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. 

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