Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fanzine Culture

I have just been flicking through NME's Rock'n' Roll Yearbook 2006. What made me pick it up (normally I am anti-NME - always having been a loyal Melody Maker reader on account of how it was better; plus the boyfriend was their chief photographer for nine years so we have a family loyalty) was the mention of the word "fanzine" on the cover.

As a someone who spent two years playing at being a fanzine editor (a little self-congratulatory I know, since I was the only person who worked on it), this interested me. In my day (1994-5), there was no internet or email, and I didn't even have a computer for the first issue. And even when my Mum did get a Mac, my computer skills were so minimal that I could only print on A4 and then had to take it to the photocopy shop to get it reduced to A5. Those were the days. Interviews were conducted over the phone or via the post. The result was that I still have a stack of lovely, hand-written letters from some of my favourite pop stars of the time (Stephen Duffy, Miki from Lush, Bernard Butler from Suede, Amelia from Heavenly and her now-deceased brother Mathew, Animals That Swim...) accompanied by all sorts of presents: badges, drawings, stickers, photos etc. And that's something the internet age just can't recreate: the personal touch.

But looking at NME's 2007 interpretation of the fanzine I feel disappointed. Initially I felt hope: at last, someone has seen sense in the faceless format of the internet and returned to the joys of Pritt Stick and photocopiers. But no. Encased within a glossy, A4 book (£5.99), are 15 pages of what the NME (which now calls itself a magazine) calls a fanzine (15 pages of poorer quality paper within the glossy cover). This has apparently been created by bands such as Razorlight, Franz Ferdinand, Long Blondes and Bloc Party. But I can't help wanting to cry at the accompanying photos of the aforementioned bands weilding rolls of Sellotape and Pritt Sticks... because you know that's as far as their involvement in this 'project' went.

However, the whole thing struck me as a little irnoic. I have spent the morning researching late '70s/ early '80s Scritti Politti, with a view to basing my next MA essay on the ties between Scritti's political beliefs and the literary trends of the period (I'm serious!). I started this endeavour at 10am, and by 10.15am I had come across three email addresses for people in the band. In my fanzine days, that would have been gold dust (just as it is now to a devoted lifelong Scritti supporter). And as I was trawling the net, the whole thing reminded me of how glad I was that I just about caught the end of the pre-internet fanzine golden day.

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