As I write this review of Us Amazonians, an adoring tribute zine to British pop singer Kirsty MacColl, I am listening to Kirsty’s 1991 album Electric Landlady. Confession, dear reader: this is the first time I’ve ever listened to the late musician’s work. I’ll blame my fundamentalist Christian upbringing that required me to catch up on pop culture after the fact, but in the end, I probably should have known about Kirsty if for no other reason than her link to The Smiths. During a dispute with her record label in the 1980s that kept her from recording her own work, MacColl recorded backing vocals for a slew of bands, including Morrissey and Marr, et al. Somehow, this evaded my awareness until now.
Us Amazonians is a loving, unapologetic tribute to a musical artist off the beaten path of modern appreciation. The zine’s introduction explains its genesis: “This project was conceived, as all best projects are, whilst sitting around the kitchen table dining and drinking.” The group of friends behind the zine, all major MacColl fans, were listening to her music at the time, and began a conversation about how great she was and how underrated she remained throughout her career (and after her death). They decided it was up to them to “spread the gospel” about their favorite singer. Us Amazonians was born, and we are all better for it.
This zine represents my favorite kind of fandom–the truly fanatical kind. These folks worship at the quirky, sometimes campy, surprisingly daring altar of Kirsty MacColl, and they really don’t give a damn what you think about that. Beyond mere worship at a distance, however, some of these individuals actually met her and got to know her over the years through written correspondence and late night talks on her tour bus. These behind the scenes details give some weight to their ravings, and a copy of one of MacColl’s letters in response is a nice touch. Explorations of MacColl’s self-conscious camp and the role of deviant sexuality in her songwriting flesh out an already intriguing zine.
If you love music and you have the opportunity, pick up Us Amazonians. You can thank me later.