Book Review: Raygun The Bible of Music & Style
Within a vivid smoke-filled room, the noise of feet and bodies thrashing shake the floorboards. Smoke begins to disperse as the image of a group of young men and women, wearing tattered clothes, appear. They are frozen in time, and yet still seem to be jumping around to the sound of the hard rhythmic music playing on an old, decaying wooden stage. To others, this may have seemed like an odd sight but to them it was natural.
Among a sea of American music and style magazines, one publication stood out among the rest: Ray Gun, an American alternative rock magazine published in Santa Monica California in 1992 and founded by Marvin Scott Jarrett. With the help of several different staff involved with the magazine’s publication, Jarrett compiled together an anthology of the Ray Gun magazine.
Ray Gun was, as the title states, The Bible of Music & Style. In the first section, Jarret highlights the many different memorable covers, while also stating the significant impact that the magazine made on its readers during its publication. Through the use of pictures, sometimes appearing blurry or even grainy, Ray Gun used abstract imagery rather than loud, typography about celebrities. Jarret shows us a more subtle approach to features. When it came to grunge and alternative rock, there was no better place to look.
When we think of photography, often times we think of beautiful imagery with ideal lighting. Ray Guns photos were anything but that. The Bible of Music & Style maintains the same vibe and presentation as the original magazine by showing us some examples of their cover photos. Covers for most magazines at the time broke the standards of ‘good’ photography. Jarret shows how Ray Gun broke out of the standard and was able to send a strong message to its readers.
The feature on the late David Bowie feels very real and raw, unlike interviews with musical artists in music media today. Ray Gun manages to avoid all the nonsense that comes with some of today’s media outlets; those that have compromised to publish something that was created to generate views. The magazine emitted this vibe that it didn’t need to stand out or grab the reader's attention they had a target audience that they were aiming towards This worked in their favor. People began to take notice and start talking about them. Ray Gun didn't rely on cheap tricks or dramatic headlines. It is undeniable that modern typography and photography techniques have learned from Ray Gun’s approach as illustrated by the contents on the pages.
After leafing through the book, admiring the edgy photography, you can see how much love these writers had for the magazine. Much like the Bible itself, this book is an anthology of the publication's history; a highlight reel of the memorable interviews and a showcase of the covers of a publication that thrived on its dark look and gnarly approach to photography known as Ray Gun. Whose impact on the music journalism industry can be felt to this day.