1980s fanzines
I have a box full of old fanzines from the 1980s that somehow didn't get thrown away over the years. I'm not sure why I kept these in particular out of several hundred more that passed through my hands, but I'm having fun looking through them again after leaving them to gather dust for such a long time. In some cases I found a note or letter from the person who produced the fanzine, plus I've got quite a few flexi discs that were given away free with various issues....

In the aftermath of the punk rock explosion and long before desktop publishing, the internet, file sharing or blogging existed, a new wave of fanzines emerged that were as important as John Peel and the NME for finding out about new music and what other people thought of it.

Initially most of these fanzines concentrated on articles about bands, interviews (often done by mailing the artist a list of questions), reviews of records and gigs, gig photos, coverage of local music scenes and so on. But they also increasingly became vehicles for non-musical content - personal and anti-establishment rants, collages, art, cartoons, poetry and "ranting verse", short stories, socio-cultural, political and historical issues, the promotion of causes (like vegetarianism, environmentalism, alternative lifestyles, anarchism, anti-racism, feminism and anti-sexism) or specific organisations (like Amnesty International, Traidcraft, Greenpeace, Mencap, CND, Hunt Saboteurs and the Animal Liberation Front)....

Spelling mistakes, bad grammar and egomania were commonplace but nobody really cared. Fanzine writers were free to say whatever they wanted without having to worry about journalistic standards and conventions or the demands of owners, publishers, designers and production editors.

In the beginning individual pages were written either on a typewriter or by hand (or a combination of both) - sometimes with the aid of Letraset sheets - and often illustrated with original drawings and artwork, as well as images and text cut out of newspapers or magazines, which were generally used with a sense of irony and literally stuck on to the rest of the content.

The completed fanzine was then either photocopied and stapled together, or printed by companies like Better Badges.

Fanzine writers often encouraged their readers to create fanzines of their own, even to the extent of writing "how to" guides which would generally include a breakdown of how much everything cost....

By the end of the decade more sophisticated alternatives had appeared with the onset of personal computing and printing, but these were still very primitive by today's standards and far from universally available.

The emergence of independent distributors helped to spread fanzines around the country. It also became customary for fanzines to include (usually favourable) reviews and/or the mail order details of other fanzines. So buying one zine often led you to send off for several more....

Nevertheless, although some fanzines ended up selling hundreds or even thousands of copies, sales were generally very modest and rarely led to the writers making a profit. The vast majority had small print-runs and many were entirely self-produced and distributed (mainly by selling them at gigs and persuading local record shops to stock them), with maybe as few as 50 copies in total. It was also rare for a fanzine to last for more than a few issues and many were deliberately created as one-offs.

I decided to start scanning and posting the covers of the fanzines I’ve got and also to scan some of the most interesting articles, interviews, photos, reviews, artwork and cartoons that they contain. Although music-based fanzines were my primary interest, I also regularly bought comic-zines, football fanzines and whatever else was out there....
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