[Friends/Frendz Logo]

Alan Marcuson

Alan and friends had been doing the UK edition of Rolling Stone, after some differences of opinion with Jann Wenner Friends started life as Friends of Rolling Stone then became just Friends and later Frendz. [May 1971 to August 1972, 6 issues?] after Alan threw in the towel.

[Photos © Phil Franks]
Alan tosses Philm a cheese roll while Jonathon (left), Eric (far right) and Stan (left of Eric) look on.
All Images Copyright © 1969 - 2021 Phil Franks, All Rights Reserved.

Alan Marcuson:
"I did Friends for 28 issues, till the start of 1971."

(Friends/Frendz was published December 1969 - May 1971)

"By late '69 we were increasingly coming into conflict with Jann Wenner, and we were becoming increasingly independent of American Rolling Stone. Wenner didn't like this but Jagger was basically on our side but he went off to Altamont and in the middle of Altamont Jann Wenner struck and demanded that we fall under the editorial jurisdiction of San Francisco and do only what they wanted us to do and that we were to submit our material to California and all we were to do was sell advertising.

We also had this appalling distributor and one day we went to his warehouse and he had thousands and thousands of 'Rolling Stones' just lying there undistributed.

We were in the most impossible situation. We had a big meeting and sent Jagger an enormous telegram and soon afterwards we were thrown out of the office and someone from Jagger's office came along and put a padlock on the door. But I had taken upon myself the role of editor and we had a whole issue's worth of advertising. America wouldn't send over their material so we had these ads and no paper to run them.

Then all of a sudden we were on our own; we ripped off as much art department stuff as we could lay our hands on and moved out.

By this time Bobby Steinbrecher was on the scene. He was a rich American kid who'd taken too much acid and also suffered from 'folie de grandeur' and was on a high and had come to London to see John Lennon, as people did, to suggest he replace Allen Klein as his manager. He was going to run Apple, which was getting into a mess.

What I did then was go round the London record business and tell them that 'Rolling Stone' was abandoning London and everyone wanted a London music paper and I gave them the impression that we would start a London 'Rolling Stone' and didn't emphasise too much the political content of what I had in mind, although I was never really interested in the music business which had been foisted upon me.

I wanted to make a more radical magazine than 'OZ' and 'IT' and do it in a way that I thought they weren't doing it. I always had an idea that you could produce a paper with the underground commitment but which was well-organised and efficient and spread the word rather than be elitist and simply preach to the converted. 'Friends' was a very early and naive attempt to move out into that bigger market. I even had a fantasy that we could bring out a daily - all these publishing fantasies.

So I organised for the London record business to transfer all their ads into a magazine which as yet did not have a name. And they all backed me. And I got the money up front and I phoned my Dad in South Africa and got £400 from him and we went to Bobby Steinbrecher's flat in Hans Crescent which he'd befuddled some estate agent into letting him buy, basically by waving his dad's credit cards. And we met Ken Kesey and then he left his white Cadillac with Bobby and we were driving around in it which was quite fun. We were having a most wonderful time. I was taking a bit of LSD again and Bobby brought back some cocaine from the States. And we brought out the first edition of 'Friends' at Steinbrecher's apartment.

I got charged with obscenity, under the OPA, for a picture of Otto Muhl shitting on stage and something by Malcolm Livingstone about the secretary on the way to work that gets nobbed by everyone.

One thing we always did was attract talent. The number of people who started in 'Friends' is quite extraordinary. The underground press used the new printing technology very well long before any of Fleet street even tried. That 'Rolling Stone' issue with Superman on the cover was probably the first time a newspaper had ever put full colour on newsprint.

The thing that finished Friends for me was that I met Jim McCann who was an Irish revolutionary and hustler somewhere to the left of the Provos, who'd apparently thrown him out. He dominated the course of my life for the next five or six years one way or another. Even into the early 80s. That whole story only culminated with the Howard Marks trial and it was that original introduction of Jim to Howard that set the whole story off.

The Sixties really ended for me with the Angry Brigade and everything soured and we became very disillusioned. The Angry Brigade were sending us letters wanting us to be their magazine. When Jim McCann turned up I was swept away like hundreds of others by the man's lunatic charisma and organised a trip for Felix de Mendelsohn and Joe Stevens and Jilly to go to Belfast with him. This was early '71 and by this time the magazine was in the most appalling financial trouble and I was struggling and borrowing and dealing dope and taking the wages and turning over dope and rushing down to the printers with cash to get the magazine onto the press and the staff were all moaning that they weren't getting paid.

We were getting a certain amount of media attention and these two hustlers got to hear of us. They called themselves Famepushers and ran various underground enterprises. Business wise I was out of my depth with those guys, they were hustling us to death. They gave us an office at 305 Portobello Rd. Eddie (the fat one) saw himself as the proprietor of the magazine but we weren't having any of that. In the end they dumped us when I wouldn't let him be boss. And we met (the late) Barney Bubbles who was working for Famepushers producing record covers and freelance graphics next door.

Friends was just pandemonium and I was a rank amateur editing a two-weekly newspaper basically saying thank God because I had quite a bunch of talented people around me and was able to keep up the pretences of being an editor, and I always was intensely interested in magazines. I still trust my instincts then, I had all the right instincts as an editor but of course I was too young and too inexperienced to really manage people."

Pat Bell:
"I felt rather maternal towards Alan. John Trux told me I was the mother figure in 'Friends'. I seemed very stable and people did come and ask to have various problems dealt with. People used to come and ask why they hadn't been paid and I'd have to say 'Well, you can't get paid because there's no money.' 'Friends' was basically financed by Alan's dad. He used to keep dishing it out. I used to go for these huge meals up in the West End with Alan's father and he was doling out all this money. Considering how small the whole underground was Alan's dad could have funded the lot! I used to have these very business like conversations with him, explaining the whole thing to him on business lines, not ideological ones."

Alan Marcuson:
"All the ripping off of printers, typesetters and so on, never paying one's bills, was an accepted mode of behaviour. We were ripping off the man. Print and be damned and there's no such thing as stealing. Just get it printed any way you could; people have said that I behaved appallingly but I was just doing what seemed to be the predominant ethic. I really wasn't trying to be in business, I was trying to print a magazine. That was what mattered, business was all a ripoff anyway. Don't trust anyone over thirty! And we in turn were being ripped off by a variety of people who were fucking us around and missing printing deadlines and so on. It wasn't all one way but when they let us down we said 'OK, fuck them.' The totally wrong way to run a business and the totally wrong way not to get in to an awful lot of trouble eventually."

Jonathon Green:
"After a while I went to live with Alan and Jilly in their flat in Belsize Park Gardens. We had a wonderful daily routine. Up around 11, I'd roll a joint and take it into to Alan with a cup of tea. Smoke joint, get dressed, roll another for the taxi ride to work. We always took taxis. Joint in the cab, arrive at Portobello, ready for work, and that meant another joint. I then broke the mold by going over to the local off-license for a bottle of Heineken. Steady smoking through the working day which went on till eight or nine. Drift back to the flat, more joints, bed at 4. We did work very hard, but we smoked hard too."

Update March 23 2000: Will Birch's book, "No Sleep Till Canvey Island", is an in depth history of the British Pub Rock scene of the '70s and contains a wealth of information on Brinsley Schwarz, Famepushers, Barney Bubbles, Stiff Records, Friends magazine, and other stuff mentioned on these pages. Now available in association with Amazon.co.uk.

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The interview texts are from
"Days in the Life: Voices from the London Underground 1961-71" by Jonathon Green,
used here with permission. Any reproduction is prohibited without permission from the author.
Days in the Life excerpts © Jonathon Green

All Images Copyright © 1969 - 2021 Phil Franks, All Rights Reserved.

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