In the punk and post punk era fanzines were the key communicators, the perfect example of the cut and paste, DIY culture assault. Surviving outside the mainstream and without any rules they swiftly developed in several different directions. They were also the platform for so many people who went into the mainstream media but never lost that key attitude.

Opinionated and vicious they told a certain, personal truth and were crammed full of attitude and opinion and machine gun graphics. Of course they had been around before punk but we are dealing with punk zines and their various offshoots here.

In the early to mid eighties I was right in the middle of that scene with my fanzine, Rox. We were part of a mini scene of fanzines along with Attack On Bzag and The Legend that were influential and remarkably sold up to 5000 copies. The fanzines by then were gig promoters and propagators of a fertile underground UK scene.

Initially the fanzine was very much part of punk, the DIY subculture. If the music and clothes were a cut and paste of future and the past so was print. If you didn’t have any access to the media you just got a pair of scissors and a Pritt glue stick and created your own. Need a heading? then rub down Letraset. There were no rules, the layout was anarchy and the blur of images was a perfect mirror of the times.

1. Sniffing Glue

The daddy of them all. When someone brought a copy of Sniffing Glue to school in the punk era it was a key moment. The idea that you could create your own media was revolutionary at the time. With its hand written sections and badly typed missives Sniffing Glue was massively influential. It was also brilliantly written by editor Mark Perry and co editor Danny Baker,  full of passion and spiky humour and would form the basis for a massive print subculture and was as influential in its own way as the Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy In The UK’.

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2. Vague

Arguably the best of the early eighties post punk scenes, Vague was a major work. It was thick, well bound and full of massive sprawling articles on pre fame Adam And The Ants, the proto Goth scene, squatting, anarchism, Apocolpyse Now and long road stories. It felt radical and dangerous and was a portal into punk becoming a lifestyle. Editor Tom Vague was bang in the middle of an emerging subculture that would soon be mislabeled Goth, he was there at a time when it was radical and thrilling and reflected it in his superb writing.

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3. The End

The Farm frontman Peter Hooton’s zine combined terrace culture and music that would become a massive influence on the future football fanzines and on Loaded/ lad culture journalism of the nineties. Pithy, funny and really written it was a portal not a world of terrace styles and it’s post punk soundtrack from the vantage of Liverpool. Recently reprinted as a compendium by Sabotage Times website.

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4.  Boys Own

The best fanzine in the acid house era, it continued the DIY spiky punk rock ethic into the new culture and was witty and full of attitude that captured the smarter end of the rave scene.

Top 10 best fanzines












5. ‘the Clique versus the bleak’

Loathe as I am to mention my own endeavors my fanzine of was part of a mid eighties enclave of zines along with James Brown’s Attack On Bzag and who would go on to edit Loaded and Everett True who would go on to Melody Maker and was the editor of The Legend. The three zines were the ultimate in cut and paste graphics, spiky and enthusiastic with geurilla lay outs and a 24/7 lifestyle that would become the template for a whole scene that emerged at the time.

Top 10 best fanzines










6. Kill Your Pet Puppy

One of the key texts from the punk squat scene that flowered in London after the punk explosion. Fierce graphics and a fiercer attitude made this a key zine.

Top 10 best fanzines










7. Ablaze

Karen Alaze was around in the eighties Manchester band scene and her fanzine would become one of the best documenters of the Riot Grrrl scene- a scene that was one of the last great flowerings of punk rock DIY culture and much misunderstood by the mainstream.

Top 10 best fanzines












8. Punk Planet

The bible of American punk and post hardcore, really well written and full of the fierce independent attitude that defined all the best fanzines. It ended u being a major worldwide distributed magazine without losing any of it’s attitude, a great fanzine, now defunct  unfortunately.

Top 10 best fanzines














9. Monitor

Music journalist Simon Reynolds glossy publication was the best of the clutch of well printed and more earnest publications that emerged in the mid whites. With lengthy theoretical articles and an eye for ground breaking music, Monitor was always thought provoking and unusually for a fanzine at the time it was well laid out and easy to read….

Top 10 best fanzines












10. Chemical Imbalance

The best document of the American post hardcore band scene. Crammed full of information and a fans eye view of that great flowering of American music fire by punk and yet to be crushed by the major label rush after grunge.

Top 10 best fanzines








11. Maximum Rock n Roll

The key journal from the American punk scene that somehow tied together the mass activity the occurred on the continent in the punk fallout as it morphed into the nascent hardcore scene. Printed in curious newsprint with its own columnists and scene reports from dusty towns in the middle of nowhere Maximum rock n roll was the scene bible that had a world wide distribution.

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12. Motorbooty

Excellent late period zine form Detroit that was full of post grunge underground American humour and killer articles that were loose with the truth but high on cynical humour.

Top 10 best fanzines















13. Panache

Mick Mercer’s cut and paste affair that was full of goths dark humour and an amazing knack for spotting endless new bands. a valuable document of the period between punk and the youth cult tribal wars f the early eighties.

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14. When Saturday Comes

The best known of the football fanzines, WSC came out of the punk zine culture and continued with its humour entering the staid and conservative world of mainstream football culture.

15. Savage Messiah

There’s been a big fanzine revival in recent years but this is one of the best. Laura Oldfield Ford is one of the best upcoming British artists and her artwork that is like an urban comic strip combines Crass style graphics with pyschogeograhy and that deft touch that brings the line drawings to life. She prints them out in her fanzines that are political and social Xerox hand grenades

Top 10 best fanzines
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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Not dissin’ any of these – I spent 40p or whatever on most of these and it’s a good list – but apart from the “personal truth” bit not every fanzine wanted to fulfill the definition you offer up; “Opinionated and vicious they told a certain, personal truth and were crammed full of attitude and opinion and machine gun graphics”.

    I think ‘City Fun’ should’ve been on this list especially 81-83, Liz and Cath filling it full of arty feminist stuff and upsetting the punk purists. It went way beyond music which I personally found very inspiring.

    And those that emerged in Scotland like McGee’s ‘Communication Blur’ and Stephen Pastel’s ‘Juniper Beri Beri’ must have helped reflect and encourage the scene there.

    ‘Are You Scared to Get Happy’ I always liked – turned into Sarah Records.

    ‘Hungry Beat’ was my favourite.

    Some, like that, were too ambitious to fulfil your definition of ‘fanzine’ I guess. I remember the “vicious”, “machine gun” ingredients a bit macho and cliched. Like someone had said “this is what punk has to be”.

  2. I lived through that time and was an avid collector of fanzines.
    This is one of the few blogs I’ve seen that captures the essence of the fanzine culture instead of the media myth I’ve seen on the BBC etc when they bother to acknowledge this culture.
    I’m always surprised that Vague never gets mentioned normally, it was easily the best selling fanzine of the period and far from being a punk cliche like the above writer seems to think it was, like all the fanzines on this list, well written and truly alternative.
    I guess the person who wrote the above comment was too middle class for punk and was happy in their comfortable world or one of those Face reading trendies who was more into fashion than the actual culture- a bit like Hungry Beat fanzine that he champions- one of the glut of zones that seemed to think music taste was about scoring points and being holier than thou. ugh.

    • I started out by saying it was a good list. Vague was ace, yep. I wasn’t dissin the list, like I said I bought and read and enjoyed almost all these back in the day. I just wanted to widen the definition of a ‘fanzine’ and to point out that the dog-eared machine gun blah blah WAS a bit of a cliche in those years. Hungry Beat was passionate and well-written and it stood out and it stood for something, and I’m allowed to champion it surely; Punk should never have been about THIS is allowed and THAT isn’t. Read Lester Bangs; he berated punk for its Stalinism. As for me being a follower of fashion, ha ha. A quick glimpse of photos of me in 1980 would have put your mind at rest on that score.

  3. Remember quite a few of these but not all.

    I think I met Karen Ablaze a few times around Manchester in the 08’s when I was peddling my old and short lived zine ‘Eat The Rich’.

    I still mail releases to a lot of zines – the longest standing ones I am in touch with are Suspect Device, Artcore, Scanner, Riot 77, Mass Movement and Zonked. Loads seem to have bitten the dust in recent years during the digital tsunami …. or in a few cases decided to become ‘proper’ magazines (heh heh)

  4. Oops submitted too quickly …. It was 80’s rather than 08 btw

    The most amusing zines I can remember were Bugs’n’Drugs, Dregs and Mad Monks.

    One of the best ever was Fracture … loved that.

    • Agree with your suggestions. These were pure imagination and effort, creating something totally awe inspiring out of nothing.

      The difference between an fanzine and a magazine – a magazine caters for its audience and provides it with what it wants. A fanzine is purely driven by its editor’s interest – the audience is incidental.

      Oh, and Mr Haslam – one of your former pupils complained to me last year that you told your class that fanzines were superceded by the internet. She wrote a fanzine. Nice to see you’re changing your mind. A bit.

      • Cubesville? Really? She wasn’t paying attention. And I never TELL my class anything. I talk to them about stuff and expect them to reach their own conclusions! SOME of the reasons for making a fanzine are echoed in eg. blogs – I think that’s obvious isn’t it? BUT there’s been a resurgence of fanzines in recent years, and I can’t recall ever being anything but excited by this! I’m a fan and supporter of the idiosyncratic, the hand-made, the lo-fi. Always will be. But it’s not either/or is it? Digital and analogue do different things.

  5. This is a great list- it’s so rare to see some of these zines mentioned- there has been a far more severe editing of the truth of the fanzine era than there was in most of the fanzines themselves!

    I was inspired by the likes of Ablaze and Rox to do a Riot Grrrl fanzine in the 90s (I also loved Vague- the biggest and best fanzine I ever saw- definitely the most read) . I loved the ‘vicious’ prose and the passion- far more preferable to the Face wannabees who ruined the fanzine scene with their passionless hipster posturing and their dry, pretend cool. Those people ruined the media then and they ruin it now- mostly middle aged men who never got excited about anything patting eachother on the back for their ‘correct’ music ‘taste’. It never changes does it?

  6. […] (which I assume is all of you) will remember John wrote a piece about fanzine culture titled “Top 10 Best Fanzines” a short while back. All the zines in the list were from the heyday of zines when the easiest […]

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  14. No Grim Humour? One of the UK’s most popular ‘zines between the mid-’80s and early ’90s, if I say so myself…

  15. I always liked Alphabet Soup. I bought one of my copies from Emma out of Lush (actually she may have been Emma-not-yet-in-Lush at the time) at an Elvis Costello gig once. She marched up to me and said “Wanna buy a fanzine?” in a way that brooked no refusal. Still, it was only 10p, as I recall…

  16. Grim Humour should definitely be on the list Richo, no need for false modesty. Somewhere near the top too. Raisin’ Hell should definitely merit a slot as well but then again it is probably too gnarly for this list. No Flipside? Or Murder By Fanzine?

    Football zines? If you must, got to be Meadowbank Thistle’s AWOL.

    • Yeah, Grim Humour should be in that list…a great read,looking forward to the book..when it comes out. Ta HAY for giving my zine ‘Murder By Fanzine a mention..later to be ‘Murder By Guitar’. Artcore,Suspect Device,Zonked,Riot 77 plus others are still worth reading. Still miss FLIPSIDE though..bought a few old issues recently…keeping them for holiday reading. Be SEEN with a ZINE!

  17. Always a fan of NBT Next Big Thing, an excellent fanzine produced by ex “legion Of the Cramped ” main man Lyndsey Hutton, this fanzine dealt with the sleazier side of Rock and Roll and regularly featured The Cramps, The Fuzztones, Spacemen 3 , Hoodoo Gurus etc etc. A very important part of my youth!

  18. Anyone recall the fanzine section in the Virgin Megastores and at Compendium Books? I used to take a wander down of a Saturday and seek out Lindsay Huston’s ‘Next Big Thing’ and a ‘odd but in a cool way’ fanzine called The Beat Beat. It was like a tabloid Clive James like deconstruction of bands, people and events in the style of The Sun.

  19. It’s all here in the fanzine section of the definitive work on the era ‘International Discography of the New Wave’ httpss:// Written at the time and right up to its publication date of 1980 it’s content is pretty comprehensive. You’ll find pretty most everything there.

  20. Prof. Chris Atton at Napier University in Edinburgh is writing and broadcasting about British Fanzines and Popular Culture. Should any of you wish to take your interests in this area further he’s on the www.

    • ok – you got me there—although in this case when i first put up the fanzine top 10 lots of people wrote in and said it should be included which I didn’t want to do but they insisted…

  21. Surely we can do better than that? A Top 25, 50…a decent book on fanzines and to include …New Youth, Kvatch, Tongue In Cheek, Molotov Comics, Subway, Whippings & Apologies, Grim Humour, ….(Karren…two R’s)…sorry Robb (two b’s) I know I’m a pedantic fuck but we were there and there’s so many more including our own. Sniffin Glue the thin end of A VERY big wedge.
    Richard (Rouska)
    and then there’s the Modzines…Eddie Pillar’s Extraordinary Sensations and so so many more all very influential zines.

  22. A book on punk/post-punk fanzines of the ’70s/’80s/’90s would make for a great read, although would probably have to remain UK-centric in order to serve a better overview. Meantime, I think I’ll finally work on getting my Grim Humour compendium finished.

  23. Never Surrender was the 1st zine I bought (was published in Devon c1983). After that it was Rox that inspired me to publish my own zine CRUD (8 issues from 1987-1990).
    There were several consistent HC punk zines in that era…
    Raising Hell, HAGL, Blown To Bits, 666½, Filth, Dark Diamonds, Macher, Ripping Thrash (still going!) to name but a few…


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