Ten years and nothing but R*E*P*E*A*Ts...
a.) A feat of situationist genius?
This was the question I contemplated on the train back to Cambridge
last night, on my way to R*E*P*E*A*T Fanzine's tenth (established 1994)
birthday party and the world of my distant teenage past.
Between 1996 and 1998 I was lucky enough to play a part in the genesis of R*E*P*E*A*T fanzine. "What's a fanzine daddio?" I hear you cry. Well, little one, come sit on my knee...NO, THE OTHER KNEE...and let me tell you.
Before the days of the interweb, blogs, myspaces and MP3s, there were these things called fanzines. They involved pritt stick, staples, photocopiers, standing in the cold outside gigs touting the things, and trying to actually find someone willing to part with one pound fifty to buy one. It was a world I stumbled upon purely by chance. When I was sixteen, a family friend heard me ranting on about music, and asked me to write a review of a Wannadies record for a Manic Street Preachers inspired 'zine he'd started. I jumped at the chance, holding pretensions to being a rock journalist even at that early age, so I wrote. And wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote, about CDs, gigs, music, poetry...anything I could really. Rather than dub my work adolescent folly, as ninety nine percent of people would have probably done, Rosey, the editor, published it. Not only that, he asked to start interviewing bands, review records, and help put the whole 'zine together. I felt like the cat who got the cream...and a cat who got free CDs and gigs at that.
Looking back, the hours I spent on R*E*P*E*A*T were terrific ones indeed. I got to do some amazing things; I went to watch our first ever single be pressed onto 7", designed all the sleeve artwork for it (not to mention all our numerous gig posters), made banners and badges (think craft lessons soundtracked by The Clash and you're halfway there), helped put on gigs, trawled demo tapes looking for new acts (some of which we actually put out) and championed lots of minor indie bands. I've still never been as excited as the day I heard Freeboy's 'Patrick's Got Me Down', our first 7" single release, played on Radio 1 by John Peel, despite the fact it was a dodgy pressing and the record sounded like someone was gyrating the turntable for the whole two minutes. But still, it was like, Radio 1. Something I'd played a part in had been on Radio 1. Like, wow.
But then there were interviews I did with Ash, Super Furry Animals, Divine Comedy, Supernaturals, Mansun, Cornershop...bands who made it, or at least fleetingly made it, onto Top Of The Pops. And I could say in some way, I'd been part of that, even if the numerous Cambridge bands I loved never got much further than selling out the Boat Race. And whoever the interviewees were, they always had to answer that one question:
or cream buns?"
I even got sent to France to report on a festival where the Manics were meant to play; they pulled out, so me and two friends spend the entire weekend crammed into a two man tent, eating garlic sausage and talking pigeon French to men on acid who claimed they saw monkeys in the trees. And all of this before I'd even sat my A Levels.
Smells Like Teen Spirit?
Ten years on (in fact twelve since it started) and R*E*P*E*A*T, and Rosey, are still going strong...in fact stronger than ever. It's fully embraced the digital age - a huge website, two record labels, weekly gigs - my my, the Arts Council even help fund it these days [well they might do if I ever write the damn application form - Ed]. And last night for me demonstrated everything that's great about its whole ethos; five hundred odd people, ranging from between fourteen and forty watching a mish mash of bands in a venue covered with slogans, posters, badges, badgers and glitter. No matter who you are, or what you do (providing you're not a Tory, bigot or a Cardiff City fan) R*E*P*E*A*T always welcomes you open armed, like a warm, feather boa wearing uncle. Drsssed in a badger suit, obviously.
Asides from the bands, my three major discoveries from last night (and reading a copy of issue 8 from 1997) were:
1.) I used a lot of exclamation marks when I was seventeen
In 2006, R*E*P*E*A*T is a Cambridge, and in many ways, a national, institution. There's very few people in the Fens of my age and younger who haven't been to one of their gigs, and it's given an infinite number of disposed teenagers the chance to express themselves in writing, poetry, and music. I can't claim any credit for this - Rosey should have the freedom of the city for single handedly given the Cantabridgian youth an outlet for music beyond the nineteenth century - but I'm really proud of the role I played in those early years. Even if I did give a Kula Shaker record a good review at one point.
In fact I still maintain I wouldn't be doing what I do today [working for Radio One] without R*E*P*E*A*T. Writing for it gave me the confidence to look beyond hyperbole, major label budgets and the NME to passionately champion great records, no matter what it was or where it was from. Those of use who've since left its editorial farmyard owe Richard a great deal for enabling a bunch of outsiders to play at being popstars and pundits at such an early age, no matter what our limitations.
May all who sail in her prosper as I have done. Although without writing good things about Kula Shaker, obviously. That'd just be wrong. Though they do have reunion tour in the pipeline...
Oh yeah, and for the record, The Wannadies Be A Girl is still a great album.
Rowan (far left) and the R*E*P*E*A*T crew, including from left Phil Rose Esq, Jazz Saff, Andy Exile and Greg Saff, at the Newcastle Fanzine Convention, 25.10.99
*smiles nostalgically and thinks of listening to that and 'Generation Terrorists' on repeat*