The History of Punk Fanzines

One thing that is in the heart and roots of the punk movement is the DIY mentality and aesthetic, from cut up charity shop clothes, to literally wearing bin liners as an outfit, this is obvious throughout the punk fashion world. The music too, was very DIY, recording albums themselves, doing promotion themselves and even booking country wide tours from nothing more than a van, a list of phone numbers to different venues and, most importantly, some raw rock n’ roll. But there is one aspect of punk culture that is seemingly overlooked by all except the most hardcore of fans. Fanzines.

Fanzines have existed in nerd and science fiction culture since the early 1940’s but it seems that punk, with its do-it-yourself mentality, gave Zine culture a whole new life. They were drawn up by hand, usually by one or two people. They would then find a primitive 1970’s photocopier, sometimes through sneaking into office buildings, and copy as many as they could before getting into trouble. These sheets would be taken home and either folded or stapled together by hand, often only numbering a few dozen zines at a time. But what these pieces of paper could do for a young zine writer and the punk scene in general no one could have anticipated.

Often punks in their early to mid-teens and would not be allowed entry to gigs, either from parents protests or bouncers outside clubs. And when they finally were old enough to go to gigs, zines had two key advantages for bands and audiences alike. The zines acted like promotion for all the punk gigs in the area, and what’s more they were a great way to make friends. Simply go to a gig and if you see someone you think might make a cool friend, walk up and offer to sell them a zine, breaking the ice and often leading to interesting conversation about the bands featured. So, Zines (along with the John Peel show) became the definitive way to find out about all these new and emerging punk bands. Fanzines like Sniffin’ Glue became legendary instruments in educating those band of youths that eventually would form their own punk bands into the 80’s and 90’s.

Today, most fanzines are just like this one, digital blogs numbering into the tens of thousands, and will rarely get made into physical copies. But that is why I think my plans for a Needs More Cowbell fanzine, if executed properly, could work extremely well. It’s a largely forgotten concept I am trying to give new life, using the same methods that those punks of old did. Sure, the chances of getting rich are slim to none, but that’s not why anyone should be interested in music. It is all about passion, passion for art, passion for culture, passion for people. I truly hope that when this zine is finally ready. You, my dear viewer, will be prepared to read it.

Peace, Love and Cowbells,


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