6 magazines that changed Britain

Patrick McKemey
3 min readJan 4, 2022

6 curiously familiar made up mags that printed back the national subculture before their slow death by a thousand clicks.

Pantaloon Jack
Price: One penny

A Victorian phantom who’s saucy breeches brought a wave of moral panic and cheap thrills across London in fair measure, Pantaloon Jack was based on real life sightings from shaken debutants in Regent’s Park. Made legendary by the mid-century printing boom, the fictional Jack mutated into an anti-authority hero, whose theatrical cloak and gruff exhibitionism became a direct inspiration for Bob Kane’s Dark Knight.

Freebie: A bonus short story and possible prequel to W. W. Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw, that concerned an unfairly dismembered simian who ultimately capitulates to darkness.

Talk of the Town
Price: 5d

The anonymous gossipist originally columnised in The Daily Express who scandalised 1920s society into a Great Depression had several suspected authors. Communist spies, Nancy Mitford and even MP Anthony Eden were at one point accused of being behind the elusive pen name Clarissa, whose biggest scoop came at a notorious Belgravia cocktail party, outdrinking a bright young thing into prank calling Mussolini and accidentally founding the British Union of Fascists.

Freebie: An obsessive antique segment that offered regular tips for passive-aggressive furniture arrangements when handling uninspiring dinner guests.

Snot
Price: 20p

Snot was the iconic Catford-based ‘zine that catalogued punk long before most major music producers had stirred from their overblown, progged-out mixing desks.

Pioneering the design conventions of a grievously unhinged ransom note, bodily fluids were regularly exchanged as adhesives in the fuck overheads cutting room. Legend has it, staffer Gary Bushell hazed a nubile Mike Parry into stapling his earhole shut on the half-promise he could join the mag’s phalanx of edgy new illiterate columnists.

Freebie: A scene that often formed a circular firing squad, Snot’s editors goaded other punks by attaching a set of pro-disco lapel badges, resulting in their office being firebombed by an incensed author of a rival anarchist pamphlet.

C&S — (Commodore and Sinclair Magazine)
Price: 75p

A periodical to the early 80s DIY gaming boom, C&S Magazine documented an emerging culture war pitting picketing programmes like Militant Miner against openly aggro British bashers like Bother Boy and World Cup Flasher. Stuffed with mountains of cheats and fold-out game maps, C&S’s editor was ultimately bludgeoned into retirement by a pair of notorious Italian plumbers, whilst his magazine suffered a similar fate from the meteoric sales of the Super Mario Brothers games.

Freebie — A demo cassette of groundbreaking management sim Lavs the first 8-bit game to invite a mainstream audience to organise an incrementally busy central London public toilet.

TUNE Magazine
Price: £2.99

The turn-of-the-Millennium clubbing mag that covered the superstar DJ moment straight-faced asserted it ‘neither condemned or condoned’ Class A drugs, all whilst running its own competitive Ecstasy League Table in the back. Eventually it’s subcultural readership fell away to a balkanised, self-aware iPod generation who could only ever stomach half a mitsi turbo ironically.

A committed artefact of the ‘prang culture’ that decoded the dancefloor polari of codshit, TUNE once had a profile piece on a group of insomniacs who successfully ran their own imaginary bureau de change at the back of a King’s Cross nightclub for over two years.

Freebie: Free mix CD of cataclysmic dance music crossover attempts including Brazilian Hard House, Stadium Chillout and Ringtone Euphoria.

Tapped
Price: £3.99

A lad’s mag that seeded the Nu Swing plume, the serious journalism and metrosexual handbook eventually gave way to tits, lists, and the internet, morphing into the gender neutral Banter Tap online brand that today expertly blends humiliated viral cats with industry-leading branded japes.

Freebie: The magazine’s iconic pullout was its painstakingly researched 1 Million Most Beautiful Women in Britain list — taking up a dedicated proportion of resources across several calendar years, and who’s ambitiously wide net would inevitably rank many irate reader’s relatives.

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Patrick McKemey

Tall tales & short lists | The South East London College of Arts & Communication: 11 Short Stories is out now: https://amzn.to/2FdAxlh