blissblog on Bob Dickinson

A month or so ago I got an email from Bob Dickinson, the original keyboard player (and violinist!) in Magazine, before Dave Formula replaced him. Dickinson was from an avant-garde classical background: when he saw the famous notice in the Manchester Virgin store from Devoto looking to recruit members, he had “just finished doing a 6-hour version of Gavin Bryar’s ‘Sinking of the Titanic’ at the Peterloo Gallery (with Dick Witts)”.

I interviewed Bob Dickinson nearly a decade ago and had no idea about any of this. Or rather, I interviewed a Bob Dickinson who I now believe is the same one.

In the mid-90s, before the proliferation of the internet – a lot of people seemed to have access to DTP stuff and photocopying. There was an explosion of zines of all sorts of hues. I gravitated towards a kind of post- situ/neoist/mail art/occulture ultra-left milieu which included things like the Association of Autonomous Astronauts at its more accessible end, and the Equi Phallic and Neoist alliances at the other. I can’t begin to tell you how prolific and energised that scene was. Some of the texts are anthologised in Stewart Home’s Mind Invaders: A Reader in Psychic Warfare, Cultural Sabotage and Semiotic Terrorism (Serpents Tail) , alas without their graphics.

The East London Section of the London Psychogeographical Association combined left-communism and paganism and inspired a large network of similar groups across the world, as well as novellists such as Iain Sinclair.


Manchester Area Psychogeographic produced a number of one-sheet newsletters. The “group” at that stage seemed to consist only of Bob Dickinson (as was the case with many of the groups in the scene) and I interviewed him for a zine of mine that ended up not being printed. I did put all of it and some other M.A.P. texts online, though.

Bob also produced a show for BBC Radio 4 about zines which featured some of my efforts. He got a mention in Radio 1 DJ Mark Radcliffe’s book in relation to producing his show I think as well.

A renaissance man, if it is all the same one, and the connections seem to be all in place (MAP wrote about early Factory and I think Nico in Manchester…)

Since then psychogeography has become a massive industry, as an academic discipline on the one hand, and as a more literary version of tourism on the other. Both of these scenarios have attempted to remove the more confrontational aspects which made psychogeography so appealing in the first place.


  1. I got fond memories of the zine scene. Mostly I was into the punk/dada stuff not politics. For a while I had friends at the copy shop so I made any number of my own zines and dada fliers. Around 1990 I started doing the dada stuff by fax to random numbers in NYC. Now that we got the internet it just doesnt seem worth doing any more.

  2. yeah, the internet has terminated a particular line of creativity for our generation I think. I’m hoping that sometime in the future people will return to it, perhaps as a reaction to net stuff. Maybe. I dunno!

  3. Unfortunately the connection between the two ‘bob dickinsons’ is’nt there. Main reason being that I’m the ex-Magazine Bob and the other ‘Bob Dickinson’ of BBC 4 is purely a writer who lives in Manchester. I live in Lincolnshire and am writing (‘Music and the Earth Spirit’, published by Capall Bann 2001), composing and teaching (have just written some experimental graphic scores for the New York Miniaturist Ensemble – (follow the ‘Graphic Scores’ link).


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