"Smokin' Dragon" Zine: Revisiting Issues 1 to 7.
What Was Smokin' Dragon?
Maintaining friendships with pen pals was a popular hobby before the dominance of the internet and social networking. Any way of contacting new pen pals was welcomed by many people. This was the initial, simple idea which initiated this project, which was first named Inklink.
The contents' emphasis quickly changed, as did the zine's name, and before long Smokin' Dragon had become one of Britain's premier independent music zines. A huge number of emerging bands competed to be included in its pages.
The experimental pilot issue of Inklink was published in November 1991. The zine contents featured mainly pen pal listings and poetry, plus a very small quantity of art by Charles Diquens and myself.
Adverts included tour dates for unsigned bands, who also tried to sell their often home-made demo tapes.
The front cover pen and ink illustration was drawn by me. The text was typed using a Brother word processor, a piece of technology which was already on the verge of becoming obsolete. This was back in the days before most people owned a computer, remember.
The six A4-sized pages were printed on a conventional photocopier. Copies were sold at £1 including postage, and mostly snapped up by supportive friends.
The front cover of the second issue of Inklink was decorated with quotes from happy customers of issue #1, a spot of stylised graffiti art by me, and a photo of Danny Fury of the Kill City Dragons by Shari (who later created a zine of her own called Black Velvet). She took this photo after the KCD's gig at Stairways nightclub in Birkenhead c.1992.
There was also a photo of LA Guns singer Phil Lewis taken by me.
The contents included a drawing of Dan Spitz of Anthrax, by Gisela Collins. This page also has an advert for a poetry book called Love and All That Jazz, published as a fund-raiser by the Marie Curie Foundation and which featured one of my poems.
This six-page photocopied zine was dominated by pen pal listings and poetry from various contributors, and despite the photos on the front cover no music was actually featured inside. However, plans were afoot for big changes....
Smokin' Dragon #3
The zine name "Smokin' Dragon" first comes into use!
The front cover reads: "Smokin' Dragon, incorporating Inklink No.3", and gives the publishing date as August 1992.
"Dragon" was taken from my Chinese astrological sign and from the Kill City Dragons, and "Smokin'" refers to "smoking hot", i.e. on trend. Any drugs reference was unintentional and unnoticed by me until friends later pointed it out.
The cover is decorated with a pen and ink drawing by me, originally created during a life drawing class at when I attended art school in Liverpool. The model is Billy, (surname unknown), who was a regular model there. The wording above reflects my interest in Anne Rice's early Vampire Chronicles.
Again, pen pal listings play a dominant role in the seven page photocopied zine, which with this issue experimented with a horizontal format.
Shari, (of Black Velvet Zine), contributed a review of an Alleycat Scratch gig at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on 1st June 1992, with photos of band members Michael Michelle and Devin Lovelace. Emerging unsigned bands have always had an uphill struggle to attract any attention from the established music press, who reason that such bands come and go like the wind and therefore are unworthy of much interest. Consequently, these bands often relied heavily on zines for promotion.
Kelly Angel contributed a piece about looming environmental disaster, and Hazel Dixon contributed her recipe for pineapple cake. Never let it be said that this zine wasn't open to diversity!
Smokin' Dragon #4
Published in October 1992, the front cover features a pen pal advert, (whose photo is now missing), and a photography taken by me of the Albert Dock in Liverpool. The famous tower which once housed a revolving restaurant and which is now home to Radio City can clearly be seen. The city skyline had changed a lot since this image was taken.
The cover also has a poorly photocopied photo of a painting of Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks, which was painted by me.
Page two was filled by my own poetry, and page three carried a portrait of Bernie Torme by Gisela Collins plus a lively letters section from subscribers.
Poetry filled half of page three, including Our Fathers/Surrender by Ashley Brookes of Kiss covers band Dressed To Kill.The second half of this page depicted another of my photographs of the Albert Dock.
More pen pal listings followed, along with an article by Wendy Whu called Why Do We Wear Clothes? There were adverts for bands Dressed To Kill, Wicked, and Skullduggery, and adverts for tarot card readings and jacket-painting.
Ainsley D Rowley contributed a full-page article about the Vampire Register, the aim of which was to collect and study information about living vampires.
Smokin' Dragon #5
Almost nothing remains of the front cover of Smokin' Dragon #5 other than the dragon logo, a small picture of the band Skullduggery, and a typed contents list.
Page two featured Dressed To Kill in an article written by band member Ashley Brookes which describes how this Kiss tribute act came into being.
Page three featured an interview with Rich Mulyrne, who was then the drummer with Cornish band Angelic Suicide. He talked about their change of management and violence at their gigs. He was optimistic about the band's forthcoming second demo and their prospects for 1993, and had just bought himself a new drum kit. Elsewhere in the zine was a positive review of their demo, Visiting Mr Roache.
Page three also carried an interview with Alan Strange from Baby Strange. My afternoon phone call to do this interview had dragged him out of bed to talk about their demo tape. They wanted a new bass player and planned to play around the country but hadn't organised anything yet. Their demo was given a good review, with the song Scars of Your Last Attack being chosen as a favourite.
Poetry filled half of page four, the rest being given over to an interview with Kev Rice from Derbyshire band Taurea, along with a review of their demo. They had formed in 1988 and were currently without a guitar player. Along with their demo they were also selling baseball caps, T-shirts and key rings, offering a free sticker with every purchase.
Features also included pen pal listings, a portrait of Jon Bon Jovi by Gisela Collins, and two of my photographs from the theatre production rehearsals of Dracula Spectacula, plus my photo of a derelict landing stage near the Pier Head in Liverpool.
Readers were treated to a large photo of glam rock band Paradise Alley. They had been rehearsing with a new drummer and guitar player in preparation for cutting their first demo tape.
There was also a photo of Skullduggery, with a small piece of writing about that band, and the final page featured letters and a poem by Hazel Dixon, Night Visitor, about a ghost cat.
Smokin' Dragon #6
Published on April 30th, 1993, this issue opened with an article about Irish rock band Mama's Boys which included profiles of the three McManus brothers, Pat, John and Tommy, and their Scottish singer Mike Wilson. This band had both professional management and a recording contract with CIM Records. Their album, Relativity, was reviewed in the same issue.
The same page also carried tour dates and a demo review for Indian Angel, who had been performing together for two years.
Star Star's interview quote the singer Johnny Holliday as insisting he "wasn't a singer but we couldn't find anyone", and said he'd previously worked in a funeral home. Their album, The Love Drag Years, had been produced by Richard Gotehrer, who had worked with Blondie, and Earle Mankey.
This page also ran an article by Steven Trapnell about rock band Spread Eagle, whose album Open to the Public had been produced by Charlie Gambetta and Paul DiBartolo.
Yvonne Yates contributed a half-page interview with rock band Wicked, who talked about their new demo, Something This Way Comes. The second half was filled by an interview I'd done over the phone with Polish sisters Izabella Bellatrix and Aleksandra Templar. They had formed a goth band called The Witches who were heavily influenced by The Cure, and Siouxsie and The Banshees.
Subscribers letters were followed by tour dates for Wicked Ways, who had just played at a three-day blues and rock festival in Camber where they won First Prize. Their demo was reviewed in the same issue.
Yvonne Yates contributed an interview with Guttersnipe, who talked about their new demo Cesspit Surfing - a title surely guaranteed to deter most potential customers. Yvonne also did an interview with Newcastle band Toxic Jade.
This issue featured a serious debate about women in rock, asking why there aren't more female rock musicians, and discussing misogyny in lyrics.
Next came an interview with London band Junk. When asked what kind of things they wrote about, they replied, "Fish!" Was there anything else they'd like to say about their band? "Fish!" They claimed to have recorded around ten demos over the previous year, which seemed equally fishy.
Silver Bullets announced two tour dates, along with the unhelpful detail that they tended to change the band name every week.
Next came poems by Hazel Dixon and Charles Diquens, then a review by Kelly Angel of a demo from Swampwalk. My review of a demo by Love Like Us included the advice to re-write their promo blurb as it described them as mediocre.
There were noticeably less pen pal listings in this issue.
Smokin' Dragon #7
Published on 1st August, 1993, this issue was photocopied on pale green and blue paper as Graham, who owned Records Plus on Aigburth Road, in Liverpool, had accidentally ordered far too much of the stuff! This small independent record shop was where I usually had the zine printed.
This issue began with a demo review by the Silver Hearts, titled Last Great Dreamers. They claimed to have played over 200 shows throughout Britain, and their demo was produced by Tony Harris who had worked with REM, The Verve and the Sisters of Mercy.
French singer Rossmy O and Italian guitarist Matt Stikky Bracci, of spoof glam band Gigolo, sent in a demo which issue #7 described as, "Spinal Tap meets Vain on a bad trip while viewing Enuff Z'Nuff videos."
Alison Ford contributed a review of a Rich Rags gig at Mr Smiths in Bournemouth on 16th May, 1993. A review of their untitled 10-track demo followed, and Yvonne Yates contributed interviews with City Kidds, Wild Turkey, Baby Face and Soul Rebellion.
The Vibes (ex-The Throbs) announced their forthcoming album. The same page also carried a small review of a demo by Dr Bone called Doom Jazz. A piece about Shaketown included a review of their 3-track demo, and this was followed by a review of China Dolls' demo.
Tour Dates & Demos
Steve Vincent, singer with Paradise Alley, contributed an article about Helinski band Plastic Tears and announced tour dates for his own band. There were also short pieces about Edinburgh band Kiss The Bride, Hampstead band Hellfire Club, and a bit of poetic prose by Mick Dolan.
After the letters section came an article about Erotic Jesus who had recently completed their second album, Extravaganza, released on Gun Records.
Baby Strange were due to play an all-day gig at The Robey in London on July 31st, along with Stevie Jaimz and Gunfire Dance, and this issue carried a quick interview with singer Alan.
Demos from Love Like Us, Monkeys With Tools, Sun, and Vice Versa were reviewed, and Razz Monroe contributed a review of Rene Berg's album, The Leather, The Loneliness & Your Dark Eyes. Anki Sundelonn sent in an article about Swedish band Backyard Babies.
© 2020 Adele Cosgrove-Bray