September 19th, 2012 by MRR
Huzzah! Our MRR Archives series chugs right along, celebrating the magazine’s 30 year anniversary. Here for your enjoyment is Maximum Rocknroll issue #8 (complete download now available here). Our guest introduction for this issue comes from the one and only John Marr, who you may know from his own legendary zine Murder Can Be Fun. On a personal note, John is most near and dear to my heart for he is the person who first got me involved as a MRR shitworker some 29 years ago, and I can attest that his behind-the-scenes account of the OG MRR HQ is 100% true. Read and destroy! — Paul
The first thing to realize in looking back at these early issues of MRR is the unbelievable crude production methods we used. This was when the hot new Apple product was the IIe computer with dual 5¼” floppy drives and desktop publishing but a mad software engineer’s dream. We had no scanners, no computers, no laser printers. We did have an electric typewriter that could, in a jaw dropping display of 1983 technology, print out a justified column of copy. Tim had a friend with a graphic arts camera to make halftones of photos. And we had a full complement of steel rulers, Xacto knives, hand waxers, Letraset lettering, and layout tape. Early issues of MRR were handcrafted, albeit unlovingly.
The focus of our labors was Tim and Jeff’s nice little rented Arts & Crafts bungalow in the then affordable Temescal district of Oakland. (Real estate tip: buy near MRR house, wait 10 years.) During the week, a steady stream of volunteers pounded in every letter, every scene report, every interview into that damn typewriter. (And you wonder why there are so many typos! Spell-check too was on the to-be-invented list.) I did a little of the typing and copy editing; I recall one particularly pleasant hatchet job that turned one prominent punk’s 3,000 words of turgid bombast into a thousand words on how to have punk pen pals. But my main involvement was the big Sunday Afternoon Layout meeting.
We would show up around 2:00 p.m. Tim would distribute the copy and halftones and we would get to work, waxing the copy and photos and madly cropping both to make everything fit. More than one mohawk went down before our Xacto knives! There was generally much hilarity in the air as we went about our layouts, rehashing who punched who at last night’s show or competing in the never ending contest to coin the most generic hardcore band name, some outrageous combination of youth, red, black, flag, and army. The battle raged on. And then those three-letter acronym bands—what did they stand for? More importantly, what should they stand for? I always thought it was sad that so little of this lightness and wit wound up on the printed page. People who bitched about MRR’s dourness would have been absolutely shocked.
This particular issue came out at an interesting time: when the more violent segments of the punk audience were getting identical haircuts and starting the American skinhead “scene.” The letters column was starting to fill with people whining about who-punched-who at the last CBGB matinee. Perhaps the highlight of the issue is Tim’s interview (on the radio?) with SF Skin-to-be Bob Noxious, singer of the then notorious SF band THE FUCK-UPS. He’s an amazingly unselfconscious subject, almost a unwitting work of folk art with a title like “American Numbskull.” You gotta love an interviewee who says things like “I don’t even wear spikes hardly no more” and who rationalizes knocking out 45 GRAVE’s Dinah Cancer with “she didn’t really take offense to it.” The only thing missing is the interview ending with Bob taking a swing at Tim.
Most of the scene reports are forgettable for all save record collectors. Tim picked them for content. Literary or artistic merit were never considerations. If you could throw together a few hundred words that included plenty of band names and contact addresses and toss in a few photos to be shrunken down beyond recognition, you were in. The Boston report, however, does stick out for being penned by mogul-to-be Gerard Cosloy and as a fine example of “The Promoter’s Lament.” And I do believe I detect my own inept hand in the layout of the Philly scene report—the uneven corners and poor overall graphic sense are dead giveaways.
The band interviews, either you love ‘em or hate ‘em. I hate ‘em; I prefer to hear musicians, not read them. The special report on the then new “skate punk” thing is pretty good, especially the Jaks interview. Don’t feel bad about not grasping the concept of “Absolute Music” unless you too just did a head plant off your skateboard after drinking a shoplifted 6-pack of generic beer.
As for the big gab fest between Dave (MDC), Vic (AOF), and Ian (MINOR THREAT), I am so overwhelmed by a sense of sorrow for the poor shitworker who had to transcribe and type the damn thing that I can’t bear to read it. I’m betting, though, that they all come out as unalterably opposed to Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Pushead’s self-interview is best viewed on the bottom of a 12-year-old’s skateboard, preferably at speed. The Mykel Board piece is kinda fun, although it is but a shadow of the column he would soon being to write. And can you believe an issue of MRR with only two columnists?
A few fun details for the keen eyed: buried in the UK scene report is a picture of GBH captioned “Great Big Haircuts? Or Go Back Home?” The shitworkers have their (very small) say! Buried in the record reviews are early works by GG ALLIN (“idiotic and poorly recorded”), the LYRES (“Now this is more like it!”) and FAITH NO MAN, soon to be re-christened FAITH NO MORE. Even if you don’t read the Dave/Vic/Ian piece, look at the pictures! Tim Y. is plainly visible in the front row of one (Hint: he’s the one that looks like a greasy little vampire.) But if you really want to flaunt your MRR old school credentials, spot (and explain!) the “Annie” on the front cover!
— John Marr, 2012