Tag Archives: Montgomery College

Vintage Washington Area Spark comes back to life: 1971-5

13 Oct

November 19, 1971 – Spark’s third issue.

Updated October 25, 2015 – 3rd and final year of Spark & complete On the Move now online:

This new online tool for researchers and those interested in the period of radical activity in the Washington, D.C. area from 1971-75 is now relatively complete.

The third year of Spark marked its complete transition from a student-oriented radical newspaper to one based among the Washington, D.C. area workforce while still retaining its campus distribution along with a few bookstores and other news outlets.

The tabloid’s circulation peaked in the third year at around 25,000–up from its first issue circulation of 500.

While the newspaper’s politics began aligning more closely with a Maoist group called the Revolutionary Union, it still retained its independence and published articles and covered events that were sponsored by other groups and broader coalitions.

However, internal and external pressures caused it to cease publication two issues into its third year. Printing prices skyrocketed while a number of key members of its volunteer staff left for personal reasons. The financing, writing, production and distribution took its toll and the tasks began wearing on the core volunteers that had been performing the various functions without compensation for nearly two years.

In addition, the newspaper’s turn toward the politics of the Revolutionary Union alienated some contributors and distributors.

The newspaper was reincarnated as On The Move six months after Spark ceased publication. On the Move looked much more like the several dozen local newspapers that sprung up across the country in this period that were closely aligned with and largely staffed by members of the Revolutionary Union. The focus was on worker militancy and actions sponsored by the RU or groups aligned with it. Articles were republished from Revolution (the RU’s national newspaper) as well as from other local RU-oriented newspapers.

On The Move’s circulation was primarily at worksites around the city and distribution never went higher than around 1,000 copies per issue. Each issue looked less like it’s previous incarnation as jargon increased and coverage of local news decreased.

On The Move ceased publication after one year largely due to the same reasons as Spark–overburdened staff and even weaker finances. The impact of the paper was lessened by increasingly sparse local content and poor circulation.

There were several unsuccessful attempts over the next several years to revive the newspaper, including the publication of one issue of an RU-oriented Baltimore-Washington Worker. 

Links to the third year of Spark and the first and only year of On The Move:

3rd year of Spark:

Vol. 3, No. 1, October 11, 1973
Vol. 3, No. 2, November 24, 1973

Complete On The Move:

Vol. 1, No. 1, April-May, 1974
Vol. 1, No. 2, August, 1974
Vol. 1, No. 3, November, 1974
Vol. 1, No. 4, December, 1974
Vol. 1, No. 5, January, 1975

Updated Oct. 18, 2015 – 2nd year of Spark now online

The second year of the Washington Area Spark monthly tabloid is now online. Vol. 2, No. 8 published in March/April 1973 is missing. If you have a copy, please contact us at washington_area_spark@yahoo.com. A full twelve issues were published in the second year of the paper.

The second year of Spark was marked by clashes with the new student government, the administration and even the trustees of Montgomery College. The previous student government had allocated funds for publishing Spark, but it became a race to spend the money before it was cut off. The last student funds were spent in December 1972 and the newspaper declared its independence from the campus in January 1973.

The second year also marked an expansion from its Montgomery County roots to a Washington, DC area-wide newspaper. The paper struggled to find a replacement for the student funds and came to rely on a mix of limited advertisement, sustainer contributions and staff contributions.

The politics of the newspaper also changed. It declared itself to be guided by Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought. This turn to the left occurred at a time when the base of the newspaper–student activism began to fade with the end of the draft and the winding down of the Vietnam War.

The iconic Spark bomb shrunk in size and then disappeared. As the newspaper became more political, both advertising and distribution centers dropped as small business owners rejected the paper’s politics. This in turn changed the format of the newspaper–adding an extra fold–so that it was easier to hand out at workplaces.

Content also changed with an increasing focus on economic and work place issues. However, unlike many self-styled Maoist newspapers of the era, the Spark continued to carry different viewpoints, continue to give space to counter-cultural events and cover other groups, including demonstrations sponsored or strongly influenced by the Young Workers Liberation League /Communist Party USA and the Workers World/Youth Against War and Fascism group that had Trotskyist roots, black liberation groups and anarchists.

Links to the second year of Spark:

Vol. 2 No. 1 – September 6, 1972
Vol. 2 No. 2 – October 4, 1972
Vol. 2 No. 3 – October 31, 1972
Vol. 2 No. 4 – November 19, 1972
Vol. 2 No. 5 – December 20, 1972
Vol. 2 No. 6 – January 20, 1973
Vol. 2 No. 7 – February 21, 1973
Vol. 2 No. 8 – unavailable
Vol. 2 No. 9 – May 11, 1973
Vol. 2 No. 10 – June 12, 1973
Vol. 2 No. 11 – July 11, 1973
Vol. 2 No. 12 – August 17, 1973

Original post:

We are finally getting around to scanning and posting the original Spark and its successor On The Move. Five of the first six issues are posted (one is missing) and represent the first year of publication. More will be posted in the coming weeks. They have been posted unedited meaning the discoloration of the aging newsprint is captured as well.

We hope this resource will add to the rich alternative publication history in the greater Washington, D.C. area and provide researchers with additional information on left-leaning activities in the early 1970s in this region.

Spark began as a Montgomery College student publication after a group of radicals calling themselves the Montgomery County Freedom Party won several seats in the student government and obtained funding for the publication. The other official student newspaper, The Spur, continued to publish during this period as well.

The volunteer staff used a typewriter and press type to lay out the tabloid. Photos that required half-tones had to be done by the printer for the offset press process.

The eclectic tabloid published six issues in its first year (the publication year mirrored the student year) and included inflammatory language about police and revolution, but focused on student and county issues with a smattering of articles about local and national issues related to left-leaning causes. The politics of the contributors included feminists, anarchists, liberals, pacifists and revolutionaries.

The publication dates are a little confusing. At times they represented publication date and at times they represented the end of the period prior to what was expected to be the next issue’s publication.

By the last issue of the year (Vol. 1 No. 6), the newspaper began to include expanded coverage of county-wide issues and was distributed at a few locations other than the college.

Vol. 1 No. 1 – unavailable
Vol. 1 No. 2 – October 25, 1971
Vol. 1 No. 3 – November 19, 1971
Vol. 1 No. 4 – December 10, 1971
Vol. 1 No. 5 – February 29, 1972
Vol. 1 No. 6 – April 15, 1972

Do you have a copy of the first issue of Spark? If so, please e-mail us at washington_area_spark@yahoo.com


Cock Rock: The Rape of Our Culture

12 Feb
Cock Rock Illustration_edited reversed-1

Illustration accompanying original article. From Liberation News Service, published in Montgomery Spark, Oct. 1972.

By Bob Simpson
Originally published October 1972 in the Montgomery Spark

The Mike Quatro concert at Montgomery College really pissed me off. Not particularly because Quatro is any different from any other rock super heavy – he’s not – but because he is representative of a general sickness which is eating away at rock music – SEXISM.

Sexism roughly defined involves male domination. It means coming on strong, manipulating people, being the male center of attention at all times, and ultimately fucking over and using women.

I talked with Mike Quatro a little before he was interviewed on WHMC. I had no intention of writing about him at the time. It was about 2 hours before the concert and I was bored. So I rode up to WHMC with his entourage and a couple of my friends.

Quatro, seated next to his female companion, wanted to talk. As we passed around a joint, he noticed that I had well-developed leg muscles. I used to swim and run distance, so he used this as an excuse to discuss physical fitness. He explained that the way to achieve fitness is to “get a chick and fuck her three times a day.”

Women Are Not Chicks

Most of the men reading this probably find that statement amusing, maybe a few women do too. It’s not. It typifies a whole attitude found in rock culture. Women are not chicks. Chicks are small fuzzy immature chickens. Women are human beings with feelings and intelligence.


Ad for Quatro concert. From Montgomery Spark, Sept. 1972.

Male chauvinist rock culture demands that women be sex objects who are subservient to men. They are tolerated if they are “groovy chicks”, disregarded as a “drag” if they are not. They are sexual exercycles to masturbate into while the male demonstrates his supposed prowess with his prick. It is a highly oppressive and emotionally destructive environment for a woman.

Our conversation lapsed severely after his statement about physical fitness. After several minutes of uncomfortable silence, he asked if we listened to Barry Richards. Now Barry Richards is one of the most slick, fast-talking, pseudo-hip rip-offs in the Washington area. His show on WHMC is loud and obnoxious, a weak, unintentional parody of AM Top 40 on a supposedly “progressive” station.

Pseudo Hip Promoters

Personally, he always comes on strong and heavy. He has been booed off the stage of several live rock shows. We told Quatro we didn’t listen to Barry Richards because he’s an ass. Quatro, seeing as how Richards was giving him airplay plus a live interview, was surprised. He said people like Barry Richards are necessary. Later, we discovered that Quatro was a rock promoter in Detroit. Birds of a feather.

The point is that Barry Richards both typifies and strengthens the hold that male chauvinism has over rock culture. His “heavy” approach helps create the obsolete concept of maleness and virility that many rock stars cultivate. He tolerates all manner of sexist ads which insult women. Listen to WHMC and hear about how you can’t be a “real woman” or “get a man” unless you by certain “youth” oriented products.

Mike Quatro Concert 1972 # 4

Students gather on the football field for the Montgomery College Quatro concert on Sept. 1, 1972.

Ads like these try to force women into the roles which male heavies like to keep them in. Male rock heavies like Barry Richards and Quatro. Most rock promoters, DJs, producers, etc., are bell-bottomed, hirsute phony hippies. Their only interests outside of music are money, dope, and groupies. They use their power to get all three.

Quatro Concert

Quatro had his interview and went on to perform. I didn’t like his music, but by that time I didn’t like him much, either. His efforts to combine “Bach & Rock” seemed pretentious and silly. His massive ego demanded that he play all the instruments except for the drums. It came over to me as sounding artsy-fartsy and cluttered. Most of the small crowd left before he was finished.

If it sounds like I’m being harsh on Quatro, it’s because that’s my intention. But there are other examples. Jimi Hendrix was one of the finest guitarists in rock, but he was a vicious sexist. Using his guitar as an extension of his penis, he created an indelible image of raw male power in his live performances. He often ran the guitar between his legs in crude imitation of an erection.

His most symbolically horrifying spectacle was at the Monterey Pop Festival. There he reversed the guitar symbolism by fucking the music hole with his body. Spraying lighter fluid as he knelt over his guitar-vagina, he set it afire. Later it was smashed to pieces. The whole ceremony dredged up horrible echoes of the burning and torturing of disobedient women as witches in the Middle Ages.

Rock lyrics can be equally as offensive. Who can forget Jagger telling their friend Leroy that “they may be stupid but they sure are fun,” referring to women Leroy was about to prey upon. Or Rod Stewart telling his groupie that she can go to be with him, but that she better be gone the next morning. These aspects of rock culture we can do without.

Feminist Rock Bands

“When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake.”

New Haven Women's Liberation Rock Band: 1970

New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band performs in D.C. in 1970. Photo: Rosemary, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

Winds of change are blowing through the male bastion of rock. Singers like Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King have sung of the beauty and pain of being a woman. A real woman who laughs and cries, who feels pain and happiness, not the passive groupie image of the male rock heavy.

Feminist rock bands, including both gay and straight women, are now a reality. Some of these all-women groups are musically excellent and need more listeners. A few male performers like John Lennon and Country Joe McDonald are musically grappling with the problems that men have relating to women as human beings. These are hopeful signs. But the male-dominated rock industry is powerful.

We as listeners must make sure that these and other voices are not crushed or stilled as Janis Joplin was. Or turned into pale imitations of heavy male rock like the all-women group Fanny. Finally, we need to stop supporting the blatant sexists of rock. They only perpetuate what is vile and unhealthy in our culture.

This section was updated and corrected March 5, 2013

Editor’s Notes:

When this article was published February 13, it was erroneously attributed to Anonymous II. The person choosing Anonymous II as their identification was one of the people that edited the article, but not the author.

Reflecting on the article after 40 years, Anonymous II wrote,

I was thinking a lot of rap music today is even more graphic about sexism and of course the groupie thing still applies. I watched Steven Tyler as a judge on American Idol one night flirting with 16-year-old girl contestants. It disgusted me and felt like child abuse. He can do it because he is a rock star even though he is like 40 years older.

The Mike Quatro concert at Montgomery College took place September 1, 1972. The article was originally published in the Montgomery Spark, Vol. 2, No. 2, Week of October 4, 1972, page 13. This post is titled the same as the original article.

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