Tuesday, 24 January 2012

ZigZag magazine

Always a breath of fresh air compared to the predictable music weekly inkies (Sounds, Melody Maker NME), ZigZag had started life back in the hippy days of the late 60s, but after 1977 under Kris Needs it established itself as a genuine punk voice bringing a wide variety of new music to a discerning public. I remember in particular an early interview with Killing Joke around the time of Turn to Red - it seemed like a national fanzine compared to the corporate sheen of Julie Burchill and co. As punk turned into a distant memory, sales fell off, and the broad range of music covered each issue (Bauhaus and Shalamar anyone ? UK Decay and Funkapolitan ? Thought not) proved its death-knell. But the rise of posi-punk, championed by new star writer Mick Mercer persuaded someone to pour some money in and so "new" ZigZag edited by Mercer appeared on the shelves in September '83. The fact that The Sisters name appeared on the cover (along with other contemporary faves such as X Mal Deutschland) convinced me to part with my 75p, but I soon wish I hadn't. For the trip up North, Mercer (not a Sisters fan) had sent another sceptic, "Rex Garvin", and the subsequent article entitled "Suffragette City" (still widely available on the Web) made my hackles rise. As was my wont as an angry young man, I penned a lengthy diatribe to Mercer, using the pseudonym based on a couple of Bauhaus tracks which I had recently adopted - and have recently resurrected - pointing out that the London hacks' dislike and mistrust of the band stemmed from the fact that they refused to play their game. To my surprise, Mercer published my letter in full in new ZZ issue 2 the following month (with his own lengthy self-justifying reply including a repetition of the ridiculous claim that Southern band The Mob were enjoying greater success than the Sisters). Despite the fact that I had said in my letter that I wouldn't be buying ZZ again, I carried on getting it for the next two years before it finally folded, having a few more letters published, but Mercer's antipathy to the Girls seemed to remain and he was only too happy to give Ben Gunn maximum publicity (during the Anabas/Torch phase) as the first refugee from the band. How deliciously ironic (I can imagine a sly smile beneath a certain pair of shades) that Mr Mercer has eked out a living peddling warmed-up rehashes of the finest moments of the Girls and their contemporaries.

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