Between 1983 and 1986 a revolution took place in indie music, with a sudden explosion of new bands, record labels, fanzines and clubs. Bored with the synth(etic) drivel of the charts, The June Brides, Shop Assistants, The Pastels, Yeah Yeah Noh, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Big Flame, the Wedding Present, Miaow, The Mighty Lemon Drops, Bogshed, The Membranes, Fuzzbox, A Witness, The Wolfhounds and dozens of others reached out, fusing punk ethics and pop art tactics to created a DIY sound unequalled since the time of Punk. The music was played in clubs like The Living Room, The Cellar Bar at Thames Poly, Bay 63 and Room At The Top and released on labels like Creation, Pink, Ron Johnson, Vinyl Drip, 53rd & 3rd, Subway Organisation, Vindaloo and In Tape. Hundreds of fanzines sprang up to document the moment.
Yet incredibly there has been no comprehensive book on the music or period that many recognise as 'the birth of Indie'. Until now. I was fortunate to be witness to and write about many of the bands and key moments of the period - I was there when the records came out, when the riots took place, and I co-compiled the legendary NME tape C86 which codified the music and 28 years later remains a powerful cultural icon. For every one of those 28 years I have wanted to write in depth about those times and bands - almost all of whom I interviewed for the NME - and the time has now come to do it!
This won't be the boring, conventional music history. Yes, I'll revisit the established music press for their take, but will focus as well on the thousands of fanzine interviews that the bands and label heads gave at the time, talk to the musicians and fans. It will cover both the more melodic sound more commonly associated with Indie and the more discordant side which tends to get overlooked. It will, more than anything, be the gospel according to those who were truly passionate about the music - and took up voice to let everyone know. I'll revisit my own archive of interviews and am part way through conducting a further 50 or so interviews. I'll keep everybody updated throughout. Many, if not all, of the major players involved have agreed to speak with me for the project.
My previous book, Document & Eyewitness: An Intimate History of Rough Trade, was published through a conventional publishing house, but this project is crying out for the DIY treatment that crowdfunding can achieve, and the approach where everybody is involved. Although I would get a larger advance taking the conventional route, that would inevitably mean some things would be 'lost' in translation: looking at the fanzines and small clubs would almost certainly be deemed 'commercially unviable' and there would be pressure to over focus on the marquee names, like The Smiths rather than the equally-as-interesting lesser-known acts, which is wrong.
So, why me? Well, I've known many of those involved for over three decades and written extensively about them, I had a big hand in bringing into the world C86, and indeed have curated the forthcoming 3CD Box Set of C86 which Cherry Red release in June. (An extract from the essay I wrote to accompany the box set is posted below.) I'm hoping to be able to fund enough time to finish the writing of the book (which is nearly fully researched and about one third written), which remains the last great area of post-punk music to be properly written about. Anything extra will be ploughed back in to the project in the form of flyers, T shirts, badges, etc which I'll share.
The book will be a Demy hardback of high quality, something I can be confident of delivering since for the last 20 years I have been working in Publishing. The book will include some obscure and largely unseen images of fanzines and flyers from the time. Already, many artists, record label folk and fanzine editors have been incredibly generous in their support in terms of allowing me to reproduce these images and I am thrilled the book will also include some rarely seen and truly wonderful photographs by archivist of the scene, Paul Groovie, who took a number of photographs (The Television Personalities, The Pastels, The Jasmine Minks, etc) and made sound recordings at clubs like The Living Room in the very early days. He is the Alan Lomax of this period. The design project brains will be Simon Williams who is dreaming up a whole host of goodies, some of which are already listed in the rewards category.
There are two Facebook pages dedicated to the project, a C86 & All That page (dedicated to the writing) and an 80s Fanzines & Ephemera page (dedicated to the visuals) which I hope are an education in themselves. Links to these can be both be found in the About Me section.
I am not alone in wanting to see a book like this happen: together, hopefully, we can turn the project into a reality...
1984 / Television Personalities / Jesus & Mary Chain / ‘Social Surrealists’ – Extract, C86 Sleeve Noteshttp://wp.me/p4vpC4-1h
Risks and challenges
There are a number of potential obstacles, but hopefully I am aware of them and should they arise I will be able to overcome them. As far as writing the book goes, there is the possibility that a number of people chose to not contribute their thoughts. At present I am overwhelmed by the show of support and feel that all of the major people involved will come through. Indeed the book is already half written and interviews have already been conducted with a number of important figures. I will regularly post updates and snippets from the interviews. Another potential banana skin might be the actual production of the book, but with nearly twenty years experience as a publisher I can confidently say that I will be able to deliver a high-quality product. It will also be on time - the experience of writing my first book, which drew together a ragbag of sources and covered a long period - has taught me the discipline of keeping the writing on schedule. A variant of some of the material - around 12,000 words - appears as sleeve notes in the forthcoming C86 reissue. I have posted a sample of this elsewhere. The main thing I would like to stress is that communication will be clear and regular - everyone is part of this project and everyone will be kept informed at all times. I'd also welcome any suggestions from those who experienced the scene themselves. This was the people's music: the people should have their say!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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