How Eccentric Sleeve Notes was lauched by two 'unscholarly' 15 year olds from a bedroom in Newcastle.
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SIMON McKAY AKA MOPHEED, Eccentric Sleeve Notes in 1982.

Eccentric Sleeve Notes (ESN) was a fanzine published in Newcastle Upon Tyne from 1981 to 1984 by Stephen Joyce and me (Simon McKay).  We were 15 when we started and could not be described as gifted scholarly but were very motivated by our love of the post punk music in this period.

During the lifetime of the magazine, there were a few regular contributors of interviews and photographs as well as the much appreciated volunteer typists.  (Before computers became so commonplace, typing was a very precious skill.  Accuracy was everything as making corrections was nigh on impossible and often meant starting again.)

We probably did surprise a few people when we self-financed the publication of our first issue and they all sold out within a few weeks. We were asked where we got the idea from and how we knew what to do.  Within our area of interest, the DIY ethic for every art form was common.  Our calling was very strong: we wanted to meet our favourite bands, get free records and get into gigs for free.  We just had to work out exactly how to do it.  Our bible was a few sheets of photocopied A4 that I sent an SAE to the BBC for after seeing it plugged on Something Else.

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STEPHEN JOYCE, Eccentric Sleeve Notes in 1982

The local record shops etc were great. They sold the magazine without taking a commission.  We were able to rely upon a number of regular local advertisers and even a mail order company in London called Better Badges.  The owner, Joly, gave us good advice on how many copies to publish before we even took the first copy to press.  (He still sells badges via, although now he's based in New York.)

I managed to avoid full time work throughout the life of the magazine. Stephen wasn't quite as fortunate.  Consequently, I took over most of the running of the magazine but Stephen remained a major contributor right to the end and hogged the front cover of the final ESN as we hit the perfect finale by featuring his early Smiths photos and an interview from long time contributor David Martin.  Over the years, there were some great artists featured.  We were always quick off the mark and grabbed bands like U2 and Depeche Mode before they were well known.  When these bands did break and returned triumphantly to Newcastle, they remembered ESN and without exception, were willing to be interviewed again.  Featuring breaking bands not only helped sales of the latest magazine but also opened the door for other interviews: the Undertones manager took one look at scraggy me and turned me down but after glancing at the current copy of the mag and saw the Thompson Twins on the cover, he quickly changed his mind and called me back, granting me access to a rather glum Feargal Sharkey.

There were some classic photos in ESN (in time, more will appear in the Gallery section) although for the first few issues we were somewhat hampered by a lack of access to technology.  The first issue started well using black 'n' white film in a bog standard point and shoot camera.  The negatives were a square format but a good size and produced a good quality image.  The main drawback was that it used disposable flashcubes that were very expensive.  Replacing that with a compact instamatic camera containing its own battery flash seemed like a huge step forward until we discovered that the small negatives gave us the much poorer images that appeared in ESN 2 and 3.  However, Stephen took us to great heights when he bought an SLR camera with a 35mm negative and an external battery flash.  An early success of this camera was the wonderful Clash picture he took for the cover of ESN 4.  In later issues, we cynically included photos (without any text) of bands that we didn't like because they were popular and would shift a few copies.  We decided it was for the greater good and that people would get value for money when they read about the 'quality' bands we featured.

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SIMON McKAY of Eccentric Sleeve Notes in 1984 preparing to go and do an interview (note the tape recorder and camera flash on the bed)

1984 was a good time to stop publishing the magazine.  I was losing interest in current music and had become much more interested in 60s pop and soul.  With typical teenage arrogance, my take on the demise of ESN was, "I'll publish another issue when Shirley Bassey agrees to be interviewed."

Stephen returned to publishing in 1987 with four issues of his own fanzine, Woosh!  (Each issue included a flexi disc of new bands.)  Also under the Woosh! banner, he released records and put on bands that were unknown at the time.  They included Blur, My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Teenage Fanclub.  In 1990 he gave up a promising career as a printer to roadie for My Bloody Valentine!  Twenty years on and it is Stephen that doesn't have the regular day job!  He works with various bands and is on the road 6 months a year and at home the rest of the time.

I now live in London and work in a very different field.  I didn't give up music immediately though.  After ESN, I formed a band called Said Liquidator who were active, with various line ups, from 1984 to 1991.  That story continues click here


Here are some PDFs from the Archives:

BBC Something Else guide: How to Make a Fanzine

Letter from Better Badges

'The Lads' featured in the Gateshead Post

Stephen and Simon wish to extend special thanks for the unpaid contributions made by the following:

David Martin, Paul Hullock & Jon Taylor

Sharron Long, Barbara, Siou Oliver, Shiela, Linda Grant, Paula Williams & Randal Williams

Ros Seymour & Sue Newton

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