HOLD BACK THE YEARS A NYAS HISTORY PART 1
Comes A Time
Come with us if you will to a dim and distant past; there are no digital cameras, no mobile phones, no CD recorders and no NYAS. Yes, this is 1978.
Thatcher’s Britain was just around the corner and I had moved from the Midlands to London to take up a new employment position. I was moving within the group for which I worked to become the divisional accountant of their Plastics Division. Also gainfully employed within that organisation was a certain expatriate Scot named Paul Makos. I duly bought a house in SE12 and found myself living less than a mile from the aforementioned Makos. With typical Scottish canniness on his part I found myself giving him a lift to and from work each day, a journey of only about 5 miles but as this is the South East of London a good 35 minutes, or a Neil Young album’s length. Needless to say we spent a good proportion of those tedious journeys listening to and discussing the man.
I had not seen Neil on the 1976 tour and news and albums at that time were sparse. Communication was not what it is now (no emails, even) and neither of us knew many other Neil Young fans. We considered ways of rectifying this situation and gradually the germ of an idea grew and sometime around 1980 Paul and myself set about the creation of the society. Initially it was to include the owner of a local second-hand record store and we bought a number of Neil Young bootleg discs from him – about six I recall (I forget for how much but I contributed a half. Unfortunately I do not have the discs or even 50% of them!) He dropped out and that left the two of us.
A plan was conceived and a little thought was even given as to how the project was to be financed – a thought which was quickly dismissed as being too worrying at that time. Paul and I put up between us sufficient money to place adverts in the music press (yes, it did exist then) and a bank account was opened in Lewisham. In due course replies arrived; first at a trickle, and then at less than a trickle. Nevertheless we ploughed on full of optimism. Each reply was sent an information sheet promising 6 issues per year, a badge and also a folder. Unfortunately none of these letters have survived in my archives and I cannot remember exactly what was promised. (in fact a copy of an original letter has been tracked down, via Ian Campbell Ed). I do remember that the folders proved to be prohibitively expensive and were abandoned
Saddle Up The Palomino
It soon became apparent that finances would be a major concern as we had set the annual membership fee at a munificent £3.50 per annum and Paul was determined to produce six issues each year. Preliminary enquiries at printers revealed that each issue would cost around £100 to produce. The intro to the first mag quotes an amount of £140 for 500 issues, but as those in the trade realise there is a base cost for the production of a certain number and then the marginal cost of extra copies reduces with the quantities produced. From memory, and it is impossible to be more accurate than this, we had a print run of around 150 for issue number one, 300 for issue number 2 and probably 350 to 400 for issue number 3. By issue 3 the membership had grown to the extent that virtually all the print run was sent to members, whereas for the first two issues there were some left over which could be utilised for back copies. In fact, back copies of Number 1 were still being offered as late as issue 7, for the princely sum of 50p each – including postage and packing. We also had to purchase badges for members to identify each other when out in public and for this we found an excellent source – Marc (surname forgotten) who resided near Forest Hill.
In order to finance our promises alternative methods of raising money were considered. Firstly, we did what any self-respecting embryo organisation does and roped in as many family members, friends, acquaintances and work colleagues as we could persuade to part with £3.50 (or better still £5 for joint membership.) Paul was member number 1, his wife Ann 2, I became 3 and my wife Margaret number 4. The first run of adverts in the music press had produced a reply from Andy Cox, then living in Nottingham, and he became member number 6. Andy struck up an immediate rapport with Paul and myself and came to visit us in London prior to the first issue.
Discussions led to the formation of merchandising. A T-shirt was designed, photos purchased for resale and as many other relevant articles as could be found were assembled. We were fortunate enough to purchase a batch of soundtrack vinyls to the Where the Buffalo Roam soundtrack and made a good margin on these. The T-shirts involved a lot of phone calls and driving around south London to obtain quotes and to pick up the orders. As these things had to be paid cash on delivery a large part of the finances was therefore invested in the first issue and the merchandise.
The next task was to produce the first issue. Obviously we had no stock of articles or a team of writers to produce the magazine so inevitably it became a bit of a hit or miss affair. Our first intention was to be informative and to appeal to the whole range of subscribers and for a first issue a discography seemed an obvious choice, as did a bootleg list. Bootlegs were not so readily available in those days and the proliferation of record fairs and other outlets was only just beginning. Listening to or buying bootleg vinyls seemed more of an innocent pastime then and the vinyl discs could not be replicated except by means of cassette tapes, which was time-consuming as it all had to be done in real time. If in the long run the bootlegs alienated us from Neil and his management, I can only say it was not our intention to promote them but to put them on record as a facet of the items then available.
The magazine was planned and written out in longhand to await the production stage. With our lack of funds and expertise the only route open to us was a typewriter, although none of us could actually type. I ‘borrowed’ from one of the offices I worked at an old electric machine that had the disconcerting habit of shedding the rubber band which drove it each time the carriage return was pressed - this would patently not do! I therefore borrowed (with permission this time) a more modern “golf ball” machine and this was used for the first issues. As nobody had explained to Paul that the tape ribbon is discarded after use and only does for one set of impressions he set about rewinding and reusing it, and this explains the patchy nature of the print in the first issue! It did however have that most valuable of commodities – a correction ribbon!
The production team then was Paul Makos, Ann Makos (who did the typing) myself, and Paul’s sister-in-law Kate, who provided artwork. The completed item was prepared and sent off to the printers. Paul, with typical impatience, sent it off before it was properly proof-read and mis-spelt my name in the process. It duly returned and a feverish evening was spent filling envelopes with the magazine, a badge and a membership card and other papers. In August 1981 the historic first edition was posted.
Paul’s editorial stated that we considered ourselves to be ‘good amateurs’ and I suppose that is what we hoped to achieve. The intentional tone of the NYAS was to be a society, not a fan-club, and to bring together like-minded people to share and pool knowledge and our common interest. In hindsight the first issue was sparse and does look amateurish compared with its modern counterpart – but I, and no doubt Paul, would make no apologies for this as it was the first step in these waters and was produced on a shoestring with all the mistakes being made on the way.
By the time of the second magazine a team had been assembled. Andy Cox was fully on board and Grahame Reed had joined and consequently the second issue looks a lot more polished. (Grahame had responded to the very first advert that appeared in New Musical Express but agonised for 2 or 3 weeks before deciding whether to join or not. This delay meant that he ended up with membership number 134, so the numbering may not have been as wayward as has been suggested subsequently!) In addition other exciting things were happening. The Rust Never Sleeps film was to be released in the UK. Paul, Andy and myself attended a preview screening at the premises of Blue Dolphin and then we all went to the premiere at The Screen On The Green in Islington. We had also met Angus MacSwan who was a freelance journalist. He did the society a valuable service by having a small article printed in the Daily Mirror under a heading which said something like ‘At last a Neil Young film you can actually see’. The article also included the NYAS phone number and resulted in a significant number of enquiries and new members.
We were also able to set up a stall at cinema venues to hand out membership information. Paul and myself did a couple of stints at the Dominion in Tottenham Court Road. As this was in the winter it was not the most pleasant of tasks and did not, I believe, bring in many more members. Andy fared even worse, becoming snow/fog bound on his journey to a venue. The hardships we put up with!
Angus took over the information page, Grahame contributed an excellent review of the film and the second issue was achieved. However to consolidate the enterprise a team was evolved and meetings were to be held. The first of these was held in the board room of the division I worked for and in these auspicious surroundings were Paul, myself, Andy and Angus. If that is incorrect, I apologise. Further meetings were held subsequently and Alan Jenkins also attended these. Andy Cox takes the credit for introducing Alan – a good job he did, as will be seen later. We were now a gang of six comprising Paul Makos, myself, Andy Cox, Grahame Reed, Alan Jenkins and Richard Hoare - Angus Mac Swan had left to work in the Far East. Under this arrangement the issues up to at least number 6 were produced. The presentation and content were getting better with each issue and reflected the increase in volume and quality of the items submitted and the greater range of expertise now involved.
Lookout Management contributed two complete sets of albums and these were used as incentive prizes. Finances were still an issue as it became apparent that the success of the merchandising had effectively shored up the general finances. To alleviate this situation as much as we thought practicable the membership fee was increased from £3.50 to £4.50 – still optimistic for six issues a year. Unfortunately the merchandise had run into one or two initial supply problems mainly with the photos and posters and delivery had been slow on these. This led to my first confrontation with member 90, Bry Carter. The first of many, I am glad to say
It was Bry who gave Paul the soubriquet ‘kamikaze’ – due, it is alleged, to the latter’s erratic driving behaviour. I cannot endorse such a scurrilous accusation, but Paul did seem to revel in this notoriety.
The Neil Young Appreciation Society founded in 1981, still going strong in 2012.
An unbroken run of 126 issues of Broken Arrow.