25 Oct

Found in MISCmedia: The Rocket is no more. I wrote for the Rocket for several years in the 1980s, back when people really cared about each new issue, and getting on the cover was a really big deal. It was a learning experience. I had a lot of fun, bt a lot of frustration went along with it. I was much happier writing for Backlash later. Still, I do remember the Rocket fondly.

I got the Rocket job by just walking right into their office (in the old ramshackle Second Avenue location, above the Rendezvous) in 1985 or 1986, going up to the first person I saw behind a desk (Gillian G. Gaar, I believe), and saying “I want to write for The Rocket.” I had a packet of clips from my work at the Cooper Point Journal (the Evergreen State College paper) and the City Collegian (the Seattle Central Community College paper). I showed her the clips, and, looking skeptical, she told me to write an album review and bring it in by the deadline. If they liked it, they’d run it.

They did run that review and many others over the next few years, and my name went into the staff box as a Contributing Writer, along with a lot of names more well-known than mine. No money came along with it, but I got free records to review, and I was pretty happy with that.

Eventually I started my own weekly Seattle music paper , YEAH!, to fill in a niche that the Rocket was neglecting (up-to-date performance listings and an exclusive focus on local bands), and that marked the end for me at the Rocket. A couple of months later Dawn Anderson started up Backlash, similar to YEAH!, but with more of a spotlight on what later came to be called “grunge.” (YEAH! was more into the PopLlama goofy pop end of things, with bands like the Young Fresh Fellows and Prudence Dredge.) Eventually, after selling my magazine, moving to Minneapolis, and moving back, I started writing for Backlash too.

There were two events that really marked the beginning of the end for the Rocket, I think. (I thought this even before the mag actually went under; it became irrelevant a long time ago.) The first was the discontinuing of the free “Musicians Wanted/Available” ads that used to fill the back of every issue. The first ten words were free, so everyone ran Rocket ads, and since there were so many, everyone read them. It was the first stop for any musicians wanting to form a band. Like most Seattle musicians of the era, I formed several bands via Rocket ads. (I met boyfriends that way, too, due to my sad habit of always falling for musicians.) Once the free ads stopped running, I’m sure the paper’s management thought that the musicians would just start paying for the ads instead, but that was a major miscalculation. The classified section dwindled to nothing and the musicians moved elsewhere.

The second event was moving to biweekly publishing. When the Rocket was a monthly, each issue was something of an Event. Musicians and fans waited to see who would be on the cover (and it really seemed to matter!), who would actually get reviewed, and so on. You looked forward to it. When it started to come out every two weeks, that changed, and I’m really not sure why. Perhaps it was just the dilution of content that came with trying to fill more issues. Perhaps it was all the Portland-specific content that many of us didn’t care about, added so the paper could expand circulation to PDX. But it just didn’t seem to matter as much. One new issue after another, less interest, big yawns.

I guess I could add a third event to this list. Out of town ownership did the Rocket no favors. A publication like this really needed committed local people holding the purse strings, and I can’t see that publishers from the Midwest or the Bay Area would really fill that role.

So long, Rocket. Too bad you couldn’t at least have gone out with a bang.

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