Monday, February 17, 2014

4.

Maximum Rocknroll Number 4, Jan-Feb '83


A last minute news story makes for an interesting cover to this issue.  Not sure what was originally planned, but it was cleared to make room for a brief article about a recent punk riot.  A punk outside of a TSOL show in LA threw a bottle at a passing cop, who then escalated by calling in backups, including a helicopter, who sealed off Sunset Blvd in the area surrounding the club.  Punk was not new anymore but was at its peak threat to society — media exploitation, attacks from the Religious Right, police brutality all very real in Punk circa '83.  These themes all come up repeatedly in the magazine, alongside the editors' constant political guidance and challenges to their readers to have a coherent, radical belief system.

The cover also features the "Top 100 Records and Tapes (of) 1982", which takes the space of the typical shitworker top tens section that is absent.  Curiously, the list does not contain records/tapes but songs, democratically listed in alphabetical order and no band appearing with multiple entries. It's a great list which has plenty of not-quite ready for their own record but soon to be household names appearing via demo tape or compilation (Adrenalin OD, Butthole Surfers, Die Kreuzen, Poison Idea, etc).  

After the cover story, the first bit of content in the issue is this "Survey for Women" in which MRR is soliciting the opinions about women in punk.  The zine took a clear initiative to reach out to and embrace the full diversity of the punk scene.   Likewise, a priority was to address and confront any instances of sexism, homophobia, racism in the scene.  60+ pages later, the Record Reviews sectionfeatured no fewer than 3-4 records listed in this issue wherein the reviewer is taking the band to task for questionable lyrics (Lost Generation, Silly Killers, Descendents, GG Allin+). 

Issue four had a particularly great run of band interviews. Crucifix seem in early issues to be seen as a bit of a joke among locals for their love of Discharge and over the top punk look ("We feel that if you're going to be a Punk you might as well look like a Punk") but get a glowing review here after the release of their 7".  Code of Honor are one of my favorite bands, but so oddly professional in old interviews.  Their LP was probably a misstep, but certainly was not a mistake.  I dig their semi-schitzephrenic response below:


Also interviewed were a young Poison Idea, NY's False Prophets (from Avenue B!), Toxic Reasons, Reagan Youth, a very long and intense discussion with Articles of Faith, so many more.  Crucifucks has a pseudo-interview done in a questionnaire style that did include the following bullet from Doc Dart: "Cops: I hate them - there's no excuse for them.  I'd like to kill more than one.  They won't fuckin leave me alone".    But the centerpiece of the issue was V.Vale's conversation with Frank Discussion of The Feederz.  They discuss (and reprint) Frank's infamous "Bored of School" flyer which was allegedly distributed in Phoenix area schools, sabotage in the workplace, historical radical movements and parents.  It's a mandatory read.  The intro mentions their upcoming EP, Soon to be Picturesque Ruins, which I assume morphed into Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss?
 

There are scene reports galore, of course.  The most interesting bits were the complaints in the Northern California scene that there were too many shows going on at the time (12-14 the prior month!).  On the other hand, you had the Dallas/Fort Worth where HC was just starting to come into its own.  Hugh Beaumont Experience and Stickmen with Rayguns both got some serious column inches, which struck me as funny since both bands seem out of place in '83 but I guess the region was just running a couple years behind.  The issue had features on punk in South Afric, an intro to nihilism,  and another anti-punxploitation piece, this time about the Quincy episode.

As noted above, the reviews are commenting not only on the music but taking bands to task for questionable lyrics and attitudes. This issue had the now-legendary review of the Authorities single in which Tim Yo calls them out for use of the word "niggers" (or was it "piggers"?  Listen and decide...and read the comments where the debate was revived 20+ years later).

Hmmm, let's see...  issue had reviews of Blitz "Voice of a Generation", Cock Sparrer "England Belongs to Me", GG Allin "No Rules", Authorities 7", Big Boys "Fun Fun Fun" 12" (MRR did not approve of the funk!), Crucifix "1984" 7" ("unexpectedly great"), Dead Kennedys "Plastic Surgery Disasters" LP (approached by Tim with apprehension and respect), Descendents "Milo Goes to College" LP (called out for homophobic line), Flipper "Get Away" 7" (assholes who make great music), Husker Du "Everything Falls Apart" 12" ("even if they can't play Risk that well, they sure can play music!"), Negative Approach 7", Toxic Reasons LP, Tar Babies/Mecht Mensch split tape, plenty of regional comps/tapes.  Most of the "World" section was German and Canadian with the notables being Neos 7" & return of the Finns Lama & Kohu 63.


And last but not least, this fun lil' rebuttable by Tim & Jeff in response to a flippant comment made in a Flipper interview.  Can't we all just get along?


Sunday, February 2, 2014

3.

Maximum Rocknroll Vol. 1 No. 3

The issue that MRR went global.  Until this point, the gang has clearly embraced the international appeal of punk but the scope of coverage lived in a funnel that was roughly Regional>National>UK National Acts ('77 hangers on/Disorder/Crass)>International DIY(very little covered until this issue).  But with issue #3, the folks in SF received a care package from Finland that must have blown minds.  International DIY records had, until this point, no worldwide distribution network, no magazine to promote to likeminded folks 5000 miles away — by and large, they existed only in the scenes that bore them.  And Vote's care package to MRR may have changed all of that.  Suddenly, the MRR folks were exposed to a large chunk of records that were as good or better as what they were doing at home; that, as best as they could tell, existed with the same Leftist leanings; that existed as a DIY enterprise.  A thriving, brilliant hardcore scene.  The Top Tens gushed all over this stuff, rightfully.  It is pretty funny that MRR tries to claim the Finnish sound as their own despite the Finn's claim that they were primarily influenced by UK bands: 

And if this is was going on in Finland, what else was out there?  If they weren't already, this is where MRR becomes the public record for hardcore releases — the place where every band in every country could go to let the world know they exist, and where their peers could throw $2-$3 in the mail to the other side of the world to check them out.  

The anti-MRR backlash that will never die begins in the letters section of this issue.  Maybe there was some of it in prior issues, but the first letter here is classic and could have been written at any time over the last 30+ years.  Dave Insurgent writes in that he is psyched to find the magazine as left-coast kindred spirits.  True to their word in the first issue Tim posts the magazine's finances showing that it is, this far, a break even endeavor.

In this lil' corner, they manage to slip in some art (a nice Winston Smith graphic) and some humor.  Not just the dry old folks at the protest anymore, eh?

Besides the Finnish spread and additional record review section, this issue is fairly similar to the previous issues with other content.  Bale has a two-page article advocating for DIY as the solution to "rockstaritis".  The Desperate Bicycles legend has surely grown over the decades but as documented elsewhere, their influence was immediate and Bale quotes them within — It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it!  He was writing at a point when major labels were starting to look for a hardcore breakout and bands like the Misfits and Damned were beginning to mimic   a classic rock touring structure and others like Dead Kennedys and Black Flag were trying to find something more ethical/equitable/sustainable.  His five point plan to combat rockstaritis: 1) Realize that punk musicians are people, therefore anyone can do it. You can do it. Kill the pedestals. 2) Abandon groups that lose touch of DIY roots. 3) Transfer your support onto newer groups who are in touch.  4) Pay no mor3e than $5 for a show*.  5) No fixed guarantees — a percentage of the door is the ethical thing to do.
Clearly, the zine was doing wonders for the SFHC marketing department.  The scene report here is a who's who of bands moving to or thinking about moving to the Bay Area.  NOTA writes in with a one-band scene report for Tulsa ("We have one hardcore group (which is me and the boys)...").  Plenty of locals are interviews: Intensified Chaos, The Lew, Capital Punishment, The Afflicted, plus near locals 7 Seconds and The Wrecks.  I should mention this pretty funny review of a Crucifix/Discharge show:

But let's throw out everything mentioned so far, the real gem of the issue is the NY scene report which was a review of a show by Lucifer's Imperial Heretical Knights of Schism / Blood Clot / MDC / Reagan Youth.  The openers were an unknown act featuring singer Mike (Beastie Boys), drummer Dave (Reagan Youth) and friends and were clearly there to provoke.  Named after a Rastafarian principal, their set began with Mike reading from a pamphlet entitled, "What is Rastafari?" while the band made some noise behind him.  Not too thrilled with this act, members of the Bad Brains emerged to announce that Schism's set was over.  Dave Insurgent and the Bad Brains contingent argued until Dave MDC joined in to call out Bad Brains for their shitty treatment of Texas punks among other indecencies (their actions directly led to the demise of 171A Studios and Rat Cage records).  At this point Dave and Schism were pelted with eggs thrown by the Rastas.  Where the hell did they get eggs from????  

There were no shortage of demos reviewed in this issue as kids around the country were beginning to see the magazine as a vehicle to expand their hometown into something more visible.  Great, great bands coming out of the woodwork this way: Crucifucks, NOTA, No Thanks, Poison Idea...  Also one for The Gerbils "GM Working Man" in Detroit described as thrash with Screamers-like synth.  A total unknown to me, but I NEED TO HEAR THEM NOW!!!!  Finland reviews include Bastards, Kaaos/Kadgers, Kohu 63, Lama, Riistetyt, Rattus, first 3 Terveet Kadet records.  We also see that Anti-Cimex have submitted their first single for review (and get compared to SF's War Zone!) as have Jezus & the Gospelfuckers.  Some devestating stuff.


The zine ends with a punk's story of going to the movies to see "Class of 1984" and the audience reaction to them.  The move, starring Michael J Fox among others, is perhaps the most exploitative of any movie from the era, painting punks as racists, rapists, a new organized crime family.  I saw this movie very recently and was shocked...I can't even imagine seeing it as a punk in '82.




*That's about $12 today.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2.

Vol. 1 No. 2




Volume 1, Issue 2 of Maximumrocknroll takes some small but logical steps from the premier issue, expanding on its political coverage and building more of a presence as a national magazine.  In a series of articles & interviews, the staff further establish themselves as the elders and they are heavily invested in using their status to steer the young punks toward DIY, ethical behavior, leftist politics, anti-goonery.  It was a pivotal moment—media sensationalism was simultaneously publicizing the scene as the place to be for boneheads and giving media bigwigs dollar-sign eyeballs as they schemed over "the next big thing" and looked for bands to sign or punxploitation media to produce.  And here are the elders, some old enough to remember the hippies and their eroded idealism, with boots firmly planted in the ground saying over and over again, "Not on my watch."  

I was laughing to myself reading through the Top Ten lists and noting that every single list included "Not So Quiet on the Western Front" in the number 1 or 2 slot.  This was not even the case in the first issue(!) and my cynical side (do I have another?) stepped in to wonder if they were capitalizing on an expanded national audience to give themselves a plug.  Then at at the bottom of the page I noticed good ol' Tim Yo was one step ahead of me:  



Well, it is one hell of a record.  The lists are still very US/UK-centric1, just a lone appearance by Lama on Ruth's list, Terveet Kadet on Jeff's, and some non-punk (SPK, Birthday Party, Heino) scattered throughout to represent the rest of the world.  John Silva lists Grandmaster Flash "The Message" in his list and Ruth doubles down on the Black Humor LP, having reviewed it in the first issue and been called out in the letters section of this one for promoting a reactionary band.  She expands her view in the letters as well, declaring the band brilliant.  Agreed.



Scene reports have expanded beyond Northern California and have reports from Boston, NY, DC in addition to the local scene.  Hüsker Dü and the Rejectors have featured interviews alongside some by locals Rebel Truth & Deadly Reign.  Hüskers were still a new band and talk a bit about the reactions they receive from dumbfounded audiences on their tour. They were in the heart of their play 30 minutes non-stop at full intensity phase2 and no one knew what to make of them. They interviewed a local sheriff, Mike Hennessey, who was a big supporter of the scene ("I like watching Flipper but sometimes listening to them is a chore").  In so many of the early MRR interviews there is an intense curiosity from the interviewer to learn what it's like out there in other scenes.  It was a chore, even for the most dedicated to track down and hear all of the bands they'd heard of and these interviews tend to display an element of that.  With today's instant gratification, it's barely an issue anymore but that feeling of discovery is such a brilliant thing and nice to see it emerge as a theme in these early issues.

The most insightful interview presented was with Dirk Dirkson, local punk promoter who was involved in the SF scene from day one.  He adds yet another elder statesman voice to the chorus when discussing the changes the scene has undergone over the years.  The initial scene had a great knack for the visual, due in large part to the SFArtInstitute punks present in the first wave.  As younger kids came in, 13-14 year olds they could not bring the same level of maturity (aesthetic & otherwise) that the first wave of SFAI punks did which was a marked change.  Dirkson also gets into some bottom line economics for the kids—when shit at his clubs get fucked up, he has to fund their repairs and that comes out of the door; when half the audience sneaks in, it's harder to meet overhead; etc—and notes that he's $30K in the hole from years of running the club.



This issue features a series of articles that tackle world-issues from the zine's punk/left standpoint —"Media Distortion", feminism and punk rock, punk as dada, an anti-corpotation/anti-Bechtel scribe,  a short column from Bale about the Israeli occupation and subhuman treatment of Palestinians, and a Ruth Schwartz breakdown on different financial models of the band/label split (and which are exploiting the band).  Mindblowing stuff that really takes you out of last night's show and places you into the real fucking world.  In the comments of MRR's archive of this issue, Jerod Poore notes that he was the cover model on this issue, taken at a Tim Yo organized protest.  The photo was done in one shot and that's all they had as bank guards rushed out to break it up after seeing his pose.  Even the most topical issues written about herein are still more or less relevant; some names & details need updating but themes still extant, sadly3



Reviews were a bit thin on this issue, perhaps having stocked up for an impressive and robust section in issue#1.  Jeff's opening screed responds to those whose feelings were hurt by criticism in the first issue. Still very few non-US/UK releases and for the most part (a lone Lama single, some SPK), the UK releases tend to be bigger distributed titles by older bands still hanging on (Blitz/Chelsea/Chron Gen/Lurkers/etc).  Notable reviews of the Beatie Boys (loved it), Conflict (AZ)'s demo ("great value"), Die Kreuzen demo ("formerly The Stella's"–who knew?!?!), Ejectors "Hydrohead", Faith/Void split (Void described as "SOA meets Led Zeppelin"...dingdingding!), Nihilistics 7", Replacements "Stink", Toxin III, "Unsafe at Any Speed", "NY Thrash" (Tim Yo called Timmy Sommer to task, "No excuse for including macho Misfits-clones like THE FIENDS and leaving the great REAGAN YOUTH off this compilation").



1I always think of MRR's beginnings in an explosive 3 issue arc.  #1 is intensely local.  By issue #2 they are getting more submissions and exposure to a wider slab of the US.  And then—a fucking missile arrived from Finland in time for issue #3 and really, really made it an international zine.  Of course, it was always local but became a worldwide platform for punks to meet, exchange ideas & music, so on. 
2Their best phase (see: "Land Speed Record" & "Ultracore" bootleg).
3Jerod's comment on the MRR website by reiterating that the issues they were protesting continued far beyond that time; the issues Tim Yo & friends were protesting in 1982 are still every bit as valid now. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

1.

Maximum Rocknroll Vol. 1 No. 1


Tim & the gang come out of the gates swinging and with a chip on their shoulder.  Very clearly, MRR establishes itself as a reaction to a scene becoming apathetic & violent, a theme introduced in the opening manifesto and returned to repeatedly throughout the issue.  The magazine challenges their local scene, urging the punks to be better than the hippies, and takes them to task for inattentiveness to the world around them.  Run by older folks with a vision who see punk as a political vehicle, they come out fiercely DIY and unapologetically leftist.  More than once they take on the established punk bands booking shows with a flat fee guarantees as an example of punk done wrong.


Beyond that, this debut issue establishes a template that has endured to this day.  Letters: "This is your scene, tell us what's on your mind."  A place for the readers to gossip, spew angst, talk highfalutin political rhetoric, dis multinationals, so on.  A good place for banter between the punks...separate letters in this issue cite vandalism in both positive and negative terms.  Ads: In a way, the news of the world.  New releases for sale, upcoming releases teased, stores/zines/demos/records/labels highlighting their wares.  An essential component of the zine.  Scene reports: An open forum to write about your scene. This first issue focuses on the same Northern California locales that were covered on the "Not So Quiet..." comp.  Show reviews, band & venue news, so on.  The clip below featuring Santa Cruz's Young Alcoholics is particularly awesome.  







Columns: Op-eds from the folks running this thing.  Peter Urban notes that the SF scene has long been political and gives a history lesson on the subject.  Again, some strong and repeating themes in this one.  Band Interviews: QAs with the folks making all this noise.  This issue talks to MDC (and gives a lot of space to reprinting their lyrics - blunt, political, driving in a non-bonehead visions of punk), Minor Threat (a touring band!  This was early enough in the making of the HC touring circuit that the regional differences in local scenes was a huge novelty and they spend some time comparing regional dance moves before moving on to "Straight Edge").
Top Ten Lists: Always fascinating and an essential reader's companion to see what's unanimously awesome but also to help pinpoint whose tastes overlap with yours.  MRR was still very local and I believe Jeff Bale's inclusion of a Headcleaners record was the only non-North America/UK hardcore release (Ray Farrell has some international noise/industrial releases represented as well).  Zines: Here just a listing of contacts for zines from around.  Was pleased to find a couple from very nearby my current apartment.  So many truly classics were listed here: Xiphoid Process, Wild Dog, Tough & Go, Propaganda (Finland), Offense, Sub Pop, Smegma Journal, Sick Teen, Hymnal, Conflict, Coolest Retard... a who's who of some of the best ever.

Record Reviews: In ways, the most important section of the zine.  An uninterrupted spread cataloguing the history of punk from this issue onward.  Starting here, if it didn't hit the review pages of MRR it probably didn't exist.  Bale gives a brief introduction to his theory on reviews—they will be short, blunt, to the point; defines some terms—Thrash Punk, '77 or "Classical" Punk, Heavy Metal (HM) Punk, so on.  The early reviews sections split out by geography, so USA had its own section, UK had one, and an incredibly brief "Other" section included only the Headcleaners & Neos with a note saying the "Other" records are hard to get but "I like what I've heard".  The floodgates had not quite opened for the MRR staff; one can only imagine the minds blown in the ensuing months.

Reviews in this first issue included the Black Humor LP (worms enclosed?  A sad way to discover that my copy is incomplete!  Gotta find them worms), Code of Honor/Sick Pleasure 12", Flipper LP, Fartz 7" (Bale's favorite record of '81), Heart Attack "God is Dead" 7" ("First thrash song from the Big Apple"), Hüsker Dü "In a Free Land", MDC LP, Minor Threat "In my Eyes",  October Days "West Coast"  7" (a personal favorite—overlooked gem from Connecticut), 100 Flowers 7" (not the Urinals, sez the reviewer), SSD "Kids" 12", Zero Boys "Vicious Circle" LP, and the seminal comps "Boston not LA" and "Flex Your Head"...plus so many more.  The UK reviews come down particularly hard on the burgeoning UK82 scene...boneheaded glue sniffing does not pass with the MRR review crew.  They do, however, endorse Disorder's "Distortion to Deafness," branding it a classic, and Rudimentary Peni's first two EPs.  Some random reviews follow below.

The current crew of MRR has lovingly scanned and made available a PDF version of the zine, which can be viewed here.  On the anniversary of its publication, founder Jeff Bale wrote up some thoughts about the magazine and his personal transformation from thrash-punk to the grown-up he is today.