"In Praise Of The Humble Fanzine" - A celebratory look at the subject by Alan Hewitt.
What is the difference between a fanzine and a fan club? Well, to the uninitiated, the answer is probably “not much”. However, to anyone who has been involved with either, will probably tell you that there is a great deal of difference between the two, hence this feature.
A fan club is usually set up either at the behest of the artist themselves or more likely their record company or management. The existence of a fan base gives them a ready made market place for any new “product” they may have to sell at any given time and they take every opportunity to exploit that market for commercial gain as has been evidenced by the sudden “creation” of a brand new OFFICIAL online fan club for Genesis after 20 years of leaving the likes of TWR to do the job and strangely enough, just in time for the recent tour and the release of the 5.1 remasters! However, we should point out that record companies ARE commercial concerns and bands ARE in the business of selling records to make their living so let’s not judge them too harshly here.
A fanzine is an entirely different kettle of fish, however. Usually a fanzine is set up by a fan or group of fans of a particular artist who wish to share their passion for the work of that artist with other like-minded people. This can also include being a lot more CRITICAL about the material the artist/band etc are producing; after all - fan clubs are usually run by EMPLOYEES of the artist or their record company and the kind of criticisms that fans can have are not usually tolerated in record company circles! This can also include just about any aspect of their career and usually in far more detail than any official fan club would ever countenance - especially on the vexed subject of bootlegs for instance! In most cases, despite the assertions of several “knowledgeable” commentators who have obviously never done the job themselves; the production and distribution of a fanzine is never an easy or profitable job. I certainly never made any profit out of either TWR or its sister; The Pavilion, indeed in the case of the latter …. Well let’s not go there, eh? Then again, making money is NOT what running a fanzine is about anyway, despite the assertions of some money-minded individuals. It is all about a communal passion for your subject that more often than not defies logic entirely.
So, if you take that simple question “why do you do it?” on board and examine the facts as outlined above, how can you answer it? It is certainly a question I have asked myself on more occasions than I care to think about during my THIRTY years of fanzine writing. “Thirty years?” I Hear you cry. Yes, that is quite correct. Twenty years (and counting) of running TWR and ten spent running its sister magazine: The Pavilion - you get a lesser sentence for murder these days!
Why do I do it? Hmm… the simple and most honest answer which certainly applied when I was cajoled into starting TWR with Ted and Peter was because no one else appeared to be doing so! Yes, there was an official fan club in existence when TWR originally appeared. However, there were many problems associated with it not all of them the organiser’s fault either, I may add. There certainly seemed to be a need for something such as TWR.
However, TWR was not the first dedicated fanzine about the band. That honour, as far as I am aware, must go to David Birtwell and Richard Harms who between them created Ripples in Australia in the autumn of 1986. This was certainly the first dedicated fanzine on the band that I was aware of, and a damn fine read it was too. Over the course of their 21 issues, Ripples managed to bring together so many of the other threads of the band and its solo components together that I am still using their issues as reference material after all this time.
Sadly, however, Ripples eventually closed down in April 1992, and the editorial from their final edition sums up some of the problems that all fanzines have to cope with….
“There are a number of reasons for this unfortunate decision, one simply being that we cannot devote the time that is necessary to keep Ripples at a desirable standard. Also and most importantly, for the past couple of years most of our news has come from what we ourselves have gleaned from newspapers, magazines etc and information sent to us regularly by a number of Ripples subscribers. In other words; we haven’t been getting information from the source, I.e. the management which is what we were initially promised…”
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why, prior to Ripples, fanzines tended to cater for the whole Progressive Rock genre in general. After all, it is far easier to fill your pages that way and fans were certainly well served by such general purpose fanzines as Slogans and Afterglow, the latter of which even contained contributions from our very own Ted Sayers no less! Both of these magazines flourished (if that is the right word?) during the early 1980’s when there really was a market for such things.
Ted must have been a glutton for punishment, however. Not only was he one of the founding fathers of TWR, but he had also tried his hand at a fanzine dedicated to Peter Gabriel. This was the first fanzine I ever read after Ted kindly gave me copies of all three issues not long after we first became friends. Hand made and corny as it might seem now, it was nonetheless avidly read from cover to cover by me and many more too, I suspect.
Ironically enough, Peter Gabriel has been by far the best served of all the band members by fanzines. Three more have appeared in the UK over the years to varying degrees of success and longevity. The first of these being White Shadow which commenced in the autumn of 1989. Written by Fred Tomsett, White Shadow provided a wealth of information on Peter’s career but sadly only lasted for four issues, with the last appearing in April 1991.
This gap was soon plugged, however by Mic Smith and the excellent Kontakt magazine. Another marvellous effort, Kontakt delved far deeper into Peter’s career than anything before (or since for that matter) and provided masterly reference material on many neglected areas of Peter’s work. Sadly, whether through lack of regular activity from Peter or lack of support from the man himself, Mic ceased printing Kontakt in April 2003 after 31 issues. The good news is that Mic is now hard at work on what will be without doubt an excellent biography of Peter.
The final Gabriel fanzine that I am aware of was Wallflower. Another short-lived effort put together in the early 1990’s by Chris Cannon. A meagre two issues were available before it ceased publication.
Back to Genesis. The creation of TWR has already been outlined elsewhere in previous issues so I won’t dwell on it here. However, it was not long after that a whole spate of magazines dedicated to the band began to emerge and not just in England either.
First of these was the marvellous Dusk Magazine which first appeared in March 1991. The work of long time Genesis fan and music journalist; Mario Giammetti. This magazine really set the standard for the rest and it is still a great read now. Published in Italian with an English translation accompanying later issues, Dusk is now the only remaining fanzine to publish a paper edition.
By the end of 1991, Dusk had been joined by Invisible Touch (later shortened to IT). A German language fanzine, the product of Helmut Janisch, Bernd Zindler and Peter Schutz. Another excellent magazine crammed full of information on the band and its various off-shoots. The magazine curtailed its printed edition back in 2000 and is now a dedicated web site.
America too got two excellent and entirely different fanzines during this period. First of these was 9/8: The Genesis Listener’s Magazine which was established in the early 1990’s and which ran for almost ten years. This was a magazine with a difference, focussing as it did mainly on the world of the band’s bootleg recordings. Published by Jeff Kaa, the magazine provided a fascinating and informative look at the subject as well as much useful reference material.
Joining 9/8, Supper’s Ready took up the cudgels of providing information for US fans in the winter of 1992. Published by Richard S Baxter, this was more of a newsletter than a dyed in the wool magazine. Nonetheless, it was a useful source of information and well put together.
France got its very own fanzine in the autumn of 1992. Simply called “Genesis” this was another well put together effort by Pascla Fourage and Katia Laurent which was published sporadically until September 1994.
Portugal too got in on the act with Tricks And Tales which was the work of Carlos Morais. Once again, as with the bulk of the other magazines, this one took a wide overview of all things Genesis within its pages.
During the 1990’s two other solo members of the band finally got the magazine coverage that they deserved. First of these was Tony Banks whose work inspired Gary Myer to create the Bank Account magazine in late 1989. A dedicated Banks fan, Gary produced a well informed magazine on our hero which generated three issues and several newsletters before finally ceasing publication in September 1996.
Finally Anthony Phillips got the coverage his career deserves with the creation of The Pavilion magazine in early 1992. The Pavilion perhaps has the unique distinction of being the only fanzine sanctioned as an official fan club publication from its very beginning. Established by Alan Hewitt whom you would have thought would have had more than enough on his plate to occupy him with TWR! The Pavilion continued in paper form for ten years publishing 18 issues and three newsletters until 2002 when it ceased publication and was replaced by Anthony’s own official web site initially operated by Jeremy Brown and now in the capable hands of Jonathan Dann.
And there you have it. As far as I am aware, I have covered all the major publications that have appeared in the last twenty or so years. Of course, the world is a BIG place and no doubt I have missed one or more such publications. So, if you know of a Serbo-Croat Genesis magazine or a Peter Gabriel fanzine from Bora Bora or anywhere else for that matter, let me know!
All Of the people who have created the magazines mentioned in this feature have one thing in common - INSANITY! No, seriously though, they are all people who got off their arses and DID something for the fans. They are all devotees of the band or its individual members. The hard work, time; resources and yes, MONEY that they have expended on this particular group of musicians is hard to explain to anyone who does not share the same passion. We all owe a debt of gratitude to their hard work and this article is intended as a celebration of that work. So, well done everyone. By the way, can I have Christmas Day off this year??!!
Genesis Fan Club/Fanzine Time Line
1971: The Hogweed Youth Movement created by Amanda Gardner is the first bona
fide official fan club for
Genesis. Operated in newsletter format, Amanda ran the club until 1975.
1976: Genesis Information created by Geoff Parkyn. Until the inception Of The Waiting Room, this was
the longest running info service on the band, publishing 53 issues and newsletters before its demise
1982: Peter Gabriel fanzine created by Ted Sayers. Running to 3 issues in total.
1982 also sees the
creation of Phil Collins News an off-shoot of Genesis Information, also published by Geoff
Parkyn. This magazine lasted until 1984 and in all 4 issues were printed.
1986: Ripples inaugurated in Australia by David Birtwell and Richard Harms. In all 21 issues are
published before the magazine ceased publication in April 1992.
1987: The Waiting Room inaugural issue published by Ted Sayers, Peter Morton and Alan Hewitt. In
all 44 paper editions were published before the magazine became a dedicated web site in 1998.
Now on its 68th edition and the longest established info service on the band in the world - and even
pre-dates the creation of the band’s own official web site by several months!
1989: Bank Account Tony Banks fanzine published by Gary Myer. White Shadow
Fanzine published by Fred Tomsett.
1991: Dusk Magazine publishes first edition in Italy.
1991: Invisible Touch publishes first edition in Germany
1991: Kontakt Magazine published by Mic Smith.
1992: The Pavilion Magazine published by Alan Hewitt.
1992: “Genesis” French magazine published.
1992: 9/8: The Genesis Listener’s Magazine published in USA.
1992: Supper’s Ready Magazine published in USA.
1992: Wallflower Peter Gabriel fanzine published.
1994: Tricks & Tales published in Portugal.
1998: TWR inaugurates its web site.
2000: It inaugurates its web site (Germany).
2002: TWR and The Pavilion cease publication of paper editions. The Pavilion
becomes Anthony Phillips’
Official web site: www.anthonyphillips.co.uk
2007: TWR celebrates its 20th anniversary.