By Editor Bruce Mee.
When we launched our first issue in June 2000, I never expected to still be here publishing the magazine in 2012. When you look at the longevity of dedicated melodic rock fanzines and magazines over the years, there really hasn’t been a magazine with anything like the staying power of Fireworks. Think of AOR Basement, the long lamented Hard Roxx, the excellent Frontiers, as well as The Rock, which only lasted 2 or 3 issues. Even my own beloved Boulevard only lasted five years and 20 odd issues between 1987 and 1992.
So how did Fireworks Magazine come into being. Well, the genesis of the idea goes way back to 1988, the year I first moved down from Scotland to work in Stockport, England. Back when KERRANG! was still worth buying, I saw an advert in the Classifieds for a fanzine called Boulevard, the loving publication of Mark Ashton, probably the biggest AOR fan I’ve ever met. The content of the fanzine was very good, but the presentation was certainly lacking. I contacted Mark, arranged a meeting and drove over to see him. We got on great, and by the end of that day I had joined the team at Boulevard and taken on the responsibility of design, as well as contributor.
During a get togethers, we discussed the idea of doing a magazine properly. Getting it printed professionally, get it in the shops, get advertising. But what to call this flight of fantasy. My choice was ‘IMAGINATOR’, but in the end it was ‘FIREWORKS’. “Yeah, I was fond of Bonfire,” it was my favourite album at this time.
We launched the Crown of Thorns covered issue 1 in June of 2000. A look at the cover for the other bands featured told one exactly where our loyalties lay: Firehouse, Fair Warning, Hugo, Bonfire, Stan Bush, Danger Danger, Danny Vaughn, Two Fires, Kane Roberts and an exclusive interview with Marcie Free, amongst many others. 56 pages, with only cover and centre spread in colour, and a free 17 track CD, all for the price of £3! Bargain!
A distribution deal with World Wide Magazine Distribution quickly followed, enabling the magazine to get into the likes of HMV and Virgin, as well as all stores of the Borders book chain.
It took till issue #6 before I had an epiphany. Something that today seems totally obvious, but back then I wasn’t really thinking about. Up until issue #6 I had been happily putting my favourite artists on the cover: Ten, Danny Vaughn, Bob Catley. On #6 I chose Harem Scarem, promoting the monster that was ‘Weight of the World’. However, the returns statement for that issue showed more than 50% of the magazine went unsold – the lowest selling issue to date. It then struck me that as much as I loved Harem Scarem, the average rock fan walking into an HMV store would likely never have heard of them! So from that point on, I decided that Fireworks should have well-known, easily recognised artists on the covers to help boost sales, no matter what my personal thought on such artists were.
And now, having added to our roster of superlative writers, we feel we have managed to not only maintain, but actually improve the quality of the magazine. We have also widened our distribution into many W.H Smiths, McColls and Martins stores, and Warners are currently looking at potential new export ventures.
There have been other spin-offs, most notably being the Firefest Festival, started up by fellow Fireworks writer Kieran Dargan and myself, which launched in 2005 and showcases the greatest range of melodic rock and AOR acts ever assembled in the UK. Not only do we bring over the latest darlings of the genre, but we make it our mission to reform wonderful bands from the past that nobody ever thought we’d see again: FM, Romeo’s Daughter, Valentine, White Sister, Blue Tears, Strangeways …to name just a few.
There have been many trials and tribulations over the last 22 years, not least Covid which saw our hard copy sales drop by a third. However, rather than cut our page count, we decided to up it, and to remain at 164 pages, as well as lately adding a PROPER cover CD to each issue to provide even more VFM.
We launched our first website, www.rocktopia.net, created by those wonderful people at Transistor Ltd who created our fantastic Firefest DVDs (go check them out at www.thefirefest.com). Fireworks didn't have a particularly lavish website before, but Berny Kellerer and his guys did an amazing job. It gave Fireworks a serious online presence and more options.
However, like most things, we outgrew the first website and have now designed this one under the watchful eyes of Berny and Pete Arnett, who took over our Social Media, dragging it into the modern age kicking and screaming!
So, that brings you up to date, and we hope you can help spread the word. We have an absolutely wonderful group of people writing for this magazine, every one of whom gives their time for free. This is not a business, this is a labour of love. We do this for the music. We do this for the fans. We do this for you. Enjoy!
The Staff Of Fireworks Rock & Metal Magazine.
Editor: Bruce Mee
Deputy Editor: Dave Cockett
Reviews Editor: Dave Scott
Deputy Reviews Editor: Ant Heeks
Assistant Reviews Editors: Sophie Brownlee, Az Chaudhry, Dave Crompton
Books Editor: Steve Swift
Assistant Books Editor: Carl Buxton
‘Short Sharp Shots Of Rock’ Editor: Sophie Brownlee
Art Editor: James Gaden
Social Media Manager: Pete Arnett
Sr Webmaster: Bernhard Kellerer
Webmaster: Pete Arnett
Staff Writers: Michael Anthony • Dave Bott • Andy Brailsford • Mick Burgess • Monica Castedo-Lopez • Mark Donnelly • Alan Holloway • Duncan Jamieson • Ian Johnson Gary Marshall • Mike Newdeck • Ray Paul • Steven Reid
Contributors: Bruce E. J. Atkinson • Brian Boyle • Helen Bradley • Paul Davies • Stuart Dryden • Richard Epps • Rob Evans • Paul Gregory • Lucy Hall • Ian Peter Hood • Paul Mace • Robin McGhie • Rob McKenzie • Chris Mee • Paul Monkhouse • Carl Noonan • Chris O’Connor • Dawn Osborne • Mick Parry • Dave Reynolds • Ken Roberts • Brent Rusche • Paul Sabin • Malcolm Smith • Simon Smith • Fabiana Spinelli • Peter Ward • Paul Woodward • Samantha C. Wright