Available only by mail order, this new bi-monthly publication comes out at a time when there seems to be a glut of magazines covering this style of music. Radio station Planet Rock is to launch its own magazine in May 2017, and the long-established Classic Rock magazine has been resurrected after apparently having met its demise at the end of last year, when its publisher went bust. So why do we need this publication? Only time will tell whether or not we do, but the initial signs are positive.
Rock Candy is a label specialising in reissues of classic hard rock albums, some that have been long out of print. The label boss (Derek Oliver, one-time AOR correspondent for Kerrang! magazine) explains in his introductory piece that when he launched the label in the mid-2000s, he was scoffed at for insisting on putting the reissues out on physical CDs. Similarly, with this magazine, he and his team (consisting of many familiar names to Kerrang! readers of the 1980s) wanted to publish a magazine ‘actually printed on actual paper’ – feeling that the in-depth content of the magazine can only be appreciated properly with a physical paper magazine. It is indeed printed on very glossy paper, with full colour throughout, and the articles run to several pages in length. In particular, Oliver drew attention to one eight-page article on veteran Swiss hard rockers Krokus in this issue, saying that no publisher – or any sane person – would have let them do that had they not done it themselves!
They have made it possible to view an electronic copy of the mag for those who send for it, as was the case when I took out my subscription a link was emailed to me to access it immediately. However, I wanted to receive my physical copy before commenting. The cover features a vintage, ‘Pyromania’-era shot of Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott, and what you’ll get inside the magazine is an unapologetic celebration of the era spanning the 1970s and 1980s, ‘when rock was better’ as they put it. To that end, the debut issue features lengthy pieces on Rush (the making of ‘Hemispheres’, Saxon, Girl, an appraisal of AC/DC from Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, with articles on KISS manager Bill Aucoin and one documenting the sad demise of Warrant frontman Jani Lane. Def Leppard are covered with a series of vintage photographs (I see what you did there, fellas!) accompanied by explanatory notes for each by Joe Elliott himself. As well as all that there is a review section covering the latest reissues both on Rock Candy records and also from other labels.
The whole point of this magazine is nostalgia, so there is also a picture section showing ticket stubs from 1980s gigs, a look back at two encounters with Ritchie Blackmore (including an amusing tale of his football playing exploits), and a feature examining news stories from the world of rock 30 years ago but with the benefit of hindsight. They haven’t totally eschewed the modern day; publisher Derek Oliver, editor Howard Johnson and two familiar names from Kerrang’s halcyon days (Malcolm Dome and Paul Suter) have compiled a list of video clips to look up on YouTube. Each writer chose a theme, for example Oliver picked a selection of Southern Rock clips to watch out for while ‘HoJo’ chose some classic Thin Lizzy for your viewing pleasure. If all that wasn’t enough for you, there is even a feature that recalls Kerrang’s ‘Lady Killers’ segment. That was an occasional spot showcasing a female rocker (usually a singer) accompanied by a glamorous photo; this article revisits some of those Lady Killers and brings us up to date with what the likes of Lorraine Lewis and Lee Aaron are doing now.
If you were a reader of Kerrang! in the days before Kurt came along, you will enjoy this magazine. Well-written articles as you’d expect from writers of this calibre, plenty of pictorial content, and in-depth features giving the artists themselves room to express themselves. My only niggle is the insistence on focusing solely on past glories; the team have intentionally stated that their remit is the 1970s and 80s era (with an occasional dip into the 1990s according to the publisher) and by sealing themselves off like that, there is the danger of this publication falling into the trap Classic Rock sought to avoid. That publication covers newer artists who (broadly) fall into the style set down by the greats of the past, as well as the greats themselves, and they did this in order not to ‘become a museum’ as they said. How much mileage Rock Candy can get out of artists from a set timeframe, and an era of 30-40 years ago remains to be seen but it has to be finite. Indeed the way they’ve approached it makes me think of the Northern Soul scene; another era of music that is sealed within a set timeframe and one that is jealously guarded by its ‘purists’. The classic rock scene has its purists too, but I do feel that there has to be room for new bands otherwise sooner or later you end up repeating yourself. Presumably the publishers of Rock Candy are hoping that they can help their readers discover (or rediscover) bands and albums that might have been missed first time around; the readers of this mag are likely to be the same people who read Kerrang! and Metal Hammer in the 1980s but back then, our pockets won’t have stretched to buy every single album recommended by the writers.
Despite this quibble I have taken the plunge and subscribed for the year, which will see five more issues arrive in my letterbox. I hope they can prove me wrong and that this mag does have longevity, it being independently published means that they made it available solely by mail order because of the cost implication of having it distributed to newsstands. You would have to be a dedicated rock fan then, in order to actually subscribe and the publishers are hoping enough of us are still out there to make this venture succeed. I hope they’re right!