The Birth of Fanzine Culture in 1970’s British Punk

Punk Rock history

THE BIRTH OF FANZINE CULTURE

It’s well known that Punk transcends music and embraces social activism, political protest, independent media, and alternative lifestyle. Punk included revolutions in the fields of dancing and body expression (I mean  stuff like pogo and stage diving), contestation of prevailing ideals of beauty (I mean mohawks and torn-up clothes which spell “Fuck the Fashion!”), as well as innovations in rock’n’roll aesthetics (I mean, speedy 3-chord screamalongs). Jello Biafra, shouter and growler at The Dead Kennedys hardcore factory, gives good piece of advice for youngsters who are willing to keep the Punk legacy alive-and-kicking when he recommends: “Don’t hate the media, become the media!” That’s sort of what happened with the rise of fanzine culture inside the Punk movement circa 1976 / 1977. One of the most important of the zines born-out out the Punk Scene was Sniffin’ Glue, whose 8th edition cover is reproduced above. Pamphlets in black-and-white, reproduced in cheap Xerox machines, where absolute freedom of expression was practised, were flooding England around the time of The Sex Pistols’s attack against the rotten British Monarchy. While the Pistols were being brats against the Queen and EMI and square society in general, and The Clash was shouting about how bored they were with the U.S.A. and calling for a White Riot, fanzine culture also made its loud statement of dissent and status-quo criticism. Here are some details more – quoted from The British Library and The Guardian – about how fanzine culture got started and ended-up inspiring many people to stop merely hating the bourgeois media crap and to start becoming themselves a rioting media of their own.

“There was no comfortable position for punk in mainstream culture when it exploded in England in 1976. The mainstream media could not accurately speak for punk, and punk could not represent itself through the mainstream media without radically compromising its own nature. Misrepresentation was inevitable because of the particular nature of the movement. Punk declared: ‘Stop consuming the culture that is made for you. Make your own culture’. It rebelled against established forms of expression and consumption; it was mainly expressed and experienced live… Sniffin Glue, the first punk fanzine, was produced by Mark Perry in July 1976 a few days after seeing US punk band The Ramones for the first time at the Roundhouse in London. He took the title from a Ramones song ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’.

Perry’s fanzine was the perfect punk form. It reported the moment immediately as it happened, reporting it from an insider’s point of view. Because Perry used everyday tools that were immediately to hand, Sniffin’ Glue fit with the do-it-yourself ethos which was already an important part of punk culture. A flood of punk zines followed with identifiable cut and paste graphics, typewritten or felt tip text, misspellings and crossings out. Photocopying also contributed to punk zine look by limiting graphic experimentation to black and white tones and imagery based on collage, enlargement and reduction. Sniffin’ Glue demonstrated that anyone could easily, cheaply and quickly produce a fanzine.” –BRITISH LIBRARY.UK 

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PUNK
“Sniffin’ Glue wasn’t the first fanzine – Punk (which famously coined the genre’s moniker) started self-publishing in New York six months earlier – but its primitive Xerox’n’Sellotape aesthetic was the perfect medium to capture British punk’s early energy, and to inspire a generation of copyists.

Founded by bank clerk Mark Perry, aided by friends Danny Baker and Steve Micalef, its first cover boasted (in felt-tip scrawl) stories on the Ramones and Blue Öyster Cult. Soon, however, Sniffin’ Glue was offering grass-roots reportage on British punk’s first flowering, while also lambasting the Clash for signing to the major label CBS. Sniffin’ Glue was primitive but opinionated, offering a crucial alternative voice to the mainstream music papers (most of which were late to cover punk’s rise) at a time when none was available.

Though Sniffin’ Glue never actually printed the legendary instructions often ascribed to it – “This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band” – (that was Sideburns, another punk zine from 1977), its example spawned a slew of followers – including Jamming!, Burnt Offering and Chainsaw (which featured ribald cartoons from a young Andrew Marr) – and established a culture of DIY underground rock criticism that thrives to this day, both in print and online. Perry, meanwhile, ended Sniffin’ Glue in 1977 after 12 issues, concentrating on his own punk group, Alternative TV.” – THE GUARDIAN

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