I first met Karen when she picked up a copy of my Fanzine “Shine” at the long gone “Kavern Records” in Rhyl. What Karen was doing in Rhyl? I never really found out, but she decided to contact me. Why? Well that’s how it worked. Like minded people with an interest in weird independent music trying to create a network of contacts way before social media and even mobile phones. We had to write to each other often using the same stamp and would meet up on a regular basis at various gigs. Loyal friendships were formed.
Karen was obviously influenced by many early fanzines, but while like many other fanzines, the style of Ablaze was influenced by the DIY ethic that had grown out of punk; the tone of the content was more personal and more political than the mainstream UK music press:
The fanzines had a similar style of creating handwritten and typed pieces of text and sticking them onto whatever came to hand. Photocopying was a luxury and we usually had to find a cheap printer who would often feel sorry for us and do it really cheap. I remember picking up over 500 copies by bus and hawking them to really helpful record shops and at various gigs. They would always sell out with re-prints needed, which seems amazing now but this was before the Internet was even dreamt of, so was often the only means of reading about obscure bands.
I was stunned to find people taking notice of what I had to say – simply, and only, because it had been typed and “published”. I was even sent free records to review by record companies, which were often reviewed as rubbish in a rather arrogant manner. However the scene was a positive one, which brings me to the point of this article.
The Story of the post-punk scene is delightfully summed up by the recently published “The City is Ablaze” – The book features the best bits of the outspokenly passionate fanzine and features articles on Pavement, The Pixies, Nirvana, Stone Roses and even has a irate handwritten letter off Morrissey. It also includes a picture of me in sunglasses, which I feel is the best bit of the whole book.
Karen sums up the book beautifully as a musical history of the late eighties that could only be obtained by surfing the slip roads, sneaking backstage at a thousand shows, sleeping on stranger’s floors and living to type the tales of the sounds that defined an era.
It has over 320 pages glorious musings, which include a very UN happy- Happy Mondays, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and our favorite group of the time The Membranes.
The book can be bought from http://www.ablazefanzine.com or even if you are lazy Amazon.co.uk.