For as long as I can remember I have loved the concept of the magazine. I have adored the short, accessible format — the fact you don’t have to dutifully read from left side to the other. – like you need to with a novel. You can dive in to any page and that shouldn’t affect your experience. And because I am a visual thinker – magazines marry words with pictures — and this just spells things out to my simple, shitty brain.
It may seem odd, but the first taste I had of magazines were “woman’s” periodicals. Perhaps because I was brought up by my dad, perhaps cause my dad just didn’t give a shit – we didn’t have ANY magazines in the house. Yet when I visited relatives, they were everywhere and it was like finding treasure. I would flick through all that terrible, glossy-pulp, but be quite content. Indeed in Woman’s Day in the 80s they had this feature on the last page called, “Five Minute Fiction” and it was a one page story, inevitably with a twist at the end. Luckily my step-grandma was a magazine-hoarder (like I have become) and so I spent any quiet time in those summers I visited (which was about 90% of the time) reading every single one she had. These stories taught me an incredible amount about story-telling and how in the briefest time possible you could keep the reader interested all the way to the end. And it kinda became my philosophy of songwriting — you have to give the listener a reason to keep with it to the end. A song, like a story, needed a beginning, a middle and an end.
Now I think about it, my Dad did have some brief infatuation with women’s magazines. When we moved into the first house we owned – he quite gleefully collected some of these trashy magazines from various Grandmas and friends and clipped out all those pictures of royalty. Diana, Charles, The Queen etc. And this is a TRUE STORY, next he literally glued them to evey inch of the walls of the bathroom and giggled every time he told someone the reasoning, usually when they said, “What’s with those pictures in the toilet?”
And so he said, “Etiquette says you are meant to stand up in the presence of Royalty”. And most people would half-heartedly chuckle but you could see they were a bit secretly disturbed and definitely a bit perplexed at the same time. And meanwhile I had to exist, every day, in my father’s “gag”. What that meant when I stood up to pee I was always a bit unsure of. Did that mean I was a Royalist?
So, getting back to the topic. The next magazine I was infatuated with was MAD. And this was the first magazine I could actually afford to buy and own. And as it happens I have miraculously kept a few from that period.
The one on the right is actually my friend Simon’s. I will return it to him one day!
The next magazine addiction I had was “SMASH HITS“.
It was so cheap and printed on such shitty paper that the posters I clipped out would disintegrate within weeks after I blu-tacked them to my wall – but I didn’t know better. I also started my first scrap-book around this time where I cut out stories about my favourite bands or hot rock n roll babes like Martika or Colette that I fancied.
When I was a bit more “mature” I suddenly started buying Rolling Stone.
I am not sure if this is the first issue I bought, but it seems to be the oldest I have kept. In the story Axl talks about how he can remember being born. Even at 15 I was like, “Wha?”
After that it was guitar magazines. These were the first “specialty” magazines I ever bought. They were tough reading. It seemed you needed a lot of technical knowledge, a degree in musicology and know how to play Stairway to Heaven behind your head like Jimi Hendrix just to comprehend a few pages. It was more data than art, more technical-manual than stuff you read while taking a bog, but I got used to that. And they also had these “Tabs” so I could learn all my favourite rock songs.
When Kurt died I discovered all the British press and was quite impressed by the sense of humour and detail and willingness to do stuff that took the piss out of rock stars, but then just go so freakishly deep into telling the story. Like, they would devote whole magazines to the Beatles. And I had read at least 10 Beatles bios, but reading a MOJO or Q special, it was just utterly refreshing and like I was learning about them all over again. (I am a really, really big Beatles fan btw – I don’t think I’ve mentioned that here yet.)
And then it was the “zine era”.
So then when you are old enough, smart enough – or just BRAZEN enough – you write and print and distribute your own magazine – right? And this is what I did. First was a zine about Custard, then much later I did “Rock is a vicious beast…” which I have been occasionally posting excerpts from in this blog.
The picture above is a collection of zines I have kept. Shred, Smoking Dog Press, Jeeper’s Kreepers etc. Most of these are from Brisbane. The last row are some of mine.
And it goes without saying that these days I buy the odd bike magazine. They are quite disappointing I should say. They look good and they are sometimes inspiring, but sadly quite bloody-minded with their devotion to the “sport”, rather than the “culture” or the real-life stories. It feels like I am suffering guitar magazines all over again.
I must admit, I quite enjoy Frankie. I obviously don’t buy it, but if its lying around somehow I find heaps to relate to in it. And I think that is secretly the point.
But in saying this it is a bit weak. It is the magazine-version of “Instagram“. I guess it is what it is.
And here is the best magazine I have ever known:
This is New York Magazine. It is so fucking good I cannot begin to explain. The design, the detail, the stories. Amazing. Gobsmackingly so.
It’s produced weekly. We subscribe and it arrives about 6 weeks late, but it is still relevant then cause it’s so ahead anyway – being produced (and mostly about) the literal centre of the universe. And that is no exaggeration.
I will prove this with an in depth, graphical review one day. Stay Tuned.
So, to round things out, I love reading a scrappy bunch of paper with two saddle-stitched staples through the spine. It’s old school, but New York magazine has found a way to be as cool, or cooler than anything on the internet. Trust me.
As a designer myself, who actually has to produce magazines all the time – I guess that exacerbates my love affair with this format. Long live the mag.