Thursday, 21 April 2011

Tipp-Ex and Letraset: From a Fanzine to a Blog

I'm muddling through this Blog thing, as you might have guessed, and in the process of setting it up it took me back to the early to mid-80's when I used to put together a fanzine called "Out Of Step". I was in a band at the time and originally we thought doing a spin-off magazine might be a good way of promoting us whilst throwing in a few of our interests along the way. I got hooked on it and it grew from there to include reviews and interviews with other bands and general articles - swapping contacts and helping to promote other like-minded souls. I then started releasing cassettes of bands featured in the fanzine and it opened up a whole world of cooperation between bands and other fanzine editors, actually editor sounds a bit too grand..."makers" would probably be more appropriate. I was on a Youth Opportunities Program - funnily enough the Careers people didn't think I was being serious when they asked what I wanted to do and I replied "play bass like Jean Jacques Burnel" - and I used to sneak into the office after working hours with my letraset, tipp-ex, stapler, glue, a stack of photos and cuttings and position myself at the typewriter.

Even back then the technology was too much for me as most of the evening would then be spent kicking and un-jamming the laser printer or trying to work out the best way to get the double-sided copying to work, always a tricky feat. I would then take a carrier bag full of the finished fanzines to gigs and try and palm them off to people in the queue outside or approach likely looking suspects at the bar like some sort of punk rock Arthur Daley,  "pssst, do you wanna buy a fanzine? Only 20p guv". It used to work though, there was a big appetite for fanzines at the time, some bands would make a point of only speaking to fanzines as they "didn't trust The Press" or was it "The Man"? No, mainly it was "The System", so it might be the only chance you had to read an interview or catch up on a band's news.

Otherwise the fanzines would be sold at our own gigs or mail-order via adverts in the Melody Maker or mentions in other fanzines and it was always very satisfying when you received a letter from overseas such as Germany or Japan. Usually these didn't include the regulation SAE either so you'd be out of pocket straight away as the postage would be far more than the cost of the fanzine itself.  It certainly wasn't a profit making enterprise put it that way.

Although the technology may have changed enormously over the years, I can certainly see the similarity between today's Blog culture and that of the old-school fanzines of the early 80's, when I first brandished my Tipp-Ex and Letraset.

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