Jarvis Cocker on fanzines

Sheffield's Go fanzineA good point came up in Jarvis Cocker’s history of fanzines on Radio 4 this week (you can still listen to the second part if you’re quick). It was pointed out that the sort of people who produce these magazines wouldn’t be seen dead doing it on MySpace, so feeding the profits of the industrial-military complex in the form of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Of course, many people are happy with blogs and social networking sites and some have gone commercial – Viz growing from Chris Donald’s bedroom to a million sales an issue in the late 1980s (and first issues now fetch £950). Private Eye could be described as starting out as a zine too. However, the Luddites prefer paper with its intimacy and sense of personality that they feel cyberspace can’t give. Distribution is through art bookshops or hawking them around wherever will sell them.

The programme goes back to the 1980s in the days of cut and paste and Cow Gum driven by enthusiasm for punk. A mate of mine – Alan Pipes – did one in Guildford called Barbed Wire (The Vapours were the big local band then). Liverpool’s Mercy and Sheffield’s Go get a good mention from Cocker.

The survival – and even growth – of fanzines and non-commercial titles – enthusiastically covered by Jeremy Leslie at Magculture – may well be a sign of a backlash at the increasingly corporate nature of magazines. It’s also where a lot of the fun is being had in terms of freedom to write and design – just as Oz did 35 years ago. Handmade, argumentative, quirky and personal as they are, zines are not going away.

British Library pages on fanzines.


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