18 de maig 2005

Bob Stanley y los mejores fanzines

Un gran artículo de Bob Stanley sobre fanzines aparecido en el Times online donde además mencionan a nuestro admirado Kevin Pearce y su Hungry Beat.
Excusas a los no angloparlantes

Fandom of the pop era
By Bob Stanley
Fanzines come and go - farewell then, Beatles Monthly - but they have always been vital to the music
SHED A TEAR for The Beatles Monthly Book. Not because it’s coming to an end after 40 years, apparently because there’s nothing left to write about Liverpool’s favourite sons, but because of its impeccable timing. A few days after the announcement, long-lost tapes from the Get Back sessions were recovered during a series of Interpol swoops on continental bootleggers. Short of discovering Lord Lucan himself pressing up copies of the infamous outtake No Pakistanis, it could hardly have been more newsworthy.
It might have sold 300,000 issues at its peak, but The Beatles Monthly was a fanzine of the old smudged-ink school, written by pop obsessives for pop obsessives. Britain being a tightly wound, obsessive country, it has produced fanzines since the dawn of rock — even before the Beatles there was Elvis Monthly (“always 100 per cent Elvis!”) and later Billy Fury Monthly (“always 100 per cent Billy!”).
But the British fanzine came into its own when Mark Perry’s Sniffin’ Glue was born in 1976. It may have featured Blue Oyster Cult in issue one, but this collection of Xeroxed missives from the punk underworld was our own Situationist International. Within months British youth was armed with guitars and spoiling the harmless jubilee fun.
Once punk had burnt out and the likes of Howard Jones were numbing our brains, the fanzine was reborn. Alan McGee’s Communication Blur was his first step on to a Bransonesque pop ladder, but more important and influential was Hungry Beat. Written by a ticket collector from Bexleyheath called Kevin Pearce, it was droll, intelligent and fiercely passionate about pop. The three Hungry Beats deserve to be reprinted as Penguin Modern Classics.
Pearce’s discontent blossomed into myriad fanzines espousing back-to-basics guitar pop with an edge. By 1986 there was Are You Scared to Get Happy from Bristol, Simply Thrilled from Glasgow, Perturbed from Birmingham, Troutfishing in Leytonstone and Adventures in Bereznik from London among a zillion others, all fired by a hatred of Wham! and a love of the Beatles, the Byrds and — the cardie-clad kings of C86 pop — the Pastels.
Fanzines fought the indie wars. In retrospect, most were better than the pasty-faced music they championed and the general public ignored. When the revolution finally came, it wasn’t jangly guitar pop that ousted Phil Collins and his cronies, it was the futuristic chimes of acid house.
Are You Scared to Get Happy said it was looking for “spontaneity, invention, something raw, aching, impulsive, burning uncontrollable in bright pop colours”. What it eventually got was Travis faking drunkenness and schmoozing with Chris Tarrant at industry awards dinners.
With no editorial control, the Eighties fanzine abused exclamation marks terribly, and while some were dreadfully po-faced, others came across like Dada on a diet of E-numbers. From Peterborough, The Horn was filthy and fantastic, lampooning the scene like a proto-Brass Eye. The journalist Peter Paphides thought nothing of decorating the back cover of his Perturbed fanzine with a photo of Les Dawson with a speech bubble saying, “My wife’s dead”. When he went to interview the Godfathers at a gig in Wolverhampton, they waved it under his nose growling: “What’s this? It’s sick. You’re sick.”
For my own publication, Caff, I once wrote to Creation Records requesting an interview with Primal Scream only to be informed curtly that “Primal Scream do not do interviews with fanzines”. So I invented a Smash Hits-like personal file on Bobby Gillespie instead. When a girlfriend of mine interviewed him shortly afterwards and mentioned that she knew me, Gillespie said nothing, then picked up her tape recorder and smashed it against the wall.
Fanzines remain an essential tool to rein in rampant egos and cut out corporate journalism. A British music monthly recently ended a long-running column that regularly flayed sacred cows from Van Morrison to Joy Division — the publishers reckoned it was affecting their advertising revenue. But a fanzine can be as political as it likes and never be blackmailed by advertisers or press offices.
Moreover, it’s a healthy apprenticeship — while the Eighties fanzines produced maverick pop writers such as Paphides, James Brown and Simon Price, the lack of a corresponding Nineties scene has led to a generation of music journalists who seem incapable of saying anything remotely opinionated or personal. Instead, post-acid house, British fanzines have revitalised the fashion and art scenes. Frieze is the contemporary Hungry Beat.
Overseas, the pop fanzine is in rude health. The current issue of Gail O’Hara’s Chick Factor happily sits the Dutch group Solex alongside a Bush-baiting rant. Like other top-rated American fanzines such as Ugly Things (specialising in Sixties garage rock) and Cha Cha Charming (girl pop with a heavy Japanese angle), Chick Factor maintains a fine website to complement the printed word. Anyone who thinks the web could kill the fanzine misses the essence of pop. Searching the web is like putting money in a jukebox to hear a favourite song — buying a fanzine is like owning the record.
It’s hard to grasp how Beatles Monthly really ran out of things to print. The glossy, quite beautiful Dusty Springfield Bulletin maintains a healthy letters page, reprints old interviews, and even presses CDs of unreleased recordings some years after the lady’s demise. Similarly, the death of Maurice Gibb shouldn’t affect the standards of the fact-packed Bee Gees Quarterly.
More likely, after 40 years and more than 400 issues, the Beatles Monthly editor, Johnny Dean, needed an extended tea break. He remembered the fanzine maxim coined by an obscure Scottish publication c 1986: Do It for Fun.