Indie Originals: The New Hormones Story

The story of New Hormones records 1977-1983

Posts Tagged ‘fanzines

Jon Savage – The Secret Public

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The following article first appeared in “Linder: Works 1976-2006” (jrp/Ringier, 2006)

THE SECRET PUBLIC

“JS: I’m fascinated by gaps in communication…

HD: I‘m all for them. I don’t believe in closing them up. I believe in trying but not succeeding. They’ve got to be big enough for an average-sized adult to pass through comfortably. There will be communication gaps until they’ve got the whole world bugged. There’s something totalitarian about complete and perfect understanding. Do you see what I mean? They give you room to breathe, time to think”
Jon Savage: “Howard Devoto: Heart Beats Up Love” (Sounds, 5 November 1977)

“S&D: You wrote ‘Autonomy’ – can you say what it’s about?

Steve (Diggle): Well, it’s a discussion between the two sides of your personality – it’s about discipline in yourself, like then you say you’d really like to do something and you haven’t got control: you’re not autonomous.”
Jon Savage: “Buzzcocks” (Search and Destroy 6: April 1978)

The Secret Public was published in Manchester during the first month of 1978. It was the second New Hormones product – catalogue number ORG 2 – after the Buzzcocks’ already iconic Spiral Scratch, and was distributed through Rough Trade and other independent outlets. Priced at 40p (although, as this was nowhere mentioned on the cover, the prices tended to vary), it failed to sell out or make any money. Not that that was the point, which was to do it, get it out there, and see what happened.

Like many products of that time, The Secret Public was the result of a far wider collaboration than just the two featured artists. Linder and I may have physically altered the images, but also involved were: Richard Boon (finance, distribution and support), Howard Devoto (creative and practical support), Ruth Marten (the lettering on The Masculine Principle Has Gone Far Enough), Steve Montgomery and Geoff Travis at Rough Trade (distribution), Malcolm Garrett, Judy Nylon, Vivienne Goldman, Vale of Search & Destroy, Ian from the Worst, and the four members of Buzzcocks, just then recording their first album.

The wider creative matrix of The Secret Public was: David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust For Life’, Buzzcocks’ ‘Orgasm Addict’ and ‘Sixteen’, live shows by Siouxsie and the Banshees, Subway Sect and the Fall, the first three Pere Ubu singles, Devo’s ‘Live At the Mabuhay’, Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans-Europe Express’, Throbbing Gristle’s ‘First Annual Report’, Sounds’ ‘New Musick’ issue, Paul Morley’s Girl Trouble, Eno’s ‘Music For Films version 1′, Wire’s ‘Pink Flag’ and Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. Between the last night of the Electric Circus and the Sex Pistols’ last show at Winterland, this period encompassed the death rattle of first-wave Punk.

Responding to this, The Secret Public attempted to dive further into the sea of possibility heralded by Patti Smith. It seemed possible to do so because of the extraordinary proliferation of the fanzine economy: by autumn 1977, there were literally hundreds of self-published magazines that you could buy in Rough Trade, Compendium, and similar alternative shops around the country. Most were formatted like junior issue tabloids, but ‘zines like Glitterbest’s Anarchy In The UK and Andy Palmer’s Observer dispensed with all but the most minimal text and focussed on imagery and texture. This then was our self-imposed remit.

*****

“enclosed are the latest montages I’ve done – hope you like them…I’m very excited about the idea of doing a magazine – I think our work would mix well together. If we’re going to do a 12 page broadsheet size format (ie Anarchy in ther UK size) we’ll need 13 montages…I can produce 4/5 right now, using old stuff as well by next week. I’ll try and do 2/3 more to give plenty of choice. Cos don’t forget we need one extra for back/front covers…I dont’ know about printing costs etc…Some of them would need screening up from the size they’re at…I can provide up to £100 if necessary but maybe Richard Boon can come up with something between Buzzcocks traumas…it might be cheaper in Manchester too…(should be black and white). Shown your montages to various people – Rough Trade, Viv Goldman, Judy Nylon…general verdict is that they’re amazing – so there you are. New Bowie album is beautiful (dreamt about it last night) – post everything music.”
Jon Savage: letter to Linder, early November 1977

It all came together very quickly. In late October 1977 I went to Manchester to interview Howard Devoto for Sounds and to review the last night of the Electric Circus. During the course of that weekend, I met Linder – who shared a house with Devoto in Lower Broughton Road, Salford – and was awed by her handbill for an October Buzzcocks show: ‘cosmetic metal music/manicured noise’. I thought it was roughly along the same line but much better than the montages that I’d been doing for my own amusement and occasional commissions. By this stage, Linder had just completed – in collaboration with Malcolm Garrett – the now classic single sleeve and full-size poster for Buzzcocks’‘Orgasm Addict’ 45.

Both of us had come to a similar place by chance design. Linder was already receiving art training [ay Manchester Polytechnic]: “I remember the pure pleasure of photomontage. I had spent three years working with pencil, paint and pen trying to translate lived experience into made marks. It was a moment of glorious liberation to work purely with a blade, glass and glue. Almost a scientific methodology. Sitting in a dark room in Salford, performing cultural postmortems and then reassembling the corpses badly, like a Mary Shelley trying to breathe life into the monster. For a short period I’d found a perfect mode of articulation.

“Punk was cutting out the question, ‘Can I do this?’ I began to do bits of collage, quite naturally. I took lots of photographs and wondered, what could I do with them? I started to get bored, and then moved from collage to montage, using scalpels, glass cutting. I’d always loved magazines and I had two separate piles. One you might call women’s magazines, fashion, romance, then a pile of men’s mags: cars, DIY, pornography, which again was women, but another side. I wanted to mate the G-Plan kitchens with the pornography, see what strange breed came out. I did it all on a sheet of glass with a scalpel, very clean, like doing a jigsaw. Rising above it all.”

For my part, the attraction was in being to express myself in purely visual terms. My day job was as a trainee lawyer, my second job as a journalist for Sounds, but neither was enough. I’d always worked with parallel text and visuals[1] but here was a chance, such as would not be found in hierarchical London, to let rip with the imagery of Dawn Ades’ Photomontage[2]: the accumulating skyscraper stacks of Fritz Lang and Walter Ruttman, the dismembering done by Max Ernst and Hannah Hoch, the political savagery of John Heartfield – whose summer 1977 exhibition at the ICA was a major stimulus. Then there was Norman Ogue Mustil’s beat/ surrealist Flypaper[3] and Skot Armst’s contemporary Science Holiday.

It was all coming to one point, and that was given precision by our instrument of choice: as Linder writes, “The knife used was a surgeon’s scalpel still made in Sheffield by Swann Morton Ltd. The packets of blades look like condom packets, I think we used blade No 11a for our cutting out work.” Cut-ups were in the air of 1977, a way to cut through the detritus of twenty years’ plenty – in my case, old copies of National Geographic and Picture Post – the sheer boredom of commercialised punk rock. The knife offerred a certain visceral, brutal control: it was a process at once violent and peaceful, which allowed the subconscious to come through.

Looking at the magazine now, I can see that Linder’s five montages have a distinct unanimity of theme: the dismemberment of women by conventional attitudes to gender and sexuality. They are all set in the home, perhaps the prime location for violence. The centrepiece is T.V.Sex, a startling vision of sexual alienation, where the distinctly human bodies (hairy, a bit fat) are topped by TV heads (the racing’s on: must be weekday afternoon); the background is catalogue furnishing 1977 style, pristine, with no hint of bodily secretions or emotional entanglements. These techno-humans are divorced from their bodies and themselves.

On page 2 is the image that titled Buzzcocks’ first album: a perfect kitchen dominated by a woman, naked and bound, inserted within a saucepan; inverted eyes and a slashed, lipsticked mouth leer from her mixer-head. Pete Shelley: “Another Music in a Different Kitchen was a mixture between Linder, Howard and Richard. We were trying to think up titles for the montages in The Secret Public and Howard said,‘ another housewife stews in her own juice in a different kitchen’. We shuffled it around a bit and it came out like that. It’s like an extension of dada where you get a meaningless phrase and you free-associate with that to find out what it actually means. And it gets a meaning and then you DO the meaning.”

Applying this to the Savage imagery, I can see various strands coming to the surface: Strength and Health is the homoerotic man-machine, taken from a nudist magazine; pages four and five are Metropolis transplanted to New York, with strong hints of media saturation (like the Slits sang on‘F.M’, “my nightmares don’t project my dreams”) and eco-doom. I’m a New World Fan was a simple depiction of my day-by-day life in 1977, going round and round the Circle Line, and The Masculine Principle Has Gone Far Enough is self-explanatory: like Linder, I had been attracted by the freedoms that Punk offered to the sexually divergent. We were both, for different reasons, appalled by the return of culturally-sanctioned laddishness in the latter part of 1977.

Despite the fact that The Secret Public sourced both hetero- and homosexual pornography, we were genuinely surprised when we had trouble trying to find a printer who would print the magazine. As Linder writes: “The one we eventually found wanted paying in cash without receipt. Some left wing bookshops wouldn’t take TSP because of its content.” It seems obvious to me now that the Secret Public is not erotic and that any sexuality in there is either covert or highly polemical. A case in point: the only penises in there, while engorged, are placed next to missiles and lipstick to make a point about phallocentricity in social life rather than sex.

“Then you do the meaning…” The most striking thing, twenty four years and two snake cycles later, is how predictive of our biographical future The Secret Public seems. I look at those images now and see the desire to work with imagery that saw me move to Manchester to work in television, the obsession with sexual politics that has been a constant in my writing, and the sheer fascination with New York that has led me to visit Manhattan over 30 times. Read as a visual diary of 1977, I would have to say that I can’t have been very happy then, but then I don’t remember happiness being possible or even desirable at that point. I feel sympathy with that person, but I am no longer him.

In Linder’s case, The Secret Public marks the meta-feminist concerns that have taken her through montage to music – with Ludus – and video performances, to installations and performance pieces. As she writes now: “I didn’t realise it then but the process of montage (as the ultimate container of dichotomy) has formed an invisible continuum throughout all I’ve done to date. Even The Return of Linderland had the audacity of montage to let Ann Lee cohabit with Clint Eastwood, old with young, faith with nihilism, north Manchester with the West.”

I now think that The Secret Public wrote its own script. It was a deliberately hermetic document that forced you to enter on its own terms. There were few concessions to any ideas of marketing and accessability. Hearts were not worn on the sleeve. It fully explored its dichotomies: cool designed outer images covering angry, savage montages, women placed in bondage but by their own design (or is that in itself a product of internalised oppression?), metropolises that offered opportunity and excitement at the same time as they ate you alive. Its impact was qualitative rather than quantitive: perhaps this is why, at its best, it has not dated at all.

[1] See “London’s Outrage” (Dec 1976) and “London’s Outrage 2” (Feb 1977) and sundry issues of Sounds, eg Singles Reviews for 5 November 1977.
[2] Dawn Ades: “Photomontage” (Thames and Hudson, 1976)
[3] Norman Ogue Mustill: “Flypaper” (Beach Books, 1967) – this and other Beach Books including William Burroughs’ “Apo 33”, were on sale cheaply at Compendium Books, Camden Town during this period.

COPYRIGHT JON SAVAGE 2006 – Republished with permission.

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Written by justintoland

March 12, 2008 at 12:37 am

Fun with the Crones

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City Fun fanzine began life as a collective venture (a bit like the MMC of print). Liz Naylor recalls buying the second issue in “about 1978: I was at a Fall gig at Droylesden Town Hall and bought a copy. It was Roneod [mimeographed] and it was kind of crude and it printed everything than anybody ever sent in. I was just 16 and a rather angsty teenager. So I wrote something I find incredibly embarrassing. And they printed it.”

Naylor then got involved with the running of the publication and also brought her girlfriend of the time Cath Carroll on board. “At that point we had collective meetings and it was all very open,” she says. The City Fun collective was founded by “a guy, Andy Zero – I’ve no idea what his real name was – who was a total hippy and lived in a place called Mossley which is on the outskirts of North Manchester and worked in a wholefood shop or something,” recalls Naylor. “There was a guy called Martin X who didn’t live anywhere, who was a kind of bizarre vagrant, who was quite old. He was probably in his late 30s then. And he managed The Distractions at the time. There was a guy called JC and a guy called Neil. I mean it was the culture where you’d have to have assumed names because everyone was signing on. And JC and Neil had a squat in Hulme, about two minutes walk away from The Factory. Anybody could crash there. So [City Fun] came out of a hippy/Hulme squatter type milieu.”

“[Andy Zero] secured distribution through this indie mag distributor who lived several bus rides away in North Manchester and who seemed to sell the stuff that more mainstream distributors would not touch, for reasons moral and/or economic,” remembers Cath Carroll. “After a couple of years, it was just us and Andy and we became so insufferable that he left,” she says. “I was a very young punk and I was utterly disdainful of his kind of hippyness,” admits Naylor.

After their power struggle with Zero (“makes it sound like the Conrad Black empire,” laughs Naylor), the two women decided to make City Fun more professional, publishing monthly rather than on an irregular basis. The content also became more focused: “It sort of emerged that you just got endless poems sent by people and Andy was very much like, ‘we print everything’ and we were like, ‘no, this is just shit, we don’t want people’s poems’,” explains Naylor: “A bit of quality control.”

Stuart James remembers Naylor and Carroll’s reviews of bands as being “Very funny – just very honest.”

City Fun held a couple of fundraising gigs, including Stuff the Superstars in the summer of ‘79 with a line-up that included Joy Division, The Fall and the Frantic Elevators. “Various bands were supportive of us and one of the big bands that was supportive of City Fun was The Fall because they were outside of the emerging power base of Factory Records. And they have remained so,” says Naylor. “There was a very close relationship with The Fall and there was quite a close relationship with New Hormones,” she adds.

“[City Fun] was a very important alternative voice in Manchester at the time,” believes Naylor. The only other ‘underground’ periodical was The New Manchester Review, “which was run by a load of hippies as far as we were concerned,” she says.

Carroll and Naylor took great delight in winding up the Factory Records crowd in print. “We always thought Tony [Wilson] saw right through the Factory baiting – we were clearly obsessed – but he [claimed] he took great offence, which is not what we wanted,” says Carroll. “We were particularly keen on writing about Vini Reilly, with particular reference to his hey nonny-no haircut and gentle minstrel-like persona. He came up to us when we were selling City Fun at the Hacienda- it had just opened- and asked if we were the ones who wrote the pieces. Vin may seem like a gentle creature but he had hard man Wythenshawe Slaughter and The Dogs connections and can take care of himself very nicely. We were wondering if we’d escape with teeth but he bought us a drink and said how much he enjoyed reading what we wrote. And thus began a delightful friendship.

“In fact, everyone at Factory took it very well. Peter Hook was always exceptionally civil, except when we were extremely rude and grumpy once backstage at a Joy Division/Distractions gig and he called us couple of bad names, which made us very happy,” grins Carroll.

As well as commenting on the music scene in City Fun, Naylor and Carroll soon got involved at the sharp end, badgering Alan Wise into giving their band Gay Animals some support gigs. They also started representing Ludus under the name Crone Management. The name came from Linder, recalls Naylor. “Linder was forever reading feminist literature both fiction and non-fiction and I think it came from one of those early feminist books about reclaiming language: ‘the word crone has always been associated with witches…’ The whole management thing was just complete concept. I don’t think we did anything. Linder just liked the idea of having us because me and Cath were very posey: Cath would wear a black cape and I would wear a full male suit. We’d go to the Beach Club absolutely dressed up and Cath took to wearing white face make-up to look more deathly.”

The Crones had an important role to play in Ludus’s notorious gig at the Hacienda on November 5, 1982, when Linder opened up a meat-lined dress to reveal a large black dildo. “When I saw Buck’s Fizz I was so angry. I thought ‘I’m going to take my skirt off at the Hacienda’, recalls Linder. “I wanted meat – I felt strongly as a vegetarian that eating meat was wrong,” she adds.

“With Liz Naylor from Crone Management I went to the Harmony Centre [one of only two sex shops in Manchester]. It was family run. We told the owner we wanted a dildo. I don’t think either of us really knew what one was. He asked what colour and at the same time Liz said pink and I said black. He asked what we wanted it for. I said it’s for stage. He disappeared and came back a few minutes later with a thing called ‘Spunky the spraying penis’ – ‘It’s a little too theatrical’, we said. Eventually he produced a fairly standard black dildo. So we bought it went for a cup of tea at Kendall’s. Liz got it out and said ‘looks fine’.”

On the night of the gig, a cocktail called the Bloody Linder was on sale in the club’s Gay Traitor bar. ‘Bloody’ tampons and cigarette stubs were left on each table. Naylor and Carroll handed out chicken gizzards wrapped in gay pornography. “The management of the Hacienda freaked out because they didn’t want their Ben Kelly designed floor to get bloody,” recounts Linder. “We were shown the door very quickly.”

“That was a great performance piece,” reckons Richard Boon. “Just a fantastic piece of work.”

COPYRIGHT JUSTIN TOLAND 2007/2008 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Written by justintoland

February 3, 2008 at 1:32 pm