Trouser Press: The Origin Story

March 9, 2023 marks the 49th anniversary of Trouser Press magazine. Here’s the story of how things got started, adapted from the introduction of an anthology we published in 1976.

On August 3, 1973, the Mercer Arts Center collapsed into a pile of rubble, ending, along with its existence, New York Rock Phase 1. That night, however, the foremost proponents of the genre, the New York Dolls, were not at the Mercer but in midtown, playing second-bill to Mott the Hoople at the Felt Forum.

On that historic night, before the gig, Karen Rose — Jeff Beck freak and staunch Anglophile since the Beatles’ days — had her first encounter with a Fanatical Record Collector who claimed to be able to spot a Yardbirds / Kinks / Zombies fan a block away and therefore approached her. After the same gig, Ira Robbins and Dave Schulps, longtime friends who had been saluting the Union Jack since Pete Townshend decided to wear one as a jacket, had their second meeting with the Fanatical Record Collector, whom they had previously met in the elevator of a record company office building.

The following week, F.R.C. planned an informal gathering at his home in the Bronx for the purpose of having certain collectors and Anglophiles meet each other. Needless to say, Karen, Ira Robbins and Dave Schulps were on the guest list. So, on Sunday, August 12, various odd people with even odder records, tapes and tastes met in a grand explosion of “Where have we been all our lives?” While listening to tapes of old Shindigs and Hullabaloos, Karen approached Ira and Dave, who sat at the dining room table with Melody Makers and NMEs piled to the ceiling. They were deep in research, they explained, for their genealogy of British rock musicians. The afternoon ended with a grand exchange of telephone numbers and many promises to keep in touch.

On August 20, our heroes and heroine ran into each other at a Central Park concert featuring Foghat, the Mark-Almond Band and the American debut of Robin Trower. In the brisk night air, the following words were spoken:

Ira: “Wanna start a magazine?”

Karen: “Sure!”

Ira: “Everyone always says, ‘Sure.’”

Karen was a young college grad who had given up her college newspaper and its attendant rock reviewing chores, which, as editor-in-chief, she had assigned herself. She had her first job, which had nothing to do with newspapers, rock or England. Ira, an engineering student at a local college, had found his college-paper rock-writing unexciting and was trying out for the pros. His rejection slips from Creem covered the one wall of his bedroom which posters of the Who didn’t. Dave attended college in Washington, DC. where his major wavered between anthropology and journalism. He, too, was taking the college paper and radio routes for the love of British rock (and Todd Rundgren).

A few months passed before Karen and Ira attended a Foghat/Strawbs/Back Door concert at the Academy of Music (now the Palladium). When a week later via telephone they agreed that their comments and criticisms of the concert were more astute than those of the writer for a local weekly, and the idea of starting a magazine resurfaced. It was nearing December of ’73, with the Who slated to hit most of the East Coast (except New York). A meeting was planned for after the tour.

On the trains to and from neighboring cities for Who gigs, Ira studied for finals and drew up an outline for the Anglo-angled fanzine. In January, he, Karen and Dave (long-distance) had the first of countless meetings, and Trouser Press was born.

Knowing the feeble circulation of the 20 or so other fanzines existing at the time, the three decided to take the venture, literally, to the streets. They guessed when they might be able to complete an issue, set it to coincide with a New York concert date and geared its contents to the concert. Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press issue one would make its debut outside the Academy of Music on 14th Street on March 9, 1974, in synch with the Rory Gallagher / Brian Auger / 10cc concert therein. Art student Barbara Wolf was recruited as art director, and the project was finally, seriously, under way.

With articles written by late February ’74, it was Karen’s job to type the whole deal onto mimeograph stencils while Ira handled all sorts of messenger-like chores until he was felled — one week before release date — with a 104-degree fever (Karen waited till a week after the issue to collapse). After being out of commission for a few days, Ira began cranking his father’s mimeograph machine, and on Friday, March 8, the first copy of TOTP [Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press] was collated, stapled and autographed by Karen and Ira. “This will be worth a lot of money someday,” they joked. “If it sells out, we’ll do another one.”

On the following night, Ira, Karen, Barbara, Dave (in town for the occasion), two other friends and 400 copies of their 24-page fanzine met on the corner of 14th Street and Fourth Avenue. The first issue of Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press would soon go on sale for the price of 25 cents. And the rain fell in torrents.

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