Progressive Rock Fanzines
Jerry Lucky Commentary August 2017
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2017 All Rights Reserved
Recently I was reading one of the comic journals I subscribe to and in that issue was an article talking about the history of comic fandom. As part of that story the author included images of some early sixties comic fanzines. For those perhaps a little too young to know or remember a “fanzine’ is an amateur, limited release “magazine” usually devoted to a very specific topic, produced at home by fans. These were typically photo-copied or perhaps even mimeographed in the hundreds and then sent out by snail-mail to a mailing list of other fans who’d requested it. That little trip down memory lane took me back to the early days of Progressive Rock fanzines.
In the early eighties while I was at FM103, the radio station I managed, I was producing and voicing a Progressive Rock Radio show called Exposure. In 1983 and 1985 I traveled to England specifically to gather information for my first book The Progressive Rock Files and in the process discovered some early Prog fanzines. One mailing list led to another and I started to hunt down anything I could find. Some of these turned out to be very focused on specific bands or artists such as Pink Floyd like Ivor Truman’s – The Amazing Pudding or his Syd Barrett piece Opel: The New Syd Barrett Newsletter others on the band YES such as Relayer produced by the team of Bryan Lee and John Kennedy or the band Genesis called Afterglow produced by Roger and Russel Morgan which ultimately began covering all the bands emerging from the Progressive Rock revival taking place in the early eighties. A couple had a more European slant but most were produced in England.
As I looked through my Fanzine collection, I was struck by the many memories they re-kindled. They are certainly products of their time. Keep in mind; this was well before the Internet and the World Wide Web. It was shall we say a more relaxed time as we didn’t expect to have information instantly at the touch of a few key-strokes. It was a time where the expectation was that we would wait for the information to come to us in the mail and “Special Delivery” was about the quickest you could expect. One of the things I noticed that was common to almost every publication was a portion in the opening comments where the person putting it together was apologising for the lateness of the current issue. It does make you realize that this was a lot of work. So I thought I’d provide a little summary here of the Prog Fanzines I collected in the early eighties. In no particular order…
A fellow by the name of Keith Halden produced a publication called Revelatory. It was approximately eight inches by five inches and covered all the latest happenings in the resurging prog world with interviews, band profiles and live and disc reviews. Issue number 2 was dated October 1983. The couple issues I have featured unique hand-drawn art of the covers and featured a kind of cut-and-paste interior pages with poorly reproduced high-contrast photos, album art and band logos everywhere. I really liked its hodgepodge approach with all kinds of little articles here and there.
There was Slogans produced by David Pickering and Andrew Wright which was already on issue #10 when I received it in January of 1984. It was a sixteen page affair stapled at the top left corner filled with short-ish articles about all the current happenings be they recordings or live events. There was even a budding letters column along with some reprinted articles from other music publications.
Perhaps the fanzine I was most involved with was one called Exposure, just like the name of my radio show. It came out of Holland but was produced by British transplant named Ronnie Larkins if my memory serves me right. Issue number one came out in January of 1983 and like the many that followed featured a coloured-paper cover with a hand-drawn image of a wizard of some sort, stapled at the top left corner. Inside were the usual cut-and-paste images stuck side-by-side with articles, reviews and band profiles. Rather than simply photocopying photos of the bands Ron would feature sketches or drawings of the artists featured. Every issue featured a column called Europhonic Rock which profiled some long lost or obscure European Progressive Rock artist. It was handy for me gathering this kind of obscure information on bands I might play on the radio. By issue number seven the slog of producing a twenty-six page fanzine on a regular basis was starting to show. The other thing that turned up in that issue was an interview of mine with Pendragon. Issue number eight, the last one I ever received featured two of my interviews; one with Terraced Garden and Keith Goodwin.
Yet another interesting publication was Court Jester produced by Jeremy Ewing and Rick Cook. Now some of you may recognize Ewing’s name as the editor of the contemporary glossy full colour PROG magazine and that would be him. We all have to start somewhere and it wasn’t a total surprise to see Jeremy’s name on the mast head of that magazine. I knew from the fanzine days he held a passion for the genre. My first issue was number four that arrived in the mail in November of 1983. It turned out to be the biggest issue up to that date, eighteen pages plus hand-drawn covers front and back, stapled in the top left corner. Court Jester covered all the bands that were popping up during that time with interviews and in-depth concert and disc or mostly cassette tape reviews.
Lastly then there was Afterglow produced by Roger and Russel Morgan. I mentioned them earlier. Their fanzine started life as a publication devoted to Genesis, but with issue #11, the first issue I picked up the editorial talks about their change in focus to cover the growing Prog scene. Issue #11 showed how much more advanced Afterglow was in comparison to the other fanzines available at the time. This was a semi-professional twenty four-to-twenty six page “magazine” with nicely reproduced photos and centre-stapled. A shock of red was used for the title logo; it was typeset, with proper layout techniques and even boasted upwards of thirteen contributors! Nicely done. The last issue I have was number thirteen and I’m not sure how much longer it lasted.
Of course there were other fanzines that I came across in later years such as British based Audion: The New Music Magazine that was established in June of 1986. It started out like many of the others but by the time I picked up a copy of issue #38 off the newsstand in 1997 it had become a slick black and white glossy paper publication. There is Wondrous Stories: The Journal of the Classic Rock Society that started publishing in 1991, a fine publication that also eventually took on a colour cover and slick inner pages. In the early nineties I came across a couple issues of a nicely produced four page fanzine produced in Redmond Washington called the North West Progressive Music News and then there was the long running Music News Network Newsletter out of Florida produced by Christine Holz and Lisa Mikita. I suppose in some senses you might even consider the more comprehensibly distributed magazines likeExpose and Progression in this category as well. And to their credit some of them continue to this very day.
So there you have it. These are treasured relics of the by-gone days to be sure. It’s fascinating to flip through these pages and to know it was sheer love of the genre that produced them. These individuals all shared a deep passion for Progressive Rock music and put parts of their lives on hold in some respects to produce fanzines just so they could share that passion with others of like mind. I am grateful to have known some of these people and to have exchanged letters and shared information with them. Without them my own appreciation for the genre would have been so much less. So to all of you who had a hand in creating, producing and distributing any of these Prog Fanzines – a tip of the hat, a raising of the glass and a great big THANK YOU. Prog fans around the world owe you all a debt of gratitude. At least that’s what I think.