Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pop annuals and the ghosts of Christmas Past

I came upon these two while sorting through some old books. The Radio Luxembourg Book of Record Stars must come from 1963 because the Beatles are in it, thought most of it's devoted to Peggy Lee, Frank Ifield and other artists who probably didn't get much Luxembourg play once they'd arrived. It's an awkward mix of PR shots accompanied by copy which purports to come from the performers and DJs. Jimmy Savile writes about his passion for country and western music. Nevill Skrimshire contributes a piece called "Categories in jazz don't matter".

Young people always looked forward to annuals but they rarely justified the anticipation. Publishers traditionally regarded them as money for old rope. The editorial was recycled from the files, the cover prices were high and they were bought by indulgent aunties for Christmas. I like to think we briefly changed that in the early 80s with the Smash Hits Yearbooks. When I look back it's amazing to see how much work we put into them: special photo sessions, very expensive "Look and learn"-style strips depicting the career of the Sex Pistols or how an edition of Top Of The Pops is put together plus features that looked back at what had happened in pop and what might happen in the future ("he'll be able to exchange video gossip with his girlfriend by computer", we wrote, looking forward to the unimaginably distant year of 1987.)

The interesting thing about them is that since they're an ephemeral item in more permanent form they tend to hang around long after the magazines have been boxed up and taken to the tip. Anyone else still got theirs?


  1. I've still got all my Virgin Rock Yearbooks, which include usually thoroughly sensible copy from one D. Hepworth. Do they count?

  2. Anonymous1:35 pm

    I have the Smash Hits ones. The first one was utterly amazing with The History of Electronic Music in it.

    Here's an ad about it in Smash Hits 30 years ago (and the guy who runs the flickr account puts up a new issue every fortnight to the day)

  3. I was a terror for annuals as a child - but these were mostly TV based heavy-hitters: Star Trek, The Persuaders, Planet of the Apes or lower level oddities such as The Magician (Bill Bixby as be-doved and hankerchief producing detective) and a cartoon versh of the Harlem Globetrotters. All still in the loft.

    Two favourites remain, Leo Baxendale's (creator of the Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx) Willy the Kid annuals. As surreal as any Spike Milligan or Python sketch but with hidden, subversive touches that made them compulsory reading for 12 year olds. Effing, jeffing and C bombs in a letter from Willy about the editor, which had been struck out (by hand with a marker pen) - but could be de-coded if you held the page up at the right angle, under a lightbulb.

  4. I used to get a Tom & Jerry annual every Xmas from a friend of my mum and I really don't know why. I assume I must have expressed a liking for their cartoon hi-jinks at one point but I'm not sure that justified getting me an annual for 10 straight years.

    If she were around my mother would say I'm being an ungrateful little sod.

  5. "he'll be able to exchange video gossip with his girlfriend by computer"

    What does 'video gossip' mean in this context - is it anticipating Skype (gossip via video) or blogs/email (chat about music videos)?

  6. Anticipating Skype, I like to think.