Back in 1984, Ron Gregorio was just another punk looking for something more. In the highway miles between New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania he found a scene filled with iconic mavericks like Jello Biafra, Mike Watt and D. Boon, Rollins, Ian, Tesco Vee, John Stabb, John Lydon, Bob Mould, and dozens of other luminaries who carved out a slice of 1980s history with an unprecendented creation of an underground network of venues, record labels, and fanzines.
You see kids (sorry, I couldn’t resist), back before the internet we had to get creative to achieve our goals. We stole calling card numbers to run up massive long distance phone bills (do people even know what long distance calling was? Toll calls? Anyone?) to book shows, we defrauded the USPS and bypassed their capitalist fees with some ingenious stamp-glue-tape concoctions (is there a statute of limitation for mail crimes? Asking for a friend). And, when we started to realize there were other people all over the country (and, later, the world) into the same shit we were, we created alternative ways to communicate and get the word out.
The importance of the fanzine on punk and hardcore culture can not be overstated. All those bands we loved and followed… most of us never would have found them without ‘zines and their all-important “scene reports.” And, with the fanzines and all that they encompassed came an entire generation of journalists and historians who had been reared on the decadent writings of the ‘60s “rock journalists” (an odious title if ever there was one) took the crusade into their own hands and did it their own way. Stapled and pasted and Xeroxed and dog-eared and rumpled and absolutely, positively vital, the fanzine was not a new novelty. But what the punks had started doing as far back as the ‘70s was truly revolutionary. Instead of glossy paens to pop idols of a banal generation, punk fanzines were information and photos packed as deep as possible. They were reviews and letters and local record store ads and everything that made our scene wonderful.
Amy Yates Wuelfing at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ.
Ron Gregorio took what came before and, like so many others, bent and shaped it into his own. Hard Times Magazine, with some help from Ron’s pal Glenn Danzig, was the ideals of punk and hardcore visualized and realized in print for the ages to witness. With help from some like-minded friends, Ron and the Hard Times crew got a glossy off the ground and managed to capture some of the greatest bands and artists of the time.
Now, every scribble, every angry letter and review; every photo is collected into one volume - Hard Times Magazine: An Anthology of ‘80s Punk and Hardcore is the new retrospective from DiWulf Publishing House. It collects every issue (including the never-published final issue) into one glossy, vivid tome and it includes a ton of never-published photos that have languished in a box for decades. Intimate shots of the Descendents, The Ramones, Minutemen, Black Flag and so many more are captured freely in the bloom of their youth and at the height of their power. Compelling live shots sit side by side with fan portraits and vividly live exposition. The Hard Times was a fan’s perspective because that’s what Ron and the staff were - fans. In the words and in the photos you can see the lack of barrier between band and audience. The ‘zine was as dependent upon participation as any punk show was. The contributions came from everywhere and everyone. The bands freely gave gifts of their time and their art whenever Ron and Amy and Dianne came looking for a photo or an interview. And the bands helped in promotion with support both moral and editorial. Indeed, Ron credits Danzig himself for offering Ron the best advice upon starting out. It was Glenn who told Ron that if he were to do it he should do it right. Ron took it to heart and set about filling the pages with quality content and proper printing.
Hard Times came out as a slick glossy, putting it miles ahead of the usual ‘zine fare of the time. Its line up of artists was untouchable - a veritable all-star roster of some of the most groundbreaking and beloved bands out there. Ron was a familiar and welcomed face on the scene and his affability and dedication was enjoyed by all. This is what gave him the access to the bands - being a decent, honest person without pretension or agenda.
Now, in keeping with its tradition of preserving subculture, DiWulf Publishing House is proud to present Hard Times Magazine: An Anthology of ‘80s Punk & Hardcore. The book has been painstakingly assembled from all the original Hard Times files. Amy Yates Wuelfing has spent endless hours putting everything together, going through thousands of photographs to reconstruct the history of Hard Times. and to give testimony to its cultural importance.