Monk Agog: Flexipop! Tome Crowdsourced And No One Told Me

The book has your choice of covers - trendies get Spandau Ballet…

The book has your choice of covers – trendies get Spandau Ballet…

…Goffs get Fat Bob

…Goffs get Fat Bob

So I hope you saw this coming from yesterday. I was writing about the Boomtown Rats flexidisc that came with issue #3 of Flexipop! Magazine, and in case anyone reading the post didn’t have a clue as to what I was referencing, I added a link to what I imagined would be the Wikipedia page for the magazine… only my search gave me the domain flexipop.com as the first hit! One click later and I saw that founders Barry Cain and Tim Lott had finally bowed to the inevitable and had produced a book on the whole Flexipop! phenomenon.

flexipop-#12

The first cut is the deepest

My first exposure to the magazine was in the import magazine rack of the Record City on Colonial Drive. It was the Fall of 1981 and I had been reading about Soft Cell in the pages of Billboard in the college library. Here was a reasonably cheap way to sample the band as it had the all important flexidisc of “Metro Mr. X” [available nowhere else] taped to the cover of the garish rag. I paid my $3 [the same as the price of an import 7″ single] and got a magazine in the bargain. As I opened the loose shrink wrap that Americans insist on putting everything in, I discovered that the magazine was vulgar, tasteless and infantile… in the best possible way! I had always found Creem to be repulsively smug and self-satisfied as they took the low road to Rolling Stone’s even more smug and self-satisfied albeit lofty path. This rag wallowed like Creem, but with an air of gleeful anarchy that made all the difference in the world. I would buy one or two issues of it during its [too] brief print run if there was a flexi that called out to me, but my scant music funds were always better spent on actual music rather than words and images about it, so I sat out being a regular reader.

Flexipop | UK | 7" flexidisc | 1981 | FLEXIPOP 004

That didn’t stop me from buying the flexidiscs when they surfaced in record store used single bins, though! I had not seen the first eleven issues, and there were tracks from Bow Wow Wow, Adam + the Ants, and Depeche Mode that I obtained, with the Altered Images issue for the 1981 year end wrap up being another one that I plunked down for in the Record City racks. When my favorite music magazine, New York’s Trouser Press began trolling for subscribers with flexidiscs only for those who bought subscriptions, I easily realized their inspiration. Of course, I stopped buying it in convenience stores and subscribed to the bitter end, which was a little over two years to go. By the time Trouser Press called it quite in early 1984, Flexipop! was a receding memory.

I think I have this issue…

I think I have this issue…

By the time that I had begun attending record shows, issues of Flexipop! by the late 80s had attained a rarefied patina. Trolling through an issue of Flexipop! was by that time an incredible time capsule of the 1981-1982 burst of New Pop that made the UK music scene burn so brightly before the comedown of the mid-80s. By the time David Bowie had a bleached blonde frizz ‘do and Live Aid had conspired to resurrect earnest pomposity and rockism in one, fell swoop, an issue of Flexipop! seemed, in retrospect, like a magic telescope back to an impossibly golden pop era. All because they died young in a flaming car crash and managed to leave a good looking corpse that never aged… which sounds like one of their photo features, actually. My policy from that time onward was to buy any and all issues of Flexipop! I came across… which weren’t very thick on the ground. I may have only 3-5 issues in total. What’s worse, I looked for them this morning and they were not where I imagined them to be, so I still have to find my stash of these! The flexis were different. They are in the 7″ collection racks, exactly where they should be. I have to admit, I sold my Depeche Mode flexi when I was traveling to D.C. in ’13 to see Simple Minds. For a lot of money. To Germans. The holy Associates flexi? Bought for a dollar in New Orleans! No amount of money could make me part with it.

Apparently, Cain and Lott had crowdsourced the new book and by the end of last September, it was out in the world. The tome came with either a Cure or Spandau Ballet cover, along with a best of magazine and the requisite flexidisc! The flexi this time was a 1983 live recording of “Gold” by Spandau Ballet; a band that by rights should have been featured in the flexi back in 1982/2. Accompanying this track was a Marc Almond flexi of an alternate version of “Sleaze” [how apropos]; marking the third time “Mascara’d Marc” had contributed a flexi to the magazine; surely some sort of record in the world of cheap, disposable entertainment?

The Infamous Flexipop #24

The Infamous Flexipop #24

I’ll not forget the time that chasinvictoria bought an issue and sent me a tape of the second Marc Almond flexi. “Marc Almond + Friends” [a.k.a. Marc + the Mambas] had covered Throbbing Gristle’s “Discipline” and the interminable flexi lasted for what seemed to be seven minutes of torture. But that was the least of Flexipop’s problems. That issue also featured one of the mag’s typically puerile and deliberately offensive photo stories [or fumettis, as they are known] with more over the top gore that even usual for the mag, and that got them banned for two issues in W.H. Smith’s, their largest distributor. That seemed to seal their fate, as they limped through another few months of fortnightly issues complete with a new logo in an attempt to shake off the tar and feathers of the cannibalism and offal fest that issue number 24 featured… under a grandma-friendly cover of Haircut 100 looking particularly wholesome. Anyone interested in the sordid tale of Flexipop! would do well to jet over to their website and order the book while it’s still available. £24.99 [$36.56] will probably add up to $50 for here in The States. My guess is it won’t stay available for long.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Monk Agog: Flexipop! Tome Crowdsourced And No One Told Me

  1. Tim says:

    Grandma friendly Haircut 100……sure….right before we pulled the plug of cable tv VH1 did a bands reunited and it was Haircut 100. I didn’t catch all of it but from what I saw it looked like Nick Heyward lost the plot for a while. Talking about unicorns and things like that if my memory is right. Too bad, there’s some good pop songs between his solo work and that with Haircut 100.

    Like

  2. Echorich says:

    Ah Flexipop! I have issue 1, 2 (the real pride of my collection), 4, 9 (yeah Hazel O’Connor), 12 (Soft Cell!!!), 17 (The Jam Again), 18 (Soft Cell Again), 22 (Cure Flexi and Martin F-R-Y), 28 (WHAT NO Flexidisc?) and then I gave up. It was never that important to me to collect each issue – I felt like I should NEVER play the flexidisc anyway. But oh how I wish I had them all now. As with SFX and Debut, alternative music “magazines” were a curiosity but should have been a must have.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Your conclusion echoes my own feelings on the matter. Lots of phenomena look way better in the rear view mirror and the weird, media hybrids that escaped the lab in the early 80s exist in today’s world like a time capsule far more tempting in hindsight.

      Like

  3. I’m sure I’m not in a state to comment on the poor quality of music journalism these days (apart from the fact that what little of it reaches me seems poor), but back in those days music papers like the NME and mags like Flexipop were a great way to find out about new bands, and of course Flexi would go the extra mile and pirate you a song or two! What was so great about them in hindsight was the way they generally got songs and castoffs that appeared NO WHERE ELSE for eons (if ever!). My collection of FP is in a box in a storage unit somewhere, but I’d guess I have about a dozen issues — not sure about the state of the records, but I would have kept them with the issues. Even at the time I was well aware of the most of the bands they covered, but it was still a fun read and a challenge to get the flexis to actually play!

    I’d love to get a copy of the book (both variant covers, naturally!) but what I’d really cough up the dough for is a 2CD set with all the flexis remastered. IIRC, this format was the way I discovered “Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead” by Depeche Mode, truly one of their most charming tunes!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s