Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Let's rap about a heavy new combo."

I was thumbing through a copy of World's Finest Comics #209 (February 1972) when I came across this:

OK, you'll have to click that for the full-size image to get the effect. Suffice to say, it is an ad selling subscriptions to two new music magazines (Planet and Words and Music) and it lays it on quite thick in its attempt to appeal to teens. Problem is, how many teens were reading DC Comics in the early 1970s? Might this be more successful if it were in Marvel Comics? At least they had anecdotal evidence to back up the notion that an older crowd read their comics.

Then I noticed this, and it answered that question. It also opened up a whole new can of worms:

If you are unaware, "NPP" stands for "National Periodical Publications". That was the legal name of the entity we know as DC Comics until the late 1970s.

So, wait - DC published rock magazines? I...I don't think it's quite that simple. You see, while looking up info on these magazines, I stumbled across a full issue of Billboard on Google Books that includes a story on their launch. You can access this August 21, 1971 issue via this link OR you can navigate via the following embed. For the record, the story in question begins on the front page and concludes on Page 50.

It is very telling that the story "Warners, NPP Forming Sheet Music Magazine" bylined by Paul Ackerman never once mentions that National Periodical Publications publishes comic books. It is acknowledged that both Warner Bros. Music and National Periodical Publications are divisions of Kinney National Services (soon to become Warner Communications), but National publishing the likes of Superman and Batman is quietly omitted. I also was fascinated to learn that I did not recognize a single name mentioned as part of the new music magazines - certainly not as anyone involved in comics.

Based on the reference in the above ad to "NPP Music Corp.", I can only guess that the music publisher was a separate division of the company, and it got saddled with the National Periodicals name because there already WAS a division that published magazines (sorta). It doesn't sound like the music publishing wing had any involvement from the comic publishing wing. Still, I can't say for sure. Besides, that ad certainly sounds like the sort of stuff DC was desperately trying to pass along to its readers to prove it was "with it".

The Billboard story claims that the first issue of Planet would be out in mid-August and focused on Grand Funk Railroad. I did not find any evidence of a Grand Funk Railroad magazine from that era, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The only issue I could find was the one illustrated in the ad. You can see it here. This cover also illustrates why it is so ridiculously difficult to find anything about Planet.

If you were looking at that cover, what would you say is the name of the magazine? That's right - Fillmore. The logo of the actual name is over in the lefthand corner, much tinier. If there are other issues of this magazine besides this one (dated Dec. 1971), I am sure they suffer from a similar problem. So how many people are even aware that Planet was a thing?

As for Words and Music, here is the first issue on eBay. Notice it is also dated as December 1971. This is part of why I am skeptical that there are issues of Planet prior to the one listed in the ad above.

The same seller also has a second issue for sale. Interestingly, despite the ad promising both publications would be bi-monthly, the second issue of Words and Music is dated March. Hmmmm. Then, finally, I came across one more 1970s-era issue of Words and Music from a different seller. Again, it muddies the waters even further.

This issue is listed as being December 1972. This sounds as if the magazine was quickly converted from bi-monthly to quarterly, if that's accurate. Even more, get a load of the cover and the list of contents. The logo is different. The layout is different. Point of fact, I only have the slightest notion of where vital info like the price might be from the scan. Plus, it sounds as if lyrics and chords have already fallen by the wayside.

Beyond this, I have nothing. The name Words and Music has been used since the 1970s, but I don't think there is a connection. So for now, I have all these pieces scattered about and no real idea how to put the puzzle together. But hey, maybe someone out there will find this bit of trivia interesting and educate us about the true story.

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