underground press and fanzines

   The cultural explosions of the 1960s reverberated throughout the publishing world, creating an underground press invigorated by and disseminating ideas synchronously with emerging counter-cultural movements. Rejecting mainstream publishing conventions, revolutionizing language and visual print with an experimental thrust and unfettered approach which captured the dissenting attitude and mood of the underground, the underground press demonstrated that even those without journalistic, design or publishing experience could produce culturally definitive independent magazines and ‘fanzines’. With localized and international influences ranging from concurrent cultural movements such as the New Left, Beatniks and Situationists International, the 1960s and early 1970s underground press mushroomed with publications including the first British underground magazine It (International Times, 1966), the satirical Oz (1968), the Marxist left Black Dwarf (1968) and London listings magazine Time Out (1968) alongside a plethora of political manifestos and pamphlets. The early 1970s introduced 7 Days (1971), Ink (1971), feminist publications like Shrew and Spare Rib (1972) and Gay News (1972). The infamous 1970 Oz court case for its ‘schoolkids’ issue featured in a decade of frequent police raids and court action against the transgressive underground press.
   All manner of independent publications were to energize the publishing arena in subsequent years. Punk signalled the proliferation of the cheaply produced, xeroxed or photocopied fanzine, with Mark Perry’s Sniffin’ Glue (lauded as the first contemporary music fanzine) and others such as the Glaswegian Ripped and Torn and More-On demonstrating the punk ‘do-it-yourself’, workingclass ethos with their haphazard, anarchic typography and graphic arrangement indicative of punk music and attitude.
   The early 1990s trans-Atlantic Riot Grrrl movement drew upon punk subculture to challenge received gender roles and representations, riot grrrls forming their own bands and producing fanzines such as Ablaze and Fast Connection which fused music with forthright feminist opinions.
   As 1980s underground magazines like ID and The Face went overground with their stylistic fusion of music, fashion, art and culture, they partly triggered the early 1990s publishing revolution, creating an underground press replete with titles like Dazed and Confused, satirical fashion magazine Blow, The Idler, aBeSea, G-Spot, Herb Garden, Jockey Slut and Zine which benefited from cheap and accessible desktop publishing and printing methods and a burgeoning creative spirit among aspirant photographers, writers and designers. Other magazines like the ragga Skank, second-hand fashion Cheap Date and Charlotte Cooper’s thematic zines have followed.
   Independently published and distributed on smaller budgets and with smaller circulation figures than its mainstream counterparts, the underground press is aimed at specific audiences and irreverently covers all aspects of culture. It resists dominant trends by creating them instead through a risktaking approach without the marketing, advertising and orthodox constraints of larger publications.
   Further reading
    Fountain, N. (1988) Underground: The London Alternative Press 1966-74, London: Routledge (fascinating, revealing appraisal of the nascent contemporary London underground press).
   SATINDER CHOHAN

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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