Cash for Chaos – Collecting the Counter Culture

Once in a while as a dealer you get the chance to handle and offer an item that has true cultural significance. Not something that is nice and collectible etc,. but something that genuinely changed contemporary culture.

‘Sniffin’ Glue’ the punk fanzine started by Mark Perry in his bedroom in 1976 is one of those, and we have a truly complete set with an original drawing by Paul Simonon and signed by Caroline Coon.

There was no comfortable position for punk in mainstream culture when it exploded in England in 1976. The mainstream media could not accurately speak for punk, and punk could not represent itself through the mainstream media without radically compromising its own nature.

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Sniffin’ Glue, the first punk fanzine, was conceived and produced by Mark Perry, then a bank clerk and with the assistance of Danny Baker, in July 1976 after reading an article which slammed his favourite band, The Ramones, for all the reasons he felt made them great. He took the title from a Ramones song ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’ and set about created a magazine to redress the balance in music journalism. Perry states: “The whole of that first issue was what I could do at that time with what I had in my bedroom. I had a children’s typewriter plus a felt-tip pen, so that’s why the first issue is how it is. I just thought it would be a one-off. I knew when I took it to the shop there was a good chance they’d laugh at me, but instead they said, “How many have you got?” I think my girlfriend had done 20 on the photocopier at her work and they bought the lot off me.” Far from being a ‘one off’ Perry’s fanzine was the perfect punk form. It reported the moment immediately as it happened, reporting it from an insider’s point of view. Because Perry used everyday tools that were immediately to hand, Sniffin’ Glue fit with the do-it-yourself ethos which was already an important part of punk culture. A flood of punk zines followed with identifiable cut and paste graphics, typewritten or felt tip text, misspellings and crossings out. Photocopying also contributed to punk zine look by limiting graphic experimentation to black and white tones and imagery based on collage, enlargement and reduction. Sniffin’ Glue demonstrated that anyone could easily, cheaply and quickly produce a fanzine.

 

NME acclaimed “Sniffin’ Glue” as “the nastiest, healthiest and funniest piece of press in the history of rock’n’roll habits” and it became the true chronicle of the early days of British punk rock. In the zine history books, Sniffin’ Glue will go down as the first pioneering punk zine that launched a thousand other zines, as well as firmly cementing zine publishing as part of the DIY punk ethic. Within the space of three issues Perry had connected the dots within the British Punk underground, and Sniffin’ Glue became the mouthpiece for a generation. In his 2001 feature Tony Fletcher added: “Sniffin’ Glue was not so much badly written as barely written; grammar was non-existent, layout was haphazard, headlines were usually just written in felt tip, swearwords were often used in lieu of a reasoned argument. . .all of which gave Sniffin’ Glue its urgency and relevance.”

Punk began to decline in 1977 when mainstream record companies, venues and media began to embrace it and, fearing absorption into the mainstream music press, Perry ceased publication in 1977 and encouraged his readers to follow him with their own punk fanzines.

Though Sniffin’ Glue never actually printed the legendary instructions often ascribed to it – “This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band” – (that was Sideburns, another punk zine from 1977), its example spawned a slew of followers – including Jamming!, Burnt Offering and Chainsaw (which featured ribald cartoons from a young Andrew Marr) – and established a culture of DIY underground rock criticism that thrives to this day, both in print and online.

The early days of the punk movement largely failed to attract the attention of television or the mainstream press, and Sniffin’ Glue remains a key source of photographs of, and information about, contributors to the scene and this truly complete set is, in our opinion, the finest example of a truly scare set, of which only another two are known with OCLC records showing the New York Public Library is the only institute with even an incomplete set.

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