[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at
1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Tuesday, Apr. 7.]
Tim Yohannan, founder of punk rock 'zine Maximumrocknroll (MRR) and
one of the forces behind the famed 924 Gilman St. punk-rock club in
Berkeley, Calif., died Friday due to complications from lymphatic
cancer. He was 52.
MRR staffers would not comment on Yohannan's death, per his wishes,
but when contacted Monday, a staffer said that "after a long bout with
cancer, Tim died at home on Friday, surrounded by friends."
Prior to founding MRR in 1982, Yohannan launched a weekly
rockabilly-themed radio show of the same name on Berkeley community radio
station KPFA in 1978. The program quickly evolved into a punk-rock
showcase, highlighting the burgeoning early '80s punk scene.
After establishing all-punk 'zine MRR, Yohannan was part of a
collective that launched 924 Gilman St. in 1984-85. The space was designed
as an egalitarian, alcohol-free, all-ages scene that featured live
performances and nurtured the careers of such modern-day punk acts as Green
Day, Rancid and a host of other bands. It is still open for business.
Yohannan, known for his provocative, incorrigible attitude, was also
credited with being a key player in the establishment of the Epicenter punk
record store in San Francisco.
"I always deeply, deeply respected his contribution to the punk-rock scene
in America and in the world," said Slim Moon, owner of the Olympia,
Wash.-based punk record label Kill Rock Stars.
Moon said Yohannan's endeavors helped the punk community grow in ways
unseen by most fans. For example, because MRR was distributed by
Mordam Records rather than a magazine distributor, it indirectly encouraged
music store owners to purchase more punk records when they placed their
monthly call for the 'zine.
V. Vale, publisher/editor of San Francisco-based V/Search publications,
said he remembered when a pompadoured, rockabilly-styled Yohannan walked
into the offices of Vale's short-lived punk 'zine Search and Destroy
in early 1979 to soak up as much information as he could about the
then-waning San Francisco punk scene.
"He is the central organizing and driving force behind an absolutely
prodigious body of documentation on punk rock which became published under
the name Maximumrocknroll," said Vale, who credited MRR with
being the "major clearinghouse and communication nerve center for the
global punk lifestyle/movement that emerged during the '80s and is still
Jonathan Floyd, who works at the Bay Area punk label Fat Wreck and who has
written reviews for MRR, testified to Yohannan's obsessive drive to
document and dissect the punk scene. He said Yohannan often pushed him to
be more discriminating in his reviews. "One time, I wrote this review of a
really bad album, and Tim really wanted to know why it was so awful. Was it
melodic and bad? Was it this, or that? He really wanted me to figure it
out," Floyd said. "He really lived and breathed that magazine."
So dedicated was Yohannan to his mission to spread the gospel of punk that
he turned the offices of the magazine into a communal living space
inhabited by staffers and frequently visited by punk bands in town for gigs.
"If it wasn't for him, there wouldn't be a scene here [in San Francisco],"
said Brian Archer, who works in the advertising department of Fat Wreck.
"If it wasn't for him, I definitely wouldn't be doing what I'm doing."
And while Slim Moon added that his relationship with Yohannan was often
contentious, he considered that a reflection of the strength of the punk
"Me and him almost always butted heads," Moon said, often in debates over
such topics as whether punk was more of a sound (Yohannan's view, according
to Moon) or a lifestyle. "But I think that just proves something about punk-rockers, which is that principles and issues and politics and ethics are
really important to us, and we're not going to be namby-pamby about it. If
there was one person who proved that, it was Tim Yohannan."
Mark Hanford, MRR's NetPunk columnist, set up a memorial website in
Yohannan's honor (http://gate.cruzio.com/~hanford/memorial), allowing users
to post and read dedications, farewells and memories.
By 2 p.m. Monday, there were 85 posts on the site. Many of them were from
people such as Pittsburgh resident Joe Horvath, who wrote that he
didn't know Yohannan personally, but he considered MRR a major
influence in his life.
"The first time that I grasped a copy of MRR and opened its pages, I
was in love," Horvath wrote. "I have never, before or since, seen such a
comprehensive source of the underground punk-rock scene. So many styles ...
so many bands ... so many stories and so much more. I appreciate everything
that Tim did and I believe that his heart was ... strong and filled with
the true passion of ... punk rock."
"The bottom line is Tim Yohannan changed my life," a fan named Joel Wick
wrote. "I can't thank him enough for starting a magazine that [put] into
motion so many people that ultimately made my life better. If it wasn't for
him, I wouldn't be where I am today. I knew he would pass away eventually,
but it's still very saddening. Thanks Tim."
(SonicNet contributing editor Randy Reiss contributed to this report.)