Never Trust A Hippie.
Never Trust A Hippie (RIP) was once the UKs leading Sex Pistols fanzine. So much so, in fact, that when the band 1st reconvened in 1996 Jim Henderson was personally chosen the Sex Pistols to write a biography for the press conference that would announce their return. Jim later interviewed all four original members the transcripts of these interviews are available in Issue 12 of Never Trust A Hippie.
Running a fanzine is often a time consuming & thankless task so why do we bother? We thought it would be interesting to find out why Jim got involved & how it all turned out for him.
Jean Encoule caught up with him in cyber bus stop on the outskirts of Royal Leamington Spa in the shadows cast by the massive EMI Building (how apt) to quiz him about Never Trust A Hippie, the Pistols & pissing about with fanzines:
trakMARX - How & when was Jim Henderson first exposed to the Sex Pistols?
Jim I was born in 1976 so too young to appreciate the band at the time - I had a safety pin in my nappy rather than through my nose! A couple of bands that made an early impression on me were The Jam and The Clash, and my dad mentioned the Pistols when I asked him about punk and what other groups I could listen to. He used to tape all of the new entries off Radio 1s chart rundown so I trawled back through some old tapes and found a few Pistols tracks. This led to my purchase of the essential Never Mind The Bollocks LP and The Great RocknRoll Swindle film, and the rest is history!
trakMARX - What lasting effects did the group have on you?
Jim I think what probably first appealed to me was the energy of the group, the short sharp songs and the great lyrics. I became aware of music in the early 80s and what the Pistols did was completely alien to anything in the 80s music scene I guess their music gave me an outlet to be a bit rebellious e.g. going around wearing a Pistols T-shirt and listening to God Save The Queen on Xmas Day instead of watching the Queens speech!
trakMARX - Tell us about the birth of "Never Trust A Hippie"?
Jim The idea first hit me in 1992. I was a massive fan of the Pistols by then having bought all of the obvious releases Id gone down the line of solo projects, foreign picture sleeves, bootlegs etc. and I knew that there wasnt a current Pistols fanzine, even though there were zines for lots of other bands. Fuelled by reading excellent fanzines such as Dave Richings Buzzcocks one Late For The Real World I decided, with my mate Neil McLean, to start a Pistols zine. We chose the name from a slogan in the Swindle film. Issue 1 was very much a cut and paste job (in keeping with the punk zines of the 70s) bootleg reviews, CD reviews, reproductions of old interviews pretty basic stuff but it was a start.
trakMARX - What was the motivation behind it?
Jim At the time I knew that the band must individually have projects on the go, but coverage in the music press was non-existent and information was scarce in those pre-internet times. I found this frustrating and thought there must be so many other fans feeling the same i.e. eager to support reissues and solo projects but not hearing about them.
trakMARX - How did you go about letting punters know you were out there?
Jim I think we printed 200 copies of issue 1 we would have done 100 but it only cost marginally more for an extra 100. Fortunately a lot of family and friends were very loyal and purchased copies! It was reviewed in Record Collector, and we advertised in NME and Q. We were pretty disappointed with the response overall but I was keen to keep it going as I hoped it would gradually build. Funds were a bit tight and Neil and I were sharing the costs Neil dropped out before issue 2 and I carried on alone.
trakMARX - How long did it take to build up a readership?
Jim It grew steadily with each issue. More and more people became aware of it partly through fans recommending it to other fans. Record Collector continued to review it (Fanzine Of The Month on two occasions), I helped the NME out with a reader query regarding the Pistols which brought in a few new readers. A lot of people took out subscriptions which gave me a bit of money upfront to fund future issues. As the reputation of the zine grew I became involved in a few Pistols related CD projects which resulted in my address going on the sleevenotes (Sid Vicious live CD, Steve Jones reissues) which, again, brought in new readers, and I was mailing out copies all over the world for the lifetime of the zine.
trakMARX - At the zine's peak, what kind of numbers were you shifting?
Jim Probably the best was #12 which came out just prior to the 1996 reunion. I shifted about 400-500 copies over a few months which helped to recoup some of the money Id lost on previous issues (it always paid to print more than I needed so I had some spare for when new readers came aboard and wanted back issues but invariably this hit me in the pocket). When I started the zine I naively thought Pistols massive band Ill shift hundreds of copies, not that that was the motivation for starting it I was just a fan wanting to share information with other fans. So when I only sold a few dozen copies of #1 I couldnt understand why!
trakMARX - How many issues of "Never Trust A Hippie" were produced?
Jim 13 issues in total between 1993 and 1996. I always tried to do 3 a year which was pretty hard work depending on the various band member activities (or lack of!) and how many contributions I was receiving from readers.
trakMARX - What was the high point of your time with the zine?
Jim The high point was definitely getting to interview each band member on the telephone prior to the 1996 reunion shows. Thered been a bit of press speculation about a reformation, and I received a phone call from the bands management early in 1996 telling me in confidence that it was going to happen. Virgin Records commissioned me to put together a special edition of the fanzine to go in the press pack that they were giving out at the 100 Club press conference to announce the reunion. Part of the requirement for this was that they needed some quotes from each member to give to the press as a result each Pistol phoned me one by one. Id pulled together a list of questions, not only relating to the reunion but all sorts of things Id always wanted to ask from a fans perspective. Id spoken to Glen and Paul prior to this (and got to know Glen fairly well) but having the chance to speak with John and Steve was very much a one-off opportunity. John really dropped his usual press persona and delivered a truly honest interview. Id always sent copies of the zine to the band but John hadnt been told that it was me that hed be speaking to, I think he thought it was just another interview. When I started showing a genuine interest in PiL and his solo album he said Im not quite sure who Im shouting at here. When I told him I do the Pistols fanzine he replied I love that fucking thing! which made me feel Id been doing something right! Ive actually got the interview on tape, and at some stage Im planning to do a new edition of the zine featuring all the best bits from each issue and more. Ill probably include the Lydon interview as a cover-mount CD because Im currently the only person thats ever heard it.
trakMARX - Which particular issue were you most pleased with?
Jim Issue 12, simply because of the interviews, was easily the best one I ever produced.
trakMARX - Which issue sold the fastest?
Jim There was never really any sales pattern. I had a large number of loyal subscribers, but a lot of readers just ordered when they felt like it so I could never predict how each issue was going to go. I had the largest number of subscribers by #12 so this became the fastest and best selling.
trakMARX - Why did "Never Trust A Hippie" have to die?
Jim When I started the zine I was at college and had quite a bit of spare time to devote to putting it together. I started a full-time job in 1995 and it became harder to find the time to put the zine together. It wasnt the fun that it had been when I first started it and, although it was still greatly rewarding, it began feeling like a bit of a chore. Id lost quite a bit of money on #10 and was thinking of packing in then. Out of the blue I receiving some unexpected contributions which helped to fill #11 which I was struggling with. Then the reunion happened which accounted for #12. But it still didnt change the fact that I wasnt really enjoying it anymore. I think I was also suffering a bit from Pistols overkill having been commissioned to write a book about the band (which was eventually only published in Japan, but thats another story!). The reunion seemed an appropriate time to draw a line under the whole thing, and I bowed out with #13. Thankfully, one of my long-time readers Scott Murphy took up the mantle and started a zine of his own The Filth & The Fury, which took the Never Trust A Hippie template as a starting point and then grew into a fantastic fanzine in its own right. It also gave me an outlet to contribute articles as and when I found the time. Scott himself packed in after 13 issues and now runs the website www.thefilthandthefury.co.uk
trakMARX - Do you consider fanzines to still be relevant in 2003?
Jim I definitely think fanzines are still relevant the hardest thing for anyone running a printed one now must be keeping news sections up to date. I always found that by the time I brought out each issue half of the news was dated. With the internet being what it is today a printed zine is going to be much harder to keep fresh than it was for me. If I was still running the zine Id have a website running alongside it and would keep the printed version for in-depth articles, reviews etc.
trakMARX - What are the benefits/pitfalls of running a fanzine & what advice would you offer any young guns eager to pick up the baton & get involved?
Jim The benefits can be fantastic getting to know the band, free CDs/gigs, becoming friends with fellow fans overall it can be great fun and very rewarding, especially when you receive letters from readers singing your praises, likewise positive reviews were always something that pleased me. On the downside, running a zine is very hard work and can take up a lot of your spare time it used to take me 2-3 months to put an issue together, Id then have to send it off to the printers, post them all out, deal with lots of enquiries, handle subscriptions etc. Its unlikely to be a moneymaking venture either unless you get really established I suppose the ironic thing is that by the time I finished I was probably getting to the stage where I may have regularly broken even. So overall Id never discourage anyone from starting a zine, but Id always make it clear how much of your time it can take and dont start one up with the intention of making a fortune.
trakMARX - Do you feel represented by today's established music press?
Jim I think the music press has actually improved a bit over the last few years. Regarding punk in general there is a lot more coverage now than there was when I started the zine. This is probably largely due to the number of current bands that have a punk style and are name-checking bands from the 70s. I subscribe to MOJO, Uncut and Record Collector, and overall Im happy with the job that theyre doing.
trakMARX - We understand you still have copies of selected back issues of "Never Trust A Hippie" available for sale. How can people contact you with regard to acquiring copies?
Jim Ive still got 10 of the 13 issues, including the aforementioned #12. Anyone interested in purchasing back issues can drop me an e-mail: Henderson@bidford25a.fsnet.co.uk and Ill forward on a contents listing for each issue and the address to post a cheque to. The cost of the 10 issues to a UK address is £17 post paid. Individual copies can be purchased for £1.50 + p&p.
Jean Encoule tMx July 2003