Punk Publishing

Howard Salmon remembers the 1980-1981 Tucson music scene by compiling his old 'Slit' fanzine issues

Twenty-five years ago, Howie Salmon was a senior at Tucson High School, playing drums in a band called White Pages and smitten with the city's burgeoning punk-rock and new wave movement. But he felt something was missing from the local music scene--and that was documentation.

"There was all this music activity, but there weren't any magazines writing about it. And I always thought magazines helped to create community," Salmon says today.

Thus was born Salmon's short-lived but memorable music fanzine, Slit.

For musicians and listeners involved in the local music scene a quarter-century ago, the book will revive fond memories.

Salmon has republished all seven issues of his photocopied digest-sizes publication in a large-format, paperback book titled, with historical reverence, Slit Fanzine & Tucson's New Music Scene 1980-1981.

Slit documented the gigs, news and gossip surrounding such seminal Tucson groups as the Giant Sandworms, The Pills, Phantom Limbs and The Serfers, among many others. Often, local musicians contributed articles.

The fanzine also featured pithy record and concert reviews; stories about national acts such as XTC, Ultravox, Black Flag, Plasmatics and X; Salmon's crude but lovable comic strips; and a bushel of up-yours attitude.

"My attitude in the magazine was smirking and sarcastic," Salmon says. "I thought if these punk rockers can have this smart-ass attitude, I'd give them some of that back. It was all in the spirit of poking fun; that's what I was doing."

Salmon says the zine's name was partly intended as a back-handed homage to the by-then defunct Los Angeles fanzine Slash and partly inspired by a lyric from a Serfers tune.

"Also, I've always liked names that are one syllable and memorable and punchy, and it was kind of rude, which is, of course, part of the punk aesthetic," he says.

The idea of re-publishing Slit in book form came to Salmon after he attended a screening of High and Dry, Michael Toubassi's documentary film about the Tucson music scene, during Club Congress' 20th anniversary celebration this past Labor Day weekend. The film left him unsatisfied with aspects of the way it depicted Tucson music circa 25 years ago.

"After I saw the movie, I thought, 'This is not quite right; this is not the way it was,'" he recalls. "I had some material that really would have helped the movie, but they never asked me to participate."

Salmon says he appreciates the movie's intentions, even as he is critical of parts of its execution, especially those that address the period his fanzine covered. "It's great that these kids wanted to document the scene, but ... well, the perspective of the movie is all a look backwards, and I think my nostalgia (the Slit book) is a little better, because it was written by the musicians themselves at the time it was happening."

Salmon sold his fanzine in record stores for 25 cents, but he also took it out to popular gigs. His sister, Julie, even helped him sell copies of the first issue in front of now-legendary punk dives such as Tumbleweeds on North Fourth Avenue.

In terms of production values, Salmon was strictly old-school. He created the fanzine with an old Smith Corona typewriter ("you know, the kind with ribbons"), lots of tape, liquid paper and rubber cement.

Converting the yellowing and curling fanzines into an honest-to-gosh book for your shelf didn't take an inordinate amount of time and effort, Salmon says. "The whole thing was done in like two weeks."

On-demand publisher Lulu (www.lulu.com) prints the Slit book. Once Salmon had scanned in all his issues (including front and back covers), cleaned up some of the messy pages and corralled musician and buddy Al Perry into writing a forward, he simply downloaded the material to the Lulu website. Instant book.

Salmon, now 43, has moved on since his Slit days, although he remained involved in the music community for a while--he played drums later in Phantom Limbs, and sang and played guitar in The Dogs. He now makes his living in Tucson as an artist and Web designer.

But, he says, "My fondest memories are from that time, when I felt in charge. I actually felt I had some control over my life," he laughs.

"One thing going through those old issues captured for me was they made me feel young again. It's only this old dusty box of fanzines, but it was like a tonic. I really felt like a kid again. I'm still floating on the tide of that feeling."