I don't suppose anyone has penpals any more, and it's just another word heading for obsolescence thanks to the internet. After all, if you can do things like connect with people in real time via MSN Messenger and Facebook, or post comments on their infrequently-updated blogs, would you really feel the need to spend your time writing frightening verse to a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg?
Back in the 80s of course, it was all different. As it was difficult to post pictures of yourself drunk online via a Spectrum 48K, people had to write letters to each other, and if you were looking for people with similar interests to yourself to add to your burgeoning Social Network, then there were few better places to look than the Penpals! page in Kerrang! This page became one of the surprise hits of the early magazine as the sheer numbers of people wanting to advertise themselves in the Klassifieds section became too large that they eventually decided to make it a free service and dedicate an entire page to it.
Reading through some old issues from 1982, you quickly see that there was a basic format for each entry, along the lines of
Male Headbanger 18, into Maiden, Sabbath, AC/DC and Motorhead, looking to write to female headbangers aged 17 -23. If interested, please drop a line with photo to "Mad" Phil Rocker, 22 Acacia Ave, Bury, Lancs.
Of course this was just the basic format and as with all courtship rituals, the one who could stand out from the crowd was guaranteed the most suitors. One way you could do this was to list an act or two among your faves who were not among the most commonly-mentioned bands. You had to be careful here, though as "Yes, Eloy and Magnum" tended to conjure up images of bedroom walls covered with Roger Dean posters, while "The Rods, Dumpy's Rusty Nuts and Anvil" promised nights out drinking Woodpecker cider at the local biker bar. Neither of which boded too well for attracting chicks. If this strategy failed, another way was to pluck up the courage to post a picture of yourself staring seriously into the camera of the photo booth at the Train station.
One thing you notice reading through the entries is how many of the folk suffered from the "only headbanger in the village" syndrome, evident as you read things like "Lonely HM Freak" and "Wales is crap for what I call decent long-haired blokes". The last one seems to suggest that Wales was ok for indecent long-haired blokes. Which sounds about right, to be honest.