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Wednesday 20 October 2021

Book Review: The Best Of Jamming - Selections and Stories From The Fanzine That Grew Up

There had to be more to life than this: the path well trodden and the one-way road to adult Armageddon. And for an excitement/idealistic driven bunch of then just turned-teenage schoolboys there was a way out of the everyday mundane.
Credit Tony Fletcher

That it would end as all that become institutions do; in acrimony and debt, was some eight years in the future. 

For now, back in the schoolyard with a spark of an idea and a visionary with the match to start the fire, there came In The City – a six page school printed music-based mishmash of enthusiasm and passion that took three months to furnish with idealistic musings.

So began the almost decade-long journey that is laid out by author Tony Fletcher's The Best of Jamming!: Selections And Stories From The Fanzine That Grew Up, 1977-86 (Omnibus Press). 

Tony Fletcher (Word In Your Ear)

Among the many music obsessives who took it upon themselves to use their bedrooms as prospective magazine HQs, there was one schoolboy-born publication that gradually, and often painfully, rose to the top of the pile.

That was Jamming!. Over its 36 editions it became a 'proper' magazine. Its layout became professional and enticing, Distribution rose to the tens-of-thousands and it was widely available to not click but collect.     

In his foreward for the book Billy Bragg states: 

"For an adolescent desperate to create their own identity after a childhood dominated by their parents" taste, music offered the most accessible means of self-expression. 

"When the expectations of adults began to chafe, music provided an alternative set of values that pushed back against the conformity of curriculum and careers advice." 

The Jamming! Fanzine Podcast: Ep. 1

The seed of the fanzine's birth came via the unexpected typewriter of Jon Savage and an article he wrote in Sounds about fanzine culture.

From the second edition, In The City became Jamming and soon the blind belief of youth hatched the ambition and skills to grow the fanzine into something that was not only pleasing on the eye, but also thought provoking and increasingly culturally informative.

Early interviews had an air of combativeness. For example, John Peel must have seemed so old .. sample question: Have you ever thought of retiring? After an answer in the negative, the follow-up question asks who does he think could/should take over his mantle? 

The Jamming! Fanzine Podcast: Ep. 2

And then came Pete Townshend who gave - to a publication he liked the idea of but had never read - detailed and thoughtful answers

But yes, the subject of age and whether he was still relevant reared its head .. and for a youth driven publication like Jamming, quite rightly so.

With that in mind the publication added colour while dropping its early obsessions with The Jam, The Who and all things both Mod and mid-seventies rock - different writers meant differing genres.

In came the likes of Adam Ant, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Crass and Scritti Politti. A wonderful piece from Fletcher on the mid-eighties miners' strike offered the first of many hints that he was destined for greener journalistic pastures.

Jamming! finally folded after issue 36, after Fletcher's vice like vision had been impaired by a stint in the much loved band Apocalypse, and a spell as unpaid manager of the Paul Weller funded music label, Jamming!

The magazine's chain of command broke down, backers got cold feet from empty wallets and Fletcher walked away. The time to end it was right, but the magazine's legacy remains untarnished. 

Tony Fletcher's 'The Best of Jamming! Selections and Stories from the Fanzine That Grew Up, 1977-86' (Omnibus Press) is a lesson in the collective power of youth, and belief from those who saw how the cultural plates were starting to spin in different directions and that it was time to polish off the cutlery and sit down and talk the talk to those who were connected with others of a similar mindset. 

We all grew up, but didn't we have a nice time!

To purchase Tony Fletcher's 'The Best of Jamming! Selections and Stories from the Fanzine That Grew Up, 1977-86' (Omnibus Press) CLICK HERE.

by: Mike Cobley




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