esn 'the lads'
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), referred to as 'The Lads' in an article written by The Gateshead Post. We were 15 when we started. We were not gifted scholars, but we were very motivated by our love of the post-punk music that was brand new at the time.
During the lifetime of the magazine, there were a few regular contributors who sent us interviews and photographs... and there were 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. Lots of people asked where we got the idea from and how we knew what to do. Within the culture of the music we loved 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 I received from 'Something Else' on BBC2... after I sent them an SAE naturally.
STEPHEN JOYCE, Eccentric Sleeve Notes in 1982.
The local record shops were very supportive. They sold the magazine, often without taking a commission. We were able to rely on 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's in New York now, but still sells badges via http://www.pinstand.com)
I managed to avoid full time work throughout the life of the magazine (and quite a few years beyond). 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 accompanying interview from long time contributor David Martin.
Over the years, we featured some great bands. Like our inclusion of The Smiths moments before everyone fell for them. But we were always quick off the mark and grabbed bands like U2 and Depeche Mode before they were well known and more importantly unwilling. When these bands did break-through and returned triumphantly to Newcastle, they remembered ESN and without exception, were willing to be interviewed again. Featuring some of these bands once they were popular 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 changed his mind and called me back. My prize was access to a rather glum Feargal Sharkey. (But what a brilliant live band The Undertones were. Every-time.)
There were some brilliant photos published in ESN, although for the first few issues we were hampered by a lack of decent equipment. The first issue started well using black 'n' white film in a bog standard point and shoot camera. The negatives were square but a decent 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 with a built-in 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. Immediately, we saw the improvement with his wonderful Clash photo we put on the cover of ESN 4. In later issues, we cynically included photos (without an interview) of bands that we didn't like but knowing they were popular and they 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.
SIMON McKAY in 1984 preparing to go to do an interview
(tape recorder and camera flash on 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 soul and pop. With typical teenage arrogance, my take on the demise of ESN was, "I'll publish another issue when Shirley Bassey agrees to be interviewed by me."
Stephen returned to publishing in 1987 with four issues of his own fanzine, Woosh! (Each issue included a flexi disc of new bands.) He went further though; also under the Woosh! banner, he released records by up and coming bands and, in a small pub in Newcastle, put on bands that were unknown at the time. They included Blur, My Bloody Valentine, Carter Unstoppable Sex Machine, Ride and Teenage Fanclub. In 1990 he gave up a promising career as a printer because he was asked to roadie for My Bloody Valentine! Thirty years on and Stephen continues to work with various bands - usually as a guitar tech. He's spent a lot of time on the road. More work back in Newcastle now where he does the set-up for gigs and theatres.
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.) I worked for law firms in the City for many years managing IT projects. Hated it. I'm now a BACP registered psychotherapist with a private practice in central London. That's much better.
PDFs from the Archives:
BBC Something Else guide: How to Make a Fanzine
Better Badges: Letter from Joly
Gateshead Post: features 'The Lads'
Stephen and Simon wish to extend big thanks for the unpaid contributions made by the following:
David Martin, Paul Hullock & Jon Taylor
Sharron Long, Barbara, Siou Oliver, Sheila, Linda Grant, Paula Williams & Randal Williams
Ros Seymour & Sue Newton