Punks Not Dead, but Maximum Rocknroll Is: A Farewell Letter to the MRR Zine

At the beginning of this year, Maximum Rocknroll announced that their print publication would be ending its 37 year run. The May issue would be its last. When the news broke, many readers of MRR, from the infrequent to the avid, were upset with the magazine’s announcement. MRR was a mainstay of the independent punk scene, and had endured the many ups and downs of punk’s history. MRR had survived the death of its founder Tim Yohannon, punk breaking into the mainstream, the rise of the internet and the many, many times punk was declared dead. MRR was loved, hated, and more often than not treated with indifference because it was just assumed that Maximum Rocknroll would always be around.

I hadn’t read MRR in almost 20 years, but was still sad about the news. I spent many nights as a teen reading the magazine and it had a significant impact on my development. I was 13 when I first starting reading MRR. My parents were divorced and I was left alone a lot. I had gotten into punk through my older brother, and when he went out to party with his friends and go to shows, I would look through his things. I listened to his records and started reading the punk publications he had lying around. MRR being one of them. While avidly listening to my brother Mike’s music collection left a very obvious impression on me, I had never considered MRR’s influence until I made a point to pick up a copy of the February issue after hearing of the magazine’s end.

While the act of picking up and reading an issue of MRR was swathed in nostalgia, actually sitting down and ingesting its contents was something else entirely.

I was immediately transported back to my teen years, vividly recalling what it was like to read MRR alone in my room, late at night. Being an impressionable teen, I accepted the magazine’s content without question. Only revisiting MRR did I comprehend how much the zine in opposition to and challenged anything mainstream society offered. Although the columnists had changed and the zine was structured differently (what happened to the letters section?), everything I remembered about the zine was there for me to read. I had forgotten just how radical, informative and entertaining the magazine was. Even in an age where information is readily at one’s fingertips, reading MRR was truly an educational experience that offered information I wasn’t aware of (I read a column about diy stimulant substitution therapy!).  

As I poured over my copy of MRR, I was also reminded of my love of print, especially zines. It takes a lot of time and effort to write a column, interview, or record review. The writers of MRR always struck me as being deeply invested in their work, which was more palpable when you realized they were only volunteers. Having a target audience didn’t hurt MRR either. If someone wanted to write a column comparing the quality of punk in the Trump era to that of the first Bush era, a writer didn’t need much, if any exposition to set that up.

While MRR always championed the outsider and was extremely progressive in it’s acceptance of politics, lgbtq issues, women’s rights and feminism, MRR still had it’s faults. For most of the zine’s history, it’s content was centered around white, cis, hetero males. In the past few years, though, MRR rose to the challenge of diversifying it’s content, and brought in new contributors to stay relevant to the changing punk & diy community. MRR began featuring more POC fronted bands, let go of some problematic columnists and contributors, striving to make the zine more appealing to a diverse readership. These changes just weren’t enough to keep the magazine going, though.

Ultimately, I think the greatest thing about MRR was how accessible everything in the magazine was. I hadn’t read MRR in over 20 years but still knew the bands that were mentioned or interviewed. I had either seen them when they came to town or played them on my record show. When i got the chance to peruse some old issues of MRR at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, I saw record reviews of bands from my hometown and bands that stopped to play a show while on tour. What surprised me the most about MRR was how it very accurately encapsulated exactly what was happening in the world of diy punk, both then and now.

MRR has always showed how tangible punk was. And still is. That was always the key to it’s longevity and infamy. It’s reaffirming to see the scene reflected back to you. Your scene reflected back to you. And that may be the hardest thing to let go when the magazine ends. But everything ends, and at least we got to enjoy it while it was here. Thanks for everything MRR. We didn’t know what we had until it was gone.

The last issue of MRR is available at your local newsstand and record store. You can also pick up a copy at maximumrocknroll.com

DJ Going Places is a Navajo punk living in Portland, Oregon. They make zines, sometimes attend shows, and volunteer at the IPRC. Catch their radio show, “Femmes, POC & Queers To The Front” every other Thursdays from 10pm-12am. They play punk, post punk and experimental music by femmes, POC and Queer musicians. 

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