Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Night Relaxer: Covers of my life

I am not by nature a hoarder. Sure I have never thrown out a novel, but that is more due to my book addiction than anything else. I’m not one for keeping too many things “just in case”. If I haven’t thrown out something old and long since unused, it is more likely due to my laziness at walking the approximately 23 steps to the wheelie bin outside than to any hoarding tendencies.

Pretty much the only collections I have are of books, DVDs CDs and magazines.

Now the magazine collection I have however is pretty limited. I don’t keep every magazine I buy. A Who magazine will find its way to the trash pile just as quickly as will yesterday’s newspaper. But I do find it hard to throw out movie or music magazines. I keep them because I find them fascinating sources of popular history. The New Weekly types of magazines are for the most part instantly trashable (and to be honest they rarely find their way inside our house in the first place), but magazines like Rolling Stone, Mojo, Empire and the dearly departed except for on the web, Premiere, offer wonderful snapshots of culture through my lifetime. I keep them not only because I will occasionally flick through them (though this is rare) but more so because I figure my daughters may one day like to read them. I know I would have loved to read old magazines of my parents about The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, or the latest release film from the 1963.

I don’t know if they even had such magazines, but if they did I would have liked them to keep them. And so even when I was in my early 20s and in no way thinking about having children I kept these magazines. It was actually a precipitous decision because when in my early 30s I did a PhD on Hollywood satires, I actually cited some articles from my old collection of Empire and Premiere magazines.

I don’t buy the Empire magazines anymore – I did buy about the first 20 of the Australian edition, but found it was a bit lightweight, and too much a fan boy mag. There’s only so often you can talk about how great is Star Wars… And Rolling Stone? I can’t remember the last time I bought it – 2003 maybe?

The other magazine of my teenage and early 20s was Time. Before the internet, this was my best source of international news, and when I lived in Japan for a year in 1989, each week I used to catch a  train to the next town over which had a large bookshop that sold English magazines, and got my copy. I didn’t keep that many, which is a shame because 1989 was a year in a 100.


Do you know where you were when you heard the Berlin Wall came down? I remember exactly.

It was at the Isehara train station in Japan. I was there waiting to meet a Canadian mate who was fellow exchange student. We were off to Tokyo for the night (Shinjuku to be precise). When he got off the train he had a copy of The Japan Times (the best English newspaper, in my opinion). I asked him if there was any news. He said not really; talked a bit about the hockey scores, mentioned some info about the lasted Sumo tournament, and then, “Oh yeah, the Berlin Wall came down”.

As two fairly politically aware teenagers who took life and world affairs oh so very seriously we then proceeded to shout and scream and jump up and down celebrating right there on the platform of the train station, with Japanese staring at us and edging ever so slightly away from where we were.

We then spent the rest of the evening drinking Kirin Beer and talking about what it all meant. (Is there anything better than to be young and oh so very serious?)

That week I bought this copy of Time, and knew I was never going to throw it out. Growing up I couldn’t conceive of the Wall coming down, and given what had happened in China only a couple months earlier that year, it still seemed inconceivable. This cover still bring out the giddy, politically serious youth in me. It is an odd feeling as well, because I had always wanted to get to Berlin and see the Wall, and at this point I knew that dream was never going to happen.  What is stunning now is that the Wall had been up for 28 years, and it has now been down for 21. That means there are people at university who were not alive when there was a thing called the Cold War. Amazing.scan0013

It also reminds me of another thing I thought back then – those Berlin youth take their fashion very seriously. These guys on the Wall could have been getting ready to pose for a Benetton advert. The citizens of Cairo this week will never have a hope of being so well dressed!

I bought the People magazine on the right from Camp Zama Army Base. I was there as guests of a couple Americans who had got us passes to watch an American Football game played between the base team and a local team (the score was not close). I bought it at the PX – which might as well have been a 7-Eleven in America – not one bit of Japanese merchandise was for sale.

At the time I thought the 80s were the greatest decade ever. The 60s? Pah, get in your box, baby boomers. Looking back I now prefer the 90s (because of course you need to rank these things) – but that is more because my life was more interesting in the 90s (oh and the music was better).

I kept this mag and re-read it quite often, and could never bring myself to throw it out if only because it had lots of trivia about the 80s – such as the fact that in 1980 only 37,000 Walkmans had been sold, but by 1988 there had been 25 million sold. I mean honestly, how can you throw out something like that?

It is now an historical relic, and thus I keep it tattered cover and all. And how scary is it that of the people featured on the cover, Donald Trump is the one who has arguably had the best last 10 years?scan0016

Ah Madonna.

Now I have to say growing up I was huge a Madonna fan. And in 1991 she turned it up a notch an outraged the censors (well sort of).

The Hot issue of Rolling Stone that year featured her in a photo series taken by Steven Meisal that saw her doing all sorts of outrageous things – dressing as a man and dancing with a woman! How decadent and boundary pushing!!!

What is most sad though is I probably bought this magazine as much for the article on Ratcat as I did for the Madonna interview with Carrie Fisher.

Oh Ratcat, you just never really kicked on did you?


Looking at he charts at the back of this issue I see the top 5 albums that month were Ratcat “Blind Love”, James Reyne “Electric Digger Dandy”, Jimmy Barnes “Two Fires”, REM “Out of Time” and Daryl Braithwaite “Rise”. Ahem.

It was August 1991, Nirvana’s “Nevermind” would be released in September, and the music world would be changed.

This issue is thus like a last gasp of the 1980s. But it also gave us an insight into the future with an article on Philips latest new thing – the Digital Compact Cassette: “DCC is a thoroughly researched project with high consumer appeal and a pile of potential in the marketplace” . Yep.scan0017 Good luck with that.

My God the world changes in 16 years.

Back then, there’s fresh, all jokey Mel Gibson bringing on the laughs behind the set of Maverick. How’s that image going Mel?

I started reading Premiere in 1993, but I can’t find the first copy I bought which featured a cover story on the movie Hero starring Dustin Hoffman and Andy Garcia.

I loved the issues that came out featuring the summer movie preview. They used to try and work out which films would be hits, and which would bomb. Rather bravely they would rank 20 films according to their predicted box office.

This year in 1994, they believed that True Lies would be Number 1 (it came 3rd), The Lion King to come second (it did), and Maverick to come 3rd (it finished the year 12th). Worse still it had the stinkers, I Love Trouble, Renaissance Man and City Slickers 2 to come 4th, 5th and 6th. They ended up 44th, 57th and 32nd).

The Number 1 film that year, Forrest Gump, they had coming 11th, with the suggestion it could be “the summer sleeper”.

One of the main reasons I kept the issue, and re-read it often, was the excellent article by Peter Biskand on the making of Chinatown. The article would later be reproduced pretty much word for word in his book, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. It was brilliant journalism, and the lack of that type of writing is why I don’t bother with film magazines anymore.


As the character in the dreadful Generation X film, Reality Bites, played by Winona Ryder says with great understatement, “Melrose Place is a really good show”.

Of course it was. No, I’ll go further: it was THE great show of the early to mid 1990s. Before Friends and Seinfeld took over the zeitgeist, you needed to watch this show. A spin off from Beverly Hills 90210, it was such a guilty pleasure that it even crossed over into Seinfeld, with the great episode where Jerry takes a lie detector test to try and prove he has never watched it (tip from George – “It’s not a lie if you believe it”).

Many a Monday night (OK I’m guessing there, I am pretty sure it was Monday night) was spent with friends watching it and bagging the show the whole time. It was a show that demanded to be watched with a group of friends. Oh Alison, you useless pushover! Give up, girl, Billy is never going to want you. Oh Michael, you’re so bad. Jo? C’mon, Jake is not for you. And Oh. My. God. Did you just see the scar on Kimberly’s head??!!!

My sister during the early-mid 90s lived in London, and in my letters to her I used to give her updates on MP – in fact I think they were the only reason she wanted me to write. In the years before the web and sites like Television Without Pity, my relating the adventure of “I-need-a-man-Amanda” (played by Special Guest Star, Heather Lockear) and the others living at the apartment complex were the only way she could keep tabs on her favourite show. It truly is a different world now.

That issue also listed the Hot Actor and Actress of the 1994 as 19yo Leonardo di Caprio (hard at work on The Basketball Diaries) and Gwyneth Paltrow. The Hot Band was Green Day. I guess you can say they were on the money there.

Looking at my collection of magazines, I see it pretty much runs out around 2004, the time when I had my first child. I guess my kids can use the internet to find things from the past, but for me, these have been with me now for so long, that even if all of the articles within can be found online, they’ll be staying on my shelves. Tattered and dog-eared memories, yes; but precious all the same. 

By the way, for those interested, Time does have all its old copies online – all the covers can be found here.

Have a good weekend.


Durk94 said...

While I only owned three of the above issues, the insights into the different magazines and their highs and lows are spot on.

Nice post - took me fairly back into the 90s - and trying to remember where my magazines ended up. A few moves overseas and back meant I gave them away (couldn't throw them out).

Makes me kinda sad that Rolling Stone holds little interest for me anymore - it used to be a huge highlight.

Hillbilly Skeleton said...

I, coincidentally, cleaned out the bookcase the other day in the middle of the Sydeney heatwave(I hate sitting around in high heat). Due to the Internet, all the books had a layer of dust on them an inch thick.
As you do when it's, you get 'over it' easily. Thus a lot of those books ended up in the Wheelie Bin...Until my eldest son got home from school...Out they came again, to much groaning exasperation from moi...The upshot? They are now residing in a bookshelf in the garage. The bookshelf in the house isn't quite so cramped anymore, and everyone is happy.
Not that I think most of the retrieved books will ever be read. They make a great security blanket though. And kids do love the 'other worldliness' of them, it seems.
So, keep them, Grog. The kids WILL appreciate them eventually.
As for my vinyl record collection, that's my next big decision. I still have a turntable, but who can be bothered? :)

Dong said...

Oh Time magazine. When living in WWest Africa (80s and 90s), I used to get my copy from the people who cleaned the aircraft arriving fom Europe, along with Newsweek and all the latest newspapers paying a fraction of the cost in the shop. Sometimes I had already read them before they the new copies had arrived in the shop. Unfortunately very few Rolling Stone but I did score a few jazz magazines from France. Thank you for the tour down memory lane, I am a bit of a history buff and enjoy Looking through back copies of mags such as Time and Life. Cheers Grog

Anonymous said...

I grew up during the 60s reading my father's old Saturday Evening Posts... unspeakable revelations of Dachau and Nazi medical 'experiments', scarifying images of the Kennedy assassinations, and a memorable account of the courtroom proceedings following the events subsequently dramatized in Mississippi Burning.

Apollo, Elvis, Vietnam, The Beatles, Martin Luther King, San Francisco and Cassius Clay. President Johnson displaying the stitches from his abdominal surgery.

All sandwiched between Norman Rockwell and The Marlboro Man.

Left quite an impression. TFA

emjar said...

Grog,I know what you mean about keeping what a lot of people have told me is rubbish.I keep papers so that my son can discover them one day and hopefully be interested in "ancient history".I have papers kept in black garbage bags sealed with tape which I hung onto when we moved after 30 years. The death of Princess Diana;the Thredbo disaster and the mine rescue in Tasmania as well as the Essendon victories which I still can't get enough of.I think that he is going to really get a thrill out of handling the real papers in his hands. Just like I loved reading the papers that I found underneath the lino in the old house we have done up.Especially the old "Truth". I mean what a misnomer!!! Thankyou also for sticking up for the PM. What a shame that most people don't read or hear what is really said in Parliament.They then don't hear the reality.

Wiggins said...

We've got the September 12 issue of the New York Times. It was the only thing many of us were organised for for the whole day, being in upstate NY at the time...

& seveal kilos of Living etc

han said...

I remember fondly Time magazines in the mid 80s. I was a teenager hunger for information growing up in the still insulated communist China where access to foreign publications were extremely limited. Luckily my dad spent a few years in a West Berlin university as a visiting scholar and he brought back a few copies of Time. I read them front to back hundreds of times and even made a mock up version of Chinese edition myself. Shortwave radio was another source of news and I was perhaps the only teenager in the world listening to Voice of America's live broadcast of President Bush Snr's address in Poland in 1988. Sadly my hope of studying journalism was shattered after the Tiananmen crackdown as my parents were scared of me entering into the dangerous profession and sent me to engineering instead.

Jaime said...

I can't bear to throw out music magazines either. Especially the ones I picked up while I was in Europe, they're still kicking around here somewhere.

Just one thing about Melrose though, it was Tuesday nights. My girlfriends and I would NEVER answer the phone on Tuesday nights, because from 7.30 through til 10.30 was trashy TV night - and oh was it trashy. I loved it!!

Greg Jericho said...

Cheers Jaime - the Monday night was a guess. Trashy night Tuesday sounds a winner!

Dog minder said...

I so remember completing all of my school projects and assignments with TIME magazine.

To bad in this day and age we live in the GOOGLE era.

The good old days
Thanks for the memories

wilful said...

Used to be 90210, melrose place, northern Exposure and Star Trek TNG in our house every tuesday night.