Ringing in a new decade with Lee Ving’s “salute to the 80s” on the cover, the first issue of a new year of Slash is absolutely phenomenal. It would, alas, be Slash magazine’s final year. Now I’ve said this before, and said before that I’ve said it before, but this is my all-time favorite fanzine. I put together an entire tribute issue of my own fanzine dedicated to Slash, which you can download here – just so you know where I stand and all. At some point we might talk about each issue in these digital pages.
Let’s start with editor Claude Bessy, aka Kickboy Face. Kickboy was so artful in his bon mots in response to letters to the editor, and often even humble and friendly to Slash’s analog correspondents if he felt they’d made a particularly insightful point about the magazine, the punk scene or a particular band or club. However, sometimes he was less than charitable, and those were the best. See the scan at the bottom of this post.
By this time, Slash was not as solely focused on Los Angeles as it was punk and underground rock writ large – what we now call “post-punk”, you might say. They were not calling it that then, if you can imagine. If someone interesting came to town, they were getting interviewed. This issue brings Joy Division and Psychedelic Furs interviews; I think we can all agree that the latter, on their first album, were quite alright! Slash says “Their music sounds like a fight between The Velvet Underground and The Stooges against Roxy Music and X-Ray Spex”, which may be a bit of hyperbole, I’m afraid, but try listening to “Dumb Waiters” and tell me you don’t dig this era of the band. Slash were also really into the Two-Tone UK ska bands at the time – there’s an interview with Madness here – and I have no beef with that either, not in the least. I nearly sobbed with joy when I saw The Specials do this in 1980 on Saturday Night Live on a rare night my parents let me stay up, so don’t let me hear you talking down to the rude boys and girls.
For a moderately underground publication, the roll call of acts interviewed in this issue alone who are now on t-shirts worn by millions is pretty stupendous. Bob Marley talks with Kickboy. I told you about Madness, Psychedelic Furs and Joy Division already. The Buzzcocks. The Fall. And thankfully, LA stuff too – “Catching up with The Bags”, a band who’d been around for over two big years by that point. There’s an interview with beach punks The Crowd, as “beach punk” was becoming quite the thing.
And oh my, were there some crazy bills the previous month in LA: The Fall / X / The Germs / Suburban Lawns one night; Black Flag / Fear / The Urinals / The Last the next. This issue also includes long reviews of brand-new records out that month: London Calling. Metal Box. 20 Jazz Funk Greats. New Picnic Time. Kickboy does a very admirable job with The Clash record in particular, neither knocking them down too far nor buying into what they were trying to sell by that point – mostly he makes fun of the praise that he knew would be heaped on this 2xLP by folks who couldn’t even whisper the word “punk” eighteen months earlier. He was spot-on. And loads of these fine reviews were by Craig Lee of The Bags, whose stint as a lead writer at Slash didn’t really last all that long, but he did go on to write about music for the LA Times before leaving us too early in 1991.
I mean, every issue of Slash is this good, not merely for the immense envy it provokes in me for those of you who were going to these gigs and buying these records in the immediate moment, but for it being what someone called “a towering giant of literate, eye-popping, on-the-ground Los Angeles punk rock reportage and graphic design.”
This same scribe says,
“These weren’t merely Hollywood party people who were getting drunk and puking on the cops – though they were that! – this was a loosely-assembled collection of exceptionally talented writers, photographers and graphic designers who saw the opportunities this subculture provided them to cleave off entirely from the dominant Los Angeles narratives of the day (sun, cocaine, easy vibes, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Steve Garvey, tennis, Hollywood filmmaking) and create something dark & exciting, something that truly subverted the proverbial “dominant paradigm”.
So we’ll go with that as a summation for this one, and see what we can come up with next time we bring one of these around the ‘Hemorrhage.