you've read. it feels like the fanzine is making a resurgence in the face of digital culture. A MP3 is a file – it can be erased in one click. hand-decorated packaging).alls. Yet strangely zines are holding their ground. access to a large readership and relative freedom in terms of word count and style. just like that other analogue format. and says she never buys digital music but instead prefers vinyl and mixtapes." Although Roy says she doesn't "deliberately choose vintage formats over new ones"." Roy belongs to a kind of retro-vanguard within the youth of today who increasingly disenchanted with Web 2. Pitchfork or the late lamented US outlet Stylus: online publications that tend not to pay much (or anything) but compensate by conveying cool status. fleshless. Her zine. grounded community. And it's not just die-hard veterans from the golden age of the fanzine (approximately 1977 to 1994. where it parallels the emphasis on live performance and improvisation (the unmediated presence of the unrepeatable event). vinyl.0 reality. Take Elodie Amandine Roy. labels like Olive Juice. I'm here'. that's strongest in scenes like noise. Collection makes recollection possible. "Music is associated with tangible artefacts to me. and it is memory made visible. Applejack. Live Journal and other online formats for non-professional music commentary. The albums you've listened to. I wanted people to be able to read them and keep them somewhere in their house." There's a groundswell of revived interest into analogue formats like vinyl (especially seven-inch singles) and cassettes (often encased in elaborate. I actually like to know who my readers are. People still make them. which is what all self-respecting 80s zines had (even Monitor did one). as antiquated as an electric typewriter. Applejack does have an arts-and-crafts air to it: the first two issues were "hand-sewn". In these circles. Roy describes her motivations for doing it the old-fashioned way as "romantic … I wanted to make something that would be visible and material and touchable. whether it's acoustic . seeing its limitlessness and hyper-linked pseudoconnectivity as the problem.
"I missed that feeling of holding something in your hands. But I'm also not sure people absorb material properly when it's read fleetingly on a website – and the boss might be looking over your shoulder. are preferred. Woofah celebrates the bass-booming tradition of "UK soundsystem culture". Eden says the magazine's ethos is to "make it critical and to have articles that engage deeply with the culture – either people involved with it like producers or MCs.instruments or antiquated synthesisers." As you can tell from its title. The era of the music fanzine really began with punk. Woofah sticks to the original remit of the fanzine: in-depth coverage of underground sounds neglected by the mainstream media. Something that impressionable people might read over and over again and get obsessed with like I did in the 80s with anarcho-punk and industrial zines. or they took the form of newsletters and heavily pictorial. or with issues like the police shutting down grime raves in London". mail- . Take John Eden. Hardly a Luddite. Zines before then had either been done by science-fiction fans. Unlike blogs. Free folker Joanna Newsom reputedly won't even allow digital music-playback devices in her own home. a veteran of fanzine culture since the 80s who recently returned to the hardcopy format after a period of blogging. really. Eden was drawn back to fanzines for both sentimental reasons and for their practical advantages. The music covered in Woofah – grime. dubstep. Not every zine operator is so zealous about the superiority of analogue over digital. although such principled squeamishness hasn't stopped her from selling her album Ys in both CD and MP3 form (via the online independent retailer eMusic). I also felt it would open some doors – artists still like the idea of being interviewed for a magazine rather than something online. digidub – depends on computer technology. which thanks to their rapid-response format tend to comment on a mixture of ultraobscure stuff and mainstream things everybody's aware of.
often looked a bit drab. in a sense looking for a job. production was protracted and painstaking. there remained a host of limitations to the fanzine's means of production. anarcho. we weren't slackers. with pencilscribbled addenda in the margins. indubitably the boom era of zine culture. blackmail-style. great Compendium." he says. We were looking for collective purpose. "Copy shops started to spring up all over Britain. penned by yours truly). The combined effect of these two things was dramatic. Camden's radical bookseller and clearing house for underground publications and pamphlets of every kind. Oi!. I recall him poring through books of fonts for hours and rigging up a substitute for a designer's light table using a pane of glass. in a way: although we were all ex-students on the dole. says Joly McFie. At the same time Kodak introduced instant printing. they'd jump at it.order-only periodicals produced by fan clubs and dedicated to specific movie or pop idols. Punk's DIY ideology unleashed a tidal wave of samizdat publishing. But the zine revolution would never have happened without certain technological breakthroughs. falling short. which cost £1 per shot). they'd cut letters out of newspapers. In those pre-desktop publishing days. they'd just run their pictures giant-size. Strips of typewritten and typo-riddled text would be glued at skewiff angles. stark typefaces. When I joined Melody Maker in 1986 I was following a well-trodden route. Yet at the first whiff of an opportunity of writing for them. although I confess my contribution was mainly moral support and making endless cups of heavily-sugared instant coffee. Where I did come into my own was the other problematic area: distribution. Other zines did their best to look like "proper" magazines but. If photo-size reduction was too pricey (it required a process camera. The laying-out of a Monitor issue took many nights of small-hours toil. verging-on-slick presentation: high quality paper stock. And we made it harder on ourselves by having pretensions to being different from other zines (indeed the debut issue included a critique of fanzine culture. a veteran of the 60s underground press who would play a crucial role in fostering the UK postpunk zine culture with his famously idealistic "print now/pay later" scheme. an attractively designed zine that was attacked by Sniffin' Glue's ." Sixties underground magazines like Oz and International Times (where McFie worked as the music editor) were irreverent and radical but their actual mode of operation was far closer to a newspaper than a fanzine: they were still part of the top-down transmission of news and opinion. noting that Xerox went from approximately 50p a sheet to 10p. an anglepoise and a wooden chair frame from which he'd removed the cushioned seat. US hardcore) and spawned offshoots like industrial and the cutiepop/shambling/C86 strains of indie. I took trips to London to deliver copies to the ICA bookstore. If Letraset was one-use only and expensive. anti-hierarchical set up that eroded "the distinction between producer and consumer. whereas fanzines involved a shift to a more bottom-up. striking design. says McFie. You could be part of the process now. Monitor styled itself as a pop culture journal (hence the essays-only policy – no rambling verbatim Q&A interviews in tiny print for us) and aimed for an elegant. Punkzines often turned these constraints into an aesthetic of anti-professionalism. really on a par with the arrival of the internet. thanks to the enduring impact of punk. That was kind of the attraction." Despite these democratising technological breakthroughs. which had split into squabbling tribes (Goth. the Rough Trade record shop. and the late. Being the least socially unskilled. Just before punk kicked off. That this was achieved owing everything to editor-in-chief Paul Oldfield. Fanzine editors in those days would traditionally rail against the weekly music papers for their out-of-touch uselessness and corruption. "Around 1975 the price of duplication went down dramatically. This remained the state of the art well into the 80s. broadcaster/critic-to-be Paul Morley did one issue of Out There. it fell upon me to trudge around to record stores and newsagents in Oxford and plead with them to take copies. What I remember about Monitor was the sheer struggle involved in making and selling the thing.
in this ridiculous ephemera/art/book shop on the Upper East Side of New York". Someone who ordered issue one lived down my road. it makes perfect sense that zine editors lunged for the chance of a bigger audience. the painting or sculpture." Jon Dale's next issue of Astronauts – the one in the wooden box – is necessarily going to be a small run.000. The web and music blogging has freed zines from the need to provide news or even be "a form of communication"." In parallel with this artisanal approach to creating magazines to treasure. Yet as digital culture takes over. says that he sees a boom in zines "of a very particular kind. a hard-spined zine dedicated to all kinds of outsider music and art. What's going on here is what academics describe as "slippage of the auratic". "aura" is being conferred on things that not long ago would once have been considered mass produced . especially the industrial music zines I'm no longer interested in. who will (hopefully) cherish the object you've lavished effort on." Doing a fanzine in the Noughties is all about the process of making it. Joly McFie recalls picking up via eBay a copy of a zine that he'd helped to produce on his printing press back in the late 70s. paying a tidy sum while being acutely aware of the irony of having had at one point hundreds of unsold copies lying around his Ladbroke Grove premises. then received the proverbial telegram from NME.Mark P for "looking like fuckin' Vogue". the next order in the pile was to someone in Russia! We have no plans to increase the print run of 1. was far outweighed by the money they go for"." John Eden says Woofah is "only interested in attracting the hardcore. But in lots of ways their vibe reminded me more of hip-hop. there is a bustling trade in collectable zines. Maybe made by someone in a band but there are 40 made and half of them got sold probably. vintage zines have emerged as a burgeoning market. But it's different nowadays: blogs offer an easier route to notoriety for loudmouthed megalomaniacs. reaching a select and compact audience of likeminds. who did the legendary American zine Chemical Imbalance in the 90s and now publishes Yeti. which generally means those that have a talismanic connection to legendary eras of music like punk rock or the 80s underground noise rock. Fanzines in the UK mostly affiliated themselves to punk (and spent the bulk of their energy debating what the spirit of that movement had been and fighting over who had followed the true path). all swollen ego and competitive hostility. while the impulse to do a fanzine is much more about abstention from the mainstream. It's all from the art/literary side". in the age of mechanical reproduction. so "now you have far more little zines with silkscreen covers. it feels like you've hand-blessed each thing individually. Walter Benjamin theorised about the "aura" possessed by the singular artwork. Although nowhere near the level of rare records. "I do like making limited editions of things. The writer-editors were like MCs. with certain issues priced as high as $20. it says on the front). And Mike McGonigal recalls seeing "an issue of Sniffin' Glue in a glass case for several thousand dollars. Just as every rapper wants to be where Jay-Z is. Most meteoric of all was the ascent of James Brown – in the 80s he was the mouthy git behind Attack on Bzag! before he became the creator of Loaded and a magazinepublishing magnate-about-town. Mike McGonigal. Beneath its vinyl-crammed racks my local record store in New York's East Village has cardboard boxes full of old magazines in dust-protective plastic sleeves: "proper" ones like Creem and New York Rocker but also zines like Forced Exposure and NO. "I generally take my zines to record stores directly and leave a few copies. John Eden says he's "shed a load of my archive via eBay – the cost of keeping that stuff. Everett True went from doing rebarbative indie zine The Legend to becoming Melody Maker's champion of grunge and is currently the publisher/editor of independent music magazine Plan B. and having that direct impact on an individual. wherever they may be. unacknowledged legislators of the music world who were totally convinced of the righteousness of their taste. So Elodie Roy's Applejack is a freezine ("gratuit".
laddish even).and characterless. London Melody Maker. The next single. yellowing magazines – that become attractive in the face of the infinite dissemination and seeming ephemerality of web culture. a Hello B-Side. The new songs don’t frolic or frisk. December 6th 1986 by Simon Reynolds Perhaps this Anti-Apartheid benefit will finally knock on the bonce the interminable “is Morrissey a racist?” debate*. In the age of the webzine and MP3. who often appears to be deranged with enthusiasm or frustration. inevitably. become ritual. But the irony is that it’s precisely the indie fans most estranged from black culture who are most likely to be anti-racist and politically committed. Morrissey is still a darling. So it makes total sense that collectors are hunting rare zines down. they tend to contain amateur photography of bands or gigs: images that haven't been widely disseminated or officially approved. between indiepop and black pop. In this respect. “Jeepster”-ish chords and folk-rock. fanzines have a significant edge over even a golden-era copy of NME or Rolling Stone. “Shoplifters Of the World Unite”. All I wish is that Paul had not taken the several hundred copies of Monitor that languished under his bed for years after we called it a day and chucked them in a skip. R&B is a remote. low on sensuality. still flaunting those nipples. Brixton Academy. vintage DJ mixtapes. They're special too because they're typically the singular expression of an individual. is positively grungy. and the closest their music has yet . although the indecency has. Fanzines are dripping with "aura". And in addition to evoking the fanatical intensity of particular moments in music history. But there seems to be less camp to The Smiths now. they stomp. fourth-hand trace. high on yearning. Smiths music is about as albino as you can get this side of the Fall-an amalgam of rockabilly. it is solid-form cultural artifacts – vinyl records. more powerchords. This was an anti-apartheid concert with a near-total absence of black faces in the audience. THE SMITHS. Not that it isn’t pertinent to talk about the gulf. But then The Smiths are one of the great white rock bands (they have a surprisingly manly audience. the antipathy even. in so far as they're limited-run and thus closer to being a one-off.
that sublime Stooges wah-wah blitz. but know. I think Diana Ross is awful. Morrissey swirls a noose from his hip. that they will never get it. as Green claims? "Reggae. And Morrissey was very… guttural. lust with purity. "Hang the DJ" urges Morrissey. It's an absolute total glorification of black supremacy. an intelligent and subversive music that provides an alternative to the crude showbiz values of black pop. but only by turning the myth inside out. "But. a ROCK community.. making one final renovation of the rock rebellion. I detest Stevie Wonder. I hate all those . we realise quite clearly that there has to be a very strong defence. The second guitarist having absconded. is to me the most racist music in the entire world. ultimately. And the meaning trembling beneath the skin of Smiths songs is--“please save your life/because you’ve only got one”. The relevant portion is below.come to possessing a groin. secretly. replacing aggression with fragility. It's a bit like the late Sixties all over again with a burgeoning Head culture insisting that theirs' is the "real" radical music. Instead we were treated to a brilliant clarity of sound. Marr was unable to show off. For now. but above all by Morrissey's remarks in interview conducted by Frank Owen in Melody Maker. And there’s “Panic”.. September 27th 1986. The Smiths speak to those who want something more from life. * the great "are the Smiths racist debate?" of 1986 was spurred by certain aspersions made by the NME soulboy contingent vis-a-viz the Smiths and indiepop culture for its non-engagement with black music. that (in every sense) hysterical fantasy of revenge. But the motor of this rock is still narcissism--narcissism wounded. With his growing sense of himself as Statesman has come something bordering on aggression. “The Queen Is Dead”. obstinately. The Smiths are still the greatest rock group on the planet. Perhaps for things to really change we’d have to allow a woman to be an equivalent seer figure. Panic . with a defiantly old fashioned investment in Meaning. introverted. soulboy--the music press masses remain. Morrissey has further widened this divide with the recent single. The detestation that your average indie fan feels for black music can be gauged by the countless letters they write to the music press whenever a black act is featured on the front page. also similar comments made by Green Gartside who described "indie" as racist.. The band are at once deeply traditional (a four man guitar band!) and supremely radical. There is a line when defence of one's race becomes an attack on another race and. But I think it becomes very extreme sometimes. could properly climax in the smashing of guitars. as if to say: suck on this. delivering particular lyrics with a comical growl. for example. So is the music of The Smiths and their ilk racist. The Smiths sounded robust. I don't have very cast iron opinions on black music other than black modern music which I detest. Morrissey's words in quotation marks: BLACK POP CONSPIRACY .. then exploded into epic gestures of martyrdom. because of black history and oppression.where "Metal Guru" meets the most explicit denunciation yet of black pop.
sex and the human condition. but it's been said it may well change the way you walk through the world. anyway. "The lack of melody is not the only reason that I find it entirely unlistenable. In essence this music doesn't say anything whatsoever. Obviously to get on Top Of The Pops these days. It won't change the world." But it does. Isn't it curious that practically none of these records reflect life as we live it? Isn't it curious that 93 and a half percent of these records relect life as it isn't lived? That foxes me! "If you compare the exposure that records by the likes of Janet Jackson and the stream of other anonymous Jacksons get to the level of daily airplay that The Smiths receive . by law. I find that very disheartening because it wasn't always that way. Is that not a conspiracy? I do get the scent of a conspiracy. One upmanship." Well. No. you have to get straight to the point." You seem to be saying that you believe that there is some sort of black pop conspiracy being organised to keep white indie groups down. . "And. "I don't think there's any time anymore to be subtle about anything.. The lyrical content is merely lists. And it seems to me that you're foregrounding something that isn't necessarily relevant to a lot of black music." Morrissey goes on: "The charts have been constructed quite clearly as an absolute form of escapism rather than anything anyone can gain any knowledge by. as a result. I think they're vile in the extreme. Whitney Houston. Is that not a conspiracy? The last LP ended up at number two and we were still told by radio that nobody wanted to listen to The Smiths in the daytime. I think something political has occurred among Michael Hurl and his friends and there has been a hefty pushing of all these black artists and all this discofied nonsense into the Top 40. "What? Chicks?" he sniggers." Do you dislike the macho masculinity of many of the records? "No. "Yes.records in the Top 40 . I really do." People say that about The Smiths. the biggest. It doesn't seek to change the world like rock music by speaking grand truths about politics. one has to be. It works at a much more subtle level .at the level of the body and the shared abandon of the dancefloor.The Smiths have had at least 10 consecutive chart hits and we still can't get on Radio 1's A list. I don't find it very masculine. especially hip-hop. the entire syndrome has one tune and surely that's enough to condemn the entire thing. it does.Janet Jackson. black. Having the best. It's like me saying that I don't like The Smiths because they don't use a beatbox. I think. What it says can't necessarily be verbalised easily. a lot of it is about. that very aware younger groups that speak for now are being gagged..
" Why is it that people like yourself can eulogise Sixties black pop and yet be so antagonistic towards present-day black pop? Nostalgia? "No. It was made in the Sixties but I don't listen to the record now and say.' It has as much value now as ever. Left Hand" by Martha and the Vandellas which can lift me from the most doom-laden depression." . It's just not the world I live in and. We shouldn't really talk in terms of decades. Having said that. I'm sure they wouldn't care that much for The Smiths. I don't want to feel in the dock because there are some things I dislike. my favourite record of all time is "Third Finger. similarly. 'Well. I must remember this is a Sixties record and it's 1986 now so let's put it all into perspective."Mmmmm.
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