Planet Rock Magazine issue 1, May 2017

Bauer’s new monthly magazine, a companion to the DAB radio station of the same name,  finally launched this month with a very nice cover, a reflective silver effect front and back featuring the Motörhead ‘Snaggletooth’ logo. With former Kerrang! editor Phil Alexander in charge, and with several writers known to music mag readers contributing, this is a top quality publication as expected. It is clear Bauer have indeed sunk a lot of time, effort (and money) into its launch.

Screenshot from 2017-05-27 21-55-37

Planet Rock Magazine issue1

So what do you get for your fiver (cover price)?  No covermount CD (though they may issue one occasionally in future issues), but the expected mix of in-depth features on classic rock bands (Aerosmith and indeed, Motörhead feature in the launch issue, with an extensive interview with sole surviving member of the ‘classic’ ‘Head line-up ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke taking several pages); a staggering TEN pages devoted to Def Leppard and the convoluted process behind the making of their seminal ‘Hysteria’ album, excellent pictorial content, reviews of the latest albums and live shows, and a few more offbeat features – for example The Hairy Bikers quiz Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr about his favourite foods. Another Planet Rock presenter (Alice Cooper) is also featured, with an anecdote about how he, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson and Micky Dolenz of the Monkees were persuaded to pose for a photo with Canadian singer Anne Murray, who was known more for middle-of-the-road pop than hard livin’ rock ‘n’ roll!

In addition, the magazine provides a run-down of gigs in the upcoming month that Planet Rock readers/listeners should be interested in attending.

The magazine is a very good read, but you will forget it is a new publication because the style, the layout and overall ‘feel’ of this magazine apes the long-standing Classic Rock magazine almost exactly. The impression is that of Bauer (a large multimedia concern) parking their tanks on the lawn occupied exclusively by Classic Rock until now. There has been a lot of effort put into this publication – it hasn’t just been thrown together – and that suggests they’ve been planning this for a long time, even before CR’s publishers Team Rock went under at the end of 2016, with the magazine only rescued from closure by previous owners Future Publishing. Bauer are a much bigger operation than Future or Team Rock, and they must have eyed the healthy circulation of Classic Rock with some envy. Bauer have also recently disposed of weekly mag Kerrang! after having published it for around two decades; I’m no media analyst but the demographic of older rock music fans who still spend money on gigs and albums, is one that must have been more appealing to Bauer than the transient readership of Kerrang!

This is however a niche market; the people who buy albums on physical format still and travel to see gigs are by and large the same people who were doing so 20, 30 years ago. Newer bands are noticing that the people who come out to see them are in many cases considerably older than themselves; they won’t mind who comes out to see them as long as somebody does, of course, but it does make me think (as one of these older fans!) whether there’s longevity in this business for say, Joanne Shaw Taylor when her fans are in many cases twenty years older than she is. There is just one national radio station devoted to this kind of music (and it was a struggle to get that, much less keep it on-air!) and I cannot see how the market can sustain two printed publications covering pretty much the same ground, classic rock bands of the past alongside newer bands who fit in with the genre’s overall sound and style. (Not to mention the independent Rock Candy magazine which has also recently launched, but that focuses exclusively on bands of yesteryear.)

I can only conclude that Bauer are aiming to ’embrace, extend, extinguish’ the existing publication then; they are putting a great deal of resource into this magazine and if it does steal readers from Classic Rock, it is inevitable that Classic Rock magazine will either fold or be swallowed up by Bauer, ultimately being ‘merged’ into the Planet Rock brand.

All that said – is the Planet Rock magazine worth checking out? Absolutely, if you like this kind of music and are a listener to the station, you will find much to enjoy in the accompanying magazine. I do predict that within a year, this magazine will be the only one available on the newsstand for fans of classic rock music, though.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving


Rock Candy Magazine issue 1: April/May 2017

Rock Candy Magazine issue 1

Rock Candy Magazine issue 1

Click here to visit the Rock Candy magazine website

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!

Click here to visit the Rock Candy magazine site

4 – Deserving

Rock in print – new mag launches, is it a good sign?

This month the UK’s only national radio station devoted to rock music (Planet Rock, available on DAB and internet) announced it was to launch its own monthly magazine. On the face of it this made little sense, as there is already one long-established magazine covering this genre (Classic Rock magazine, recently saved from closure) and it is dubious at best as to whether the market can sustain two print magazines.

Off the back of that, another magazine has also launched. Rock Candy magazine is an independently-produced publication (‘actually printed on actual paper’, they promise!) available only by subscription and published by the team behind the record label of the same name, which specialises in reissuing long-lost albums. The publication boasts writers who were part of the team which wrote for Kerrang! magazine during that mag’s glory days of the mid-to-late 1980s, as they put it ‘written by those who were there’. Rock Candy differs from the existing Classic Rock mag in that it has promised to dedicate itself to 1970s/1980s era rock music. Certainly with names such as Malcolm Dome, Derek Oliver, Paul Suter and Howard Johnson writing, the claim that they were there is true (all wrote for Kerrang! during the 1980s) but, unless my memory cells are fading faster than I thought, at least some of these wrote for Classic Rock too in the past. Indeed, when THAT mag launched in 1998 it set out to reach the same sort of reader, the older generation who had maybe become disaffected by the sea-change earlier in the decade that saw many good bands swept aside.

However, Classic Rock has lasted this long not by rehashing the old bands over and over again (although they had a habit of giving covers to Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd on an almost bi-monthly basis at one stage!) but by also introducing its readers to newer bands who follow in the footsteps of the great of the past. There are certainly many who have come since, I’m thinking of The Answer for example who emerged around a decade ago, and definitely draw on the template set by the classic bands, or even Monster Truck as a more recent example. They had to do this, as one editorial they ran put it, ‘otherwise the mag would become a museum’. Similarly, I cannot see a magazine devoting itself only to older bands from decades ago having a shelf life. For one thing, its audience reach is both limited and ageing – your humble correspondent is now in his fifties and has been going to gigs for over 30 years, and with the best will in the world won’t be doing it for another 30! There aren’t that many like me around, and those who are still going to gigs still like to discover new music, albeit of a style that may remind us of those good old days of denim, leather and stacks of Marshalls piled high!

As regards the Planet Rock magazine, whose first issue will hit newsstands next month – it may catch on, with an established brand of its own to act as the hook and with a major publisher behind it (Bauer, owners of Planet Rock and – interestingly – publishers of Kerrang! until a day or so ago) but, will it have an impact on the existing publication? Classic Rock sells around 50000 issues a month, and only narrowly avoided closure at the end of 2016 when its parent company went bust. The title (and sister mag Metal Hammer) have been bought back by their previous publisher Future Publishing, for a fraction of what they sold the titles for. I suspect a long game is being played here by Bauer; they will throw resources at the Planet Rock magazine and if it succeeds, it will be at the expense of Classic Rock. With that title’s publisher not being as big as the Bauer organisation, it wouldn’t surprise me if the mag ended up in the hands of Bauer and ultimately be folded into the Planet Rock brand. The fact that Bauer have just disposed of the Kerrang! title is another factor, the circulation of that mag has nosedived in recent years and the company might prefer to get on board with the older demographic that is still going to gigs, buying records and reading about the classic bands.

Regardless, for a while at least there are three magazines covering this style of music and I intend to get a copy of Rock Candy mag in the near future in order to see for myself whether it lives up to its promises.

Album: Inglorious ‘Inglorious’ (Frontiers)

It’s been impossible to avoid reading, or hearing about UK sextet Inglorious in the months leading up to the release of this, their debut album. Every time you opened a rock magazine, browsed a rock-orientated website you’d see a picture of these guys (or of just vocalist Nathan James), or if you tuned in to Planet Rock (the UK’s only national radio station geared towards classic rock), chances are you’d hear one of their songs before very long.

The band were put together in 2014 and are very much built around the powerhouse vocal of Nathan James; he was totally off my radar until recently but had previously toured with Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO)  as well as Uli Jon Roth. Before all of that, he competed on a televised talent search show in the UK. James is without doubt the name, the face and the voice of this band although in publicity for this record, they have been keen to play that down in favour of presenting this act as a complete unit. To that end, they recorded this album using ‘old-school’ techniques; they eschewed auto-tune, digital recording and other aids such as click-track, in an effort to recreate the feel of the classic-era hard rock records which inspired them.

I was meant to go and see this band live recently but found that the date clashed with another gig I’d booked (a frequent frustration of mine when it comes to gig-going!) so I missed out on seeing their recent headline tour, and also missed the chance to see them open for the Winery Dogs at the start of the year; the nearest show was in Manchester, because it was mid-week that made it impractical.

So having missed out on seeing them live this time around, I decided to fire up Spotify where the whole album is available to listen to for free (if you don’t mind the occasional ad) and decide for myself whether or not the massive hype surrounding this group is justified.

Things kick off with ‘Until I Die’; one of two tracks that has been in heavy rotation on Planet Rock. On the album it’s preceded by a lengthy intro on Hammond organ (courtesy of Liam Holmes), but soon kicks in with that mighty riff from guitarist Andreas Eriksson. The initial impression is that James’s voice is reminiscent of the late Ray Gillen; his band Badlands are just one of the many rock bands of the past you’ll recall when listening to this record. ‘Breakaway’ is a fast-paced rocker which made me think of Sammy Hagar.

The whole album will have you either getting straight away where they drew their inspiration from or have you scratching your head wondering where you heard that bit before. I did get the impression I’d heard this album many times before, and while they certainly do mine the Zeppelin seam like so many others before them have, it’s hard not to think of the likes of Whitesnake, Mr Big, Rainbow, and even more recent acts such as Alter Bridge while playing this album through.

Overall then, it is a solid debut, not the instant classic many would have you believe as the influences are a little bit too obvious. I feel the plaudits already bestowed upon them (they’ve been compared to Deep Purple, for example) have led to something that is impossible to live up to, certainly with a debut album. They can become a great band in time, if allowed to develop properly. However, vocalists of the calibre of Nathan James don’t come around that often, so sooner or later I think he will receive an offer he’d be mad to turn down and will find himself in LA in the company of more stellar players. He’s far and away the most recognisable name in this outfit and it will either become ‘Nathan James and Inglorious’, with a revolving cast of backing players or he will eventually go solo. It is to be hoped that the band as it currently stands will survive long enough to make the album they’re capable of before that happens.