Sunday, January 19, 2014


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


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" 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. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Maximum Rocknroll Vol. 1 No. 0

MRR's debut fanzine, which was an insert to their Not So Quiet on the Western Front compilation album and not actually a zine proper, is a pretty fierce proclamation that "We Are Here."  We - the Northern California Underground / the entity of MRR / punks in general...  All still running strong, still inspirational forces, still rad beyond belief most of the time (can't all be rad all of the time).

But before the album—and still to this day (although not continuously)—Maximum Rocknroll was a weekly radio program which in the early days aired Tuesday nights on Berkeley community radio station KPFA.  Hosted by a gang of fanatic record collectors and dedicated to the most maximum of rocknroll, the show was and is an important resource to hear punk, proto-punk, hardcore, and any related genre or proto-genre.  Michael LaBash has been running an essential blog that makes many of the early radio programs available as MP3s.  It is simply mind blowing that he was able to tape, retain, and digitize all of these, so please spend a few weeks over at his website.

Tim & The Gang (Tim Yohannon, Ruth Schwartz, Jeff Bale & cohorts) made a ton of early color xerox fliers to advertise the program, which are easily among the finest of early punk ephemera:

The vaults of the MRR website has a few more examples of early MRRRadio fliers, which you can find here and here.  I have a copy of one more, which was used as letterhead by Tim sending a note to a Los Angeles record store.  A nice note, and prime example of his legendary record collecting habits.

Not So Quiet On the Western Front was a thorough and awesome documentation of the local scene.  The fine folks behind the radio program assembled 47 bands from the region and crammed them into two LPs.  Comps as this tend to have the "gimme your shortest song" mentality in an effort to get as much on as possible, and I do not know if MRR took this approach but they managed to have a pretty good OPS+ with very few duds.  Crucifix, Code of Honor, Church Police, Flipper, MDC, Dead Kennedys plus a million—er, 42, more—present quite a diverse punk ecosystem.

Vol. 1 No. 0 itself gave each band one page to use as their insert.  Some graphics, contact info, lyrics, not room for much more.  Just a quick "here we are, this is what we're about, we took a graphic design class & have access to some history books —check it out!".  (MRR's archives dug up this early draft at cover art when the comp was going by the name "May I Have the Next Thrash?").  But more important than that, by naming and numbering the insert, the compilers were announcing that their scene was more fluent and vibrant and brilliant than just an album.  It was worth a bi-monthly broadcast to the world.  "Listen to us now, then pay attention to us hereafter..."