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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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