The End was a Liverpool fanzine, devoted to music football and the newly-christened “scally” tribe of that city. Its 20 issues were compiled into a book, for which I wrote a Foreword. And this piece appeared in The Word, December 2011.
“My favourite magazine,” declared John Peel in 1982, “is The End from Liverpool. It concerns itself with music, beer and football. The very stuff of life itself.”
In its brief life it united terrace hooligans with devotees of indie rock, and it gave the national media that now-ubiquitous device the “Ins & Outs” column. Now there is a 400-page book containing all 20 issues. It’s being published by the online magazine Sabotage Times, whose editor James Brown was the inventor of lad-mag Loaded.
One of The End’s two founding editors was Peter Hooton, who later found fame as singer in 1990s hit-makers The Farm (Groovy Train, All Together Now). With his friend Phil Jones, he set about devising a mouthpiece for the youths he knew. In The End’s native Liverpool such youths were known as scallies, a regional precursor of the 1980s “casual” cult. Scallies wore expensive leisure wear “liberated” on trips to continental cup games. They were a tribe unknown to music papers more attuned to goths and new romantics.
“I always enjoyed reading the Private Eye,” says Hooton today, “the way it used to attack everything. We wanted that style of caustic humour. It wasn’t fashionable to link football and music but the concerts I was going to, The Clash, The Jam and The Specials, they were massive football crowds too, and I thought that wasn’t being captured.”
Early marketing involved standing outside football grounds badgering sceptical supporters: “I remember trying to explain to people at Anfield and Goodison what it was about, but they presumed it was a student rag mag. As soon as they started reading it and saw it was talking about their lives, they could relate to it. Then it spread like wildfire.”
A typical issue of The End might carry an interview with Billy Bragg or The Clash, and letters from outraged fans of other football teams: the “Fashion Crazy Yorkshireman” in direly dated togs was a favourite object for Scouse merriment. There would be cartoons and mocking stories of characters called Joe Wagg or Billy Bull, symbols of the pub bore or club poser. Design values were minimal, but the DIY ethos looked perfect for The End’s skit-and-run philosophy.
As circulation neared 5,000, the magazine’s most-imitated feature became its “Ins & Outs” lists. (Like John Peel, I had the honour of appearing in both.) Random examples might include “Growing strange plants in your Granda’s allotment” (IN) or “Pullovers tucked in trousers’ (OUT). Issue 8 endorsed “Yellow sick (with no carrots)” while disapproving of “Hiding nudie books in your wardrobe”. It was a challenging code to live by. “But my idea,” says Hooton, “was just to attack the ridiculousness of fashion magazines saying what was going to be fashionable next year. Really it didn’t matter if you were in the Ins or Outs.”
As the NME’s Liverpool writer I gave The End its first national coverage, but there was no more powerful champion than John Peel. He became smitten. “He used to come up on social visits and say, ‘Come on lads, what should I be wearing?’ We’d say, No you’re all right John, just carry on as you are. He liked the idea of the tweed jackets and M&S jumpers we were getting from a second-hand shop.”
Like most of his contributors Hooton was a first-time writer. He’d been put off at school, after attempting a poem that a teacher then read out for the amusement of the class. (I can believe it. I went to the same school and had the same teacher. Poetry was not really the rage in 1970s Bootle.)
“I’d become a youth worker in Cantril Farm [a Merseyside overspill estate], so I could do The End as part of encouraging people to write. And I think that’s what it did. ‘Well, if they can do it, I can have a go.’ We used to get letters from people who were in prison, writing poetry, short stories and expressing themselves. So it certainly touched a nerve with a certain type of person who thought, That’s the kind of magazine that won’t ridicule me for writing.”
After 20 issues The End team felt their work here was done, besides which, Hooton’s new band The Farm were beginning to get busy. Unlike its Geordie contemporary Viz, the mag was probably too niche for a mainstream publisher to pick up. But The End’s style inspired many others, like the future DJ Terry Farley at Boy’s Own, the budding novelist Kevin Sampson and The Word’s own Andrew Harrison. Its obsession with terrace fashion seeped into style titles like The Face, while James Brown candidly admits, “I shamelessly stole the spirit of The End for Loaded.”
I was asked to write a Foreword for the End book and it finishes like this: “Maybe The End was not destined to last. Maybe it could have gone glossy and built bridges with the ‘casuals’ emerging across the country, like a proto lad’s mag. But it would have had to sacrifice a lot of good things, like the lunatic insularity of its world-view, the crazily inverted snobbery, and all the badly-spelt zest of an amateur magazine that’s produced out of love and spite. I’ve kept every issue.”
The End is available through the SabotageTimes.com website, price £20 plus £7.50pp.
I worked in the NME’s office in Carnaby Street but regularly travelled home to Liverpool to cover the new bands pouring out of the city. Along the way I became aware of this new thing called The End, which was a world away from most other fanzines, and so I scrounged some NME space to feature it. Writing under my occasional Scouse nom-de-plume of “E.I. Adenoids” I introduced a wider world to the concept of scallies – the term was still unknown outside of Liverpool.
What was new about The End was its direct relationship to the real-life “kids” that punk rock had romanticised but really did not reflect. The End came from the football terraces and the pubs, not from the elite niteries of the New Romantics or the sub-cultural lairs of goths and art students. In the same way, scally fashions were their own creation and largely unknown to style magazines. So The End was a voice for the voiceless, and I was attracted to anything I could not find in the London media. The writing was sharp and fresh; it had the cockiness of people who knew their turf, as opposed to pundits who were second-guessing.
The Ins and Outs page was such an obvious idea that I can’t believe it wasn’t done before. Maybe cavemen carved it on their walls, or monks inscribed it on parchment. But it was certainly The End who popularised the idea in 1982, and it quickly spread in various forms. I seem to recall appearing on both sides of the page and I can’t say which gave me the greater pleasure. The End was rooted in a very Liverpool habit called “skitting”, which means the indiscriminate mockery of anything and everyone. If you’re not being skitted, you don’t really exist.
Maybe The End was not destined to last. Maybe it could have gone glossy and built bridges with the “casuals” emerging across the country, like a proto lad’s mag. But it would have had to sacrifice a lot of good things, like the lunatic insularity of its world-view, the crazily inverted snobbery, and all the badly-spelt zest of an amateur magazine that’s produced out of love and spite. I’ve kept every issue.