When Peter Hooton started his fanzine in the 80s he wasn't doing it for those arty types.
Peter Hooton (centre) and his mates from The End in 1998
The End began in 1981, the year that Price Charles and Lady Diana were married, Bob Marley died and the country’s inner cities were engulfed by massive waves of rioting. It was after seeing an anarchist fanzine lampooning the royal wedding in Liverpool's Probe Records that Peter Hooton had the idea of producing something laced with the same caustic sensibility of the anarchist magazine, but aimed at the sort of streetwise guys – like himself – who liked The Clash but also went to the football. He approached Phil Jones, the editor of little known mod fanzine Time For Action, about his idea.
“When I left school I got a job as a youth worker," Peter explained to me recently at London venue the Scala, where his band The Farm were due to play later that evening. "My job was to encourage people to do whatever they wanted to do, so I set up football tournaments. But then I met Phil, and I knew about his magazine, so I told him I'd like to create one that was aimed at the working class of Liverpool – people who went to Jam or Clash concerts, but also people I saw at football matches.
"He told me no one would buy it – 'You've got to do something that caters for punks, mods or people into reggae,' he said. 'Otherwise people won't buy it.'
"He said that the lads at the match would never be interested in a fanzine because they'd regard it as a student rag. But I was convinced that if there was something that would appeal to them and was about them, then it might work. Eventually, Phil said he'd give it a go."
The first eight covers of The End
Peter and The Farm were at the Scala to play a benefit concert for the 'Boycott the Sun Campaign' that he's involved in. The campaign began in the wake of the Hillsborough football disaster and The Sun's subsequent 'reporting' of the events that claimed 96 lives and injured several hundred others. The boycott is still acknowledged by many people in Liverpool who have been understandably appalled by claims made on the 'paper's frontpage that Liverpool fans picked the pockets of crush victims and attacked and urinated on the police who were trying to come to their aid.
Joining The Farm that night would be Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. It was only whilst listening back to the interview that I realised the band soundchecking in the background, playing “Bankrobber”, had been The Clash. This seemed fitting, because it was meeting The Clash in Paris in 1981 that had given Peter the confidence boost he needed to get The End up and running.
Later The End covers
“My philosophy was 'you can do anything' and my philosophy came from going to Clash concerts. The Clash were playing with the Beat and Pete Wylie's Wah! Heat when I first met them. I walked into the dressing room and everybody must have thought I was with Pete because they let me stay there. The tour manager even gave me a pass.
"So I’m sitting there eating all The Clash’s food and they walk in. I ask them if it's alright, and Mick Jones goes: ‘You do what you like man, we’re The Clash!’ I just thought that was so inspiring. If Mick Jones had kicked me out of the dressing room I wouldn’t have had the Clash interview, and I might never have been inspired to put out the magazine."
The new book was pretty popular in Liverpool this Christmas
The interview wasn’t an 'interview' in the traditional sense, but the way in which it came about only highlights the underlying philosophy of The End.
“I said it was an 'interview', but really I just sat in on an interview and took a few notes and a couple of extra photographs. I never arranged any of those interviews, I just doorstepped people. If you doorstep people half the time they’ll do the interview just to get rid of you.”
Whilst the fanzine was laddy in that it was written by young lads for other young lads, it was closer in outlook to Private Eye than the 80s geezer memoirs championed by middle-shelf culture today. I can’t help but imagine young Hooton and his contemporaries, with their tastes in exotic sportswear brands, as having more in common with the flaneurs and dandies that occupy French literature’s past than with mockney phonies such as Guy Ritchie or Damon Albarn.
“I was a few years older than Phil, and I had definitely seen Private Eye. I was reading books like Catch 22, Catcher in the Rye. My friends and me thought what we were discussing in pubs and clubs was hilariously witty, and I thought no one was covering things like that in magazines.
Peter Hooton (front, centre) with The Farm in 1983
"I was the best man at one of my mates' weddings. I'd done it another time, but it had been pretty disastrous. The second time I prepared my speech a little more, and I came out with stories about him but not the usual 'humiliate the groom' stories, just anecdotes, exaggerations about his life and everybody loved it.
"He said to me afterwards that I should start writing this stuff down, and that gave me the confidence to do it, because when I was at school I had tried to do a bit of creative writing but when it had been read out to the class I'd been humiliated. I had written a review of a concert and I had got a few words mixed up, and the teacher had read it out. I wasn't even in his class at the time, but I heard about it and people told me that everybody was laughing at my review.
"I'd had a few run-ins with this particular teacher because he was also the athletics coach, and at one point I was in the athletics team. By the time I was in the fifth year, though, I didn’t want to do athletics any more, so it was his way of getting back at me.”
Peter Hooton circa 1983/84
The first copy of The End had a print run of 500 copies. Peter remembers trying to sell the fanzine at a Dead Kennedys concert.
“People would ask if there was a Dead Kennedys interview in there, and we'd say 'No, but there’s an interview with The Chords. They’re a mod band.' We had to convince people at the football matches. Some would ask what it was about, and famously Mick Potter who did it with me said, 'It’s about you.' I asked him what he meant. 'This magazine is about your life, it’s about you.'”
There is a cynicism in Liverpool. They like to bring you down to size. It could be cruelty or a love for the everyman.
“John Lennon always talked about that, and it is a particular cruel humour that people from Liverpool have. They won’t suffer fools or treat you differently if you’re a star. They like to bring people down. I think it’s a trait of the city. In that sense, it’s the most Irish city in England. Whether it was The Beatles or the so-called comedians, every sacred cow that we had, we would just attack them.
"That’s what we did with John Peel. The reason that John Peel became a big fan of The End was because I wrote to him and attacked everything about him. He used to get letters all the time saying how great the show was but I wrote to him and said: 'John, you might think you are great playing underground music to the masses, but I can assure you that Xmal Deutschland don’t mean a lot to Liverpool youngsters.' I would listen to it but not religiously. I used to find people that taped every show rather strange.”
The End staff with their new book in 2012
Reading The End today, collected in one volume, it still has the effect of making you want to do something: whether it’s make your own fanzine or form a band. That was always one of Peter’s aims, to encourage people to do their own thing.
“There’s been an upsurge in Liverpool in the last few years of fanzines. One called Boss Mag, which reminds me of The End. There another one called Spiel and one that came out this week called Halcyon. Another called Bido Lito. These are people in their twenties who use Twitter and blogs but they like the physical thing. It’s the touch and feel of magazines and it will never go away. It’s like vinyl.”
Whilst Tumblr, blogger and Twitter are undoubtedly great inventions, now that the dust has settled more and more people are coming to acknowledge that seven actual physical pages are sometimes worth more than 700 virtual ones. Whilst filling your house with clutter has its disadvantages, people do quite like the physical item.
“The great thing about Twitter is that it's exposing footballers and celebrities for being the empty vacuums that they are. They never, ever say anything or comment on anything. 'Gone to training – it’s cold.' 'Gone to TV show –the lights are very hot.' That’s it; it’s exposing them for what they are, which is great.
"There was one from Michael Owen a while back, which was 'thinking of going out to Manchester for a meal, what do you suggest?' If we were doing The End now it would be full of Twitters. You only have to look at Alan Sugar and Piers Morgan. They’re so tedious, but because they’re so tedious it’s actually quite interesting, just not in the way that they think it is.”
Unlike The End, which always seemed to know what it was doing – namely football, music and beer, but presented in a way that didn't assume the ubiquity of those things had crushed the imagination out of its readers.