It was a Christmas present that changed Mark Fisher’s life. In 1979, the Merseyside teen received a copy of XTC’s Drums And Wires and it marked the beginning of a long association with the Swindon band.
“I remember becoming obsessed by XTC,” says Fisher. “I’d been reading a lot about them in newspapers like NME and was intrigued so I went to Virgin Records and bought up the back catalogue. I got my friend Paul Badger into them as well. Very naïvely, because we didn’t know anything about anything, we just said, ‘Let’s make a fanzine about them!’”
The pair were still at school at the time and, with no contacts in the music industry, they embarked on the long and rather haphazard task of reaching out to the band.
“We knew they lived in Swindon, so we went through the phone books in our local library looking for every D Gregory, A Partridge, T Chambers and C Moulding!” says Fisher. “It’s funny looking back at how naïve we were. We sent these letters off and the next thing we knew, we got a reply from the real Dave Gregory.”
Limelight – named after a rare single – was launched in 1982 and became the band’s official fan publication. It attracted readers from all over the world and developed a cult status, but after 10 successful years, Fisher decided to call it a day. He’s now a journalist and theatre critic.
But his fanzine days aren’t over yet. Following a chance conversation between his daughter and comedians (and XTC fans) Stewart Lee and Joanna Neary at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Fisher dug out his Limelight archive and has rekindled his “inner fanboy” with an anthology, The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls. He’s updated it with all-new interviews as well as cover art from reader-turned-illustrator Mark Thomas.
“It was lovely going back through all that stuff and feeling it was a time capsule of a pre-internet era,” Fisher says on the ’zine’s 35th anniversary.
And Limelight fans take note: if the book sells well, Fisher might return with more XTC-friendly treats. “I have ideas…” he teases, “and I might even do some T-shirts as well!”
The XTC Bumper Book… is out on October 2. Pre-order at www.xtclimelight.com.