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!