You can’t half tell the folks at Unbelievably Bad zine are Hard-Ons fans. So is anyone with a modicum of taste. So this edition of UB should sell its arse off. It’s wall-to-wall Hard-Ons. More Hard-Ons, in fact, than the US Navy on shore leave after six months at sea.
Everybody of a certain vintage who follows non-mainstream rock and roll has a soft spot for ‘zines. One of the reasons you’re reading this electronic magazine is down to two, 48 Crash and Vicious Kitten.
48 Crash was the archetypal Sydney zine of the early ‘80s. Hand-written (and coloured, sometimes), its photocopied pages spoke of Le Hoodoo Gurus, the Visitors, the three-piece Screaming Tribesmen and the Lipstick Killers - bands that struggled to attract mainstream attention elsewhere. It championed the so-called Detroit Sound that fuelled the Sydney music scene for more than a decade.
Ten years later, Vicious Kitten was an offshoot of the record label of the same name and professional publication that aimed its lens at people like Johnny Thunders, Kevin K, Jeff Dahl and Freddy Lynxx. Very Lower East Side, in spirit.
An honourable mention also to Sydney's B Side, that covered the left-of-centre, extreme local musical scene. Unbelievably Bad fills the same niche today. There were the rock local papers (RAM, the bible, and Juke) that were consumed religiously, but zines had all the cool stuff and never mentioned Chisel, Icehouse or Farnham.
Half a Cow in the inner-western suburb of Glebe was the coolest bookshop in Sydney; an advocate of the underground with shelves bulging with left-of-field fanzines, authors who had been banned and musical output from alternative voices.
It was a literary anti-establishment. It all came crashing down, in my view, one afternoon in early 1993, during my fortnightly visit to the shop.
A phone call had been made earlier that day and I witnessed the removal of issues of “Lemon” magazine from the shelves.
I asked: “What has Lou done?” and was shown a review of indie-folk pop stars Club Hoy, buried in the back pages.
It was just six words: “These girls deserve a good raping."
"Lemon" magazine was now officially banned. It started one of the most controversial weeks in the history of the modern Australian music industry.
Indeed, it was the flashpoint of the underground openly clashing with the mainstream.