In ’60s teen music mag world, the stars ruled, but, in reality, the fans called the shots. Content was often driven by the piles and piles of letters that arrived in the offices of 16, Tiger Beat, Datebook, Flip, and more. In so many ways, the fans’ fingerprints were all over every magazine of the era.
Obviously, more than one RAVER is required to appropriately explore the fans’ extraordinary efforts in documenting history. And if that sounds like an hyperbole, well — it’s not. Through the fans’ eyes, an genuine, honest perspective is preserved; one that’s not spun by Derek Taylor or other publicists, or embellished by Ann Moses or Gloria Stavers.
In this first volume, we take a quick glimpse into a few of the major areas of fan contribution, found across many of the major teen music magazines of the 1960s.
1) Letters to the Editor
It goes without saying that the easiest way for a fan to get his or her voice heard was to simply drop a line to any of the editors. Oftentimes, the letters were cosmetic, pleading for confirmation that their favorite stars were single and date-able. Sometimes, editors responded, even supplying their readers with requested photos and addresses.
In this selection of notes from the November 1967 issue of Tiger Beat, I highlighted a few of my favorites — especially the letter in which one poor girl dyed her hair because she heard Micky Dolenz liked blondes. Yes, sometimes the fans were a bit… extreme.
2) Fan photos
Magazines like Flip and Teen Screen encouraged readers to submit their own photos taken of their favorite stars on tour or, as one creative fan did above in the December 1966 issue of TS, send in pics off of their televisions. Interestingly, the goal wasn’t always to get a photo of yourself with your favorite band; sometimes a posed or candid photo was just as good. (Then again, no one in the ’60s had to contend with the “selfie,” so…)
While many magazines simply treated fan photos like letters, in that they’d be run alongside the mail, publications such as Flip actually created “press clubs” in which readers could use their membership cards to decode secret messages, seen here in the March 1967 issue. Too bad the card wasn’t a legit all-access pass, but hey, when you’re 14, sometimes cracking a code is just as good. No matter; some of these photos are golden moments of un-posed goodness with some of the ’60s’ biggest names — check out Peter Noone’s defiant sneer (spun as a smile) above.
3) Surveys and questionnaires
Surveys like the one above, taken from my issue of Flip, March 1967, helped dictate stories and, for us, provide a glimpse into the minds of first-generation fans in their own hand. Some of them are actually pretty insightful; others are comical — see our friend Londa’s response to a question about the Beatles’ breakup. (Which wasn’t a question in March 1967, since that was even pre-Pepper. Hmm…)
A lot of magazine purists won’t purchase a mag if there’s writing in it. Me? I love it. Give me all your marked up copies! My collection is basically a home for wayward and misfit magazines: in addition to surveys, some of my favorites are from kids who blacked-out the Dave Clark Five’s teeth, made notes around photos, underlined important facts — and even one that has a full set of autographs from the original members of Paul Revere and the Raiders.
I continued the tradition a few weeks ago at the Fest for Beatles Fans when I asked Mike Pender to sign a Searchers photo in an issue of Hit Parader. It might be controversial, since a lot of these magazines are considered antiques, but I would rather think of them as living history, especially via this column — taking them out is, to me, giving them relevance and new purpose in everyday life.
Ah yes, everyone’s a critic! Some mags, especially in the early days, only printed purple prose — gushing love letters to the writers and editors. Others, like the more astute Hit Parader, delighted in readers’ scathing opinions. Not to say there were many; in general, HP readers wrote long, involved tomes about music, their favorite artists’ influences, well-thought-out ruminations and genuine support for Don Paulsen, Jim Delehant and the rest of the HP staff.
This letter, published in HP‘s May 1967 issue, probably elicited more than a few “haha, he said ‘ass'” giggles from teenage readers. To the writer’s credit, “96 Tears” was a great song and is now ranked among the greatest garage-rock tunes of all time. HP staffers could be, at times, a bit music-snobby, so it’s unsurprising they panned ? and his Mysterians.
(In response, HP said: “We think you didn’t sign your name because you can’t spell it. We hereby say in our May issue that ’96 Tears’ is still a crummy record.”)
5) Features and experiences
Jeff Neal was one of the luckiest kids on the planet in 1967. After performing with Davy Jones on Broadway in Oliver! (1963-’64), Neal invited the superstar Monkee to his bar mitzvah. To his utter shock — Davy showed! 16 readers were probably green with envy when Ms. Stavers printed the full scoop in the October 1967 issue.
Perhaps more than any other form of fan contribution, the experiences were the most important, whether they were full-length features or blurbs in letters. At a time before social media or much television coverage beyond shows like Where the Action Is and American Bandstand, meeting stars was improbable and, especially for kids in really remote areas, seemed downright impossible. Tales of peers hobnobbing with Peter & Gordon or the Byrds not only gave readers everywhere hope that they, too, could meet their idols, but also allowed them to live vicariously through others in case they never got the chance.
Did you or anyone you know write a letter or send a photo to a fan magazine, or have a story printed about you? We want to know! Leave a comment below!
(Cover image from Teen World, December 1966.)