Attentive readers with long memories will recall that I had embarked on a series of scans of pages from my 1980s fanzines. The undertaking got derailed by a mixture of an antiquated scanner finally meeting its match in the form of Windows Vista, and my depression at the awfulness of the majority of the contents with which I was faced. Now that I have a twenty-first century scanner, I’m beginning again – keeping in mind this note made by William Empson: ‘Sir Max Beerbohm has a fine reflection on revising one of his early works [Zuleika Dobson]; he said he tried to remember how angry he would have been when he wrote it if an elderly pedant had made corrections, and how certain he would have felt that the man was wrong.’
The back cover star of Too Much Hanky Pantry was Mervyn Peake, a somewhat unfashionable writer in 1987, and hardly any less so now. But it’s still a pleasure to be borne slowly along by his marshalling of the sensitive grotesques that people the three parts of the Gormenghast trilogy; and Peake’s doorstop has the distinct advantage over Tolkien’s of a much greater need to understand the human condition.
Though there were East Anglian folk of whom it might have been formed, the Sugar Beat Collective sadly remained a figment of my imagination. The editor of Gobstopper would have been a member; in this issue, instead of reviewing fanzines, I quoted best lines, and his were: ‘Camp! Everybody get camp!’ and ‘I’ve changed from a miserable sod pretending to be happy to a happy sod pretending to be miserable.’
From the first issue of Caff (editors Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs) I quoted part of ‘The Vod Duck story’: ‘[Walt Disney’s] version of Vod was called Daffy and – minus the big red star on the neckband – Daffy Duck was a big success.’
Coca Cola Cowboy #2: ‘I never met a banana I didn’t like.’ Within the same issue, Juniper Beri-Beri (Stephen Pastel) wrote: ‘If you prefer your food straight off your girlfriend’s stomach rather than on a plate, then the Vaselines are probably the group you’ve been waiting for.’
When Saturday Comes #6: ‘When you’re bored with Arsenal, you’re bored with life’ – attributed to Bob Wilson!
Are you scared to get happy? #3: ‘WE’RE COMING TO GET YOU who are just far too lost to understand the magic of a pure bright light in a darkened room or like JUST TOO FUCKING OLD in simple terms.’
Frolik # 1 on the Soup Dragons: ‘This music makes me want to pour custard into someone’s underpants.’
Pure Popcorn #4: ‘We, the sweet melodies of youth, invite you suckle our collective breast (figuratively speaking of course) and elevate your tawdry existence (YOU SUCK!) to a higher plane of being.’
I should mention the geographical spread of eighties fanzine production. It was a nationwide phenomenon, with outposts in every town and city, and a fair few of the villages and hamlets too. You could, of course, listen to John Peel anywhere, taking inspiration from the music and making postal connection with the fanzines whose contact details he read out on air. As he used to say, ‘Where do they get these names from?’