Tony Fletcher is the author of 11 books, including several best-selling music biographies, a memoir, a novel, and more. As a teenager in London in the late 1970s, he started a fanzine called Jamming! and late last year published the compendium The Best of Jamming!: Selections & Stories from the Fanzine that Grew Up 1977-86. Since his time at Jamming!, Tony has gone on to write for numerous publications, appeared on and/or produced various TV, radio, and podcast shows, and worked in several other areas of music and media. Right now, though, his focus is on Jamming!. If you’d like to see Tony talking about the influential zine, he’s appearing across the UK later this month. And if you’d like to check out the podcast, it’s right here.
How did you get to where you are today, professionally?
The very short version is that I started doing a fanzine at school because it seemed like it might be fun and 40+ years later I still find myself writing about music in various forms. The longer version? I guess it’s relevant that my dad was a music professor who wrote a couple of books, and my mother an English teacher who liked opera and pop music equally. It didn’t seem relevant when I started the fanzine, Jamming!, on a whim, at school in 1977, aged 13, however. Punk was happening, fanzines were being written about in music magazines, I loved music and was excited by the new wave, so I went for it.
Then I got more immersed in Jamming! and, with a lot of hard work, it took off. It ended up taking off a little too far, becoming a monthly magazine with a circulation of 30,000 while I was still in my teens, creating all kinds of cash flow problems for the very inexperienced businessman that was also the teenage me. After and even before it folded, I did a lot of more mainstream music journalism. This ranged from the British weeklies and monthlies - I wrote for The Face when it started out, going on the road with Madness at age 16 - to American dailies (Newsday) and monthlies (Spin, Details) once I moved to the States in 1986, including a great stint for the Anglo-French TV show Rapido, the best job I ever had when I look back on it. I also worked for The Tube in the UK back when it was happening in 1983 which was pretty wild. My clippings folder would include any number of other publications, some esteemed and some ephemeral.