What’s that musty smell? Ah yes, it’s emanating from the veritable feast of vintage collectables housed in the Pop Culture Schlock archive. For your delectation today I take you back to the Christmas of 1979; a seminal decade of music about to come to an end and give way to the dawn of a more brash, more brazen ten year period…
If you were a good, music-loving boy or girl in 1979 and had a.) done well in school, and; b.) not scratched your big brother’s vinyl, then there was a good chance that you’d find the Rock On! Annual 1980 nestled under the Christmas tree in your modest living room.
“The Rock What Annual?” I hear you exclaim, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed at your lack of knowledge on this subject because, truth be told, Rock On! magazine was a short-lived, oft-forgotten publication… if you’d ever heard of it at all.
Rock On! magazine debuted with an issue cover-dated May 1978. Debbie Harry featured on its cover and the mag – costing a whole 25p – promised a healthy mix of punk, new wave, heavy metal, and prog rock. It kept its promise too as, over the course of seven eclectic issues, Rock On! dished out features and photo spreads on a dizzying cadre of top musical combos; from Status Quo to Sham 69, The Clash to KISS, Rush to The Rezillos. Meat Loaf graced a cover, Ozzy, too, until Issue 7, with Jimmy Pursey as its cover star, and cover-dated November 1978, when Rock On! disappeared from newsagent shelves. The editorial in that final issue wrote of the outrage of cutting off such a desirable publication in its prime but, if anything, Rock On! was a victim of its own blurring of genre lines: readers seemingly wanting specialist publications dedicated to singular strands of the rock ‘n’ roll world rather than this ambitious crossover style.
That final editorial, though, did offer some hope for the future; stating that it was the last Rock On! “in its present form”. Fast forward to around a year later and, in the Autumn of 1979, the true final piece of the Rock On! jigsaw arrived in shops and catalogues to complete the punk ‘n’ prog rocking picture.
With a scorching hot live photo of Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott on the cover, Rock On! Annual 1980 (price – £2.00) may well have been jostling for attention on the shelves alongside big-hitting television and film spin-off annuals, but it certainly looked the most badass. It was, the cover screamed, packed with pictures, facts, and quizzes on your favourite rock bands. It did not disappoint.
The heady mix of photo spreads and more in-depth features on select bands really did make Rock On! stand out from its competitors, and this annual amps that angle right up to eleven. The first photo spread was a “Tribute to Vocal Power!!!” (yes, with three exclamation marks) and featured cool live action shots of Joe Strummer, Johnny Rotten, Cherie Currie, Pete Townsend, Willy DeVille, Graham Parker, Joan Jett, and Mick Jagger. A good start, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Next up, a photo diary detailing a “hard band” going “soft” as The Stranglers met their devoted fans, followed by a quartet of stinging live shots of “the band the critics love to hate”, Status Quo. Rock On!’s attitude to those Quo critics could be “summed up in two fingers” readers were informed.
With barely a pause for breath, a six-page A-Z of Heavy Metal feature detailed the prime acts in the genre, from AC/DC to, erm, Wishbone Ash. A-W, then. A few curious names in this run-down, too: Prism, Quartz, and Mahogany Rush rubbing shoulders with the expected likes of Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and, a firm favourite on the turntable at RPM HQ, Uriah Heep. A “Heads Down Heavy Metal Quiz” followed: a select question being “On Your Feet Or On Your Knees was a double live album for which heavy metal superstars?”
A Ten Years of Genesis feature followed, the first in a series of in-depth essays by John Tobler. His similar two-page spread on the history of Queen followed, as did those dedicated to Thin Lizzy, Blue Öyster Cult, Rush, and KISS. The latter, subtitled “Kings of Shock Rock”, wrote of “the forty foot columns of fire that emit from Gene Simmons’ mouth” and, c’mon, if you were eight years old at Xmas 1979 you had every excuse for then falling head over platform heels in love with the idea of the hottest band in the world.
There was a Rock On! reggae report, a fashion guide of sorts where the Quo’s Rick Parfitt spoke of his love of jeans and Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers of his love of raincoats (!), a Hi-Fi buying guide, a feature on sound engineers, a top DJ article covering John Peel and Anne Nightingale, plus one-page specials on Peter Gabriel and Ken Hensley of the Heep.
A photo spread of Ian Dury swimming (just your seven shots) padded out the pages, but not before an impressive photo set of live Black Sabbath shots appeared, a Star Cars article featuring Steve Jones, Meat Loaf, Midge Ure, and, ominously, Cozy Powell, a “Cult Heroes” feature detailing the likes of Iggy Pop, Nils Lofgren, Todd Rundgren, Tom Petty, and Bruce Spingsteen, and a “Sex ‘n’ Girls ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll” spread featuring Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, Siouxsie Sioux, Linda Ronstadt, Annie Golden, Poly Styrene, Stevie Nicks, and Rachel Sweet.
A “That Was The Year That Was” feature dedicated to 1978 was an obvious leftover from the previous year’s magazine and makes for entertaining if a little sombre reading amongst the other genuinely funny articles. Rock On! was a cool magazine, with its tongue firmly in its cheek and its love of a broad range of music at the forefront of any thinking. Your Uber Rocks, your RPMs are all subconscious descendants of Rock On! magazine.
No annual is complete, however, without a pull-out poster section (even if no kid ever dared pull a poster out of an annual!), and Rock On! Annual 1980 does not disappoint in that department. There are pin-ups of the aforementioned Pursey, Rezillos, Dury, Harry, Clash, and Lynott, plus Bob Geldof, Paul Weller, Freddie Mercury, David Lee Roth, Jon Anderson, Elvis Costello, Paul Stanley, and the Buzzcocks. Great photos too.
The Rock On! Annual 1980 may well be an uncommon piece in the average music memorabilia collection, but it is certainly a worthy one. Copies turn up on the secondary market relatively cheaply and, yeah, you should pick one up if you get the chance. The Rock On! staff were most certainly music journalist mavericks, and we’ve all tried to go there, right? Search for this precious, rockin’ tome… or you might never know how Rick Parfitt’s aunt ironed his double denim.
Thanks for reading, and for the feedback on my first column on the debut Alice Cooper comic. I’ll be back next month with something suitably archaic that the rock ‘n’ roll world tried to forget. Search for Pop Culture Schlock 365 on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook
After a wrapping up sell-out UK and US tours, IDLES have confirmed a 2019 world tour, headlining their biggest venues yet. The run will include two London headliners at The Electric Ballroom and their first ever run of dates in Australia. Tickets go on public sale this Friday, Nov 9th at 10 am local time, with tickets available at www.idlesband.com, full routing below.
IDLES’ new record ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’ debuted at no.5 in the UK charts, breaking Rough Trade’s all-time record for most pre-orders and sales in a day. It is currently the no.1 best-reviewed record of 2018 (average rating of 88 across 25 reviews) at Album Of The Year and in the Top 10 on Metacritic. The band saw not only singles but the album itself A-listed at 6 Music and earned major features, amongst others, with the likes of Q, Mojo, The Guardian and covers with DIY, Loud & Quiet, So Young and NME. They’ve arrived internationally too with only last week NPR Music declaring “I am an IDLES addict. It’s like mainlining an uplifting and unifying assault on nationalism, racism, intolerance, and class inequality.”
The band won Best Breakthrough at the Q Awards last month following their Jools Holland debut which NME called “history in the making…incomparably brilliant,” likening it to Arctic Monkeys and Kanye West’s first appearances on the show. Watch here. La Blogothèque also just filmed the band performing a couple ‘Joy’ standouts, watch them do stripped down versions of “I’m Scum” and “Gram Rock”.
“Everything about Joy As An Act Of Resistance is just so perfectly realised. An instant classic, one that people will turn to in times of need for years to come.”
10/10 – NME
“This album is a heart-breaking but jubilant exploration of joy, honesty, fragility and expression as our most powerful means of human resistance.”
9/10 – Classic Rock
“IDLES have released the most relevant and at times gut wrenching album of the year.” – Drowned In Sound
“IDLES make sense of modern chaos on the utterly essential Joy as an Act of Resistance.” – The Line Of Best Fit
“Idles take their rightful place as not Britain’s, nor Europe’s, but the world’s most vital band. It’s a fist-clenched celebration of the full spectrum of phenomena – inexplicable, crushing and totally joyous – that divides and unites us all.” – The Quietus
“IDLES deliver a thunderous and sharp state-of-the-nation address.” – The 405
“Across its 40-odd minutes, Joy As An Act of Resistance makes you want to laugh and cry and roar into the wind and cradle your nearest and dearest. It is a beautiful slice of humanity delivered by a group of men whose vulnerability and heart has become a guiding light in the fog for an increasing community of fans who don’t just want, but need this.”
5/5 – DIY
“The power of ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance.’ is how it shows society itself in a mirror. Sometimes it’s a bathroom mirror in the morning too bright and over exposed, another time it’s a makeup mirror in a car you struggle just to catch a glimpse of yourself and other times it’s a fairground mirror and everything is distorted and grotesque. But each time you have look yourself in the eye and take stock for your actions.
This is a band to get excited about. Very, VERY, excited about!”
9/10 – Clash
“This album announces IDLES as one of the most exhilarating and necessary punk bands of right now.” – Kerrang!
“…this isn’t good-time, aspirational, radio-friendly pop. But for anyone in need of music that articulates their concerns or helps them to work through their troubles–or anyone who simply appreciates blistering, intelligent punk – they might just be Britain’s most necessary band.” – The Guardian
“Over a visceral torrent of motorik punk-pop pummels recalling prime Pixies or mclusky, Joe hails his “beautiful immigrant” blood brother “Danny Nedelko” and celebrates his “mongrel” upbringing on “I’m Scum” – in a world run by bullish right-wing sex pests, his aggressive compassion is a potent antidote.” – The Independent
“This feels indispensable, as both bereavement therapy and Brexit-era protest.” – Q
“Britain’s most cult-worthy band have a raging vitality.” – GQ
“Joy as An Act of Resistance is a record that bristles with the political and emotional energy of punk’s very best.”
9/10 – CRACK
“One of the most vital albums of 2018.”
5/5 – Dork
“‘Joy…’ is a self-confessed parade. It’s a punch-up and it’s a bear hug.” – Loud & Quiet
“Their follow-up sees them crank everything up to the next level. No band is better equipped to document the here and now, warts and all.” – Mojo
“This must surely win the award for most intense album of the year. An exorcism of sadness and rage, with a burning commitment to honesty of expression throughout.” – The Times
“Bristolian punk – brutally loud, brutally honest.” – Uncut
“IDLES is the best 21st century punk-ish band I’ve heard.” – NPR Music (Bob Boilen)
“Visceral, joyous, and honest — lightning rods for collective rage, forged from love.” – Noisey