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Fangoria editor’s amazing collection of classic trash horror film ads
10.04.2018
11:37 am
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The ongoing triumph of digital is pushing into the grave many art forms once so ubiquitous (and tethered to low commerce) we hardly think of them as arts. Packaging art dives into decline as physical media formats become obsolete; screen printed concert posters become a pricey commodity-fetish item as Facebook becomes every promoter’s kiosk. Somehow, and encouragingly, event postcards continue to thrive, but really think about this—when was the last time you decided to see a movie or buy recorded music based on a newspaper ad?

Longtime Fangoria editor Michael Gingold remembers when the local daily was THE way to keep up on movies, and in fact, it was the lurid daily print ads for trash horror films—rendered all the seedier by the way cheap black ink used to block up on cheap pulpy newsprint—that sparked his lifelong interest in the horror genre. Gingold even kept a scrapbook of them, and eventually published them in a xeroxed ‘zine called Scareaphenalia.

Arranged on a desk in the back of my junior high homeroom was the communal stack of Daily News for teachers to pick up. There were always a couple of ’em left over, and the first Friday of that month I grabbed one and flipped through to the movie section. There they were: boldly arresting ads for Richard Franklin’s Patrick and David Cronenberg’s The Brood, both opening that day. I was vaguely aware of Cronenberg’s name, but otherwise, these films were a mystery to me. All I knew for sure was that I wanted to see them both.

Although I didn’t get to, at least not at the time, I was so enthralled by those ads that I cut them out of the paper and saved them. And every Friday thereafter, I’d grab a leftover Daily News edition and scour it for whatever lurid gems might be advertised in its pages. Any that I found, I clipped and added to my growing collection, and soon I was doing the same with the occasional bigger genre movie announced in The Times. By the end of the year, assembling those ads had become an ongoing passion project.

The foregoing quotation is from Ad Nauseam: Newsprint Nightmares from the 1980s, a new book that reproduces Gingold’s collection, with his annotations, and excerpts from contemporary reviews. His annotations are insightful, naturally, but the inclusion of reviews was a wonderful choice—it’s interesting to be reminded that while gore-operas like The Driller Killer, The Evil Dead, and Friday the 13th are regarded as classics which boast undying (sorry) cult followings, such films were excoriated in their day by critics who practically tripped over each other in their rush to condemn the films’ violence and lord their self-presupposed moral superiority over the genre’s fans. Even A Nightmare on Elm Street received mixed reviews that grudgingly praised its creative premise, wit, and atmospherics, as they went ahead and condemned it anyway, because a slasher film simply couldn’t be offered unqualified praise. (By the time its sequel came out, critics seem to have figured out the point.) Interestingly though, of all the reviews reproduced in Ad Nauseam, astonishingly few take the genre to task for its notorious misogyny—this was the era, after all, in which the murder-as-punishment-for-female-sexuality and “final girl” tropes were codified, and while young women’s suffering was typically dwelt-on in mortifying detail, the psychotic killers themselves sometimes went on to become the “heroes” in long-running and profitable franchises.

Ad Nauseam’s publisher, 1984, were extremely cool about letting us reproduce a generous sampling of Gingold’s collection. We’ve eschewed the bigger-name films in favor of the book’s more endearingly trashy offerings—you’ve seen the poster for Halloween a million times by now anyway, right?
 

 

 

 
Many more after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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10.04.2018
11:37 am
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Is this Yoko Ono’s audio diary recorded during The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ in 1968?
10.02.2018
08:55 am
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Over the weekend, I got a message from writer, cultural historian, and all-round-good guy Simon Wells. He’s a DM pal and has written a shelf-load of books on the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, cult movies, Charles Manson, and a hip cult novel called The Tripping Horse, all of which are well-worth reading. Now we’ve had the introductions, let me tell you that Wells sent me a link to an hour-long audio he was sent of Yoko Ono recording her “diary” during the overdub sessions for The Beatles White Album. As Simon explained:

During the early days of her relationship with with John Lennon, Yoko Ono would dictate her thoughts on life with Lennon into her own personal recorder - presumably to be given to John later. This, often personal, tape was made during the overdub session for “Revolution 1” at EMI Studio number 3 on 4th June 1968. Parts of Yoko’s tape would be later used in the sound collage “Revolution 9”

This audio has been been discussed on various music forums with the general opinion that 1) it’s genuine; 2) Ono comes across as a bit of an “airhead”; 3) it’s great to hear The Beatles working on the mega-length version of “Revolution.”

During various points in the recording, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and producer George Martin can be heard discussing technical issues like:

GM: Let’s do it.

J: Voices on the, which one, with the new voices.

GM: You want that flange as well.

J: Well, for the final one. You don’t have to do it now, though.

GM: We can do it now, if you want, then. As long as we know where it happens.

J: Well, it just happens all the way through, whenever they’re in. Just straight flange.

Y: John made a beautiful loop and he’s throwing that in the Revolution. It’s very intense and onto. . .

GM: Okay, let’s go then, let’s go.

J: So we just leave them on then, flange.

GM: Leave them on, yeah.

J: And just mess about a bit when it’s guitar part in.

Engineer: Don’t want to flange the verses always.

J: The new . . just the one that goes ‘mommy daddy mommy daddy’.

E: They come in and toss anyway, and just flange the rest.

J: But what else is on it, there’s nothing else on that track.

E: No. But we have to set on that machine, what we want to flange you see.

J: We only want to flange, so it won’t harm it, would it? So what are you saying, then?

E: What am I saying? He’s confused me.

J: I see, right. Let’s go baby! [cut]

Over this, Ono talks about her relationship with Lennon (“I miss you already again. I miss you very much”); her feelings of paranoia (“I wonder maybe it’s just my paranoia to think that you don’t understand me.”); her thoughts on McCartney (“being very nice to me, he’s nice and a very, str- on the level, straight, sense”); her apartment in London (“overlooking the park, the Hyde Park, it’s quiet. It’s on the third floor, both rooms are facing the park and the sky”); and the shooting of Andy Warhol.

Of course, the big question some doubters will ask is whether this is all an elaborate hoax? Well, if it is, then it’s beautifully constructed as someone has taken considerable time to make it. However, the details contained on the tape (all rather personal), together with the background music and the interaction between Ono and other people in the room suggest it’s all (probably) genuine-see above.

My two cents (for what it’s worth) is that Ono’s voice sounded deeper and spoke less rapidly and used the phrase “you know” a lot. Hey, but what the hell do I know? Make your own mind up. A full transcript of Ono’s recording can be read here.
 

 
With thanks to Simon Wells.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.02.2018
08:55 am
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Gorgo smash, Gorgo chomp, Gorgo roar: Gorgo comics 1961-65

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When Ray Bradbury wrote “The Fog Horn” he probably didn’t imagine the whole bestiary of monsters his short story would inspire. Though his beast from the deep attracted by the lonesome call of a fog horn made only a fleeting appearance, it was enough to encourage producers to turn Bradbury’s story into a hit movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms in 1953. The creature in this film (designed by Ray Harryhausen) was a fictional dinosaur called the Rhedosaurus, which once set loose from its cryogenic sleep deep within the frozen Arctic laid waste to New York. The allegory of a hideous giant flattening whole cities and killing thousands of innocent lives was highly topical at a time when nuclear annihilation was a mere push button away.

This ole beast partly (alongside Edgar Wallace’s King Kong which had been re-released into cinemas in 1952) inspired Japanese movie makers to come up their own reptilian giant Godzilla in 1954. (Godzilla is apparently made up from the Japanese words for “whale” and “gorilla.”) Instead of using Harryhausen’s beautiful but time-consuming and finicky stop-motion animation, the Toho studios opted to use a man in a rubber suit smashing up balsa wood sets to save on time and money.

Director of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Eugène Lourié went onto make The Colossus of New York about a cyborg that wrecks the Big Apple, before coming up with his own story of gnarly sea monster, this time one of biblical proportions Behemoth (aka The Giant Behemoth) in 1959.

Lourié then forged ahead with making his first full-color monster movie Gorgo, which was in part a homage to Godzilla and to Bradbury’s original short story, but he also pushed a strong environmentalist moral. Gorgo is really just a revenge flick of an angry mom who comes to get even with those bad guys who kidnapped her baby son. Gorgo is the name given to the kidnapped offspring—in part inspired by Medusa and by the Spartan Queen Gorgo, who was an early cryptanalyst able to discern the secret message hidden on a wooden tablet covered with wax. Gorgo’s mom is called Ogra. While most think Gorgo does all the smashing and a-chomping, it was in fact mommie dearest Ogra.

The film also has a second moral message which in this case is that a man sows his own destruction, as the film’s central characters Captain Joe Ryan (Bill Travers) and Sam Slade (William Sylvester) who capture Gorgo off the coast of Ireland chose a sinful greed of money rather than what was best for the creature and the rest of humanity.

In an obvious nod to Godzilla, the film was originally set in Japan. However, this was thought too close to the Japanese mega-monster, so Paris then Australia were considered before producers picked London as the global metropolis marked for destruction.

American producers Frank and Maurice King saw money-making potential in having Gorgo merchandise ready for the film’s release in 1961. This included toys, posters, novelization, and a series of short-lived comic books that featured Gorgo as a cross between a chomp-and-smash monster and a sometime savior of humanity who can take on aliens from outer space and other monsters who want to wipe out mankind. Twenty-three issues of the Gorgo comics were published between 1961 and 1965 by Charlton Comics. Among the many artists who worked on this rare and highly entertaining comic was Steve Ditko, who went on to co-create Spider-Man. Gorgo also appeared in a comic book spin-off series called Gorgo’s Revenge/The Return of Gorgo between 1962-64.
 
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More glorious Gorgo covers, after the jump….
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.19.2018
07:50 am
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Scary stories and super creeps: The illustrated nightmares of Stephen Gammell


A catchy tune and one of Stephen Gammell’s illustrations from Alvin Schwartz’s trilogy, ‘Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.’
 
If you look at the unassuming photo used by publisher Simon and Schuster of illustrator Stephen Gammell, you will, in no way, perceive the smiling, white-bearded and spectacled man was responsible for creating images which have terrorized the minds of children since 1981. But he is, and I hope this helps reinforce the golden rule one should never judge a book (or a person) by their cover. Unless one of those books happens to be Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. In this case, I’d recommend you let your initial impressions be your guide because Stephen Gammell’s instantly recognizable artwork is as sinister as the tales of terror spun by author Alvin Schwartz within the pages of the three-book-series.

Gammell has led a private life during his career which started in 1972, and is notoriously humble about the impact his insidious illustrations have had on generations of people. Gammell’s father was an art editor for a major magazine and would bring home art supplies for his son to help feed his appetite for art and develop his distinctive, entirely self-taught style. Here’s Gammell expounding on his very early days tapping into his gift growing up in Des Moines, Iowa:

“Some of my earliest and happiest memories are of lying on the floor in our old house in Des Moines, books, and magazines around me, piles of pads and paper, lots of pencils…and drawing. Just drawing! I was four at the time thinking that I really didn’t want to go to school next year…I just want to do THIS.”

As I mentioned, Gammell is a private person and historically has scarcely spoken about his most notorious work with Alvin Schwartz—the word-writing creep behind the trilogy Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. Starting in 1981, the spine-tingling tales of Scary Stories hit the shelves with Gammell’s terrifying cover artwork. Schwartz’s inspiration for much of the trilogy was found in vintage books archived by the American Folklore Society (housed at the Library of Congress). They were, of course, a runaway hit, especially with kids. And being popular with “impressionable” kids seemed to be the number one reason Gammell and Schwartz collectively became public enemy number one with parents and educators. When Schwartz passed away in 1992, his books were already being submitted to the Office For Intellectual Freedom (OIF) in the hope they would be added to the list of “challenged books” maintained by OIF and eventually banned. Complaints regarding Schwartz’s tales accused the writer of being cool with various nefarious activities including cannibalism, necrophilia, and the occult. An article from 1993 published by the Chicago Tribune notes one particularly angry parent likening Schwartz to the serial killer and actual cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer because of the short story “Wonderful Sausage” where a butcher converts his wife into a bratwurst. Here’s a quote from the article by Sandy Vanderburg, a mother of two, and one of Schwartz and Gammell’s biggest haters:

“If these books were movies, they’d be R-rated because of the graphic violence. There’s no moral to them. The bad guys always win. And they make light of death. There’s a story called `Just Delicious’ about a woman who goes to a mortuary, steals another woman’s liver, and feeds it to her husband. That’s sick.”

 

An illustration by Gammell for Schwarzt’s short story “Wonderful Sausage.”
 
For the love of Sweeny Todd and those meddling kids, Hansel and Gretel, get a fucking GRIP, Sandy. Given the outrage over Scary Stories, it’s important to be clear about the Schwartz/Gammell/Scary Stories success story. As nutty as Schwartz’s fables were, what any “reader” remembers most are Gammell’s illustrations of ghouls materializing through the mist, and unfortunate characters like Harold—the impaled scarecrow. Gammell’s impact on Scary Stories fans was magnified in 2011 on the occasion of the series’ 30th anniversary when Harper’s Collins decided to replace Gammell’s original artwork with toned-down images drawn by artist Brett Helquist. With respect to Helquist, the publishers’ actions made absolutely no sense, seeing that their support of the books never wavered despite consistent, decades-long efforts to have them banned. In 2017 Harper’s came to their senses and re-released the series with all of Gammell’s diabolical illustrations intact.

2012 saw a television adaptation of the books, and in 2017 a documentary on the legacy of Scary Stories was released. In April of this year (2018) director, Guillermo del Toro confirmed he had the backing to make the film version of the trilogy, and plot details of the flick finally were revealed in early August. In addition to his chilling work for Scary Stories, Gammell’s art has appeared in 50 other non-nightmare inducing children’s books, the most recent of which tells the story of a kid who loves mud. Right on.

I’ve posted Gammell’s eerie illustrations below from the Scary Stories series. Maybe keep the lights on until you’ve seen them all (some are slightly NSFW).
 

 

 

 
Many more macabre illustrations from Stephen Gammell, after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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08.13.2018
07:51 am
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‘The Unauthorized Story of Charlie’s Angels’: TV movie trash done right!
08.10.2018
08:28 am
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Behind the Camera DVD
 
Back in 2004, I watched the original airing of the TV movie, Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Charlie’s Angels, with a couple of friends. Expecting it would be mostly terrible, we were surprised to find it was actually trashy good fun. I liked it so much I later picked up the DVD, which I watched again recently. I still found it highly enjoyable—it was certainly better than it needed to be.

The movie was the second in a series of NBC productions that focused on the behind the scenes drama surrounding popular ‘70s TV programs. The first centered on the sitcom Three’s Company, while the third was about the show that made Robin Williams a star, Mork & Mindy. But don’t bother searching them out—like I did—as neither are worth your time (we told you how much the Mork & Mindy one stinks).

Charlie’s Angels was a surprise hit for ABC during its first season in 1976, and made one of its three female leads, Farrah Fawcett, a massive star. It was slammed by many critics for lacking substance and exploiting women (one reviewer called the program “family-style porn”), but there were others who viewed it as a groundbreaking show centered around three strong female characters.
 
Angels in Chains
A publicity still for the infamous ‘Angels in Chains’ episode, 1976.

Behind the Camera explores the controversial aspects of the show, but there’s also a lot of interesting details regarding how Charlie’s Angels got made, and examines how its stars, especially Fawcett, handled their fame. But the movie never gets too heavy, keeping things light in a knowing way. Lines like, “We must stop nipple protrusion on ABC,” and “We’re private dicks, not purring pussies,” are a total riot and deliberately trashy. Forced camp almost never works, but it absolutely does here.

Some of the casting is noteworthy. It’s remarkable how much Christina Chambers (Jaclyn Smith) and Lauren Stamile (Kate Jackson) resemble the actresses they’re portraying, as they not only look just like Smith and Jackson, but nail their cadences, too. On the other hand, Tricia Helfer doesn’t look that much like Farrah Fawcett, but she still does a fine job. Then there’s Dan Castellaneta (best known as the voice of Homer Simpson), who’s a tour de force as the legendary pipe chewing producer, Aaron Spelling. He shoulda won an Emmy!
 
Dan C as Aaron S
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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08.10.2018
08:28 am
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London Underground: Early counterculture doc with Paul McCartney, Allen Ginsberg, Pink Floyd


 
Granada Television produced this fascinating TV time capsule “It’s So Far Out It’s Straight Down” as a special part of their Scene at 6:30 series. The program focused on the young counterculture / hippie scene in London and features Miles, the Indica Gallery and the editorial board of The International Times underground newspaper. Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti are seen at the International Poetry Incarnation and we are taken to The UFO Club where Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd are playing a live version of “Interstellar Overdrive” (Also heard on the soundtrack is an early version of their “Matilda Mother,” then called “Percy The Ratcatcher” and “It Can’t Happen Here” by The Mothers of Invention).

Paul McCartney is a talking head interviewee in the studio, intelligently discussing the nascent underground scene. Macca was an active part of the London underground, financially supporting the Indica Gallery and bookstore—he even built the bookshelves himself—and IT. McCartney, the Beatle who soaked up cutting-edge culture and avant garde influences long before the rest of them did, is seen in four segments during the show, and as a wealthy, intelligent and well-respected person representing the counterculture to people who might fear it, as you’ll see, he knocks the ball straight out of the park:

If you don’t know anything about it [the counterculture], you can sort of trust that it’s probably gonna be alright and it’s probably not that bad because it’s human beings doing it, and you know vaguely what human beings do. And they’re probably going to think of it nearly the same way you would in that situation.

The straights should welcome the underground because it stands for freedom… It’s not strange it’s just new, it’s not weird, it’s just what’s going on around.

“It’s So Far Out It’s Straight Down” was broadcast in March of 1967, so it’s pre-Summer of Love. The time seems so pregnant with promise. This is the exact moment, historically speaking, when pop culture went from B&W and shades of gray to vivid color. If you put yourself in the mind of a kid from, say the north of England watching something like this on television during that era, it’s easy to see how this film would have brought tens of thousands of young people into London seeking to find these forward-thinking cultural movers and shakers to become part of “the happening” themselves.
 
Watch it after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.08.2018
01:15 pm
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Fun in the Sun: Pop culture icons catching some waves and a tan
08.08.2018
10:43 am
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Marilyn Monroe after a swim in the sea.
 
Since the 18th-century, doctors have prescribed a trip to the beach or seaside and bathing in (or even drinking) seawater as a restorative cure for good health. This was at first mainly something the wealthier classes only could afford but when Niels Ryberg Finsen won the Nobel Prize in 1903 for pointing out that the sun’s rays (or “radiation”) could help treat lupus vulgaris and rickets, the general public started taking a greater interest in sunbathing and even in sun worship.

Spool forward a few years to 1911, when William Tyler Olcott wrote a popular book Sun Lore of All Ages which told a brief history of sun-worship explaining it had long existed but had become unfashionable, or rather suppressed, with the rise of religion. This idea of sun worship and sunbathing as a valid ancient culture became more important after the end First World War when there was a massive rise in holidays and rest cures at the seaside.

This all became tied-in with the fashionable ideas of youth, vigor, vitality, etc, etc, which a few years later would become utterly warped by the Germans under Adolf Hitler’s National Socialists which promoted a mythical belief in racial purity not appreciating they were in fact the offspring of sex with a monkey’s butt. Still, the Nazis aside, holidaying on the beach and mucking about on the water never lost its appeal because of the strong belief that the sun is good for you (which it is—in moderation) and the seaside revitalizes the body (which according to scientists it does, something to do with the sound of the sea’s waves altering the rhythms of your brain). Moreover, when getting a tan became the in-thing, sometime around the 1920s, no one wanted to be pale and interesting anymore as it signified being of a lower class—the inverse of what it once had been. This didn’t really catch-on until after World War II, sometime during the 1950s and 1960s, when suddenly everyone wanted to catch a few rays.

Celebrities always use the beach as a place to show off their beauty, their latest look, or to promote a new record or film. For many a youngster catching snaps in supermarket mags was once the only way they would get a glimpse of some famous hotshot movie star without their clothes on. The following is a selection of some of our more iconic stars showing off whatever they’ve got to offer on the beach.
 
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The Beatles never missed a photo opportunity.
 
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Surf’s up for The Beach Boys.
 
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Madonna strikes a pose but it’s hardly beachwear.
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Elizabeth Taylor.
 
More fashionable beachwear, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.08.2018
10:43 am
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Total Thrash & Whiplash: A sick collection of heavy & black metal fanzines from around the globe
08.08.2018
08:53 am
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The cover of Finnish black metal fanzine Hammer of Damnation, February 1993. Read it in its entirety here.
 
After being inspired by coming across the cover of a 1986 edition of Danish metal fanzine Metallic Beast, I went on a long vision quest in search of other fanzines in the black metal and heavy metal arena. Fanzines were the custodians and keepers of artifacts produced by counter-culture heroes and artists on the fringe before the Internet showed up. Bands would often create their own, but the true heroes behind this pop-culture staple are, of course, the fans who tirelessly self-published the zines because they lived and breathed (in this case) all things heavy and metal.

Heavy metal fanzines were incredibly popular in Portugal during the 80s and 90s. Beautifully cataloged here, you can see the grim covers of many of the zines published there such as Abismo, and one referred to as the “most prestigious” metal fanzine in the country, Renascimento Do Metal, or Metal’s Rebirth. Some fanzines have been painstakingly scanned and posted online such as Finnish black metal magazine Hammer of Damnation (pictured at the top of this post), and early-80s napalm nugget, The Headbanger. Launched in Los Angeles by then-teenager Bob Nalbandian, the first issue of The Headbanger came to be in 1982. Nalbandian witnessed the birth of heavy metal in that city, and his fanzine, one of the first dedicated to getting the good word about LA bands like Armored Saint and Malice, was an instant hit. In 2012, Nalbandian and Japanime Publishing (Tokyo) joined forces to create an ebook for The Headbanger in all its DIY glory. Early 80s Brazilian fanzine Rock Brigade would go on to become a fully-realized metal publication by the mid-80s and has since earned the distinction of being the longest-running music magazine in Brazil’s history.

Was it possible for me to post images from all the great fanzines out there praising all things metal and darker? Nope. Not by a long shot. Nonetheless, what follows is a pretty deep dive into the world of metal fanzines from across the globe, some of which you’ve likely never seen before.

Devil horns OUT.
 

Issue #2 of Bob Nalbandian’s The Headbanger fanzine. The table of contents is pictured below.
 

 
More metal mayhem after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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08.08.2018
08:53 am
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Burning Down the House: Talking Heads perform live showcase at Entermedia Theater, 1978
07.30.2018
08:57 am
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Forty-years-ago, like a gazillion other kids, I was smitten by the sounds of New Wave. The needle had worn out on punk and there was a need for a newer sound, a bigger sound to hit the decks. And lo, yea, there came unto the local record store, venue, and radio station, New Wave. 

New Wave was really just a catchall term used/devised by NME writers like legendary scribe Charles Shaar Murray to describe a diverse range of bands who often had little in common other than their unique sound like the glorious Blondie and the pantomime horse of the Boomtown Rats. By this definition, New Wave bands weren’t considered quite punk though they may have been inspired by punk, or indeed, were in fact maybe just a little bit punk, or even garage, but were at the time only just coming to the attention of a bigger, far more appreciative audience circa 1978.

So, there I was, dear reader, a young teen living with his parents in a two-up/two-down in the nether regions of Scotland’s capital. Of course, you have to remember, we Scots were still in our penitent sack cloth and ashes for the ignominy inflicted on the world under the name of tartan by the Bay City Rollers and nauseating bands like Slik who had the appeal of stale cold porridge on a hangover morning. Only the Rezillos had pointed the way to a new Eden—though few Scots were actually paying attention. And then, lest we forget, the UK charts were hideously blistered by pustules of horror like Brian and Michael (“Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs”), the Brotherhood of Man (”Figaro”), and John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, all of whom made the #1 spot with last duo staying there for a staggering nine weeks with “You’re the One that I Want.” This was the music, the audio track against which New Wave competed and why, for many, New Wave offered a hope that everything wasn’t Andy Gibb, Father Abraham and the Smurfs, or even on the march with Andy Cameron and “Ally’s Tartan Army.”

In the UK, there was an anger and an edge to the native New Wave sound from bands like the Jam, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, and 2Tone’s the Specials, most of which stemmed from the political failings of the Left who were then running the country. Mass unemployment, a devalued currency, high taxes, IMF loans, endless strikes, and urban deprivation inspired high musical passions. These youngsters wanted change—-but into what? as the only alternative to the Labour government was the Conservatives Margaret Thatcher, and even then, there were those who knew how that would end. These bands were fine, but one can only keep that level of anger up for so long without recourse to beta blockers or an unenviable sense of ennui.

Therefore, dear reader, like gazillions of other kids, I was very quickly smitten by the sounds of bands lumped together under the heading of American New Wave—bands like Blondie and Talking Heads. Blondie was love at first sight. Talking Heads was love from the second album More Songs About Buildings and Food on. Not that I didn’t like their first album Talking Heads: ‘77, it was just I didn’t hear it until after I’d bought the second.

Unlike UK New Wave, Talking Heads and Blondie wrote songs that were clever, smart, ironic, and coded with a delightful upbeat tempo and a scintillating charm. Let’s be honest, if ever given the choice of being trapped in an elevator for hours on end with Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz or Joe Strummer and Sham 69, I know who I’d rather choose…the former, obviously.

Talking Heads formed in 1975 around the triumvirate of David Byrne, Chris Frantz, and Tina Weymouth. Byrne and Frantz had previously had a band called the Artistics. Weymouth drove the boys to-and-from gigs. Needing a bass player, Byrne and Frantz asked Weymouth to join the band—admirably so, indeed, Weymouth is one of the great unsung heroes of modern music. The Talking Heads played their first gig as support to the Ramones at CBGB’s in June 1975. Two years later, Jerry Harrison, ex-Jonathan Richmond’s band Modern Lovers, added his considerable talents and the Talking Heads were complete.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.30.2018
08:57 am
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The surprising origins of the KISS merchandising machine that generated $100 million in the 1970s
07.20.2018
10:20 am
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Poster
 
It’s a common misconception that the band KISS had a master plan from their earliest beginnings. We recently told you how the marketing of the group evolved, and that no one connected to KISS knew what to do with them in their early years. There have also been assumptions that merchandising was part of the KISS blueprint. In reality, the idea of KISS products didn’t occur to anyone in the group or close to them until they had their first hit. Even then, no one could have predicted just how much money KISS merchandise would generate by the end of the 1970s.

In his autobiography, ‘Face the Music: A Life Exposed, Paul Stanley writes that, in the beginning, he and his fellow band members in KISS were “clueless about merchandising.” Stanley credits the idea of selling KISS products to their manager, Bill Aucoin. It was Aucoin who, after the initial success of KISS’s double live album, Alive! (1975), presented the group with their very first piece of merchandise: A tour program.
 
Program 1
 

Bill Aucoin always saw the bigger picture. He could tell that we connected with our fans in a way that far exceeded the norm. He grasped the extent to which people would respond to us beyond the music: he understood the potential of merchandising.

When I first saw the tour program Bill created for the later stages of the Alive tour, I had never seen anything like it. He never told us he was going to do it. He just showed up one day and said, “Here’s the tour program.” After paging through its twenty-four pages, I thought it was terrific. Bill also thought—and was quickly proved correct—that our fans would want t-shirts and belt buckles. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. He founded an in-house merchandising company together with a guy named Ron Boutwell. Initially, the company fulfilled orders from our fan club. Bill just announced it to us, very matter-of-factly: “We’re going to start marketing merchandise.”

It could not have happened without Bill. (from ‘Face the Music: A Life Exposed’)

The KISS ON TOUR—1976 program debuted at KISS’s January 25, 1976 at Cobo Hall in Detroit. A fitting location, as Detroit was full of rabid KISS fans, the first city to wholly embrace the group. The program included a KISS ARMY membership form, as well as a merchandise form.
 
Program 9
 
Program 10
 
As KISS’s popularity increased and the money started rolling in from merchandise sales, more and more KISS products were made available. Official KISS merchandise included lunchboxes, radios, model vans, kid guitars, jewelry, watches, Colorform sets, Halloween costumes, jigsaw puzzles, sleeping bags, garbage cans, and a board game.
 
Wrapper
Trading cards wrapper, 1978.
 
Belt buckles
Belt buckles, 1977.
 
Pinball machine
Pinball machine, 1979.

Beginning with Alive!, KISS albums usually included a free item of some sort such as a poster, sticker or booklet—gifts, one might say, from the group to its fans, furthering the connection between band and audience. It also became standard to find a merchandise form inside a KISS LP.
 
Solo albums
The 1978 KISS solo albums, with interlocking posters and merchandise order forms for each member.

Between 1977 and 1979, KISS grossed $100 million from merchandise sales. By the end of the decade, KISS’s popularity had waned in the States—partially attributed to the public’s negative reaction to merchandising excess—so the focus was shifted to other markets. In November 1980, KISS went Down Under as part of their overseas Unmasked tour, where they were greeted with a Beatle mania-like reception. Dozens of KISS products were available in Australia during that time, though many of them failed to sell. KISS could see that writing on the wall, with Gene Simmons telling a Melbourne reporter, “We’re now taking a couple steps back from the merchandising.” Unmasked would be the last U.S. KISS album released during the period to include a merchandise order form and a tchotchke.
 
Tattoos
The temporary tattoos that came with Alive II, 1977.

Fast-forward to 1996: The original four members reunite and put the makeup back on, resulting in a massively successful world tour. KISS was back—and so was the merchandise. New KISS products glutted the marketplace, with even more types of merchandise than in their ‘70s heyday. Once again, this contributed to their overexposure, and the general public quickly moved on. But there was still a market for KISS merchandise, and new items continue to appear to this day. The KISS logo and the likenesses of the Starchild, the Catman, the Space Ace, and the Demon have appeared on virtually every product imaginable.
 
More KISS merch, after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Bart Bealmear
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07.20.2018
10:20 am
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