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How Maximum Rocknroll was produced in 1983

It all seems so long ago, perhaps because it was.

Back in the late 1970s and the 1980s, I was involved in several publications. I wrote a newspaper for my Reed College dorm called the Eastport Enquirer, back in the days in which its namesake the National Enquirer was decidedly unfashionable. (This was decades before the national paper broke real news in the John Edwards story.) A year later, I was working on the “real” college newspaper, the Reed College Quest. Several years after I left college, I wrote a local southern California zine called SHUFFLEBOARD!, a poor cousin to more highly-regarded zines such as From Ears and Mouth and The Bowl Sheet.

Before the monumental year of 1984, such publications were produced in ways that most people wouldn’t recognize today. Production of printed newspapers in those days often required the use of a typewriter, an Exacto knife, and lots of patience.

Back in those days, one of the leading zines was Maximum RockNRoll. It was clearly for the hardcore enthusiast; the one thing that I remember from those days was an impassioned letter that declared that the Beastie Boys (who had emerged from the hardcore movement before moving into rap) could not be regarded as true hardcore artists because of the rampant sexism in their lyrics. (For some, the so-called freedom of punk just meant that you had to adopt a new straitjacket.)

But that zine would crank itself out every couple of months. As part of a 30 year retrospective, John Marr (not the guitarist) describes how each issue was put together in those days.

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.

After additional descriptions of the production methods, Marr states:

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.)

Nowadays Maximum Rocknroll is still, if you’ll pardon the term, old school. How? They still sell printed copies.

However, I don’t think they use Exacto knives any more.

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