Wiring Dept. #3

I’m labeling this 1985 issue as Wiring Dept.’s third, but if you want to know the truth, I truly have no idea. I do know that the magazine put out a total of six issues between 1984 and 1986; that I possess four of them; and that the ones that came after this issue were three larger-format tabloids – so therefore my numerical guess is probably as good as any. I bought them in real time, and have somehow managed to hang onto them 37-38 years later.

Wiring Dept. is very much a San Francisco fanzine, for good and for ill (as we discussed here). In a few short weeks I’ll receive my pre-ordered copy of Will York’s forthcoming Who Cares Anyway: Post Punk San Francisco and the End of the Analog Age, and I know that York covers this strange musical interregnum in post-punk, pre-90s San Francisco quite extensively, a time and scene that was somewhat part of my lived experience. Before York’s book, and likely after it, the single best documented representation of the deep post-1985 SF sub-underground was probably Wiring Dept. fanzine, a magazine that is a note-perfect tribute to an ephemeral time and place that truly doesn’t exist in any of its original form any longer. 

In reading it, I can absorb all of the fantastically arty, chaotic, boundary-pushing, dirty, DIY, alcohol-drenched spirit that attracted me like a magnet to San Francisco in the first place. It’s a great picture of the margins of a city I moved to in 1989 the very first chance I got and spent as much time in as possible while away from college in Southern California during the years 1985-89. The magazine was self-published by Eric Cope, a guy who was concurrently in the band called Glorious Din and who ran Insight Records, who put out his own records as well as this very interesting compilation that I bought in the late 80s.

Now I didn’t know a whole lot about this story until it was told to me, but Cope later put out an influential hip-hop magazine called Murder Dog – I vaguely remember it – and by then was going by the name of “Black Dog Bone”. When Sam Lefebvre wrote this piece in Pitchfork about him a few years ago, he borrowed my copies of Wiring Dept. as source material. The Cope/Black Dog Bone story is quite a wild one, and you ought to read it. The intense, insular weirdo described in the piece is very much ever-present in the page of Wiring Dept. Cope liked to take snippets of lyrics, often from Joy Division and even some of his own, and drop them on a page to fill space, while conducting bizarre “interviews” that might take two or three sentences from a chat with a band, and then drop them into his own strange ramblings, non-sequiturs, clipped sentences and half-baked thoughts cooked up in his head that were then instantly typed onto the page and left, unedited. 

Which is an exercise in patience, to be sure. But still! Wiring Dept. transcends its odd format and paints an impressionistic picture of tiny clubs, starving artists, dirty punks and poets and everything that made San Francisco so weirdly wonderful at the time. There are probably 30+ bands profiled in here, some of whom seem to have been formed a week ago; my guess is that Cope was going to loads of shows, and would therefore interview anyone he found halfway interesting. Maybe he taped them; maybe he wrote down answers in “shorthand”, and maybe he just transcribed them from memory the next morning. A partial role call of #3’s interviewees reveals the sound of young San Francisco in 1985: World of Pooh, DRI, Glorious Din, Caroliner Rainbow, The Morlocks, the Fuck-Ups, Faith. No More, Tripod Jimmie, Frightwig, Short Dogs Grow and many, many more. Holding much of this together from a distribution standpoint is Steve Tupper of Subterranean Records, and he is also interviewed.

The impression is that the San Francisco underground has been left to wilt on the vine a bit by record labels, media and everyone else, and it is into this vacuum that Wiring Dept. is attempting to step in and document in its own exceptionally unique manner. I’m therefore very willing to forgive a great deal, because the lump sum of Wiring Dept. #3 is far greater than its parts.

Flesh and Bones #6

This is what we call an “all-timer”. No, not in the way that a Slash, a Forced Exposure, a Conflict or a No Mag might be, but an all-timer in the sense that if I were forced to hold on to only 25 of the fanzines in my collection, Flesh and Bones #6 just might make the cut; it made that much of a mark on me when I bought it in 1987. Its sensibilities were just goofy and mocking enough, and its tastes in modern sounds so aligned with mine at the time (Pussy Galore, Scratch Acid, Dinosaur et al), that I read, photocopied and shared wisdom from this issue as frequently and as far & wide as I could. Of course, its Tiger Beat/16 Magazine cover homage was well executed and really hit the spot for me at Age 19.

Editor “Jeffo” was coming out of hardcore, and as someone whose attention had been turned toward the long-haired punk and caustic underground noise of 1987, he mocked hardcore punk relentlessly, with frequent jokes about the Boston Crew, “Revolution Summer”, the Cro-Mags and Jodie Foster’s Army. He covered and reveled in “grunge” before it was grunge, while taking the best potshots at ’81-’82 HC and at heavy metal wasteoids I’ve ever seen. A lot of his live reviews were actually just made-up fantasies of getting in fistfights at gigs with people like Thurston Moore or Glen Danzig; stage-diving to mellow acts like Salem 66; and heckling multiple bands “with a Big Stick wig on” (remember Big Stick?). 

The graphics were all hilarious cut, pasted & jumbled items from other magazines, many of them from the hippie 1960s, as well as a few homegrown comics (mostly Jeffo’s) that were usually quite OK. An example of a typical graphics might have a lowbrow dildo advertisement placed on the left (“The Erecto”, “The Giant Bone”), with a strategically whited-out musical equipment ad saying “We’ll make that ___ of yours as big as Tommy Dorsey’s!” on the right.

Flesh and Bones also had a few staff photographers who took excellent band shots, usually of the modern acts with the longest, filthiest hair and the most thrift store-adjacent clothes (Raging Slab seemed to be a favorite, a band I don’t think I’ve heard anyone talk about since 1987). This was not a mag I really read as a consumer’s guide; it was one I celebrated because it was laugh-out-loud funny, and contrary to some quarters, I like to laff! The Redd Kross interview in Flesh and Bones #6 is right up there with my all-time favorite band interviews, ever, and the Dinosaur (Jr.) interview (beautifully hijacked by Thurston Moore, who also loves making fun of hardcore) is outstanding as well, considering how dour those guys typically were.

Jeffo also swelled with New Jersey pride, probably somewhat tongue-in-cheek, yet proud to represent the Garden State nonetheless. 1987-88 was an unusual time in the American underground, particularly when you look at the photos. Hair was long, metal wasn’t verboten and abrasiveness was a band’s ticket to ride, particularly if they wanted coverage in Flesh and Bones. I’ve searched in vain for copies of Flesh and Bones #1-#5 for years to no avail, getting only so far as photos here and here.

Trouser Press #36

I happened to have been a teenaged Trouser Press subscriber in the early 1980s, yet had never purchased an issue during their 70s heyday as an Anglophilic rock magazine whose subhead was “America’s Only British Rock Magazine”, and who were actually originally known as the Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press. Theirs was a good niche to mine in the 1970s, but starting in 1978 with a Todd Rundgren cover, the magazine started backing away from the UK in favor of the domestic.

I think my subscription started with Issue #69 here (wooo!) and ended with their final issue, #96, here. That’s a tremendous amount of new wave, ladies and gentlemen. I didn’t even keep them and abandoned them when I became far too cool a few years later. The magazine’s Flock of Seagulls and Culture Club covers, at least, were a far cry from their roots and even at the time felt like a marketing-driven cry for help, and/or subscribers. I remember the actual contents not being so cut and dried; it’s where I learned about Los Angeles’ paisley underground, for instance, and it hipped me to the Dream Syndicate and the Three O’Clock for the first time. I believe I came to understand what no wave had been through this magazine as well.

While clearly not a fanzine, Trouser Press had that long 1970s backstory that I didn’t really know much about, so recently I found a few cheap copies, one of them being this one, #36, with Lou Reed on the cover. Now wait a minute, how come no one told me that Lou Reed was a total asshole? He gives perhaps the most abrasive, entitled, paranoid, mean-spirited interview I’ve ever read to Scott Isler in this one, and I now think even less of Reed the human being, as opposed to Reed the musician, than I even did the day before yesterday. To Isler, by means of introduction, he says, “I know your type…a typical downtrodden Jew….A make-believe hippie….This is the worst nightmare. I’ve dreamed of this on the subway….If you weren’t a journalist you’d never be invited to anything hip”. And he’s only just getting started. Just an angry, disgusting human being and yeah, I was kidding above – of course I knew that he was a prick, but seeing it laid out so clearly in an interview just makes me a bit, um, well, “sad”, I reckon.

Now you want to know who the goldmine interview is in Trouser Press #36? It’s Elton John! Yes, Elton John in early 1979 is sitting at his absolute low point of popularity across his entire career, and spends most of his interview bemusedly acknowledging this. More importantly, in early 1979 he has recognized the importance of punk rock music, and Elton John – he likes it! A lot! He talks up the Sex Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees (he just calls ‘em “The Banshees”), Rezillos, Sham 69 and more, often wistfully, and as if he were on a therapist’s couch, acknowledging the stone cold truth that a much more exciting and relevant style of rock n roll has just overtaken and made irrelevant (I wish) his own creations. I know that Elton was a fanatical record collector who had been given carte blanche to raid Tower Records on LA’s Sunset Blvd for whatever records he wanted, and he did so often. So I salute him for his breadth of taste, and for his introspective ability to assess where he stood in the whole rock n roll edifice in 1979. “I get annoyed when radio plays ‘Your Song’ but no Stranglers”. Elton John said that!

Trouser Press may have covered the underground somewhat, but they really tried to laser in on the rock music omnivore, who was perhaps a person (male, no question) just approaching his thirties who’d buy Elton John and Pat Travers records but whose sweet spot in 1979 was probably Elvis Costello and maybe some American power pop. I like Cole Springer’s comprehensive piece on Captain Beefheart, as he comes to terms with music he once dismissed as too daffy and abrasive and now, at the end of the decade, is starting to recognize the genius therein. Stiff Records’ latest output gets raked over the coals. And The Pork Dukes are mentioned more than once in this issue. Go put that in your pipe and smoke it. 

It’s a far better magazine, journalistically, than the one I remembered from when I was subscribing to it, and even if I don’t or didn’t cotton to 65% of what they’re talking about in #36, I’ll probably wanna pick up any other cheap copies of the magazine I find down the road that date from this pre-new wave era. And look, no one really ever comments in Fanzine Hemorrhage’s comments section so far….did you read Trouser Press? What was your take on it? Did Lou Reed ever redeem himself as a human being, or is this just who he was? Tell us!

Damage #7

Damage was an upper-pantheon San Francisco punk tabloid that ran from 1979 through 1981. I have a few issues from their 13-issue run, and I’m always game to add more, especially after hearing the terrific interview Rock Writ podcast did with editor Brad Lapin recently, which you can listen to here. It wouldn’t be a stretch in the least to call it San Francisco’s “answer” to Los Angeles’ Slash and New York’s NY Rocker; other newsprint/tabloid gems from this general era include LA’s No Mag and Boston’s Take It! and Boston Rock. We’ll get to frolicking in all of this stuff in time, promise.

I’m always sort of bedeviled and a little bothered when I read some of these San Francisco-focused magazines, even Search & Destroy at times, as I continually find the focus on social politics boring, the art-school aesthetic pompous and pretentious, and many of the local musical mediocrities to be dull as dishwater. Damage #7 exemplifies much of this, exceptionally more so than other issues which I’ve enjoyed far more than this one. I don’t know, maybe catching “the scene” as the calendar was rolling over from mid-1980 to late 1980 is catching it all in a bad stretch, but there’s a sense here in #7 that it’s all a bit globally played out, and baby, you and I know that wasn’t the case.

Maybe it’s just San Francisco itself. Crime have just released their awful third single, “Gangster Funk / Maserati”, and the key members of the band have changed their names to “Frankie Valentino” and “Johnny St. John”. Some of the “new wave” artwork in the magazine follows suit, looking like Nagel paintings and reeking of cocaine. There’s a piece in here about “Trends: Pop Music”, which spotlights some of the Bay Area’s weakest nu-wavers and skinny-tie power poppers (No Sisters, Rubinoos) as pretty much the hottest thing going. And honestly, when you spend three big pages covering the Public Image Ltd. press conference, things are looking grim. 

So Damage #7 does what I’d have done to mitigate, and sends Amy Linden to interview The Cramps, who’ve just released Songs The Lord Taught Us, and puts Bruce Conner on a plane to Tokyo to cover the scene there. Anything but the moribund local scene depicted here. The Flipper interview, which is terrible, is very much to the contrary – but you wouldn’t have known it by the meandering discussion of punk’s past and present & absolutely no context for who this incredible band were and what sort of music they were playing. 

The magazine’s overall quality control just seems off this time. Later-period garbage records by Stiff Little Fingers and The Members get total raves, and someone thought it would be a good idea to interview The Dead Boys in 1980, after all of the band save Stiv Bators & Jimmy Zero had quit. You don’t get this sort of malarky from Slash in 1980, and even though there’s a great Peter Urban review picking apart X’s Los Angeles whilst enumerating his disappointments, I’d have probably found myself having a hard time trusting Damage as a tastemaker. Then again, I was 12 years old and would have been too scared to spend my dollar on this anyway.

Take It! #5

(This piece is taken from a written overview I did on Take It! fanzine (1981-82) in the most recent Dynamite Hemorrhage fanzine #10. You’re more than welcome to check out the full piece in the magazine if you’re so inclined).

From where I’m sitting today , trying to recall the environment I was marinating in at 14 years old in 1982, it’s sort of unsettling to see Take It! #5 cover stars The Dead Kennedys, and reckon with just how unimportant they ended up being. I mean, at San Jose’s John Muir Junior High School in 1982, the two bands on every burgeoning punk’s lips were the Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. Even people who didn’t know who they were knew who they were. They were the big-deal punk bands, the scary punk bands that last year’s jocks and this year’s mohicans wrote in sharpie on their denim jackets and all over their pants & Pee-Chees. And everyone knew about “Holiday in Cambodia”, “California Uber Alles” and “Too Drunk To Fuck”. These were, as they say, the soundtrack to our lives. 

My first real “punk” show, in fact, was The Dead Kennedys, 7 Seconds and Whipping Boy at a sold-out Keystone Palo Alto. So yeah, pretty weird to see them pretty much persona non grata forty years later, a band barely remembered nor revered, yet mocked mercilessly by virtually everyone I know when they’re talked about at all. I blame Biafra – a self-aggrandizing turd who did everything possible to alienate 85% of the people who came in contact with him, then lawsuited his way into musical and historical oblivion. (I do suppose there’s a more charitable interpretation of the man and his career, and I’m open to hearing it). 

Anyway, Take It! #5 puts the Dead Kennedys on the cover – albeit a cartoon drawing of them – and on a flexi with the Angry Samoans and Flipper. Editor Michael Koenig talks about the six-month delay in getting this issue out, so now we’re definitely into 1982, finally. Highlight of the issue is – that’s right – Byron Coley with a big piece on Black Flag. This is right after “Henry Garfield” has joined the band, so there must have been a short period in LA in which he wasn’t called Rollins just yet. It’s a pretty exciting on-the-ground snapshot of a particularly important time in the band’s story – Garfield in; Damaged deemed an “anti-parent” record; LAPD taking over etc. 

Gerard Cosloy, who must’ve been all of 16 years old, contributes a list of his favorite tapes for the year, including NME C-81, Theater of Hate Live and The Future Looks Bright. He then goes on to write a paean to east coast hardcore, specifically fuckin’ SOA and Minor Threat. In fact, this is the first issue of Take It! that deals well with the onslaught of ‘core that was pouring out of all corners of the USA at this time. 

The Boston show reviews are broken out into single show reviews, rather than a column, and this time are by Koenig and Bill Tupper – but Tristam Lozaw thankfully still gets another full page to vent about Boston radio and everything wrong with it. Ira Kaplan does a nice takedown on Robert Christgau – a perennial article, written by many, that was all the rage for many years – and includes this nice quote comparing his obsessive grading compulsiveness with the scattershot gonzoid approach of Lester Bangs: “Not that they’re opposites – I plot Christgau and Bangs on a circle, one at 0° and the other at 360° – people who reach the same point by uniquely different routes.”

Other strong material: David Hild (The Girls) and Steve Stain, writing articles about each other. A short review of an Amos Poe film I’m not familiar with that stars Susan Tyrell from Fat City called Subway Riders – hey, sign me up! I dig Gregg Turner’s column this time, about fanzines and specifically Negative Army, put out by Mike Snider. (For what it’s worth, I could use any of your extra copies of this fanzine if you have them). I personally ran into Snider a few times at Lazy Cowgirls shows in LA later in this decade and we yukked it up together with Shane Williams, the now-deceased rocknroll bank robber of some repute. A story for another time (or, if you prefer, you can read my story about my encounters with Willams right here). 

There’s a sneering and pretty funny article about Nancy Spungen and a 1974 poem that she left behind, reprinted and showcasing her genius (I’ll spare you a second reprint). Peter Holsapple opines on the glory of the Go-Go’s, unaware, most likely, that they’d be the biggest band in the world a month or two from now. Tim Barry tongue-in-cheeks his way through a report on his trip to “Reggae Sunsplash” in Jamaica; Byron Coley writes on Bomp Records’ Battle of the Garages compilation with a prescient eye toward the 60s punk revival; Amy Linden takes on Flipper. And there’s just an incredible singles roundup from Coley, with reviews (among others) of The Cheifs, Panther Burns, Scritti Politti, Cordell Jackson, Glenn Danzig, Social Distortion, Kimberly Rew, The Meat Puppets and Fang. No, really!

Bazooka! #3

There’s something a little culturally demoralizing for Americans when we come across Europeans who can write, communicate and think better in our native tongue than we can. Folks like Matthias at Fŏrdämning, Henrik at Human Garbage Disposal and Tom Arnaert at Bazooka! are my jealously-looked-upon models in that regard. I mean, I personally took three years of high school Spanish, baby! I even know well enough to stay away from lengua and tripa burritos, so why can’t I craft an erudite, funny, Spanish-only music fanzine?

Well look, maybe erudite isn’t exactly the right word for Arnaert’s 1997 third issue of Bazooka!, but it was absolutely one of my favorite sources for garage punk & expansive roots/world music rock-turning in the late 90s. Arnaert and I traded “CD-Rs” in those days, and the guy sent me some of my favorite collections of obscure global 78s, down-home Americana and blues comps back in those frantic years when everything was coming out on CDs only, and I got the notion that I’d better sell all of my vinyl, and fast, because vinyl records were soon to be dead as a doornail. Clearly, we were trading fanzines as well; I put out my final issue of Superdope in 1998 and I reckon that was my coin of the realm which enabled me to procure this issue of Bazooka! and the two that followed it. 

From his perch in Ieper, Belgium, Arnaert surveyed all he saw in the worlds of low-class, lo-fi garage punk and other sundry forms. A great comparison fanzine both in content and layout for this magazine would be Eric Friedl’s Wipeout! – note the exclamation point. Both took as their starting point loud & raw rocknroll music both present and past, and as they dug deeper, they extended their remit to include loads of “black” music, i.e. the bedrock upon which all of their current passions rested. Arnaert in particular goes deep into fife & drum music on this one; you may recall this was the time of Othar Turner mania, powered by cultural appropriators Birdman Records’ Everybody Hollerin’ Goat CD.

 Bazooka #3 also surveys 1977-78 Belgian punk – why wouldn’t he? – while also interviewing New Orleans’ trash/rockabilly overlord King Louie (Royal Pendletons, Persuaders, King Louie & The Harahan Crack Combo) and penning a Mick Collins survey to boot. The mag is just bursting with reviews of both records and current fanzines, laid out haphazardly wherever space exists (this happens to be a great cheat for those of us who’ve created fanzines but don’t know a thing about true graphic design). In 1997, this is whom you’d find darting about the pages of Bazooka! as well as in the record collections of its fellow travelers: Bassholes, Thee Headcoatees, the Demolition Doll Rods, Billy Childish, Chrome Cranks, T-Model Ford, Splash Four and Junior Kimbrough. If that sounds like your kettle of tea, let me assure you that it probably is. I experienced those last three years of the 1990s as fairly grim ones, musically, and I know there are others who agree with that verdict – so it was great to have Arnaert’s Bazooka! out there to help illuminate the silver linings.

We Got Power #4

This early 80s Los Angeles hardcore fanzine’s been rightly exalted for its place in the times, but revisiting this issue struck me just how flat-out DUMB it all was. I mean, don’t get me wrong – We Got Power #4 was about as down-the-center, pitch-perfect, bandanna-wearing, fists-flying, slam-your-ass-off 1982 LA HC as it got or ever got – yet it’s also incredibly, surprisingly teenage and comes across as super, super stupid. Even dumber than Touch & Go, and Touch & Go was pretty goddamn juvenile. And hey – that makes sense – editor Jordan Schwartz and his We Got Power-contributing pals were high school kids, and god love ‘em for it. 

This magazine proudly stands out from its peers for a couple of reasons. First of all, where We Got Power is concerned, hardcore punk rock is a total nonstop party, as opposed to serious business. The very first page of this issue is a collage of various young LA punks drinking, goofing, laughing and is simply captioned “Fun”. Jordan Schwartz, Dave Markey, Jennifer Schwartz and other WGP contributors strike me as fabled “latch key kids”, growing up in Santa Monica with little-to-no parental supervision, drinking, skating and going apeshit at every Black Flag, Bad Religion, Circle One, Descendents, Youth Brigade et al show they can turn up at – which is pretty much all of them, by the evidence presented herein. Their energy and extreme dedication to the ‘core is infectious and almost cute in its innocence. To contrast the vitality and excitement of 1982 LA punk with, say, what was going on in deadened LA “punk” four years later, when Markey would tour as a member of Painted Willie with a running-on-fumes Black Flag, is to wish time stopped in its tracks and you too could be stagediving to Circle One’s “Destroy Exxon” with Schwartz and his pals. 

We Got Power #4 also xeroxes in color pages along with black & white ones, and while it’s incredibly crudely typeset, it just reads better overall that your standard ‘82 hardcore slop-job. And it’s pretty much hardcore- and hardcore-adjacent bands only, so yeah, they’ll praise Red Cross and The Minutemen (who both played mostly hardcore shows at this point), while keeping away from the heavy, ultra-serious English UK82 punk and “oi” that was polluting so many young ears around this time. A typical record review isn’t going to get you particularly far, and might be about as developed as this review of the compilation Life Is Ugly So Why Not Kill Yourself: “Holy Moly, what a record, if you don’t like something on this record youre fucked up in your head.”

There are dopey interviews with Black Flag, Husker Du, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Bad Religion and Suicidal Tendencies in this issue alone; quite possibly six of the ten most eventually beloved bands of this ilk of all time. Oh – and this is the exact magazine that started the rumor, still unconfirmed, that the Meat Puppets actually played a Phoenix gig in ‘82 in which they covered an entire side of The Decline of Western Civilization soundtrack, including the talking. (“That’s stupid, punk rock – I just think of it as rock and roll” and so on). I so, so want this to be true, and even better, for a tape to turn up. 

Perfect soundtrack for this issue would be Bad Religion’s How Could Hell Be Any Worse and/or the American Youth Report compilation that’d come out later that year. The following year, the We Got Power team would put this 40-song compilation out, one of the first HC records I ever bought and one that I helped form a “tribute band” for (full story here; photograph from our only gig here). And you can of course get this issue and all of their other issues in the deluxe We Got Power book for only twenty bucks here!

Brown Paper Sack #1

Some of my favorite record-collector nutballs are the 60s punk maniacs who organically coalesced in the 1980s to fanatically scream their allegiance to unheard, raw 1965-66 American teenage garage rockers, and to orgasmically scream their disallegiance to just about everything else. Their ranks were certainly best exemplified by Tim Warren, the Crypt Records impresario who started putting out the mind-blowing Back From The Grave compilation series in 1983, and who then tacitly started releasing the Garage Punk Unknowns records two years later. For what it’s worth, I interviewed Warren about all this in issue #2 of my own magazine, which you can download a PDF of here. Yet he was in no way alone, as an avalanche of illegitimate 60s punk compilations that flowed forth in the 80s very much proved.

For a certain class of these obsessives, it’s as though 1967 came around and music completely, totally, 100% was over. That’s pretty much the tack taken by issue #1 of Brown Paper Sack. It came out in 1997 and far as I can gather was the work of Andrew Brown, a Houston, TX gentleman who wouldn’t put out a 2nd issue of this thing. While 60s punk “scholarship” had advanced quite impressively over the previous fifteen years to that point, Brown is definitely working his angle, which is most definitively Texas and Louisiana-based garage punk music of the 60s. It just so happened that Texas probably gave the world the single best per-capita ratio of screaming 60s punk bands of any of the fifty states, and therefore there’s a ton to mine in this particular angle. Around the time of Brown Paper Sack #1, a German label was putting out reissue CDs of the early 80s Flashback compilation series, now called Texas Flashbacks, and this stuff was finally beginning to be heard by folks beyond 1966 Texas teens, including by me.

I happen to have an all-time favorite 60s punk song, and that favorite is “Born Loser” by Tyler, TX’s Murphy and The Mob. Aside from the kernels of information included in the Back From The Grave Volume Three insert, the only Murphy and The Mob information I know of is Brown Paper Sack’s single-page interview with Terry Murphy, the titular head of the band. Like many of the energized and bewildered teens that made these records, they aimed to make a “British Invasion”-style A-side that might be their hit 45, a la “Psychotic Reaction” or “Dirty Water”, and often would bang out some crude B-side in an hour or two as a throwaway. Those throwaways, of course, are often the stuff of legend, a la The Twilighters’ “Nothing Can Bring Me Down” or Murphy and The Mob’s “Born Loser”, confirmed in the latter instance by this interview.

Brown either feigns or genuinely adopts a pissed, dismissive tone toward anything & everything that stood in the way of these latent garage heroes, including promoters, radio people, and every other form of music, especially pop. It’s honestly what I totally love about these guys. The one true path was defined by The Roamin’ Togas, The Gaunga Dins, The Basement Wall and so on – and fuck everyone else.

Like Ugly Things, Brown ensures that his interviews don’t simply scratch the surface but rather get down into every friggin’ detail imaginable; I mean, while most of the participants in mid-60s punk would have only been in their late forties by the time Brown caught up with them, their availability and recollections were likely deemed to have been extremely elusive, so best to catch everything now and not wait for someone else to fail to do it later. 26 years later, i.e. when I’m writing this, those still alive are now in their mid-70s – so if you ever personally wanted to grill an American 60s garage punk original mover, now would be the time. Brown Paper Sack #1 is absolutely upper-echelon 60s punk scholarship, and I’d love to know if Andrew Brown kept up his mania in print elsewhere anytime after this.

Drunken Fish #1

That’s Drunken Fish #1 and only, as far as I’ve ever known. It’s one of the greats, especially if you really like records….and I do. This relatively small and limited magazine included a split 45 by Splintered and The Back Off Cupids, the latter of whom I believe were affiliated with “Rocket From The Crypt”. Yet if I ever had that record, I must have sold it decades ago, and I’ve thereby been left with a fantastic collector/accumulator/navel-gazer-centric sort of fanzine that I delightedly take for a personal spin every ten years or so. Today I’d like to tell you why.

Drunken Fish was published by Darren Mock in 1992. Those of you who were sentient and rooting around the underground in the 1990s know that he quickly turned his passions into a fine label that put out records & CDs by Bardo Pond, Roy Montgomery, Truman’s Water, Doo Rag, Lee Renaldo and all manner of other heavy hitters throughout that decade. That sort of commitment to wide-ranging, off-beat underground quality shines through in his magazine as well. I’ve revisited this issue often primarily because of Dave Stimson’s “Low Tech” piece, focused on seven of the rawest & most crude of total-genius 45s from the previous fifteen years: Mike Rep & The Quotas, O Rex, Screamin’ Mee-Mees, Tav Falco & The Panther Burns, Vertical Slit, Fuckin’ Flyin’ A-Heads and Solger. Solger! Anyone who wrote anything about Solger in 1992 was an instant hero to me. That single cannot be touched. I reserve a special ‘lil piece of my heart for the genre known as “shit-fi”, so this article was and remains solid gold.

I think this is also the magazine that got me to wake up and really pay attention to Lee Hazlewood for the first time. Once I got hooked on the guy I was all-in. Man, Hazlewood records were really tough to find for a while there! The original albums were going for way more than I could afford in the mid-90s, then all of a sudden these LHI Records CDs started showing up in stores late in the decade, and I snapped every one of them up. I thought they were bootlegs at the time. Anyway, Mark Sullivan of Adelphi, MD, who wrote this excellently comprehensive Hazlewood discography piece in Drunken Fish – please stand up and take a bow, right now. 

So you can likely already see the breadth & heft of this issue so far – but wait, there’s more. Mike Trouchon interviews loopy Englishman Simon Wickham-Smith, who’s living in Davis, CA while his girlfriend goes to UC-Davis (!). Johan Kugelberg covers various punk and noise rarities, and as in many of Kugelberg’s blathers, he pointlessly equates “rare” with “masterpiece”. I know that for years I’d chase down mp3s of material he’d raved about – i.e. records that he owned and that you didn’t – only to be forlorn, bereft and a little miffed that I’d spent precious time clicking & dragging when I could have been eating a hot dog or something. And Darren Mock himself pulls together a complete discography of Wales’ Fierce Recordings, who put out a Jesus & Mary Chain 45 that was just sounds from a “riot” at one of their shows (among many, many other things). 

It’s a real barn-burner over the course of its 24 pages. There are Discogs listings for the aforementioned record active as of this writing that actually include the ‘zine, if you’re interested!

Fŏrdämning #11

Even in my ripening older age, I’ll still find myself hitting these exciting musical-discovery inflection points in which entire worlds open up, and I spend an inordinate amount of time frantically collecting, downloading, studying and of course listening to sub-genres I’d neglected. 

It’s usually through the influence of one or more curators, whether that person is a friend, a writer, or a “disk jockey”. There’s the friend – several friends and correspondents, actually – who sent me deep down a dub rabbit hole when those incredible Blood & Fire CDs started popping up in the late 90s. There’s Erika Elizabeth’s Expressway to Yr Skull WMUA radio show, which I listened to religiously circa 2010-13 and discovered an appreciation for music (to quote myself) “…at the perfect intersection of deep-underground pop; 70s-80s British DIY and post-punk; 90s shoegaze and twee (stuff from lost 45s and cassettes that no one’s heard for two decades, I’m serious); garage punk; and a lot of noisy girl-helmed bands that had been lost in a patriarchal fog of several decades of disregard.” In fact I probably started the Dynamite Hemorrhage fanzine in 2013 because I’d been so re-invigorated by this particular radio show taking place across the country from me, and for the first couple issues she was the only other person I’d allow to write for it, so indebted was I & so complete was my trust.

Then there’s Matthias Andersson’s Fŏrdämning, easily one of the finest fanzines of the 21st century. He wrapped it up a few years ago, yet in 2017, when Fŏrdämning #11 came out, I could feel my own tastes and tolerances expanding simply by virtue of Andersson’s heavy influence. As I read his dissections of modern and past experimental, noise, and rock-adjacent (sometimes barely) sounds, I developed a much deeper appreciation for the weirder edges of the sub-underground, and my own podcast and fanzine evolved accordingly during the mid/late 2010’s (i.e. a few years ago). It turned out that as Matthias was moving somewhat closer to more rock-oriented sounds – i.e. he talks about his admiration for The Suburban Homes and Cheater Slicks in this very issue – he was helping me move closer to his personal original starting point in noise and formless free-form not-even-music. If it weren’t for him, I’d have known nothing about Neutral, Leda, Amateur Hour and Enhet För Fri Musik, for instance.

Fŏrdämning, you may not be surprised to find out, was a Swedish fanzine, albeit one written in perfect English. Better than perfect, even, in that there’s nothing stilted nor dumbed-down in the least, the way some English-language fanzines emanating from the European continent have often been (and listen, if I tried to attempt a fanzine or even a paragraph in Swedish or any other language, it would easily be the worst thing you’d never read). 

From his perch in Gothenburg, Andersson celebrated his collector obsessions, yet in a manner not at all redolent of the stench that can often emanate from the mania of collecting. Fŏrdämning #11 opens with an essay about a beautiful year at his local record store in which a nameless collector has unloaded an insane collection of Fŏrdämning-approved gems: New Zealand 90s lathe cuts; Majora 45s; the Siltbreeze back catalog; Flying Nun rarities; Urinals and Fall singles, Twisted Village records and so much more. The essay is about how Andersson and his pals frolic in the abundance and in their amazement at their own good fortune. It’s the stuff dreams are made of – no seriously, my dreams. You can actually read the piece here.

This intro serves as a prelude to an issue that focuses on micro-labels of the past, including Bill Meyer’s Roof Bolt, Mike Trouchon’s gyttja, and two noisy tape labels I wasn’t familiar with: Thalamos and Vigilante. Roof Bolt was a terrific – and terrifically unsung – 1990s American  label focused on New Zealand that put out fantastic Alastair Galbraith, Roy Montgomery and Terminals records, along with the only 45 ever from Brown Velvet Couch, a total high-water mark of the NZ underground. Andersson also carries on his back-page column about lathe-cut records “Speaker Crackle In The Garden”, which this time focuses on Sandoz Lab Technicians. In the reviews section, there are the exact reviews that turned me on to Stefan Christensen and Blue Chemise. A top-drawer issue all around.

You should also know, if you don’t already, that Andersson is the fella behind the I Dischi Del Barone, Fördämning Arkiv and Discreet Music labels. He’s been on a hell of a run the past decade. 

Crank #2

My entire collection of Marc Masters’ 1990s Crank fanzine fell victim to “the great lost fanzine box” which we tearily recounted the tale of here. I’ve been slowly righting that wrong over the past few years, and the issue I was most excited to claw back was Crank #2 from Fall 1991, the one we’ll be discussing presently. I (thought I) remembered this one the clearest and had pinned it in my mind as his “San Francisco issue”, given the Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 and Seymour Glass interviews, yet there’s a bunch I was excited & surprised to rediscover after finally holding it in my grubby paws again, thirty-plus years after the fact & nearly 25 years since my copy went astray down the I-5.

My own fuckin’ name, for one – self-centered egomaniac that I am. See, around this time I’d started my own fanzine Superdope, and as a result of our respective complementary endeavors, Marc and I became pre-internet “pen pals”, I suppose you’d call us. Isn’t that nice? Both of us were mining somewhat similar quarries at this time in our fanzines, but Marc really took his music-writing chops from this point and ran far with them. From these humble beginnings, he’s since written the definitive book on no wave; been a key writer for Pitchfork, The Wire, Bandcamp and elsewhere; and now he’s even got a few podcasts going, the most recent of which is The Music Book Podcast, which I highly recommend. Back in ‘91 he called attention in his preamble to my own minor work, and I appreciated seeing and recalling it just now.  

But the dude inadvertently did me a much bigger solid in 2017 that snowballed into one of the coolest experiences of my life. Mind you, we’ve never spoken nor met in person, yet he did a piece late that year in The Wire’s Unofficial Channels column about my current fanzine Dynamite Hemorrhage. This directly led to The Wire’s editor Biba Kopf recommending me to take part in an all-expenses-paid speaking gig at The Tomorrow Festival in Shenzhen, China in 2018, where I got to ramble on about the history of music fanzines to a Chinese audience. Unlike Mark, I’ve never done anything remunerative with music writing, 100% by choice in my case, but this was as close as I’ve come and likely ever will come. An incredible stroke of fortune that I’m eternally grateful for.

Whew, so yeah, how can I be objective about Masters’ 1991 Washington DC-based fanzine, right? Well, I was a partisan for it from day one. A few things struck me on the re-read; first, I’d totally forgotten that there were two other excellent contributors, Heather Lieser and Dave Whelan, and the three of them split up the many reviews. Heather even has an entire page dedicated to her live reviews. She digs The Cannanes, and gets to opine on most of the DIY pop stuff in Crank #2. Dave seems to get about half of the noisier independent rock and some pop stuff, and Marc gets anything & everything out of the weirdo San Francisco scene, including Archipelago Brewing Company (he likes ‘em!), whom I’m proud to say I saw live once, and Caroliner, whom I’m not proud to say I saw more than once.

The Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 interview with Hugh Swarts was a really good one, as he hems and haws about how long he’s hated the name of his own band, and dishes a bit on how lame it was playing with Royal Trux at a 1991 Matador Records showcase at the 6th Street Rendezvous in San Francisco, a show I attended and which I actually thought Royal Trux never even showed up for; either that or I bailed out of the club at 1am rather than wait for them to set up (at that point I’d only heard Twin Infinitives and not the first album!). The mock Seymour Glass “interview” is a frustrating bit of self-aggrandizement disguised as self-sabotage that was both hard to read then and is even harder to comprehend now. Other than that, I like it. 

Today I associate Masters with his deep appreciation for and knowledge of more experimental and difficult music, and you can certainly see the seeds of all that taking root here. Yet, as his podcasts and other fine music writing show, there’s still a rocknroller out-of-controller lurking behind that digital pen. Now if I could just find Crank #1, #2, and #4….do you know anyone who might be able to help?

Alright! #2

It wasn’t but two months ago when we talked about a different issue of the Alright! fanzine (#4), put out in Los Angeles by Rich, a.k.a. McKinley Richard of the band Jackknife. Rich, he was in love & lust with the garage punk of the day, both as a practitioner and as a true fan. This small missive from 1992 spans a mere twelve pages but it’s a terrific snapshot of where much of my head was at the time, mainly gawping and gaping at Royal Trux, The Bassholes, ‘68 Comeback, the Cheater Slicks, the Blues Explosion and so on – though I never saw this magazine at the time & I can’t imagine any more than 50-100 of them were ever printed. I just got this copy in the mail from JS, who gifted it to me like a true mensch. We sincerely appreciate his generosity at Fanzine Hemorrhage!

Rich makes his swelling admiration for The Trashwomen’s Danielle known right from the off, and it got me digging through my own physical archives….yeah, I know there’s a picture somewhere….yes, there it is! Before any of us knew her as a musician, she danced go-go style for The Phantom Surfers and (I thought, but I’m probably wrong) The Mummies. It was likely 1991 when she was summoned over to our clan of idiots in order for Nicole Penegor to take this photo of her and myself.

Then a year later, she turned up in a new all-female trio called The Trashwomen, at first playing instrumental surf music only, and then adding tracks with vocals as they improved – and they did improve. I recall that they let Danielle – whom I’d never met before this photo was snapped, nor after – sing one song and one song only, and it was fingernails-on-chalkboard fantastic. She was later in The Brentwoods, and therefore lives forever in our hearts. 

Alright #2 is like watching an unfolding snapshot of the time we all first heard The Chrome Cranks; when the final Gibson Bros album came out, and when “Larry from In The Red” had young America’s ear. Or being able to nod knowingly when Royal Trux tells Rich that Matador gave them an advance for an album, but that they “inadvertently spent all the money”. Oh, snap! Does that all sound pretty inane to you? Yeah, it does to me too from this vantage point 31 years later, but there were some good times, some mighty good times, and Rich was right there on the front lines stirring the drink.

Cut #11

It may not be recorded in the history books, yet no one around this house will ever forget the tragedy of “the great lost fanzine box” in 1999. We had moved from Seattle back to San Francisco that year, and used the “Starving Students” moving company, who were neither students nor starving, but were rather clear ex-cons who at least, to their credit, liked to talk baseball with me. Otherwise they were total clowns, and I realized long after the fact that one of the 3 boxes of fanzines I had been collecting over the years didn’t end up getting delivered to the new rental house in San Francisco. Several of these fanzines were most certainly copies of Steve Erickson’s Cut, along with other gems that I’ve diligently worked to replace over the years (like the entire run of Marc Masters’ Crank), along with many copies of “The Bob” and things like that which I haven’t. 

This particular 11th issue of Cut came along in 1991, and it’s clear that Erickson had been pumping these out pretty aggressively, maybe about 3 per year based upon looking at his back issue contents that are listed on Page 1. He was publishing from Norwich, CT so his center of show-going gravity appeared to be Boston, and that’d make some sense given that he’s got Lou Barlow and Bob Fay along as contributors. Erickson notes in his intro that he’d just been burned to the tune of $60 by Circuit Records and distribution, which I recall being quite a fanzine cause célèbre at the time; it was a cool noise label w/ Monster Magnet and Surgery records as well as big plans for many more, and I guess the main guy there had some substance abuse problems (or something), and was ragged on pretty aggressively in things I’d read from that point onward. 

But hey man, out on the west coast things were mellow and we didn’t know any of these people. Cut in May 1991 very effectively serves as an exceptionally comprehensive inventory of any & all interesting underground rock music coming out at the time, with frequent review-section swerves into hip-hop as well. I was putting out my own first issues of Superdope fanzine this particular year, and this is totally a world I was deeply marinating in: Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Monster Magnet, Pavement, Unsane, Terminals, Thee Mighty Caesars, Gibson Bros, Skullflower and so forth. Erickson makes a point in several places of being a little frustrated with the state of it all, and he’s clearly moved on from Amphetamine Reptile and Sub Pop bands, as had I. So he and I were compatriots, and the two of us probably would have had some good times shuckin’ and jivin’ in 1991. 

I did notice that in his review of Houston noise/psych/torture band The Pain Teens we get quite the proclamation: “The Pain Teens are one band who I’d unequivocally endorse as rock’n’roll’s future”. Jon Landau, call your office! I’m sorry to report here that the Pain Teens genre takeover was not to be. But how were we to know that then, am I right??

 Erickson was a strong writer who granted himself and his contributors a fairly wide remit, from precious indie pop to grinding noise. He was on the Xpressway train pretty early and gets in a Plagal Grind review and deservedly flips over The Terminals’ “Do The Void” 45. That single absolutely rules, and Erickson called it. He perhaps didn’t have to review every promo he was sent in 1991, but then again neither did I, and I reviewed a whole heapin’ helpin’ of mediocrities and said nothing interesting about them, for there was little to say. I’ll admit that getting a boatload of sub-underground records in the mail every day was a fantastic treat when I was 23 and broke and perhaps increasingly narcissistic (why, you want me to endorse you? Let me see what I can do). Anyway, Cut #11 brought the misty memories flooding back, and I’m glad I at least have this one issue still around. The Starving Students criminals are all currently reading the others.

Slash, Vol. 2 No. 2 (November 1978)

When I started this site, waaaay back in late December 2022, I promised (or threatened) that the pieces herein might not actually be about the actual fanzine issues themselves, but rather would serve as a “jumping-off point” for me to write something else entirely….maybe a watery-eyed reminiscence, perhaps a funny ‘lil tale, or maybe a rant of some sort, provided I could get myself worked up enough about a dopey music fanzine to do so. So far I’d say I’ve done almost none of that, and my posts have been more name/rank/serial number reviews of each issue in question. I hope that’s okay. This post will be a little different and more in line with what I promised/threatened, though.

Slash, a punk magazine from Los Angeles circa 1977-80, is my all-time favorite fanzine. In 2020 I published an issue of my own fanzine, Dynamite Hemorrhage, 100% devoted to talking about and celebrating Slash magazine. The magazine went out of print within a year, but you can download and read a PDF of it right here. Meanwhile, I’ve been attempting to collect the full run of Slash over the years, and I guess I’m more than halfway there now. My most recent “acquisition” is the one you see here, Volume 2 Number 2 from November 1978. It has Siouxsie and The Banshees on the cover. It’s great. We’re not going to talk about it any longer.

Instead, I’d like to publish a short and previously unpublished 2020 interview I did with Terry Graham, aka Terry “Dad” Bag of The Bags, and later of The Gun Club (and for a time, The Cramps and the Leaving Trains). We talked solely about Slash magazine. 

I’d just read Graham’s book Punk Like Me, a crazed ride through his musical, relational and substance career, and I was in the midst of putting together the Slash issue of Dynamite Hemorrhage. It made sense to interview someone in one of the bands routinely featured in Slash, and I chose Mr. Graham. Alas, there was some sort of Google Docs communication snafu that was almost entirely my fault, and I went to “press” without Graham’s interview about his observations of and experiences with Slash magazine. I swore I’d publish it somewhere at some point, and here it is.

DH: What do you remember of the first time you came across an issue of Slash, and what was your reaction to it?

Terry Graham: I was very impressed. The large format and design quality gave a boost to our scene which was lacking in confidence because the punk scenes in New York and London were so well represented by numerous fanzines, magazines and national media attention.

DH: What were some of your personal interactions like with the magazine, as a member of The Bags, the Gun Club or otherwise?

Terry Graham: Slash printed an interview with the Bags with photos taken especially for the interview. That was a validating moment for the Bags. I had only been in the band for a few weeks and it gave us quite a boost.

DH: I’d love to get any anecdotes, stories, thoughts or whatever else you’ve got regarding each of the four Slash founders – one sentence, one paragraph, multiple paragraphs or nothing at all – your choice….

Claude Bessy?

Terry Graham: I didn’t know Claude too well but of course he was everywhere at once. Everyone liked him even though he could be quite irascible and cantankerous. His cynicism was always infused with a wry laugh and obvious sense of humor. His observations in Slash were spot on and added a much needed international perspective to what we were doing on the streets of L.A.

Philomena Winstanley, Steve Samiof, Melanie Nissen? 

Terry Graham: I had very little interaction with Philomena, Steve and Melanie.

DH: Do you have a favorite piece or story (or even a review or graphic element) from the magazine? If so, what was it and why?

Terry Graham: I’m afraid I’ll have to default to the Bags interview because it meant a lot to us and gave us a shot of confidence that we desperately needed.

DH: What impact do you think Slash had on the music scene that it covered, i.e. how was it perceived by the bands, artists and assorted weirdos in its pages – as well as by underground LA in general?

Terry Graham: In some ways it was perceived as a moneyed attempt to crash the scene. At the same time, because it was written primarily by people involved in the scene in some way (mostly musicians) it was also thought of as a genuine attempt to legitimize our efforts to create a viable and unique rock and roll for the time. It had a lot of influence and was looked up to as the publisher of record for the scene. Some may not admit that, but it carried quite a bit of legitimacy.

DH: What impact did it have on you?

Terry Graham: I enjoyed reading it but kept an eye out for signs of the dreaded “sell out.” We were all sensitive to people who might try to capitalize on the scene and so many of us were suspicious of people like Bob Biggs, Steve Samioff, etc., but for no real reason, in fact. Not sure one can capitalize on something that makes no money and barely made a dent in record sales charts or record company decisions. Culturally, I think Slash was a very positive force. Anyone who saw it, and particularly those who weren’t part of the punk scene, would be left with an impression of authority which, in turn, added the same to our scene. All of us together – with Slash and all the other fanzines – changed the world but it took a generation or so for that to happen. 

DH: Any thoughts on Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s contributions to Slash?

Terry Graham: I loved Jeff’s contributions. He was first and foremost a writer so I know he loved his work for Slash. I only wish he could have done a lot more. 

DH: Did Slash suffer from myopia by ignoring certain aspects of what was going on in greater LA circa 1977-80, or did you feel it was pretty representative of what was actually happening in clubs and elsewhere around the city?

Terry Graham: Yes, it genuinely represented our scene because so many of us who were actually creating the music, wrote for Slash. The graphic design and presentation within Slash were also very creative and artistic. It was truly representative of Los Angeles during those years.

DH: Any other thoughts or stories or opinions you’d like to share?

Terry Graham: No, but I sure wish I had kept all my copies. I still have one, with Lee Ving on the cover. That’s right, the one with the Bags interview.

Galactic Zoo Dossier #7

You wanna talk about a magazine that proudly stood on its own and carved its own path, it’d be this one. There’s really never been anything quite like it. Chicago’s Steve Krakow, aka Plastic Crimewave, was the guy behind this incredible compendium of obsessive, over-the-top psychedelia worship, and the man didn’t just edit and write most of the thing, he hand-scripted every article & interview with his pen (in longhand, you know what I mean?), and then hand-drew virtually every band image. Because I’m so used to reading typed text in common fonts, it actually takes some adjustment to read a full article in someone’s handwriting. Krakow even re-writes articles submitted to him in type, such as Byron Coley’s interview with Gary Panter (about lightshows!) in GZD #7. Everyone I’ve ever talked to about this magazine incredulously says the same thing: “How long do you think it took him to put this thing together?!?”. 

Krakow’s drawings tend to transform nonentities like Tiny Tim or The Bee Gees or Attila into crazed psychedelic warlords; you’ll see one of these imposing renderings of, say, Mungo Jerry, and you’re like – “Wait, do I like Mungo Jerry? Should I??”. In Krakow’s world, anything at the intersection of psychedelia, garage and prog is fair game for high-energy blather – words like “freaks”, “fuzzstorms” and “free-form” come up often, and hey – it’s all to the good. We need frothing enthusiasm for lost music like this, and as long as you’re not personally dropping $250 for a copy of a Mandrake Paddle Steamer acetate on his word without taste-testing it online first, you’ll be just fine.

The crew that put this 2007 issue together with him are all totally insane music fiends, all of them. Nobody can touch Krakow, though – he even stumps his sixty- and seventy-something interviewees about their own bands, careers and B-sides. How can you not totally love this guy? He’s a do-it-all renaissance man just totally immersed and bathing in the years 1965-1974, with enthusiasm to burn and a clear passion for getting into the clubs and seeing anyone and everyone connected to his favorite genres & their post-70s exponents (for instance, Japan’s over-the-top psych bands on PSF come up pretty regularly). I actually stumbled upon his band Plastic Crimewave Sound in 2005, a couple years before this issue, and wrote a review of his show here, making sure that I praised his wild hippy pants in my recap as well.

I mean, if I could travel back in time and join a nascent scene, I’d probably be at Los Angeles’ Masque on opening night in 1977, and I’d go to shows in LA six nights a week for the next 6 or 7 years. I get the sense Krakow would be on the British free festival circuit, circa 1968-72, frolicking in the mud with comely maidens, tripping his brains out to Hawkwind, the Edgar Broughton Band and Kingdom Come. I’d be remiss if I pegged the man and his world to just psych or prog, though. Free jazz is hep, and so is folk. In fact, this issue comes with two sets of hand-drawn trading cards (!), one devoted to 45 “Damaged Guitar Gods” (Daevid Allen. Skip James, Fast Eddie Clarke and so on); the other to 27 “Astral Folk Goddesses” (including many of my personal favorites like Vashti Bunyan, Anne Briggs, Linda Perhacs, Nico and Karen Dalton). Don’t separate them!! 

Clearly Krakow’s got a massive 60s/70s comic collection as well, because another Galactic Zoo Dossier peccadillo is take any & all panels from comics like Archie or similar lesser lights that show hippies, burnouts, druggies, rockers, mods, psychedelic eyeballs, light shows and so on. As mentioned previously, there’s really nothing else like GZD before or since, and you’d do yourself a favor to dig into one or more, many of which are still available on the Drag City site.

Matter #10

Matter, at least in its final two years of existence (1984-86), served as sort of a way station for quite a few of the best sub-underground writers of the era (Byron Coley, Gerard Cosloy, Ira Kaplan, Howard Wuelfing etc.) as well as a place to flex for newer writers (particularly Steve Albini, who has far more content in Matter #10 than any other writer). And yet there’s almost nothing to be found about Matter online, aside from this batch of cover scans. So forgive me if my stats are a little compromised here. I wasn’t buying it myself in real time, but caught up to it in a big way in early ‘86 as it was fizzling out, thanks to a pal who loaned me her stack of them.

So the first enigma wrapped in a mystery is editor Elizabeth Phillip of Weehawken NJ. In this September/October 1984 issue, virtually all of the ads are for Chicago-area local stuff; record stores and labels and recording studios and whatnot. I’ve gathered that the magazine was once published in Evanston, IL; Liz then left for college or career near NYC, yet pretty much kept the magazine humming as a Chicago-based endeavor. So how did she recruit such heavy hitters for this thing? Where did Phillip go when Matter was no longer? Would she like to do a Q&A with the navel-gazers behind Fanzine Hemorrhage blog?

Her magazine is full gloss, B&W with a color cover, and I’d have to imagine it was easily found at Tower Records and most fanzine-stocking independent record stores of the era for the big price of $1.25 per issue. Though the general lean-in is toward harder, louder, post-hardcore rocknroll music, there is a bit of mersh straddling going on, with some half-hearted nods to mainstream acts, to the British and toward what you might have called wimpy college rock. Phillip herself wrings a quality interview out of Nick Cave, after spending a period of trepidation pre-talk imagining how this feral junkie might rip her to shreds. There’s also a sloppy Cramps interview from that long, strange period in which they hadn’t released a true album in many years except the live throwaway Smell of Female.

Zen Arcade and Double Nickels on the Dime have just come out, and their titanic impact permeates this entire issue, from the letters section to reviews of bands who are neither Husker Du nor The Minutemen. I sometimes used to listen to local San Jose, CA college station KSJS around this time, when I was a senior in high school, and they were boring college rock to a T. Even they went ballistic over these two albums and The Meat PuppetsUp On The Sun, which triggered an evolution in the station’s playlists to the point where it became a very listenable station in 1984-85. Steve Albini gets to pen full pieces on Breaking Circus and Man-Sized Action, as well as “The Moron’s Guide to Making a Record”. Albini also provides his personal phone number to any Matter readers who might have any questions (312-864-1173 if you want to give him a jingle; perhaps he’s ported this to his 2023 smartphone if you have any current questions about making a record).

Ira Kaplan, clearly a Soft Boys partisan, writes about Katrina and The Waves, who’re mere days away from their big US hit “Walking on Sunshine”, yet get hassled at Maxwell’s in Hoboken when Ira goes to see them. That song is now a Safeway and Whole Foods favorite ‘round where I live! There are other interviews with Curtiss A, Psychic TV and The The, and a round-robin reviews format in which writers like Cosloy, Phillip and Albini get to “grade” new releases from A-F just like Christgau did. Everyone loves Soul Asylum. A topic for another day on Fanzine Hemorrhage. 

PS – I was able to procure this issue from a Great American named Jon Hope, as you can likely see from the label on the cover scan. Matter subscriber! ($7 for six issues – seriously). I don’t think I sent him a whole lot of value in return, so thanks, Jon. You can read his very active music blog Jonderblog here.

Teen Screen – February 1967

Lest we forget, the “serious” American rock fanzine underground, or serious rock magazines in general, had barely flowered by 1967. At that point in time, it was through magazines like Teen Screen, which we shall be discussing today, that young Americans were using to absorb the exploding culture of garage-infused pop music as well as pop music writ large. Crawdaddy was just a year old at this point, Cheetah was about to start up, and Rolling Stone was nearly a year away. This is a heady time in America, to be sure, and a time during which to be a teen was to have one’s world blossoming with music, film, fashion, TV and culture all very centered on your tastes and predilections. If that was your bag, I guess, right? (My own parents were barely out of their teens at this point and they couldn’t have cared less).

Now it’s just fun to look at a magazine like Teen Screen’s February 1967 issue and see the world through the eyes of a 15-year-old girl – or rather, through the eyes of thirty- and forty-something businesspeople aggressively marketing to that girl. It’s really something to watch the mores of a time before 1967 not quite budging to fit a young America looking to find itself, such as in Elizabeth Cowan’s “Teen Problems” column, in which she counsel a confused 13-year-old “tomboy” that her mother shouldn’t worry, because “there is plenty of time for you to grow up and become a young lady”. Any band with some young long-haired guys and a hit, or potential hit, were fodder for the dream factory. Hot hunks like the Sir Douglas Quintet and Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels? Sure! San Francisco’s The Other Half and their new sound they’ve dubbed “psychotic rock”? Why not? 

Of course, when we look back at this era it’s The Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and a few other heavyweights whom we associate with screaming teens and general mania. Every time I come across these magazines, though, it’s Paul Revere and the Raiders – especially Mark Lindsay and Phil “Fang” Volk, whom I suppose were the handsome ones – and Herman’s Hermits who get just as much frothing attention from these fanzine precursors. And if you’re a fan of ‘66 garage rock or punk, and I know you are, you can even find some of it playing out on these pages, with a “Little Boy Blues fan club” and girls writing in about how the Syndicate of Sound are such a fab group. I was hoping for some hand-wringing about The Beach Boys’ Smile album not being out yet but mostly the staff is still celebrating what a massive chart-topper “Good Vibrations” was; despite many Beach Boys mentions throughout the mag, Brian Wilson isn’t even name-checked once. Not even a single mention in this one of The Monkees, whose show and hitmaking started in late 1966, leading me to believe that this one was being written in the Fall of ‘66 and actually on newsstands around Christmas ‘66.

 For 95% of the American populace, male or female, magazines like Teen Screen, 16, Flip, Teen Life, Teen World and so on were their 1967 conduit to rock music. (It was different in the UK, with NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror far less teen-oriented) No, the rock music of the era wasn’t especially well-served by this approach, which is why a more intellectualized approach, along with true fanzines, would start to materialize later that year. I still think they’re kind of a blast to look at so when we stumble upon copies in the low single-digits – and especially if there’s a Mark Lindsay pinup – Fanzine Hemorrhage takes the plunge.

Vintage Violence #6

Just a couple months back I was at Amoeba Records in San Francisco, flipping through some of the used magazines they occasionally get in there. 9 out of 10 of them are Mojo, Uncut, Record Collector, The Wire and so forth, interspersed with the odd & true fanzine. This time a pristine copy of Washington DC’s Vintage Violence #6 from 1978 was peeking through, calling unto me, and priced at a perfectly reasonable seven bucks. It is the fanzine we shall be discussing presently. 

Whoever owned this before me – and I do have an idea, see below – basically kept it in shrink-wrap for 40+ years because it’s, well, EX/NM I guess you’d say. It’s a total hoot, too – very dated and wide-eyed ‘78-style “time to surf the NEW WAVE” exuberance and some outstanding non de plumes from the writing staff like Hank Blank, Mike Livewire and, uh, “Sirhan’s Victim”. DC in 1978….let’s think about this for a second. You folks all saw the DC punk documentary Punk The Capital, right? It’s absolutely worth watching if not. Before getting into Bad Brains and then hardcore, the doc zeroes in on the relatively microscopic pre-’79 DC punk milieu; think Slickee Boys and White Boy and The Shirkers, all of whom get mentions here. There’s even a Baltimore scene report with loads of excitement around Ebenezer and the Bludgeons, whose tracks would turn up on several Killed By Death volumes many years later. 

Vintage Violence #6 is relatively unjaded and stands miles apart from the scene-is-dead moaning so typical of other fanzines from this year. Because it wasn’t! I’m elated to actually see these punks very explicitly and repeatedly linking their enthusiasms to The Stooges, MC5, NY Dolls and Velvet Underground; sure, that’s what we’ve been taught to expect, but more often what I see from 1978-era punk fanzines is a great deal of mocking of Iggy, Lou Reed, Patti Smith and so forth. Not here. Bryan Ferry, yes – he gets chucked under the bus pretty heavily, but I mean, this is what he was doing in 1978. Only real down note is that the mag interviews Billy Idol of hot new English band “Generation X”, but I suppose how were they to know, right? They also go wild over Nervus Rex, Tina Peel (an early “Rudi Protrudi” band) and The Erasers and interview each. Alas, writer Marlene doesn’t dig the new Cramps “The Way I Walk” 45 because it pales so poorly next to their live show. I can imagine. 

And there’s a phone interview with former DC resident Jeff Dahl, right after he’s moved to Los Angeles, where he’ll become a productive member of Vox Pop, the Angry Samoans and Powertrip over the next half-decade. The interviewer, “Bebop”, is bemoaning how expensive the phone call is going to be for Dahl, who calls her. Anyone out there remember long distance? When I was going to frequent shows in Los Angeles in the latter half of the 80s, his “Jeff Dahl Group” was one I stumbled upon live a few times and whom my friends and I mocked quite unrelentingly.

So it turns out that aforementioned staff writer “Mike Livewire” was also the founder and editor of the magazine, one Michael Layne Heath, and you can read his complete story of how Vintage Violence came to be right here. As it happens, Heath now lives in San Francisco. I do not think it is a coincidence that a copy of Vintage Violence #6 therefore ended up in an SF record store before tumbling into my greedy mitts. I thank him for it, however it came to be.

Too Fun Too Huge! #2

Since the day I purchased this one in the Spring of 1988, Too Fun Too Huge! #2 has been a “top quartile” fanzine in my overall “fanzine collection”, so much so that I’ve been trying to find a copy of TFTH #1 for the better part of my life. Do you have one? 

I’m going to say right here that it’s not for everyone. Ostensibly there are two editors here – a guy named George Boulukos, who writes an exceptionally unfunny “I Hate Rock and Roll” editorial and then reviews a bunch of metal records, and the guy whom I really associate with this otherwise mostly fantastic fanzine, Patrick Amory. The Too Fun Too Huge! mailing address happens to also be Patrick Amory’s New York street address, so my guess is that he did most of the heavy lifting on this one. What very little I know about Amory came from this lone fanzine and the knowledge that he later went on to help run Matador Records in a “senior position”. Hey, he’s got his own Wikipedia entry.

This magazine epitomizes the late 80s fanzine gusto, panache, and sangfroid (if you will) that made me such a rabid fanzine accumulator at the time. Often nasty, undermining and downright mean, it’s of a league with Forced Exposure, Conflict and Disaster, all top-tier fanzines of the era that knew everything about music, reviewed nearly every record, and were absolutely standing by to tell you why certain small independent bands were not merely “bad at music”, but were the scum of the earth, ought to be shot etc etc. Or even more so, why certain other writers or scene denizens were; Jack Rabid and Chris Stigliano come under pretty heavy incoming fire in this one, as they both so often did.

And listen – I loved every bit of it then, even if it was bands I liked being trashed. I still enjoy reading this 100x more than most music things now. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but I remember unnaturally affecting a bit of this know-it-all east coast fanzine persona in my own conversations & arguments with friends about the music they personally liked, verbally trashing The Replacements or Sham 69 or whomever because I felt it was the right cool move at age 20. Then I’d wince when someone I totally loved at the time – Soul Asylum or Lazy Cowgirls, say – would get the same sort of treatment from one of these adored mags. 

My persona didn’t last that long. I really just couldn’t fake enough negative emotion about an independent rock band, and it’s rarely felt satisfying enough to unequivocally trash something in print, mostly because I could never do it as wittily nor with half as much invective as these fellas. And they were running into many of their targets at NYC/Boston shows all the time, I’d have to imagine. I wasn’t, but I still remember the time Mick Collins cornered me at a show in San Francisco in the mid/late 90s and was like, “Hey man, what the fuck is your problem with the Dirtbombs?”. “Um no, Mr. Collins, jeez I….well I really liked The Gories and I….”. Nah, I wasn’t built for it. 

TFTH #2 is the first place I ever read anything about Fairport Convention, not exactly a “Topic A” band on most late 80s hipsters’ lips at the time. Amory is also a huge New Zealand music fiend and especially cottons on to The Chills and The Clean as the most essential of the bunch. Somehow this guy reviews basically every Bill Direen disc released over the previous two-year period as well; my take was that those (not-very-good) records were mostly impossible to find in the US. They interview Michael Hudson of The Pagans, who’d recently reformed and who, in 1987-88, were among my top 3-4 “favorite bands of all time” (please note that I heard them for the first time most likely in 1987). 

But it’s funny, too, the way Amory gets super worked-up about music he thinks is shit and then devotes a long interview to the Moving Targets (most readers: who??) and then praises the comedic & art skills of Peter Bagge (really?). I mean, there’s no accounting for taste, and thankfully that’s a point Armory himself makes in his full-page Chris Stigliano takedown as well. I also, in today’s re-read, quite enjoyed a guide to what food to eat to every track of Wire’s Chairs Missing (!) and his great defense of record collecting, featuring some Swedish Heartwork Records reviews (which by the way – overrated record label. See, I can do it!).

 I don’t know why there’s so much anti-California blather in this one but at least he let his fanzine get some distribution out here, where I happened to be ready & waiting to buy, devour and then liberally quote from it (…”and Rikki from Satan’s Rats leaned over with his horrible breath…”.  You’d have to read Armory’s riposte to Jack Rabid to understand this even a little, and to also know who Jack Rabid was). So yeah – anyone have an extra copy of Too Fun Too Huge! #1?

Astronauts #4

Something interesting that often comes up when perusing some older fanzine is getting a read on which bands my personally-beknighted critical cognoscenti were flipping out on at the time. It often makes me wonder just how regularly these folks are spinning those bands today. Dave Lang is really good at poking at these sorts of holes at both himself and others on his Devil’s Lexicon Instagram (which he now thankfully pledges will turn into a blog in the near future). I’m certainly not immune – anyone who wants to know how awesome the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were in 1992-93 is welcome to read my old fanzine saying so. And I’m sorry.

A great example from Jon Dale’s Astronauts #4 is Tower Recordings. Hey, anyone out there play Tower Recordings this morning? Hall of Fame? I didn’t think so. But listen – I didn’t come here to guffaw and chortle. In fact, Astronauts is a magazine that I found this 2003 copy of a few years back, right around the time Matthias from Fordamning and now Discreet Music was doing this short-lived thing on his own Instagram, scanning these amazing DIY/noise/improv/ sub-sub-sub-underground fanzines, none of which I’d ever seen. Like Dale’s Astronauts. I put together an order with Ed Hardy at Eclipse Records and hauled in 5-6 really great ‘zines from the late 90s/early 00s, a time when I really wasn’t paying any attention whatsoever to Tower Recordings and the Vibracathedral Orchestra and so forth.

It was really a mental reconstruction process on my part. Thankfully Dale’s a tremendous sherpa in that regard. He’s been writing all over the place for years, both in underground and overground publications, online and off. I associate him with deep knowledge of The Garbage and the Flowers and other aspects of the 90s New Zealand underground, from the lathe-cutters to “bigger” names you’d see on labels like Siltbreeze or Drag City. Astronauts #4 is a great companion piece to that world, just 8-10 years later and focused on global acts straddling atonality, folk, discordant noise and experimentation in many forms. So much of the stuff was so deeply a part of a “limited edition” underground that there are acts covered in here that I simply can’t find on the internet, and records that aren’t pull-up-able on Soulseek. There’s even a reprint of a Shirley Collins interview from an earlier issue of Ptolemaic Terrascope. Now her I know!

So I asked Dale via email five or six years ago if he might have any other back issues of Astronauts I might be able to procure to further help my learning process along, and well, let’s just say he’d rather not think about it. I believe his words were something to the effect that he’d “likely be sick” if he looked at his own writing in this magazine from twenty years ago. Thou doth protest too much! Sure, the cover of Astronauts #4’s not much to look at, but I think this captures a time, place and an aesthetic of exploratory, rock-adjacent music-making exceptionally well. I’m honored to have it in my collection, and might even give Tower Recordings another go one of these years.

Mental Children #2

This is one of my more savored quote-unquote collectable fanzines, a total cut-n-paste 1980 home job from an anonymous woman – I think it’s a woman – operating from London, if I’m able to deduce correctly. With absolutely no desire shown here for any credit nor displayed scene cred whatsoever, Mental Children #2 is lovingly hand-stapled; features a bizarro mix of type & handwriting, and is truly as DIY as they’ve ever come.

Now what I really like is the discordant cajones shown in the cover selection process, a classic 60s punk image of whatever mystery band this was who dressed up like klansmen and who would later be immortalized on the original Garage Punk Unknowns bootleg 60s punk comps on “Stone Age Records”. I’ve never gotten a clear answer on just who this band was from anyone, but I want to hear ‘em. Do you know who they were? Our mystery editor – she’s immersed in current post-punk all the way, with positive reviews of current records by Young Marble Giants, The Slits. Pop Group, The Fall and Girls At Our Best! (that’s not my exclamation point – that’s what the band was called). 

She interviews the Mo-Dettes, who had only their White Mice 45 out at that point. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually stated this publicly, but I think that “White Mice” as rendered on that single is a 100% perfect song, and it’s probably one of my Top 30 favorite pieces of music of all time. If I’ve listened to it 2,000 times in my lifetime, that’s 2,000 times less than I’d have liked to. Not a single thing they did beyond this was one-thirtieth as good, and I recently watched a video of them playing live in ‘81 that was simply godawful. Anyway, the band are appropriately loopy and quite possibly intoxicated. Jane from the Mo-dettes calls the Dolly Mixture, “Those horrible fat little blobs of jelly with sweetening and food colouring – that’s all they are”. 

There’s an overview on the three years of Siouxsie and the Banshees history to date, followed by an interview. The “Happy House” 45 had just come out, and Kaleidoscope (my favorite) would be next. The rest of Mental Children seems to have been composed with an audience of one – the editor – in mind: a nonsense comic, a transcribed overheard conversation, and of course there’s a bit of Clash discussion, because there always was. There’s even a sloppy advertisement for Weird Tapes, a spin-off of the former Fuck Off Records (I’ve also seen this label referred to as “Weird Noise Tapes”). The ad promises music to “Drive your enemies out of the room”. I’ve seen it happen in real life, except it wasn’t my enemies, it was my wife.

If you’re looking for more 1980 UK fanzine blather, check out the Zigzag and Sounds issues we’ve recently discussed in this forum!

Truly Needy #10

Here’s a fanzine we might occasionally see out on the US west coast, but one that mostly eluded me before it ran its course in 1986. I’ve now got a few issues of Washington DC’s Truly Needy, and it strikes me as a sort of junior league Forced Exposure; focused heavily on the breadth of the US and UK underground (leaning heavier into hardcore and goth/wave than mid-80s FE) but doing itself no favors by attempting to review every single piece of vinyl that came into the office, a la Flipside. I mean, if no one there’s going to get all hopped-up about the latest godawful Mystic Records albums, what’s the point in going all-out in torpedoing them? At the same time, you can read an issue like this #10 from 1985, thirty-eight years later, and have a pretty fantastic sense of the contours and seams of America’s still bursting underground, and the passion of the contributors to go all-in to knowing about and seeing everything going on, live or recorded or written, is just astonishing to witness.

But here’s where Truly Needy really gets interesting: it was run and mostly written by a woman, Barbara Rice. Rice is the thrust, the warp and the woof of this entire packed, 80-page issue, as well as other issues; it’s clearly her baby. In doing a bit of research on the mag – there’s really not much out there – I came up with this late 90s article about her turn toward being a landlord’s attorney, and being bestowed with the sobriquet “The Queen of Mean”. Well, she’s pretty charming in #10 as she attempts to magnanimously grapple with modern SST bands like SWA and Tom Troccoli’s Dog; as she reviewed several dozen fanzines in just this issue alone; as she interviews pre-Racer X Big Black and tries to call Steve Albini onto the carpet for various transgressions; and more. There are plenty of other contributors in here, some of whom can even write a little, but Rice pretty much lords over this thing.

Many years ago I wrote something about Truly Needy on an old blog and received a terrific email from Bill Wort, who started this magazine with Rice. Wort is listed as “Art Director” in this issue, but I gather from the correspondence below that he was pretty essential to the whole endeavor. I tried writing him back this week to ask permission to publish his thoughts, but it bounced back….I mean, his email to me was from 15 years ago. I think it’s fitting that he get the last word anyway. Here’s what he told me:

From Bill Wort: 

As memory serves, we pubbed 13 issues. The first was published in either late ’81 or early ’82. The name, “Truly Needy,” was taken from a line in a Reagan State of the Union speech (something like, “…we want to help the truly needy, not the greedy”). Until that speech the leading contender for a title was “The Ninth Circle.” The last issue erupted sometime around 1985-1986.

Speaking for myself, I think the two biggest fanzine influences were “Flipside” and “The Offense” (from out of Columbus, Ohio). Although I contributed a few cartoons to TN, my main job was editing (which explains a lot about all the typos and misspells) and layout. I always felt that most of the zines, though they might contain good reviews and interviews, were unreadable because of their “found-object,” cut-and-paste, official punk look. Flipside (and I hope, TN) presented  information in a more straight-forward and readable way (OK, I know we had the tiniest font imaginable, but we did have lots of content). The Offense was an inspiration for both its encyclopedic nature (lots of pages to read), and its diversity of subject matter.

In terms of Truly Needy’s approach to content, all of our contributors loved music, and our tastes were eclectic. My concept was, TN should mainly be about “alternative” music, but not limited to that. I also felt that, when doling out the promos that we received, we should give them to the writer who might best appreciate them. We had one person on our staff who favored the more approachable “new wave” bands like “The Cure,” or “Echo and the Bunnymen,” another who favored hardcore, etc. I think that overall, we bent more towards the harder, noisier bands (especially since there were so many “harDCore,” DisChord bands to have access to), but we were open to printing reviews (from favorable to scathing) of any bands that fell into that vast, undefined category of “alternative.” For the record, Barb — who probably contributed about 50% of TN’s content, had a vast and diverse listening interest.

I referenced the layout process earlier, and I want to elaborate on that just a bit. We started this in the days when not many had personal computers. In fact, all but maybe the last three issues were typed on a typewriter. The typed pages were then taken to a copy shop where they were reduced — I think 30% — these reduced pages were then cut, and hot-wax pasted onto pages into their final layout. What I wouldn’t have given for a program as simple as “Word” to put TN together! (For the record, I did acquire a PC towards the end, and the last 3 or 4 issues were typed, though not laid out, on the computer). This laborious process explains the sporadic nature of our printing, since I had a regular 40 hours a week job, and could only work on the typing and layout a little each night. It also explains why we dropped live show reviews at the end, since, by the time we would go to press, the reviews would be so stale as to be meaningless (not to mention that many of the bands would have already broken up by the time we published). One more publishing note: Most of the issues were either Xeroxed or offset and side stapled. The last few were printed at the Carroll County Times printing facility (Carroll County, home base of Half Japanese) on newsprint.

One other thing I’d like to note that, like Mad Magazine (well, in those days) after the first issue or two, we never sold the back cover as ad space, but used it for a cartoon.

Silent Command #1

I’ve known about Mike Applestein and his fanzines & music writing for years, even broke bread with the guy once in NYC over thirty years ago. Yet somehow I possess merely a lone issue of his Caught In Flux fanzine from the 1990s, and I’ve never even seen a copy of Writer’s Block, the one he did before that. 

I associate Mike extremely closely with the retrospective rise in fortune of the outstanding uber-minimal late 1978-80 Welsh band Young Marble Giants. He hosted a website about them; disseminated information and photos about them; and – I could be wrong about this but can’t check because my CDs are all tied up in boxes due to crazy roof leak repair going on in my house right now – perhaps had a hand in and wrote some liner notes for YMG reissues? The Salad Days CD, perhaps? In any event, if ya wanted the dope on Young Marble Giants from anyone who wasn’t actually in the trio itself, Mike was and likely remains the guy to go to. 

It’s postpunk, sub-underground DIY pop (Sarah/Cherry Red/Slumberland etc) and various punk-influenced bands that I also hang his name next to; think Chickfactor meets Conflict, I guess, for potentially way-off reference points. I was excited to see that he’s rejoined the print game again this year, and is now putting out a small fanzine called Silent Command from his twenty-first century home of St. Louis, MO. I ripped through this one last night and found it just as engaging and fun to tackle as Caught In Flux was. Mine’s even numbered – #51/75, baby!

Applestein is exceptionally good at asking bands or artists questions and then getting out of the way – unlike me in live interviews, where I always need to poke my craw in and peacock my knowledge of some insignificant ephemera. He does this to great effect with San Francisco pop band Hits in this issue; with Xray Spex/Essential Logic’s Lora Logic (what a trip her life has been since the 1980s) and with recently unearthed 70s St. Louis all-female proto-punks The Welders. Even better, he documents his “failed” stint as an orthodox Jew in Seattle from 2000-2006; what it entailed, how he got there and why it stopped. The guy moved to Seattle mere months after I’d moved away from the city. I would absolutely have been glad to turn off his stove for him every Friday night while we discussed all manner of dopey underground bands.

Silent Command has a second issue out now as well – you can check it all out here.

Sounds – November 8th, 1980

While Ripper #4 was the first fanzine I ever purchased back in 1982, we’ll need to save the fascinating and incredibly captivating story of my very first exposure to the underground press in ‘81 for another day. (But let it be said – it was a copy of the UK’s Sounds that I bought at the Little Professor Book Center in June 1981). From that point forward, I was a rabid consumer for a few years of the three UK music weeklies that I could find in the San Francisco Bay Area back then: Sounds, Melody Maker and New Musical Express.

I found that they reported on a world of bands in an incredibly different manner than our bloated and boring music press did in the US. Punk, post-punk and underground rock was generally greatly emphasized over larger acts, with up-and-comers gathering the lion’s share of debate and attention. Back where I lived, it was corporate drone Rolling Stone and the atrocious Creem, Circus and Hit Parader. Just before I discovered fanzines, these British papers were my lifeline and direct connection to the sounds I was then discovering on local college radio. Since they were weekly, they’d list tons of live shows that week across London; The Fall might be playing with the Teardrop Explodes and Wah! Heat; the Au Pairs might be supporting the Gang of Four; the Specials might be bringing along some Jamaican legends for a tour across the UK. Something called oi was exploding across England, with bands like the 4-Skins, Inra Riot, Cockney Rejects and Blitz. I’d absorb every page in my bedroom and marvel at it all.

By the mid-80s, I’d junked my many copies of all three of them, and I didn’t really look back at that decision until recent times. All told, I’ve mustered almost zero nostalgia for both NME and Melody Maker, and I’ve therefore never really felt compelled to re-buy any of either. Sounds was different. Sounds was considered the also-ran relative to the other two, and it flamed out earlier, in 1991. From my perch in the US, it was also the more diverse, exciting and differentiated magazine, and it looked more DIY and a little sloppier than the other two. 

I bought this frayed November 8th, 1980 issue recently on eBay for a couple of reasons. First, I’d never looked at a pre-1981 Sounds before, and I guess I wanted to see what was going down in late 1980. Second, the cover story on Simple Minds. Seriously. 1981 was the year that they became one of my favorite bands on the planet – please let’s remember that I was 13 years old; I wish I had been paying just as close attention to Damaged – when their albums Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call came out on the same day. They’d turned into a futuristic mutant dance band who, at the time, did what they did better than anyone else who ever did it. I believed it then, and I believe it now. Listen to the extended version of “Love Song” if you don’t believe me. 

I eventually came to own their complete discography, even their punk Johnny and the Self-Abusers 45, before renouncing them just as I did the UK papers once they hit it big in the mid-80s. When they made their appearance on this cover of Sounds they’d just released their (not very good) LP Empires and Dance and had toured Europe supporting Peter Gabriel. I skimmed the interview last night and it was about as uninteresting as I’d expected it to be. But there were some nice gems in this one. In The Cure interview – and remember that The Cure really weren’t a popular band until quite a bit later – Robert Smith complains that Mark E. Smith of The Fall doesn’t like him. Mo-dettes mania is clearly in full effect; the band gets mentioned many times in this issue of Sounds, including in the letters to the editor section, and their new (and only-ever) album gets a very positive review by Gary Bushell, the writer who’s more famous for being a big proponent of oi and UK82 meathead punk (!). And the cross-pollination of so many nascent and blooming musical styles is self-evident. I know many folks in 1980 thought that their respective music scenes were “dead”, yet just looking at the live listings for mid-November across the UK I found several dozen shows I’d have killed to attend. 

Ultimately the reason I liked Sounds the best is that they picked a few lanes and stuck to them really well. They’re most well-known for championing “The New Wave of British Heavy Metal”, but every issue back then also goes really deep into what we now call post-punk, as well as the aforementioned oi; into dub and reggae; and in later years, the American underground somewhat. Writers are at war with each other, with their readers (especially in response to letters to the editor), and even sometimes with the bands themselves. This was all a very serious business in the UK, and the intellectual contrast with, say, a Flipside letters to the editor section from the exact same era is exceptionally stark. This particular new issue of mine is crumbling as we speak, so I’m gonna put it back into a vinyl sleeve and we’ll carry on with more Sounds ramblings another time.

Conflict #37

This would have come out just before the time that Jackie Ockene loaned me her big stack of Conflict mags over Spring Break 1986, along with about 10-12 other issues of Gerard Cosloy’s magazine that came out before this one. I didn’t go to South Padre Island or Cabo or Daytona, but rather to my parents’ house in San Jose to replenish my fluids and nutrition and read music mags for a week. Conflict overall is still hands-down one of the best fanzines I’ve ever read, and now that I have a few of them, it’s probably the year that his publication went from really great to really, really great. I’ve told Jackie many times that these and the Matter mags she loaned me that spring were sort of life-changers. One never knows what the inflection points are going to be that push their obsessions into new and better directions, but Spring ‘86 was definitely one of mine.

Unlike some of the other fanzine mirth-makers and court jesters whom we’ve discussed previously, Cosloy’s hijinks and shenanigans were actually quite funny, and yeah, “acerbic” to a fault – yet almost always right on the mark. I probably padded my record collection more with recommendations from Conflict around this time than any magazine save Forced Exposure. The guy’s taste was strong enough to wrap itself around pretty much anything worth paying attention to circa 1986, from whatever fumes of hardcore were still rising (Tar Babies!) to The Fall (“Except for Boxcar Willie, I can’t think of any other artists who’ve delivered with such vigor for so long”) to Big Stick (yeah!). Conflict hadn’t apparently come out in 18 months when this four-pages-with-a-corner-staple hit the street, so that meant he took 1985 off, moved from Boston to New York, and then finally started this thing up again.

Now I was personally a little nonplussed over the Lazy Cowgirls’ debut LP myself when it came out – the Chris D.-produced one that both the band and Chris D. have spent years apologizing for – but man, Cosloy just rips the thing to ribbons (“3rd-rate bar band slop” and so on). Pretty sure he – and anyone else nonplussed – changed his tune when Tapping The Source came out a year later. Love the 7 Seconds review, though. This band were such a deserved whipping boy, easily one of hardcore’s all-time lamest bands, and they’d sink to even lower lows as their career progressed. “If 7 Seconds were really interested in promoting positive interaction they’d be handing out spanish fly ‘stead of bothering us with the worst excuse for punk anywhere”. Spanish Fly!! Do any of you remember Spanish Fly? Did it work? Cosloy also likes Camper Van Beethoven’s Telephone-Free Landslide Victory. So do I. Terrific issue.

Cimarron Weekend #6.04…

I reckoned I’d take this 1999 fanzine on when I saw just how “reminiscent” the cover was to Brian Berger’s 1992 Grace and Dignity issue that we talked about recently. A quote-unquote funny fake table of contents. Are you laughing? I’m totally laughing over here.

I remember getting an earlier issue of Cimarron Weekend in the mail from editors David Dunlap and Andrew Earles in ‘97 or ‘98 when I was living in Seattle. It was a nice surprise, and I’d been impressed & excited that they were as discerning about their garage punk and the more rock-leaning modern indie underground as I personally felt myself to be, and they had a bozo-like charm in basically making fun of everything in said worlds. Unlike Berger’s magazines, there wasn’t much viciousness to it, and clearly these guys, being from the South (Memphis), were having a lot of fun with the “southern friend boogie” bands of the 70s; your Black Oak Arkansas, your Little Feats and whatnot. Much modern stuff would find itself in their pages getting compared with Skynyrd, or the Allmans – and in the era of “Man’s Ruin” Records and some perplexing underground popularity for the newfound genre of stoner rock, it’s little wonder.

And though I’d forgotten about it, I contributed some reviews to the 1998 issue that came out before this one. How about that?

This particular small issue looks like a simple, free stopgap that came out after that one and before Issue #7. It’s pretty much all reviews: records, live and a couple films. I recall at the time that my generalized take on The Cimarron Weekend cut a couple of ways. I appreciated not merely their musical taste but how out on a limb they’d go to try to eviscerate modern indie music without making it too personal nor ugly. Sometimes it really was quite funny. I also felt that they tried waaaay too hard to wring yuks out of places where there weren’t any. One look at this cover and you’ll see what I mean. I recall that National Lampoon was a big influence for them, and clearly, Dunlap and Earles at times were very much going for that vibe: a straight-up humor mag. I just don’t think underground rock music is nor was anywhere near as hilarious as they seemed to think it might be. Better to take the Motorbooty approach and pick fat targets and then totally hit the bullseye, rather than target everything with a “spray & pray” approach.

Then again, I once sent an email to Henry Owings of Chunklet magazine – which took a similar approach – telling him that I’d laughed my ass off about something or another he’d published (I think it was these awesome fake indie rock tattoos they’d mocked up in an issue). He wrote me back and said he was cheered yet incredibly surprised, as he thought that perhaps I didn’t possess much of a sense of humor, and that I gave off the impression in my own fanzine of being rather, um, serious. So there you go!

Search & Destroy #6

At some point last year I was contentedly canoodling around at Green Apple Books in San Francisco, a place I find myself in maybe every 2-3 weeks for one reason or another. While I’d recently scored a few punk-infused Rock Scene mags there, Green Apple’s not generally a place to go looking for oddball zines or paper ephemera, but rather a serious used/new bookstore of much deserved renown. So imagine my surprise to stumble upon a near-complete run of San Francisco’s 1977-79 Search & Destroy magazine there, each selling for 15 dollars. Only limited by my available funds at the time, I was still able to procure seven of them, of which this Search & Destroy #6 was one.

One reason why I think Search & Destroy doesn’t get as much retroactive shrift nor generate as much overall slathering excitement as Slash does among us hoi polloi is because the mags themselves were already beautifully and rapidly compiled into those two Re/Search books in the mid-90s – every single word and image from the magazine’s 11-issue run. I bought and consumed them with extreme prejudice right when they came out. At that point, the mystery and scarcity of Search & Destroy and the relatively undocumented nature of the late 70s San Francisco punk underground was dissipated. The books got a great deal of play at the time; publisher V. Vale and his Re/Search imprint were flying high, as far as these things go. No question the magazine, which was just a tremendously well-done marker of the creativity, passion and rage rising from the subcultural sub-underground, has long been considered one of the all-time greats. It took this recent re-look to really confirm it for me again.

What Search & Destroy had even over Slash (to me, the single greatest underground music publication of all time) was its photographers, and their innate ability to capture the danger, wildness and raw power of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene. Ruby Ray, James Stark and Bruce Conner have been lauded in local galleries and their own books over time, but let’s laud them again here, because their photos in this issue alone were just incredible. When some of these later turned up in the early 80s Hardcore California book, they became my roadmap and totemistic items of longing for a scene I’d missed by being about seven years too young to participate. 

And yeah, LA’s late 70s punk & underground bands were better than San Francisco’s. It’s not really even close. But per capita – Los Angeles County had 7.35 million people in 1978, to San Francisco’s 700,000 – well, I think you can make a strong case that SF stands pretty proud on a per-capita basis with our Dils, UXA, Crime, Flipper, Avengers, Chrome, Tuxedomoon and so on! Search & Destroy #6 is not overtly, over-the-top politically frothing the way I’d remembered, and Jello Biafra is thankfully nowhere to be seen. The essay in support of striking coal miners around the world is right-on, and wow, if you contrast the high-octane urban SF punk scene of the 70s with what was going on at the exact same time in Barbara Koppel’s Harlan County USA documentary, it’s pretty jarring. 

The interview with David Thomas of Pere Ubu is particularly great, especially his pumping for Cleveland pals the Electric Eels and Johnny and the Dicks (!). Vale and the S&D team – as well as the city of San Francisco – were all over Throbbing Gristle from early on, and that’s quite clear here, with John Savage interviewing them in London:

S&D: Have you seen THE CLASH?

Genesis P-Orridge: No, I haven’t met them either, but I have doubts. From the design of their clothes – the Rauschenberg look – and from the fact that they’re a lot more sophisticated than they pretend – I think it’s dangerous for the kids.

I’ll never tire of the “great Clash debates” going on in underground publications at the time. And it’ll be a blast to really dig deeper into those other copies I’d procured one of these days, as – man – 27 years have passed since I last looked into these in those Re/Search books.

Making Waves #1

I suppose it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most folks if one were to posit that females, i.e. women, were generally not accorded a representative amount of space nor respect in the music fanzine world as it existed up until our current century. It was a pretty dudely endeavor for too many years there, with some very visible exceptions both in the UK and North America from the punk era forward, eventually leading to an empowered flowering of women-helmed and -defined music fanzines starting in the 1990s.

Making Waves was a four-issue cross-Atlantic collaboration between two women – Camille Lan in Paris and Mary Jane Regalado in Los Angeles. Camille – who truly has outstanding taste in low-fidelity post-punk music – did the Gunilla Mixtapes mp3 mix blog. I also just unearthed this more-recent show she had a hand in. Mary Jane, who later moved to Washington DC, was in a totally loopy LA band called Neonates whom I totally dug at the time – check this digital-only album out.

Their first Making Waves came out in 2011, and it’s sort of a record-corrector and light-shiner on a plethora of women who led bands, labels and scenes in different eras, from 70s punk onward. I made it a point to buy each of ‘em (there were four in total) as they hit the digital stores, especially after this classy first one, which featured an interview with all three Kleenex/LiLiPut members whilst still alive. Better still, it was the first time I’d read an interview with Stef Petticoat (of The Petticoats!), a true UK DIY hero who was barely recognized as such in most quarters until the last ten years or so, or maybe when Times New Viking covered one of her frantic songs (“Allergy”) a few years earlier. 

Alice Bag of The Bags talks about her upcoming book Violence Girl, and there’s a cool cover for it previewed in this mag that ended up not being the actual cover at all. Jeri Cain Rossi from Your Funeral gives the lowdown on the early 80s Denver scene and gets me all excited that she got to play with The Frantix and fuckin’ Bum Kon. “Debsy” from the Dolly Mixture gets a turn – and a whole lot more, not merely just 70s/80s stuff.

I also enjoy that they’re “perfect-bound”, which means that they’re like little novellas, with a spine and everything. The writers don’t fall into the keyboard warrior trap of spending an undue amount of time on jeremiads against the patriarchy – except when we deserve it, of course. The true emphasis is on quality sub-underground music and the women who made or make it.  If any of this is as interesting to you as it is to me, you’ll be happy to know that three of the four issues of Making Waves can still be purchased here. Easily one of the best fanzines of the past twenty years.

(Note: I just came across this post, a week after writing this thing, that has PDFs of all four Making Waves issues).

Ripper #4

This is a pretty important one here at Fanzine Hemorrhage HQ: it’s the absolute very first fanzine I ever bought. Ripper was published in my then-hometown of San Jose, CA. I was just beginning the 10th grade in late 1982 and was just turning 15. Jon Grant and I would occasionally take a bus from our South San Jose neighborhood into the wilds of Campbell (where Tower Records was located) or, on this particular day, Los Gatos, to procure whatever alternative cultural totems we might be able to locate. 

It was quite the slog in an auto-dependent city; the bus – “County Transit” was an afterthought for most folks and was therefore scheduled accordingly. I remember on the day that I bought my first fanzine that we had to wait a good hour or so just for our transfer bus, both getting to Los Gatos and on the way back. Once we’d arrived, though, we went to Do Re Mi Records, and this is where I procured Ripper #4, as well as an early issue of Maximum RocknRoll (#3, which you can see pictured here….I recall being a bit confused about why the guy on the cover hated sports; I loved the Giants and the Niners and wasn’t sure if I was supposed to now hate sports as well). I didn’t buy any records, but totally devoured my new magazines on the long bus slog home.

Now this particular Ripper had come out at least a year earlier, but I was just so taken with the fact that there was a local punk magazine that I had to buy it. There may have been a little “danger” involved. Both mags that I bought were immediately stashed away at the bottom of a broken drawer in my bedroom to keep them away from prying parental eyes. It wasn’t so much that I’d get in trouble or anything, I just wanted to steer clear from any uncomfortable questions about my rapidly devolving music taste, while certainly wanting to feel like I could now be somehow part of the larger punk scene that I could absolutely feel and see all around me, especially on trips to San Francisco and Berkeley. 

Tim Tonooka was the editor and publisher, and by all accounts was a great American. I now have most of the other issues from his run, and it’s definitely one of the early 80s’ better punk fanzines for both breadth and especially for its original photos. He championed Black Flag quite heavily – who didn’t? – and also gave quite a boost to the San Jose and Peninsula punk bands, names you might or might not remember like Los Olividados, Social Unrest, Ribzy, The Faction, Executioner, The Drab and so on. I seem to recall that most of those bands got almost no truck with San Francisco/Berkeley punks, and that despite San Jose only being an hour’s drive from SF, it might as well have been a cowtown in the central valley for all the attention any local scene received outside of our own city limits.

Me, I was too young and mostly too chicken to go to those local shows anyway, so I missed some real corkers at VFW halls that would later be recounted in Ripper’s pages. This particular issue didn’t do a ton to turn me onto any new bands; the (California) Undead; Impatient Youth, No Alternative and the Red Rockers were all pretty weak tea, I’d come to find out, but there’s a good, brief X interview, some relaying of what sounded like a pretty tense local show by The Slits, and unfortunately quite a few pages on The Plasmatics, which even a teenage greenhorn like me could see was exceptionally lame.  

By far the most valuable service this issue provided me was this radio guide below, which I became obsessed with and thereupon used as my personal guide to the underground. The Sunday night “Guns on the Roof” show on Santa Clara’s KSCU; the Monday night “White Noise” show on KFJC and especially Tuesday nights with “Maximum Rocknroll” on the barely-received-in-San-Jose KPFA became absolute must-listens, and were hugely beneficial at expanding my world beyond the new wave & post-punk I was otherwise consuming. I never went full-bore hardcore then nor at any other time, but there was just so much incredibly wild and exciting music buzzing all around me, on the radio and in record stores and in the fanzines that I’d eventually start buying with every spare dollar. I was delirious for all of it. It could have been any mag, but this one just happens to be where the whole obsession began. 

Grace and Dignity #1

Last post we took a gander at a fanzine called Crush from a fella named Brian Berger. If you’ll recall, I had much to praise about it after lodging any reservations. After Crush ceased its 4-issue run, he published a short series of single-issue fanzines (I guess you’d call them) more or less in the vein of Crush, with names like Constant Wonder and Strange Affair and this one, late 1992’s Grace and Dignity #1. 

Maybe I ought to read them all in order, since I haven’t looked at any of them in thirty years, but I can barely grasp what’s going on with this particular thing. Berger appears to be a little drunk on his own relative notoriety and looking to double down. He gets an Iowa City peer to write a paean to how good his writing is – seriously! – and then proceeds to reel off a ludicrous amount of non-sequiturs, in-jokes, literary references without context, and even a little goy-baiting just for fun. Is it a music fanzine? I suppose it is. 

If I’m to understand what’s happening here, Berger is married with a child, and lives in Iowa City, IA. It’s difficult to grasp and not all that interesting to me whether that was true or not. He attended South By Southwest in Austin, and writes up a bunch of show reviews here, ranging from The Mekons to Claw Hammer to Surgery to Beat Happening. Then he writes up a bunch of record reviews, most of which have fake unfunny titles (i.e. Unrest’s Imperial f.f.f.r. becomes Imperial f.a.g.s.) and which savage the respective contents of each. Clearly this was a boy who’s mostly done with indie rock, or who was at least pretending to be. I’ll hold onto this just for completist’s sake, but this might have been the issue where enfant terrible crossed over into straight-up terrible.

Crush #3

I’m certain there are some of you out there who might be able to tell us far more about this magazine’s editor Brian Berger than I can. Because of his relatively “confrontational” reviewing style and some intra-scene romantic dynamics involving him that supposedly went on in the early 1990s, I have a dim memory of Berger briefly being a person of interest among mostly East Coast fanzine-reading alterna-jerks. He published a range of single-issue zines under different names, but the one that seemed to be best-received by his undoubtedly exceptionally limited audience was Crush, the longest-lasting at three big issues, total.

I certainly can see why it was “popular”, and because I hadn’t really read this one through since I bought it in 1990, I was reminded of the Conflict fanzine imitators (Disaster, Crush) that followed in the wake of and concurrently with Gerard Cosloy’s fantastic fanzine, right down to the Courier font. Berger actually pretends to review an issue of Conflict here, saying,

“My biggest influence according to people who wish they knew what the fuck they were talking about. I’ve seen this magazine around but I don’t know what it’s about or who publishes it since I make it a rule not to read titles named after Crass-family bands.”

Even that sort of dismissive, pretend-not-to-know-what-you’re-talking-about thing was a trope straight out of Conflict itself. Well done, Brian! But wait – then he takes on Bill Callahan’s – yes, that Bill Callahan – Disaster fanzine right below that:

“Bill Callahan is one of those guys who has a “thing” for Lisa “Suckdog” Carver. In my mind that’s about as lame as being into John Wayne Gacy’s painting career, having all of last year’s Professional Bowling Association broadcasts in your video library, or wearing a Your Flesh t-shirt.”

Now that’s a bon mot I can appreciate, shoehorning both a Your Flesh and a Lisa Carver rip into a single sentence. Most of Crush #3 is record and live reviews by Berger, with an additional few of each by Alan Licht who, as it just so happens (!), also gets his band Love Child interviewed in here as well. Berger, it seems, was a Iowa college student from New Jersey back home for the summer at Mom & Dad’s while writing this thing, enmeshed in the NYC/NJ, CBGB/Maxwell’s live music social whirl. His reviews are mostly great, totally unafraid of the takedown & with pretty right-on music taste and an innate ability to separate wheat from chaff (the Big Chief reviews are especially tasty). He knows who the Hampton Grease Band are, he digs free jazz and especially loves David Allen Coe. It’s a true 1990 brain-dump from an over-the-top music obsessive who knows how to write, and write really well, at a pretty young age.

The biggest drawback is 21-year-old Brian’s wolfish and slathering questions for Rebecca Odes of Love Child, just straight-up talking about her breasts, suggesting on-stage nudity and so on right from the off. Like yeah – we get it – attractive woman in a rock band – but try a little subtlety, comrade! Hey, we’re all in our fifties now. I wonder if Berger still thinks that the “Ass Ponys” put out the single best record of 1990?

Zigzag #102 (June 1980)

One of the things I’ve always admired about some of the early Washington HarDCore crew was that it was The Cramps, not The Pistols nor The Stooges nor even the Velvets, whom they professed initially set them on their respective paths of mayhem & audio destruction. They were pretty much a, if not the, major touchstone band for me as well. 

Even as an early-teenage new waver, hearing “Garbageman” and “Goo Goo Muck” and especially “Human Fly” on college radio directly drew me into The Cramps’ orbit, from which I’ve never looked back. I’d then see photos of them – I’m thinking especially of the particular one you can see at the bottom of this post, from a UK “1982 Rock Yearbook” that I owned back then (and picked up for nostalgia’s sake on eBay very recently) – and just salivate over how cool they must be, and how badly I needed to see them play live. 

I saw Urgh! A Music War and this jaw-dropping Cramps performance right when it hit home video (or perhaps I saw it on USA Network’s Night Flight), and I practically wept with joy. Soon thereafter, my first purchased bootlegs were Cramps bootlegs, because I already had all the legit vinyl of theirs that I could afford. People would relay these incredible stories from their live shows, with anecdotes such as the one in which Lux supposedly took a gross sneaker that someone had thrown on stage, poured half his bottle of wine into it, then guzzled the wine directly from the shoe. All this tomfoolery with sexy gum-smacker Poison Ivy laying down ferocious yet simplistic fuzztone rockabilly riffs and Nick Knox beautifully taking rock drumming back to its jungle roots.

Alas, by the time I finally got to see them live, it was my freshman year of college; A Date With Elvis had just come out, and the band played the corporate “One Step Beyond” club in Santa Clara, CA. Hey, I had fun – it was The Cramps! – but it was instantly clear I’d missed the band’s high-water mark by a good five years already. Here’s a thing I wrote about The Cramps 18 years ago, still somehow online.

That brings us to that aforementioned high-water mark; the period around the 1979 Alex Chilton “Ohio Demos” (later the All Tore Up bootleg) and right afterward, when the (inferior but still great) Songs The Lord Taught Us came out. That’s approximately when the UK magazine Zigzag deigned to interview and put The Cramps on their cover, in June 1980. It even features a killer “center-spread” of Cramps photos that I’m sure I’d have ripped out and pinned to the wall if I’d owned this issue in the early 80s. The Brits loved The Cramps; I believe the entire weirdo “psychobilly” scene of the early 80s pretty much grew directly from their barnstorming across the UK. 

I’m sure we’ll talk about Zigzag more next time I pull one of their issues from my collection, but suffice to say this issue (#102), all things considered, is a corker. It’s got Chris Desjardins (yeah, Chris D.!) introducing his Los Angeles compatriots X to the entire UK in a lengthy article. There’s a lucid and funny interview with The Fall, with much love and emotion for their Dragnet LP from the magazine’s staff. #102 also includes Mikey Dread, Jah Wobble and respect & raves for current dub and reggae. Somehow there’s even a straight-up sit-down interview with Pete Townsend

One final aside: the more I immerse myself in punk fanzines of the ‘78-’80 period, the more hovering and omnipresent the ludicrous spectre of The Clash seems to be. People just loved to debate the merits and demerits of The Clash back then. In this Zigzag, the Rude Boy film has apparently just come out, and much consternation about it is made in various parts of the magazine, from the letters section to snide remarks about it being snuck into various articles and reviews. This love/hate Clash stuff crops up in US fanzines as well at the time, but it being spread all over a London-based mag such as Zigzag shows me the inner war UK critics of the time must have been at with themselves regarding a local band that promised them so much and delivered so little. They ought’ve spent all that energy & debate picking apart the glories of The Cramps instead!

Alright! #4

This 1994 LA-based fanzine was well-positioned at the center of beating heart of that “third great wave of punk rock” we were yammering on about in an earlier post. McKinley Richard, aka “Rich” as I somewhat knew him, and Sandra, aka “Super Sandra” for some reason, were a couple who also played together in the band Jackknife and ran the Star Fuck label, while also putting out this magazine. It’s as reverentially 1994 as it gets, complete with a rip-off of the Crypt Records font to pair with Jackknife’s bow–down-before-your-masters rip-off of much of Pussy Galore’s je nais se quoi. (And I totally dig that font, Jackknife and this magazine, so don’t let my gentle ribbin’ convince you otherwise).

‘94 was a great year to be young, drunk and going to garage punk shows, let me tell you. We had the Purple Onion here in San Francisco and a heaping helping of middling-to-great blitzoid garage punk bands in our city the previous few years, from Supercharger to Monoshock to The Brentwoods to the Dwarves to the Trashwomen to the Donnas. Rich and Sandra in LA had their own band and I reckon there was a smattering of other decent ones of their ilk in SoCal, yet the real action was spread across the USA, with the Cheater Slicks, Gories, Night Kings, Fireworks, ‘68 Comeback, Doo Rag, Bassholes and many others who were releasing top-notch 45s circa ‘91-’94, not all of it fast-n-loud but very much descended from the finest in stripped-down 50s, 60s and late 70s rocknroll. You can bathe in the scene and read about it in Eric Davidson’s excellent We Never Learn! book. And while we may sometimes pretend otherwise, everybody loved the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, myself included. I think I’d get ear cancer if I tried to listen to them in 2023.  

So Alright! #4 is living right at the nexus of all of this as it’s happening, with an onslaught of crazed records coming out plus an insane amount of live shows to wig out and lose one’s hearing at. The magazine is snotty, super-dismissive of alterna-rock (Jesus Lizard gets a nice raking over the coals, as does the city of Seattle) and is very much of its scene and of its time. I wasn’t particularly into Bratmobile while they were around (except for how incredibly magnanimous and forgiving they were when me and a few friends berated them w/ shouted Black Flag cover requests when they played SF’s Chameleon…and no, not “Slip It In”, I promise)  but I’ll give Rich & Sandra credit for championing the feral rawness of some of the “riot grrrl” bands, many of whom, like Bratmobile, have aged better with time. They capture the whole sick scene quite well, and you can capture a mighty and informative whiff of 1994’s garage punk ambiance by taking a journey through this one.

NY Rocker, September 1982

I don’t know if it’s “fair” to classify the monthly big-city punk/underground tabloids of the late 70s/early 80s – Slash, Damage, Boston Rock, Take It!, NY Rocker – as fanzines per se, but they certainly served the same purpose, often employed the same tastemakers, and were about as on-the-ground and in-the-clubs as any drooling fanzine impresario such as myself would be ten years later.

I’ve been slowly assembling a small collection of NY Rocker issues over the years. I never bought any when they were around, but I remember seeing them on sale at Rasputin’s Records in Berkeley when I was 14, probably right around the time this September 1982 issue came out. They’re more wide-ranging in both taste and remit than Slash was, and by the time the issues get to 1981 and 1982, there’s a great deal of positive coverage of “the new wave”, i.e. synthesizer-driven bands from England, coexisting quite uncomfortably right next to articles on strange American underground bands by Byron Coley and plenty of US hardcore 45 reviews. By this issue, it’s quite clear that if an act in question had “funny hair”, they were fit to be covered in the New York Rocker.

But oh, the on-the-spot treasures to be found here! There are photos of personal favorites of mine like Red Cross, Salvation Army and The Flesh Eaters that I’d never seen before. Byron Coley’s piece on Vox Pop and 45 Grave is tremendous (and hilarious) and goes a long way to explaining the mysteries of the former while helping re-illuminate the positives of the latter. Oliver Lake, who is the early 70s helped lead wild free jazz quintet The Black Artists Group, is by 1982 doing some sort of funky dance music called Jump Up, and he’s interviewed in this issue about it & his career to date. There are X and Richard Hell interviews; the former has just jumped to a major label and are touchy about it, and the latter has just released Destiny Street, and there’s much obfuscating and hemming & hawing about his drug usage and its effect on his ability to keep a band together. 

I reckon my two favorite things in here are two particular live reviews. One’s a Salvation Army/The Last/Bangs review by Coley. No one’s coined the term “paisley underground” yet, thankfully, but I’m especially pleased to see Coley so incredibly smitten by The Bangs – soon to be the Bangles. I wish I’d seen them around this time; I totally love their first single and EP and their all-encompassing adoration of The Byrds, Monkees and Mamas/Papas. 

The review that really takes the proverbial cake, however, is Don Howland’s relaying of the 1982 Loretta Lynn/Ernest Tubb concert at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, OH. For those of you who know Howland from the work he’d later go on to do as a musician (Gibson Bros, Bassholes), he was also one of the finest and most subversively funny music writers ever to put pen to paper. Maybe he still is! To wit, some snippets from the show review:

“…Now Loretta attracts fans of all ages, from 3 to 103, and 10pm is bedtime for a good percentage of them, so glazed eyeballs were the order of the evening. And it looked like bedtime was a long time ago for show-opener Ernest Tubb. …He looked like a cross between a man who died a year ago and a man who died ten years ago.”

“…It was Ernest who introduced Loretta to the Opry stage a couple decades ago when she was still a timid little housewife. Woooo! ‘Little’ is still the word! What a shrimp! Those were my thoughts as the Coal Miner’s Daughter idled on stage after a brief intermission, belting out “If You’re Looking at Me, You’re Looking at Country”. I had imagined this idol of mine to stand about six-foot-six…..the whole sensation was a lot like the first time I saw Iggy up close – really.”

“…But the (song) I remember best was an homage to her Indian heritage (1/16th or 1/4th or something)” ‘Red, white and blue / Wa-oo, wa-oo, wa-oo / And proud of it too,’ set over some thumping tom riffage.”

Yeah. Get familiar with Don Howland as a writer if you’re able. I’ll take you through some other NY Rockers in this space at some point in the not-too-distant future. 

Brain Transplant #1

It’s hard to overstate just how intense and head-spinning the “KBD era” of punk rock record collecting was. I’d date the beginning of KBD to 1989, when the first four Killed By Death LP compilations of ultra-scarce 70s/80s punk 45s hit the streets, though purists might argue it was the year before that, when Year of the Rats!! came out, or how about ‘87’s release of Where Birdmen Flew, or maybe ‘86, when Me Want Breakfast! changed lives such as mine?

I bought ‘em all, and it was beautiful. Raging, classic punk rock singles from around the world, often originally pressed in editions of 100, offered up with 15 other screamers on quasi-bootlegs, in a time in which there was no internet and – in my case – limited income with which to procure the originals, except for the rare unexpected “bin find” at record stores during a time when most store owners didn’t have a clue as to what these were worth (or would be worth), nor any idea where to buy one. Did I ever tell you about the time in 1987 I found two original Urinals 45s packed into the same poly sleeve, selling for 75 cents each? 

Before long there would be a biblical flood of KBD products being unleashed by various bootleggers, sometimes under the shared “Killed By Death” moniker, but increasingly under other communally-shared labels. Most prominent was the Bloodstains series, usually easy to find in quality record stores and which took a region-by-region or country-by-country approach to punk 45s. (Fanzine Hemorrhage especially recommends the blistering Bloodstains Across California and all of the Bloodstains Across Sweden editions, in case you were wondering). There were the Back To Front compilations. The Murder Punks. Even Cumstains Over My Record Collection. Maximum Rocknroll had to put out an entire bibliographic fanzine devoted solely to these comps called CompHELLation to keep track of them all. By the mid-1990s, barrel-scraping had definitely commenced, so anything coming out after that time would usually have 1 or 2 ringers with the rest usually being dreck. 

It was into this maelstrom that Roger Mah and his Brain Transplant fanzine stepped in 1997. Far as I can gather, Roger was a UCLA student at this time and was clearly a KBD disciple and expert, and he nailed the most comprehensive interview with The Eat I’ve ever seen and likely ever will see. (The Eat’s “Communist Radio” was one of the key mind-blowers on Killed By Death, Volume 1). The interview goes deep on the band’s “Giggling Hitler” record label and on the South Florida punk scene of the late 70s. Brain Transplant #1 also reprints a Johan Kugelberg piece on Sweden’s Heartwork Records that was originally in Siltbreeze fanzine, and interviews Radio Birdman’s Deniz Tek. His reviews are terrific as well, covering all of the crazed cornucopia of KBD bootleg punk comp releases, along with reviews of the final gasps what I like to call “the great third wave of punk rock”, the 1990s garage punk explosion that itself took a ton of inspiration from the KBD records. 

Roger promises in the back of this one that his issue #2 will have “Unpublished Masque photos/anecdotes from Jenny Lens + more dumb punk rock records”. I know from experience that working with Ms. Lens can be taxing, if ultimately fruitful; as it turns out, Roger wouldn’t put out a second issue of the magazine until the late 2010s, and it didn’t have those Jenny Lens photos (but it was outstanding nonetheless, and I’m sure I’ll write it up here eventually). He spent the intervening years running a reissue label called, you got it, Brain Transplant

I recently asked him if he’s going to put out another issue, and he said (and I quote): “No”.