Following on from my last post, further trawling through The Generalist Archive has turned up some other pioneering music magazines from yesteryear.
Above is one of my great favourites – the first issue of Rolling Stone that I was able to buy in Britain. It was probably available in London but this was the first issue I’d spotted in the South. I can vividly remember buying it from an old-fashioned newsstand on Brighton station. It is actually Issue 25 dated Jan 4,1969. Little did I know at that point that the following July I would see the MC5 live at Phun City – their first ever British gig.
‘Irreverence’ was CREEM’s stock in trade. A hugely influential magazine, CREEM is credited with first use of the term ‘punk rock’ and ‘heavy metal’. Based in and around Detroit, they championed Iggy, the MC5, Alice Cooper amongst many others, and ridiculed the pomposity of the music business. There’s a good Wikipedia entry and more good stuff on the magazine’s official website. I like this quote from an essay by Lisa Brody:
‘CREEM employed an indelible coterie of writers of broad literary and cultural scope (and a first-rate sense of fun) including Robert Chistgau, Dave Marsh, Patti Smith, Greil Marcus, nowhere-near–famous cubby Cameron Crowe and, of course, the muddy-water stream-of-consciousness of Lester Bangs.’
Here’s a slice of Lester’s work, reproduced in an interesting essay - ‘Can’t Forget the Motor City: CREEM magazine, Rock Music, Detroit Identity, Mass Consumerism and the Counterculture’ by Michael J. Kramer.
‘Well, a lot of changes have gone down since Hip first hit the heartland. There's a new culture shaping up, and while it's certainly an improvement on the repressive society now nervously aging, there is a strong element of sickness in our new, amorphous institutions. The cure bears viruses of its own. The Stooges carry a strong element of sickness in their music, a crazed, quaking uncertainty, an errant foolishness that effectively mirrors the absurdity and desperation of the times, but I believe that they also carry a strong element of cure, a post-derangement sanity. And I also believe that their music is as important as the product of any rock group working today, although you better never call it art or you may wind up with a deluxe pie in the face. What it is, instead, is what rock and roll at heart is and always has been, beneath the stylistic distortions the last few years have wrought. The Stooges are not for the ages--nothing created now is--but they are most implicitly for today and tomorrow and the traditions of two decades of beautifully bopping, manic, simplistic jive.’
Bangs had a big influence on the NME and as I recall came to London to hang out there. He died too young in 1982 aged just 33. Nick Kent made a pilgrimage to see him which is recounted in his autobiography ‘Apathy For The Devil’. See PREVIOUS POST: NICK KENT
‘Who Put The Bomp’ was a rock music mag edited and published by Greg Shaw from 1970-1979. This issue is No 10-11 dated Fall 1973 and is devoted almost entirely to British beat groups. Wikipedia calls it a fanzine but this issue carries an emphatic headline at the top of the contents page: NOT A FANZINE.
Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus were amongst the contributors. Shaw had previously worked with David Harris on one of the earliest rock fanzines Mojo Navigator and Rock ‘n ‘ Roll News in 1966. He later established Bomp! Records which he ran until his death in 2004.
All this stuff is brought together in a book - ‘Bomp! Saving the World One Record At A Time’ by Suzy Shaw and Mick Farren. See www.bomp.com
Fusion is more of a mystery. As the name suggests, it brought together music with politics and culture. There is no Wikipedia entry for the magazine or its editor Richard Somma so don’t know when the paper started and finished. The Kinks issue (left) is dated Nov 28th and probably dates from 1969. It opened out to an A3 format. On the right is an issue Feb 1973 with a different A4 format, stapled, with glossy cover and newsprint innards.
I am indebted to the I Witness blog for the following. No idea who the writer is:
‘Once there was a fine Boston-based rock-and-politics magazine called Fusion. It survived for several years in the late Sixties and early Seventies as a solid rival to Rolling Stone. Among those writing for it were Robert Somma (Editor), Michael Lydon, Paul Williams, Robert Christgau, Lenny Kaye, Sandy Pearlman, Nick Tosches, Jonathan Demme, Robert Gordon, John Gabree, and William Kunstler. The magazine even published Peter Guralnick's first book. As far as I know, Fusion has vanished into rock history now, but I published a few decent pieces in it.’
There is a reprint of a cover story article that Robert Somma wrote for Fusion on the birth and death of the Boston Sound.
See also Robert Christgau’s ‘A History of Rock Criticism’ in which Fusion is noted as ‘cerebral’
These are rare issues of the short-lived rock fortnightly ‘Strange Days’ which was conceived and edited by my old mate Mark Williams who was kind enough to fill me in on the mag’s back story:
‘Having worked for Rolling Stone and launched/edited International Times’ music section (‘Plug ‘n’ Socket), I was keen to launch something distinctly British that embraced the irreverence and cultural values of the latter and the focus of the former. My naive mistake was to approach the UK arm of America’s Kinney Corp, then publishing Marvel Comics over here under licence, as I thought they’d ‘get it’ and wanted to move further into the young adult market. They indeed were willing, but I had to jump through hoops to keep editorial control and the stress of doing so, and setting up a new mag from scratch, got the better of me. When the first couple of issues failed to sell in the numbers Kinney expected, they pulled the plug and wouldn’t let me try and re-finance it elsewhere.’
Incidentally, the subject of the third issue’s cover story - ‘Britain’s Greatest Unknown Group’ were a Birmingham band named Bachdenkel. Find out more about them here.
SEE ALSO PREVIOUS POST: ZIGZAG MAGAZINE. Features the covers of the first 16 issues.