A Postcard Records fanzine
Once upon a time I was accused of disappearing into my world of books and films where darkness came too soon. Total nonsense of course. There was music too. But the suggestion was that I was missing out. Total nonsense too. Products have so much to teach us. So many stories to tell …
But I can’t get over the fact that it only cost 50p at the time. And this time it looks like it’s going to go over £30. How crazy is that? A bit of a mixed blessing though. Thought my bid of £25 was complete madness. Way over the top. Out of character. I used to survive on less than that a week. Actually that’s not true. I would have still been at school. All I would have had was the money from my Saturday job. You should have seen me then. Behind the chemist’s counter in Boots. The Postcard people would have been on less than £25 a week then. What was that line? ‘We had just signed off the dole when we made Poor Old Soul. We made all these 45s just to keep ourselves alive …’
And it was a fanzine. It wasn’t a promotional thing, like it says in the commentary here. Proves it’s just some dealer out to fleece us. It was a very, very real fans’ thing. A fanzine literally. Most fanzines then were pretty horrible. They really were. They were scruffy, badly typed, scrawled, black and white, nasty photocopies. Awful. Horrible photos. Lots of lousy local groups. Interminably dull interviews. Er, what are your influences? When’s your next single coming out? Do you like fanzines? What other groups do you like? What do you think about the music press? What are your songs about? Who writes the words? That sort of stuff. Terrible. Terrible grammar usually too.
But this Postcard Records fanzine was very different. It was sub-A5 for a start. That was different. It was full colour too. Lots of very cool photos of Orange Juice and Josef K. And if you started at one end it was all about Orange Juice. Then if you turned it round the other way, the flipside, it was mainly Josef K, with a bit of an Alan Horne interview. It was quite beautiful really in its way. And I don’t think I’m over romanticising this.
The fanzine. It was put together by an American girl. Barb or Babs. Barbara something. She’d moved to London from LA or somewhere searching for the punk revolution. Only to find a load of idiots in leather jackets playing speeded up heavy rock. The rock was setting in again. Then she discovered Postcard Records. And, yeah, for a lot of us Postcard was what punk was meant to be all about.
Actually it’s interesting that no one seems to have scanned a copy of this fanzine and made it available for all to see. I know someone did that with the official Postcard Records brochure from around the same time. Now that brochure, that was so strange and inspiring. It was all written out in weird calligraphy. It was essentially Alan Horne telling the stories of all the Postcard groups. Fantastic. I must have memorised every word at the time. It finished up quoting the lyrics from the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Do You Believe In Magic, and the Showmen’s It Will Stand as covered by Jonathan Richman.
But the fanzine. I think, I’m sure it would have come out early 1981-ish. I can remember Dave McCullough, the best of the music writers at the time, recommending it in Sounds. He did occasionally plug fanzines. The Postcard fanzine was 50p plus a stamped addressed envelope. Ridiculous when you think about it now. What can you get for that now? Some copies came with the infamous Felicity flexi. Never ever got my hands on one of them. And some were autographed by Orange Juice. I got hold of one of them.
You had to give a reason why you deserved a signed edition. I lied. I can admit it now. But it worked. I said I wanted a copy for my girlfriend as she’d been too ill to go and see Orange Juice play somewhere. Can’t remember where. I don’t think it was those ICA shows Orange Juice and Josef K played right at the start of the year. It would have been a bit later. But the chances of going to see that sort of show on a schoolnight were pretty remote. About as remote as having a girlfriend who cared a hoot about the OJs. But it worked.
Barb, Babs, whatever, sent me a gorgeous autographed fanzine, with a note on the envelope saying she hoped my girlfriend would be suitably cheered. That caused a few awkward moments, but hey ho. She was also starting a flexi label she said. No, not my girlfriend, the American girl. Play Pop! I think. Don’t know if it ever took off. Don’t remember it. I did hear she later got quite in with the Postcard crowd, and some of the new wave of Glasgow groups. Strawberry Switchblade, Sunset Gun, French Impressionists. Strawberry Switchblade and Sunset Gun – both those names came from fanzines ironically enough. She was something to do with Del Amitri too. Though that was a very different Del Amitri. They had a small d then. They sounded like the Feelies then. I’ve still got a flexi they did with the Bluebells. They were big Postcard fans. They would play in front of projections of Josef K. Hard to believe now. Met Justin once at a June Brides show. He was a big fan.
Actually I’ve just remembered that Justin popped up on the James Kirk record. I’d forgotten about that. That was a brilliant record. You Can Make It If You Boogie. That title always make me think of the disco classic Yes Sir I Can Boogie. Was that Baccara? Classic rubbish as Horne would say. Second verse same as the first. That was all part of the Postcard bedrock. I loved James Kirk. He was the hero of this fanzine actually. I don’t think Babs could work him out. I just remember him going on about Flaubert and Hank Williams and Kerouac. A real charismatic character. I loved him.
The bit I’m still struggling with is that I gave away my copy of this fanzine. Gave it to a beautiful French girl. Well, she’d given me a Felt french 10” compilation of their early singles, which in many ways is all you need of Felt. The real reason, though, was that by the time I gave it away, and this would have been 1986-ish, I was just so sick of all the new groups citing Orange Juice and Postcard as influences and totally totally totally missing the point as they skipped around like demented demonic nursery school kids on a picnic. All these groups looked so awful. Terrible shoes. Horrible haircuts. None of the Postcard wit. No sense of there being black music out there. No edge. No neurosis. No hate. No spite.
There was a quote years later attributed to Alan Horne suggesting someone had invented the Pastels just to annoy him. It was interesting too that Horne hated Belle & Sebastian too. It must have hurt seeing a lot of his ideas twisted and watered down. I was so sick of it all that I turned on Postcard, and in some grand gesture I gave this beautiful French girl my fanzine. What was I thinking of? I just hope she treasured it. I really really don’t want to even consider the fact that it could be my old copy up for sale here. Now do I put in another bid? There’s only six hours and five minutes left. I can resist everything except temptation, but there are limits.
© 2007 John Carney