The trailblazing San Francisco-based Mojo-Navigator zine earned its place in the history of rock 'n' roll journalism for several reasons. First and foremost, it's where pioneering writer and editor Greg Shaw (who died way too young at the age of 55 in 2004) got his start in 1966 before achieving greater fame with the better-known periodical Bomp! (originally titled Who Put the Bomp) and an identically-named independent record label. Moreover, it acted as a sort of West Coast counterpart to Hit Parader (although in a much more modest, self-published way) in that it featured passionate and knowledgeable contributors who took rock 'n' roll seriously. Nowadays, such respect is taken for granted. However, let's not forget that it wasn't until the end of the 1960s when rock was finally recognized by the mainstream media as something more than just music for kids. Of course, Rolling Stone eventually rode the Haight-Ashbury zeitgeist to become the biggest publication in its field, but the Mojo-Navigator helped establish an enthusiastically receptive reading audience for such periodicals in the first place.
As with the PDF of the February 1967 issue of Hit Parader posted last year, to look through the pages of this mimeographed periodical is to trip back to the time when San Francisco Bay Area psych was just about to explode on a nationwide scale. Since the Mojo-Navigator was a zine written and put out by fans, it may lack a certain objectivity possessed by the more professional journals of its day. Nonetheless, the reader receives a unique "from the streets" perspective from this kind of ahead-of-its-time writing. In many ways, publications like this one can be viewed as the music blogs of their day, especially in terms of content and/or appearance. In an excellent interview with Scram magazine, Shaw recollects,
The word "fanzine" came out of the tradition of self-publishing. Everyone who was into fandom had their own mimeograph machine, knew how to cut stencils, how to run it off, and enjoyed doing that. It was a form of craftsmanship. A lot of people made very elaborate, beautiful zines - they had nothing to say! They just filled them up with drivel and cartoons. Others tried to be slick and professional, but because it was essentially done by amateurs, the line was drawn. It was like self-expression. It was one person's personality and point of view, and the people who had a good personality and could express it became the stars of that world.
This scan of the 13th issue of the Mojo-Navigator is another contribution from Vinyplastic's massive periodical archive that I helped him organize last year. I'll admit to having something of an ulterior motive since I knew he had a bunch of vintage 1960s magazines in his stash, including this particular item. It just so happens that another site has digital files containing numbers 1 through 12 in addition to number 14. However, the link that purports to be for 13 will actually take you to a PDF of 14. I believe that this post in combination with what's available on that site represents the zine's complete run.
To summarize briefly the contents of this issue, you get a great cover photo of Big Brother & the Holding Company's James Gurley to get things started. Editors Shaw and David Harris' editorial section discusses the rise of serious rock criticism and the importance of reviewing not only rock albums, but live performances as well. They also put down Crawdaddy! magazine in a big way, describing it as being "based primarily on record reviews which are occasionally good but usually bullshit." Mike Daly contributes with a thorough piece on Phil Spector that includes a then-comprehensive discography of releases on the producer's Philles label. There's a fascinating interview with the Blues Magoos in which the musicians ask nearly as many questions in a conversation on the differences between the East Coast and West Coast music scenes. I always find album reviews written during the time in which the LPs originally came out to be especially interesting from a historical perspective. The write-ups by Shaw, Harris, and Gene Sculatti on the debut efforts by the Doors, the Youngbloods, Buffalo Springfield, the Electric Prunes, the 13th Floor Elevators, and Tim Buckley as well as assessments of Face to Face by the Kinks, Younger Than Yesterday by the Byrds, DaCapo by Love, and many other records from 1966 and early 1967 are no exception to this rule. A brief piece on the infamous Zal Yanovsky-Steve Boon marijuana bust offers readers - for a mere 25 cents - the chance to order a photocopied court transcript in which the undercover arresting officer confirms the cooperation of those two members of the Lovin' Spoonful in the heavy-handed sting operation. Unfortunately, the deal is no longer valid at this late date, but at least the article includes an excerpt that contains everything that you really need to see. The tidbits included in the "News" section are nothing short of titillating, if not always accurate:
Blackburn & Snow's first album, on Verve, will appear sometime in April...it amused me that no one seemed to be amused at the Avalon recently when the Daily Flash played their fantastic "Bulgarian Baby"...The Baltimore Steam Packet have been signed to a seven year contract by Capitol. Why? I ask. This band is still imitating the Airplane, and not doing that very well at it either...Anyway, you get the idea. Wait a minute...the Baltimore Steam Packet? And finally, the zine's last item is a contemporary guide to San Francisco's FM radio stations (a newfangled thing in 1967), which probably illustrates how much times have changed more than anything else you'll find in this issue.