A SENTIMENTAL, NOSTALGIC LOOK BACK AT THE EARLY ISSUES OF THE NEXT BIG THING!
It's amazing what things one will find while searching about for other totally-unrelated goodies. Take me f'rinstance...just last Sunday I was looking through about thirtysome years of collected flotsam/jetsam which I have stored in old apple boxes stacked and teetering in my closet, trying to locate a few well-worn issues of TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE just so's I could photocopy 'em for famed Australian somethingorother Dave Laing (note spelling...we're not talking the dingo fellator here!). Well anyway, while on the search for that legendary fanzoonie I came across a whole passel of readable goodies that I had been wanting to get my hands on for the past few months if not years. Amongst the finds were that issue of UGLY THINGS with Johan Kugelberg's junkshop glam article which certainly got my salivary glands into drool-mode, and although no TWGs were to be found I did get hold of a bundle of the early issues of the famed Scottish fanzine THE NEXT BIG THING which were xeroxed for me by none other than Imants Krumins (after a few years of pleading!) way back in 1990. And believe it or leave it, but even this far down the poop chute these NEXT BIG THINGs continue to satisfy my more basic music cravings than most anything out there on the reading scene these days! Sure, even an old issue of HOPPY BUNNY IN THE HAPPY FOREST is more energetic that just about every music mag one sees onna stands these days but who could deny that THE NEXT BIG THING is a read that stands upright and stalwart against today's cultured and snobbish music press, making for some extremely funtime reading in these rather placid times when the idea of rock & roll and high energy entertainment seem about as alien to your average alternative kultur denizen as wiping one's butt after a dump.
You all know THE NEXT BIG THING editor Lindsay Hutton from his currently up-and-running blog which I assume you have all read and enjoyed ever since the thing popped into being back in the nowhere year of 2003. But how many of you newly inaugurated readers know that this guy, while still an addled teenager, created THE NEXT BIG THING as an outlet for his pent up hostilities and anti-social behavior, a fanzine created NOT necessarily to go mano-a-mano with the reams of British "punkzines" then cluttering up the musical landscape but as something more akin to the classic Amerigan breed of reading that had been making minuscule waves but waves nonetheless for the previous few years...mags like BACK DOOR MAN, DENIM DELINQUENT (hokay, that one's Canadian!) and even a few more that certain toffee-nosed uppercrusts think I mention way too much both here and elsewhere. But so what if I mention 'em over and over (including THE NEXT BIG THING because Lindsay H. is what one would call a genius, and what's more he was putting out a fanzine that, while clearly dedicated to the "new wave" pre "gnu wave", was also blabbing on about all those groups the well-heeled punques couldn't stand like Blue Oyster Cult, David Bowie (!) and even Kiss! If it had developed into the early eighties I coulda seen DENIM DELINQUENT looking a lot like what THE NEXT BIG THING did during these early issues!
You can see the roots of Hutton's current-day curmudgeonness in these early NBTs as well...we all know what a crank the guy can be (and who'd blame him considering all the stories I heard about his dead end job at the golf club factory and besides having to eat bull balls day in and out can get to a man), and you can betcha bottom dollar that this sorta crankiness is what makes these NEXT BIG THINGs such a wonderful read whether one is on or off the toidy. And yeah, these early reads are the tippy top whether you're wanting to read about the up and coming wowzers in the music industry or perhaps the oldsters, and whatever Hutton is writing about is bound to bring a smile even to the most comatose of reg'lar BLOG TO COMM readers he being his ornery Scot self throughout each and every word of these wondrous mags. F'rinstance, take the debut issue of his mag (cover date "Spring 1977") which is sparse on the illustrations (cover drawing of Tom Verlaine copped from snap originally appearing in TROUSER PRESS, inside illio from BOC piece expertly lifted from some old ZIG ZAG and who knows where the Dictators snap came from!) but heavy on the teenage enthusiasm. And I mean teenage like I mean like back when I was a teenager and things like buying records and prowling through flea market bins was like an adventure Huck Finn never would've had the pleasure to come across! True, you coulda read all about the intellectual and perhaps even Marxist applications of what punk rock was all about in a myriad assortment of fanzines not forgetting Greil Marcuse even, but it's nothing like hearing it from a teen who hadda scrimp and save his dinero to get to hear the latest faves and not get it free direct from the promo man! And this was a Scottish teenager too and you know how tight with a pound those cheapskates are!
Even with the one-sided pages (Hutton didn't move on to double-sided saddle-stapled issues of THE NEXT BIG THING until the early-eighties!) and general make-do with whatcha got this debut issue has a lot more to say both content and image-wise than the entire run of any nineties era "Golden Age of Fanzine" read that you can think of, this particular one included. The articles on the Dictators, Television and the BOC are are nice talkin' atcha 'stead of toya pieces which, while not really opening up any new avenues or explaining anything new or out of the ordinary about these acts are pretty nice in their own rabid, teenage tartan way. Hutton also delivers his own personal take on the new phenomenon with a "history of punk" piece which naturally covers a lotta the same area as all of those other rundowns on the sixties garage bands and the New York Dolls 'n all them goodies, but it sure is grand reading some kid write about it 'stead of Dave Marsh blabbing on in farcical rants about his own particular take on the whole idea of punk nor Professor Marcuse's standard tying in of the usual indecipherable Frog philosophers whose main claim to fame was spreading AIDS across Paris back when people didn't realize the sexual revolution was long dead and gone!
Dunno if I could say that anything tops the debut NBT for typical fanzine stamina, but the rest of the early issues, even when Hutton would squoosh the mag pages down and print 'em sideways just like in TB SHEETS, sure read pretty good especially after having been inundated with the arid ROLLING STONE style of then and I presume now. True it may seem a bit obvious for Hutton to put the likes of Richard Hell and Talking Head on the cover (using Sire Records promo pix to boot!) but given the "neo-Velvets" stature of both acts who could fault the guy raving on about 'em (Heads much more than Hell who seemed to come outta the late-seventies unscathed unlike David Byrne and crew) back when they seemed like a lung-fulla fresh air next to the stale farts that were popping forth from the charts and college dorms of the day. The musical coverage, while firmly seated in what was going under the new wave "rubric" (copyright 1985 Robert Christgau) was way more varied than it was in other fanzines of the era, perhaps due to the inclusion of writer Brian Guthrie who seemed more or less to be an underlying conscious of the mag, the Corporal Boyle to Hutton's Sergeant Carter. And so if you could expect Hutton to rah-rah the more bodacious aspects of the new underground rock it was Guthrie who seemed to add a bit of, er, "class" to the proceedings that is if you consider articles on Ultravox classier than those on Pere Ubu.
As the mag continued to grow with what seemed like a regular publishing schedule (something that inspiration BACK DOOR MAN was barely able to keep up with and DENIM DELINQUENT didn't even attempt!) and even more pages per ish, the covers got more detailed, cluttered and perhaps even fun-looking with pastiches from STAR TREK, STAR WARS (shudder!) and GREASE (double shudder!!!!) appearing on the front. Dare-I-say these covers sure looked professional and even the innards, still printed on one-side and all with Hutton's lettering capabilities growing by leaps and bounds, were covering the better aspects of the late-seventies "scene" w/o the political smarm nor the chic oneupmanship that you could find in a load of subpar sputum vying for your punkist moolah. The layouts were improving and it was a joy for the eyes to read Hutton's smart and THINK FOR YOURSELF smattering of pieces on a whole slew of people you wouldn't expect like the Tubes and Bowie, but still it was a charm to glom up some interesting natalistic raves on the Human Switchboard (and Human League!) as well as other acts that seemed to peter-poo out once the rabid seventies transmogrophed (I made that word up, neat huh?) into the pee-pee eighties.
By the close of the decade Hutton was getting more and more people to write for NBT (and not just everyday people but those of might and perfection!) and the mag seemingly joined the garage band fragment of the great late-seventies punk rock bust-up (along with KICKS and perhaps FUTURE), and although the magazine eventually did go double-sided and professionally printed around 1981 and the likes of Miriam Linna, Gary Sperrazza!, Gregg Turner and the rest of the surviving fanzine mafia were continuing to contribute I personally gotta say that the latterday issues just don't have the same zing, zang and zip of these early NBTs. Oh they read great enough and even the graduation to slick covers and more pages in the mid-eighties was a welcome evolution, but the feel and energy of the earlier issues is lacking perhaps because the later issues were so well done. I assume that the lacklustre music scene of the eighties and Hutton having to rely on articles on Dead or Alive and Clarence Clemmons is what made NBT a publication that was merely "really good" and not fantabulous outta this world like it usedta be, and considering what a mess those days were with the fun and energy seen in the seventies doing a 180-degree turnaround, it's no wonder that most if not all rock reads of the time come off rather feh in comparison. And like I said Hutton is still at it on his very own blog which is nice if you like to read the obituaries to see if your name is in it, but I only wish he had the same kick and verve (and more record reviews!) that he did back in the day. It would be nice if Hutton lived up to his natural anti-social self and did a whole lot more ragging on people on the "scene" he deems unworthy (his anti-NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS tirades were pertty funny with smart anti-communist gags thrown in which were bound to get the typical Working Class British pseudo-radicals all in a huff!) like he probably will on ME once he reads this piece, but I guess we're all older and perhaps worse off all these years later. But what can ya expect from a guy who hates dagos, taigs and those who don't eat sweetmeats anyway? (Sheesh, just kidding LH!) Awww I shouldn't complain...I mean us chromebus domebus types should stick together in the face of follicle tyranny, right Lindsay??? (And while I'm at it, any way I can get that Erasers tape you reviewed sent to me on a disque???)
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
A SENTIMENTAL, NOSTALGIC LOOK BACK AT THE EARLY ISSUES OF THE NEXT BIG THING!