Our photo stories really set us apart from other magazines. Again, we used a girl’s teen mag regular – the romantic photo story played out by young models and unknown actors – and Flexipopped it by injecting a whiff of sex, a dash of violence, a famous tale and a host of pop stars.
We were wandering into graphic novel territory, starring bands like Depeche Mode who were savaged by wild dogs and mercilessly whipped by a sexy girl (The Baroness dressed in stockings and suspenders, as usual). The Stranglers hating and finally killing each other in an early version of Big Brother, Atomic Bore. The Damned in Saturday Night Fever, or rather Weaver. Vice Squad in Death Wish – Death Wimp II. Angelic Upstarts, Infa Riot and The Business in the Sound of Music or Musick. Altered Images in a Christmas ghost story – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Cemetery. Bow Wow Wow in Dangerous Liasons – His First True Love. The Cockney Rejects in an 18th Century love story – The Gay Blade. Dave Vanian turning the Polecats into Zombies over Highgate Cemetery – The Rockabilly Ripper. Mari Wilson in Psycho – Psicko, natch. Buster Bloodvessel and Sal Solo in Superman – Busterman.
But then we went one step too far. For our second anniversary issue, psychobilly band the Meteors were the stars of a Mad Max skit, Bad Bax, so named because of the obvious pun and the fact that Flexipop! designer, Mark Manning, had a ferocious looking bulldog called Baxter, a pussycat in reality. Baxter featured heavily in a photo story that contained totally realistic scenes of stabbings, limb hackings and cannibalism courtesy of a local butcher’s shop that provided a shitload of offal in return for a plug in the mag.
Flexipop!’s Three Musketeers – Mark Manning, Huw Collingbourne and photographer Neil Matthews – concocted the whole thing between them while Tim and I were on holiday. By the time we got back, it was too late to stop it. Despite a few cover-ups of a hand being chopped off and someone’s guts spilling out after being repeatedly stabbed, it still looked heavy, as did the interview with Heaven 17 discussing their visions of hell elsewhere in the issue; as did that month’s flexi – a little ditty from Mark Almond entitled Discipline. And even worse than all that? The cover pic was of neat and tidy pop angels Haircut 100!
We held our breath. Within one day of hitting the streets our distributor, Comag, rang and said there’d been a complaint from a granny in Blackpool who bought it for her young, neat and tidy granddaughter, a Nick Heyward fan, and was shocked by what she saw inside. WH Smith withdrew it.
It crippled us. On top of that, they banned Flexipop! for the next two issues which crippled us even more. WH Smith was the main man. We still came out, but our circulation was halved.
There was no photo story in issue 25…
It made a brief comeback in 26 with an absolute belter from Oi! band Blitz who starred in an E.T. send-up called W.C. The final photo story – Satanic Sisters with one-hit wonders The Maisonettes – appeared in issue 27.
The Flexipop! photo stories reflected the fun that was inherent in pop music in the early 80s. The punk snarl had turned into a skanking smile. There was a new romance in the air as Goths discovered melody.
It was a fine time to be young and an even finer time to be a star of a Flexipop! photo story.