It's quite a horny paper, really.

 

rinter Protest is a research paper written for the History component of the Master of Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University, under the advising of Prof. Hannah McGregor.

It explores the role of printers in the 60s
during the underground press movement.
How were underground papers printed? Why? And what dangers did these printers face?

Also now, in the attempt to remediate this movement into a new format... it's a music video. God help us.

PROLOGUE: In Which a French Guy Thought American Journalism Was Too Boring and Unified, Which Is, Suffice it to Say, Ironic

The opening section of the paper introduces the history of America as a place where, according
to Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, "Disbelief finds so to speak no organ."

In the 60s, disbelief will find its organ to speak,
and that organ is the printer.

ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE

This is a representation of linocut, a woodcut printmaking technique where a sheet of linoleum is used as a relief surface.

CAPITALISM + DOPE
= GENOCIDE

Sex, drugs, marijuana, Vietnam, and rock and roll. This section explains the origin of protest papers as satirical campus rags in an uncertain social climate.

OUR FOUNDER,
THE MIMEOGRAPH

An overview of printing practices: Gestetner mimeographs; cutting and pasting on blue-lined sheets; photo enlargers and Luminos paper; scissors and rubber cement; photo-offset printing; ballpoint pens and onionskins; soot-soaked tampons; silkscreen printing; colloid printing; smuggled printing parts from the CIA; homemade ink from cologne and soap; hand-copying and re-typing;

OK, MAYBE IT'S GLOSSY ROMANTICISM, BUT C'MON, PRINTERS WERE SUPER SEXY

This section of the essay gets all hot and bothered while evaluating the dashing, roguish cultural capital held by underground printers -- a notably different cultural capital than the writers, artists, and editors.

EPILOGUE: Holy Framing Device, Batman!

We return full circle to de Tocqueville and reflect on how the progression of printing technology has given the dissenters of the world an organ with which to do great things.

OR
WATCH THE
   MUSIC VIDEO
 

The other large revolution of the 60s was the birth of rock and roll. As protest papers spawned, bands and artists began to proliferate the underground New York art/music scene, "using the urban landscape as their canvass for lyrics in the confessional style of poets like Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath."

Just like the underground press, rock was born of malcontents. The music was grungy and unproduced, the lyrics incendiary. It contributed to civil rights, because just as black and white authors alike worked on underground papers, all races found a common language through rock and roll.

Today, studios pour billions into producing rock music; in the 60s, it was an art form molded by teens and young adults in garages and basements, experimenting with new technologies and often hijacking old technologies to suit their needs. Low-budget and unpretentious, they expressed remarkable logistical ingenuity to produce their art and speak truth to power.

P

rinter Protest: The Music Video
features a myriad of artistic choices intended to honor the movement it's based on, as well as thematically enhance it.

01

The composition is based off of rock, punk, power pop, and protest artists of the era. The two largest influences I studied and attempted to target were The Who for instrumentation and The Byrds for vocals.
 
The Who is a band founded in 1964. "Printer Protest" intentionally features seventh chords, suspended fourths, and power chords (easy-to-finger chords built from the root and fifth). These were hallmarks of the guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who. Townshend's contributions to the genre are cited as a major influence by hard rock, punk rock and mod bands. ("Printer Protest's" frenetic tempo is theirs too, at 160 BPM.)
 
The harmonies are attempted to be styled off The Byrds (but c'mon--who can ever be The Byrds?) In their harmonic style, "McGuinn and Gene Clark sang the same notes in tandem, while Crosby would move freely between a perfect fifth, flatted fifth, third, or seventh." Because they rarely implemented three-part harmonies, I largely stick to two-part harmonies.
I also utilize influences from modern-day bands carrying on the era's torch, including blatantly stolen riffs from The Bad Moves and The Swellers, and the chord structure of Joe Tracz.
 
...Aaand then more or less all of that went to hell by the time I had a final product. Although I am a musician, I am not a composer whatsoever, and you reach a point of desperation where you just take what you can get. I think the song ended up resembling Elton John more than anything else, which was not remotely intentional; hazards of being a piano-based writer, I think. Ruined good intentions aside, throughout the process I felt a kinship with the underground press as I selected bits and pieces from each of these artists, recalling Judy Albert of the Berkeley Barb's nostalgic memories of cutting and pasting articles and collages on blue-lined sheets.
Underground printers made do with what they had; they used the things around them creatively, often finding entirely new uses in printing technology for everyday objects. I attempted to emulate this DIY spirit.
Just as protest printers repurposed unlikely objects like tampons, I replaced my percussion instruments with pots and pans and a box of rice. (The one thing I couldn't DIY was cymbals, which my guitarist, Gary, helped me add digitally in post. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Gary and I were not able to meet in person for me to film him playing guitar, but his talent is still present.)
Although I had access to much higher-quality cameras, I chose to film the video with my phone. I also bought a cheap cassette recorder off Amazon, and used that to record certain tracks for that yummy, authentic "cassette" sound.

02

Lastly, although the music is the focus, I'm still using a visual medium. I filmed in grungy areas, and I tried to enhance the video with costuming. I have a few nifty thrifted vintage jackets hanging around that were just waiting to see this day. I also included one extremely 70s outfit; although 1961, the beginning of the era I studied, isn't near the hippie movement, protest papers will continue to be prominent throughout the 70s as the Vietnam War lingers.

03

 
 
 

One journalist in Chicago spotted this in
the mid-1960s. "Taped to the walls was a picture of a mimeograph machine. Just underneath it someone had written 'Our Founder.'" -- Smoking Typewriters, p.13

“In those days[…] you could buy a box of Luminos paper for five dollars, believe it or not. I could print and print[…] until I got a print I liked." --Jeffrey Blankfort, The San Francisco Good Times; On the Ground, pg.26

I felt it was important to include print in the video. Rather than merely adding a text box, I produced it by hand.

Quote from A.J. Liebling, press critic.

Nod to the Gestetner mimeograph.

A somewhat-too-subtle-to-even-really-count reference to Michael Warner’s Publics and Counterpublics.

MONIKER PRESS is a risograph print and publishing studio in Vancouver, B.C., that works collaboratively with artists and writers to produce small editions of books, zines and print ephemera. It seemed appropriate to begin in a print shop that is, today, carrying on the spirit of ye olde
underground press. Although I didn't have access to era-accurate equipment, choosing to use a now-outdated projector was a nod. We see a slow fade from color into black & white, taking us back in time, bridging the gap between present and past.

Without printing, publishers have no platform. No audience. No voice. At the end of the day, you can hand-copy as many leaflets as you want, but you won’t win a showdown against an offset printing machine.

In the culture of the underground press, “[printers] carried the full weight of the struggle and felt they were on the front lines." Subsequently, it is no surprise that “who was more important—a printer or an editor—was a subject of debate[…] Printers could be loose cannons; they would print without the[…] approval of the rest of the board and decide the sequence of works.” -- Pawel Sowinski, “Printers of the Mind."

Most European protest printers living under communist regimes built their presses with parts that the CIA sent them. This is ironic, as the American government was concurrently suing many of its domestic protest printers.

In the People’s Poland, printing materials that were not censor-approved could land you up to a life sentence in jail. Items as innocuous as electricity bills and wedding invitations had to be approved by censor.

Here, things get rowdy. I love this cacophony as symbolism of the 60s’ frenzied underground social climate. The intersecting voices (particularly the way that the sibilants interact) were also an attempt to mimic the pumping machinery of a running printing press.

Lyrics

Title card. Moniker Press footage: a
projector that says "1961."

An unmade cot, several laundry bags
Naked posters on the wall, beside
A shrine we set up for the mimeograph
A box of Luminos is how you win the war

It’s not hard to say
Without us there’d be no way

 

Handwritten text: The underground press
is one of the great wonders[…]. Editors, artists, writers, and[…]millions of long-
haired readers[…] changed journalism,
battled repressive laws, and had a mighty
good time in the process. […] It was the
best time of our lives.
—Paul Buhle, Radical America (1967–1999)

 

You don’t think of our part very much
The authors have all of the fun, they say (Yeah right!)
But we’re the trial, jury, and the judge, cause
Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one

 

And Vietnam is still going on

And we won't stop, we'll use all we've got

 

We've got paper and coffee and photo-offset copies

Scissors, hundred bucks, and a dream

We've got staples and letters and don't forget Gestetners

We're forming up a counter-regime

It's a printer protest

 

Text on whiteboard:

Q: Why did you start printing?
A: Things were so deadly boring and
depressing in the People’s Poland that
you either had to leave or plot against
the communists—there simply was no other choice.
—Witold Luczywo Talks about Printing Robotnik

 

Across the world, the stakes are even worse (in Poland)
We’re smuggling presses left and right to make a stand
Using homemade ink and onionskins (and tampons)
Make us disappear, the press prints on as planned

 

And Vietnam is still going on

And we won't stop, we'll use all we've got

 

We've got paper and coffee and photo-offset copies

Scissors, hundred bucks, and a dream

We've got staples and letters and don't forget Gestetners

We're forming up a counter-regime

We've got paper and coffee and photo-offset copies

Scissors, hundred bucks, and a dream

We've got staples and letters and don't forget Gestetners

We're forming up a counter-regime

It's a printer protest

Montage of printing videos.

Montage of protest videos.

You never listen to us, you never listen (Hey!)
You never listen to us, you never listen (Whoa!)
You never listen but now, you’re gonna listen

Cause we'll tell another side of the story

We'll tell another story

 

[music out]

With paper and coffee and photo-offset copies
Scissors, hundred bucks, and a dream
With staples and letters and don’t forget Gestetners
We’re forming up a counter-regime

 

[music in]

With paper and coffee and photo-offset copies
Scissors, hundred bucks, and a dream
With staples and letters and don’t forget Gestetners
We’re forming up a counter-regime

 

[begin vocal rounds]
With staples and letters and don’t forget Gestetners
We’re forming up a counter-regime
It’s a printer protest

[With vocal riffing]
Paper and coffee and photo-offset copies
Scissors, hundred bucks, and a dream
Staples and letters and don’t forget Gestetners
We’re forming up a counter-regime

It’s a printer protest!
 

They would feed aluminum foil into a typewriter and then write their materials, causing the letters to punch through and form a stencil. Then, they would soak tampons in soot and use them to fill it in. Though these stencils were highly fragile, that was a benefit, as it meant less evidence of sedition.

I feel this is an important moment. A remark I received on my research was that readers are curious to know more about the content of what was printed. I avoided that topic intentionally, as it’s been written about extensively, and I was focusing solely on the means of production; however, I think that you do need to see and feel the social climate of the 60s to understand the gravitas of the printers’ work. This montage, as well as the lyrics of the bridge, attempt to provide that perspective.

hank you to everyone who helped and contributed!

This took an unbelievable number of hours, and you helped it to coalesce. 

gary the guitar wizard

lauren for filming the videos of me with the rice and clapping in that stairwell, it was super weird ty for helping

hank you to everyone who helped and contributed!

This took an unbelievable number of hours, and you helped it to coalesce. Unrelated to the video, I deeply want to thank Adena and Hannah for their help with my research.

jealous of my sweet setup??

gary the guitar wizard

lauren for filming the videos of me with the rice and clapping in that stairwell, it was super weird ty for helping

moniker press for my opening footage. click here to visit their website.

the bad moves and the swellers for musical inspiration. this music video features several of their licks.

myself for composition, writing, performance (except guitar and high hat), video and audio editing, web design, and most of the filming

so much freaking harder than it looked
 

for interested parties, the chords here are:

A5                 E5/B
C#m7            F#7
E5/G#           A
B(add4)         C#m9(add4)
Emaj7/B        G#aug   G#

 

© 2020 by Amy Jackson

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