Vague : the Great British Mistake : 1979-84
intro by Jon Savage
"Reading through these back copies of Vague is to trip through time. The world that Tom Vague wrote about with a partisan passion has completely gone. That is to be expected, of course, as the events he described occurred between twenty-two and thirty-five years ago. Even so, there was so much I had forgotten about the 1980's - and, contrary to his assumed name - Tom brings it back with an engaged precision. He was there, and he communicates the eddies and the flows, the sub-currents of a time that is still misunderstood, is still barely known.
"Vague" began, as it happened, a few months after "England's Dreaming" left off: in the post-punk diaspora of late 1979. Turning nineteen years old in sunny Salisbury, Tom Vague began by featuring local punk bands as well as all the major acts that passed through or nearby - the Banshees, the Cure, the Ruts, Joy Division, Red Krayola, the Gang of Four, Clash, Adam and the Ants. It wasn't a pure punk fanzine - it was too late for that - but matched punk irreverence with the overall feeling of experimentation that still existed at the end of the 1970's.
Over the first few issues, "Vague" continued to work out the possibilities of independence - in all senses of the word - that had been pioneered in 1976 by Mark Perry (fanzines) and in 1977 by Buzzcocks and the Desperate Bicycles (seven inch records). The whole point about fanzines and DIY singles was that you didn't have to do what everyone else did. So "Vague" mixed up reviews with Perry Harris' cartoons and what Tom describes as 'stream of consciousness prose' that reflected the chaos and the intimacy of the moment.
Coming from a small, local scene, Tom Vague was used to rubbing up against all kinds of subcultures. In Salisbury, there was a mix of hippies, posers and punks, who, when they banded together, 'had to avoid bikers, Teds, rockabillies, squaddies, smoothies, etc.' There's an inclusive nature about the early Vague's which is very different from London's elitism." ... more
"I met a prostitute – Angela W – from the fishing port of Grimsby on the mouth of the Humber in the North of England. I instantly fell in love with her in an all consuming way. The pain inside my body, so massively accumulated with the death of hopes for the social revolution...was wrenched away from me as she slowly...shambled towards me."
So begins what is at various times a highly personal, deeply political, coldly analytical and achingly optimistic account of what some consider to be one of the most important English political groupings of the 20th Century and beyond.
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