30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.
6. MOJO MAGAZINE
Mojo Magazine (The Music Magazine) celebrates it’s 200th issue this month (Tom Waits cover). It is the only magazine that I collect. That is, I buy them AND I keep them. I’ve been buying them for almost 13 years now.
I am not going to write about music in this 30 for 30 column specifically. But I am going to touch on some related issues, like this one. It’s more about collecting a magazine for years on end.
I still see, all the time, people with the National Geographic in their living rooms. Dozens if not hundreds of them, with that yellow spine. What is with that magazine? Were subscriptions super cheap? And people keep them – how often do they re-read them?
I’m not even sure if I’ve ever read one article in National Geographic in my entire life.
But there is something I really love about seeing magazines on a shelf. Metres of shelf space. The matching spines. The OCD part of me goes wild about it.
I think it’s a dying culture – the magazine you keep. The National Geographic. The New Yorker. Mojo. Major, timeless journalism vs contemporary events. I really think that people of my age will be the last generation to do this.
First Mojo I ever bought was issue 46. Funnily enough, Radiohead were on the cover. It was Campsie Centre, and in Australia we get Mojo Magazine about two months later than the UK, so it would have been November 1997.
I was buying anything and everything to do with music. And I remember seeing this magazine with Achtung Baby written across it, and a photo of four weird looking guys. Now, I know Achtung Baby is a U2 album, but those guys on the cover were not U2. What the hell? What is this Mojo?
So that cover stuck with me (it was issue 41). Years later I discovered it was Kraftwerk. The next month the newsagent had another weird one. John Lennon – looking uncool and almost dead. It was so different from Rolling Stone, Juice, Recovery Magazine and all that.
So finally by 46, I caved and bought the issue. Everyone was talking about Radiohead. It was a way into this magazine. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand half of it. I knew very little of the bands discussed. But as usual, I saw it as a challenge.
I bought the occasional Mojo from then on, but didn’t get it month to month until around 65. By then I was all across the Nick Drakes and the Zombies of the world.
You can see the covers discussed here
Doug Thomas was the first person I ever met with a complete collection of Mojo Magazines. Doug is a legend in the Australian indie records scene, having worked behind the counter at some of the best record shops Adelaide and Perth had to offer.
I was friends with his daughter, the talented Stina Thomas (now a solo artist in Perth). Anyway, that first trip to Perth, visiting friends, was great and not relevant to this other than seeing Doug’s complete set of Mojos. I don’t know what about me sees stuff like that and decides I want it too. Something about conspicuous consumption speaks to my heart. I can still see it now – the bottom row of this shelf in the Thomas household.
So that’s always been the aim. The complete set. I have managed to find old Mojo magazines in various thrift stores, second book shops, Oxfams and dusty record shops. I am still a fair way off a complete set.
The oldest Mojo I have is 9. The Clash are on the cover.
Is it odd that I hunt down old magazines? Maybe. I do have a problem with stuff like this. Collecting weird stuff. I do read them though. And hey, people collect stamps. So I can do this.
Why Mojo? Why not National Geographic?
The obvious answer is music. Mojo was the music magazine and nothing else. But there is something timeless about it. Or maybe more accurately – the consistently dated quality.
It just set the scene for me, regardless of what trends were going on. Take for example, issue 75. The lead article (really, like the LEAD ARTICLE and COVER) was a profile on four bands.
1) The Velvet Underground in their least popular period
2) The then-unknown Big Star
3) Fred Neil. I mean do you, even today, know who Fred Neil is?
4) The La’s. Yes, the weird one hit wonders that were the La’s.
Before the internet, Wikipedia, Allmusic and all that, this was my education into weird, old music.
That issue was over ten years ago and I still know what I learnt from that issue. If that gives you an indication of how good the writing is.
I guess it was around this time Michael Lock, a great music journalist, introduced me to Lester Bangs and other great rock writers. I started to appreciate Rock Journalism as a thing of it’s own. Michael never wrote album reviews, but he wrote profiles on bands. I know writers who do the reverse. The art of music writing was studied here, by me.
But everyone cool I know bought Mojo. Musicians. Record shop people. Scenesters. It was our bible. I remember Michael telling me about a t-shirt that Evan Dando had, that Gram Parsons wore once. And he just went to my shelf, picked out the right Mojo issue (56, Massive Attack) and showed it to me.
So Mojo was my ticket into that old man rock world. In my life, I’ve never had a problem meeting older men who can tell me about unreleased David Bowie tracks.
I buy Mojo anywhere and everywhere. Mostly I bought them for an extra $5 in record shops, to get them around the same time as the UK. For many years, the ritual was to buy it at Egg Records in Newtown, then walk over to café for a big breakfast, or dinner at Happy Chef.
Pretty much every Mojo I have has a few oil splatters, or tomato sauce specks. My memories of reading Mojo Magazine is tied to food, and eating out and by myself.
With this week’s, 200th issue, I did what I normally do. Instead of heading home, I deliberately stopped for food (a cheap and excellent laksa from Tuk Tuk, Baywater). Just on my own, read the magazine as I ate.
In fact, I clearly remember eating at the Happy Chef for the 100th issue. It was one of the few issues where the cover wrapped around, so I was being extra careful. But usually my copies are a bit battered around.
The second hand old ones I buy almost always has a blank crossword. Who is leaving these blank? I always do the crosswords and usually underline and write all over other bits as well.
I buy Mojo anywhere I am. I’ve bought one in Copenhagen (157). And recently in Oxford (199). I have never missed an issue this decade, no matter where I am and what I’m doing.
I have 70 or so issues here in London, and 100 or so in Australia. I can’t wait to unite the collection.
Other magazines have come and gone. No Depression ceased publication in 2008, calling an end to a 7 year relationship. I loved Chunklet magazine, but they put out an issue every two years – if you’re lucky.
Magazines like Q, Empire and Rolling Stone got too bogged down in current trends for me. I liked them for years, but they are more for current news than to keep for the ages. I’ve flirted with Record Collector. Dated Classic Rock. Performing Songwriter. Word. But I keep coming back to Mojo. I don’t even question the quality of it anymore. It’s become part of my life.
I would LOVE to find a film magazine that has the quality of journalism like Mojo.
So the aim in life now is to be a writer. And that could well mean writing about music.
I wrote about music in a Sydney street press column for years. I produced radio. I love talking about music. And Mojo definitely fueled that fire. It would be amazing to write for Mojo. It’s like when I played in a band and hosting Rage was the goal. Or maybe just have a letter published.
But that will probably never happen and it doesn’t matter. I will still be reading it. Hopefully the decline of magazines will be kind to Mojo, and I will be having a laksa, sitting down with the 300th issue in September 2018.