March 30, 2012
FROM BMX TO BLACK FLAG  LOGO DRAWING FROM JUNIOR HIGH TACOMA 1981/2
In my pre-teen and adolescent years I loved drawing logos.
I vaguely remember drawing this Black Flag logo for some art project in Junior High  (based on that of the insecticide of the same name, it was almost as popular a version among punks at the time as the classic "four bars" ). This would’ve been in late ‘81 or early ‘82.
It’s kind of surprising I didn’t go into graphic design considering my early obsessive fixation with logos. If I had I probably would’ve ended up earning some money from making art. Now wouldn’t that have been awful? 
Before discovering punk in the early 80’s I was a huge BMX enthusiast. I competed in races around the Seattle/Tacoma area in the late 70’s but as much as I liked riding and racing I was always just as interested in the look and feel of BMX: the bikes, magazines, and gear. 
Oh, and by the way, for all you whipper-snappers under the age of thirty-something who might be reading:
In the BMX era I’m talking about racing in races was the only game in town. “Freestyle” at the time was a term known only in the world of competitive swimming and, speaking of swimming, I didn’t see anyone riding a BMX bike in a swimming pool until I moved to So. Cal. years later. I can’t recall ever even seeing photos of anyone doing that in the BMX magazines in the late 70’s/early 80’s either. Of course in Washington State there are no pools.So aside from riding around the neighborhood or jumping your bike over a hastily erected wedge of a ramp to catch air, racing is what you did. 
Though I lived in Washington I had a decent grasp of what was happening in So. Cal. because I subscribed to and carefully studied publications like BMX Action and BMX Plus! almost obsessively. I’d spend hours with felt tipped pens trying to draw perfect reproductions of the logos of my favorite brands of bikes and components. Brands like Cook Bros. Racing, Diamondback, Torker, Mongoose, JMC, Hutch, Kuwahara…the list goes on and on.
There was something magical about the logos and all they symbolized to me. They represented something that was rare, expensive, and very specialized. In that era where I lived you were forced to travel to often out of the way places in order to get to the specialty bike shops that carried the good parts by the right makers.
BMX was a semi-underground sport that you had to seek out if you wanted in.
Like Black Flag and many other hardcore bands I would soon come to love and whose own logos I would soon be studying and drawing on my clothes, most of the BMX manufacturers and racers I admired hailed from the promised land of Southern California. Racers like Stu Thomsen, Anthony Sewell, and Harry Leary to name a few. They raced at tracks with exotic-sounding names like Azusa, Devonshire Downs and Soledad Sands. 
I used to imagine what it was like at these places and what these racers must’ve looked like wearing the graphic uniforms of their big factory teams, flying around the track, catching air, and crossing the finish line. It all seemed so far away, so sunny, and spectacular to me living as I did in the rainy, grey Pacific Northwest.
As much as I dug the look and feel of the sport I also really liked that BMX felt like it was my thing. It wasn’t something everyone else knew about. Going to a race with my mom and my stepdad or with my dad and my brother somewhere outside of town on the weekend expanded my world because the races drew kids like me from all over the area. Only a couple times did I run into another kid from my school at one of these races and I didn’t especially like it when I did. 
What’s he doing here? this is my world. Of course it wasn’t. It was for anyone who wanted to be a part of it. Just like punk rock.
BMX wasn’t a school sport and it wasn’t a team sport like little league or football, neither of which I had any interest in at all. It was an individual activity that took time, some money, skill, and technical knowledge if you wanted to participate in it. All these things took a lot of work and effort for me to acquire them. There were no coaches involved and there was nobody to tell you how to do it, which meant you had to figure it out and do it yourself. 
I found this self-directed aspect of it to be personally empowering and it gave me a sense of belonging to something cool. I didn’t analyze it or think about it that way at the time, I was too busy having fun. Looking back though, I can see that BMX gave me a sense of self-esteem of the sort that all kids need, and hopefully find, if they are to have the confidence to survive and thrive in the wider landscape of adolescence. I think it might’ve been my experience in the world of BMX that later helped me find the guts to strike out into the uncharted and unsanctioned do-it-yourself world of Hardcore Punk.
The parallels and overlaps between Punk Rock, skateboarding, and BMX are obvious and have been written about and documented widely. I don’t have a whole lot to add to their history beyond my own personal experiences moving in, around, and through them.
In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I’d like to say that I know now how lucky I was to be blessed with parents and step-parents who openly supported, or simply didn’t stand in the way of me following my interests back then. It couldn’t have been easy watching me do all this potentially dangerous stuff. Their skilled and artful hands as my guardians and stewards helped instill in me a decent sense of judgement and helped keep me safe and motivated throughout my early years. Big thanks to them all.
I still sometimes marvel when I see BMX on television or in The Olympics, or when I hear a punk song on the radio or see a Black Flag shirt for sale at the mall. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s all so ubiquitous in the culture now.
I can’t help it though, I still marvel.
Black Flag logo by me from my personal archive.

FROM BMX TO BLACK FLAG  LOGO DRAWING FROM JUNIOR HIGH TACOMA 1981/2

In my pre-teen and adolescent years I loved drawing logos.

I vaguely remember drawing this Black Flag logo for some art project in Junior High  (based on that of the insecticide of the same name, it was almost as popular a version among punks at the time as the classic "four bars" ). This would’ve been in late ‘81 or early ‘82.

It’s kind of surprising I didn’t go into graphic design considering my early obsessive fixation with logos. If I had I probably would’ve ended up earning some money from making art. Now wouldn’t that have been awful? 

Before discovering punk in the early 80’s I was a huge BMX enthusiast. I competed in races around the Seattle/Tacoma area in the late 70’s but as much as I liked riding and racing I was always just as interested in the look and feel of BMX: the bikes, magazines, and gear. 

Oh, and by the way, for all you whipper-snappers under the age of thirty-something who might be reading:

In the BMX era I’m talking about racing in races was the only game in town. “Freestyle” at the time was a term known only in the world of competitive swimming and, speaking of swimming, I didn’t see anyone riding a BMX bike in a swimming pool until I moved to So. Cal. years later. I can’t recall ever even seeing photos of anyone doing that in the BMX magazines in the late 70’s/early 80’s either. Of course in Washington State there are no pools.So aside from riding around the neighborhood or jumping your bike over a hastily erected wedge of a ramp to catch air, racing is what you did. 

Though I lived in Washington I had a decent grasp of what was happening in So. Cal. because I subscribed to and carefully studied publications like BMX Action and BMX Plus! almost obsessively. I’d spend hours with felt tipped pens trying to draw perfect reproductions of the logos of my favorite brands of bikes and components. Brands like Cook Bros. Racing, Diamondback, Torker, Mongoose, JMC, Hutch, Kuwahara…the list goes on and on.

There was something magical about the logos and all they symbolized to me. They represented something that was rare, expensive, and very specialized. In that era where I lived you were forced to travel to often out of the way places in order to get to the specialty bike shops that carried the good parts by the right makers.

BMX was a semi-underground sport that you had to seek out if you wanted in.

Like Black Flag and many other hardcore bands I would soon come to love and whose own logos I would soon be studying and drawing on my clothes, most of the BMX manufacturers and racers I admired hailed from the promised land of Southern California. Racers like Stu Thomsen, Anthony Sewell, and Harry Leary to name a few. They raced at tracks with exotic-sounding names like Azusa, Devonshire Downs and Soledad Sands

I used to imagine what it was like at these places and what these racers must’ve looked like wearing the graphic uniforms of their big factory teams, flying around the track, catching air, and crossing the finish line. It all seemed so far away, so sunny, and spectacular to me living as I did in the rainy, grey Pacific Northwest.

As much as I dug the look and feel of the sport I also really liked that BMX felt like it was my thing. It wasn’t something everyone else knew about. Going to a race with my mom and my stepdad or with my dad and my brother somewhere outside of town on the weekend expanded my world because the races drew kids like me from all over the area. Only a couple times did I run into another kid from my school at one of these races and I didn’t especially like it when I did. 

What’s he doing here? this is my world. Of course it wasn’t. It was for anyone who wanted to be a part of it. Just like punk rock.

BMX wasn’t a school sport and it wasn’t a team sport like little league or football, neither of which I had any interest in at all. It was an individual activity that took time, some money, skill, and technical knowledge if you wanted to participate in it. All these things took a lot of work and effort for me to acquire them. There were no coaches involved and there was nobody to tell you how to do it, which meant you had to figure it out and do it yourself. 

I found this self-directed aspect of it to be personally empowering and it gave me a sense of belonging to something cool. I didn’t analyze it or think about it that way at the time, I was too busy having fun. Looking back though, I can see that BMX gave me a sense of self-esteem of the sort that all kids need, and hopefully find, if they are to have the confidence to survive and thrive in the wider landscape of adolescence. I think it might’ve been my experience in the world of BMX that later helped me find the guts to strike out into the uncharted and unsanctioned do-it-yourself world of Hardcore Punk.

The parallels and overlaps between Punk Rock, skateboarding, and BMX are obvious and have been written about and documented widely. I don’t have a whole lot to add to their history beyond my own personal experiences moving in, around, and through them.

In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I’d like to say that I know now how lucky I was to be blessed with parents and step-parents who openly supported, or simply didn’t stand in the way of me following my interests back then. It couldn’t have been easy watching me do all this potentially dangerous stuff. Their skilled and artful hands as my guardians and stewards helped instill in me a decent sense of judgement and helped keep me safe and motivated throughout my early years. Big thanks to them all.

I still sometimes marvel when I see BMX on television or in The Olympics, or when I hear a punk song on the radio or see a Black Flag shirt for sale at the mall. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s all so ubiquitous in the culture now.

I can’t help it though, I still marvel.

Black Flag logo by me from my personal archive.

March 25, 2012

JOHN LENNON MURDERED  SEATTLE 1980


John Lennon’s murder in 1980 meant a lot of things to a lot of different people. For me it was a crushingly sad event that in some way signalled the end of the complicated world of my childhood and the beginning of the complicated world of my adolescence.

The link between my childhood (when I was most interested in imagining, watching and reading tales of elves, faeries, ghosts, and worlds of sci-fi and fantasy) and my teen years as a punk-obsessed urban explorer was an extended liminal tween state that could be called my “BMX and Beatles" phase.

I’ll talk about my experience in the regional BMX world of the late 70’s some other time because in this post I’d like to focus on the role The Beatles and Lennon in particular had in setting the stage for my punk teen awakening.

My Mom and Dad, who divorced when I was around four years old, weren’t ex-hippies nor were they particularly big rock/pop fans. They both loved music though. Mom listened a lot to Carole King’s Tapestry album and other music of the era but mostly played Classical music around the house. Dad’s taste veered more toward 50’s rock like Bill Haley and the Comets and Elvis, Country music like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich and Country folk like John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot.

Most everybody my parents age at least liked The Beatles and my folks were no exception. I don’t recall exactly when or how I came to love the Beatles so much, sure they were hard to miss, they were all over the radio and still very present in pop culture. After all, Beatlemania had only subsided maybe 8 years before I got into them and they’d only been broken up for maybe five years at that point. Still I didn’t know any other kids who loved them and certainly not the way I did. 

I liked other music too. When my Dad started dating my future step-mom Bobbi, I missed no opportunity to flip through her good-sized record collection where I found treasures like the Beach Boys early records and most notably Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced” a record that I’m still trying to recover from.

Most of music of the 70’s as I knew it was pretty weak and crappy sounding to me. As a little kid I was a scared off from really digging hard “older brother” stoner-rock like Aerosmith and Black Sabbath.  Even the best radio pop like Fleetwood Mac and The Carpenters seemed very adult and not just a little bit sad and depressing to me. I wasn’t feeling disco very much either probably because that’s all any one at my school seemed to care about, beside KISW rock that is.

So I got lost in The Beatles and the 1960’s.

Sgt. Pepper’s was a world I could visit any time I wanted to with my big clunky grey headphones. The White Album had everything I wanted from music on four LP sides: straight ahead pop, touching ballads, inscrutable experimental excursions, and full-blown proto-punk shreds like Helter Skelter. Hendrix’s ghost loomed large over Seattle in that era too. Even though his jams could be as hard as anything else (also presaging my punk years, I used to listen to his song Fire over and over) there was a flair, a depth and a genius color palette in his music that was much more inviting to my ears than stuff like Led Zeppelin, who for some reason I despised back then.

My devotion to The Beatles also extended to their post-Beatles output too. I LOVED Wings and All Things Must Pass very much but it was Lennon’s stark Plastic Ono Band and Imagine albums with their strange, plain production and their serious personal, political, and philosophical themes that touched my soul most profoundly. Even though, and maybe especially because I was a kid, I desperately wanted to hear that kind of plain talk from a grown up. I wanted to hear about love and god and pain and all the stuff he talked about on those albums.

When Lennon was murdered so brutally and senselessly I really felt like I’d lost one of my best friends and that the dream was over.

I’d have to find a new one for myself.

R.I.P. Jimi, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Charlie Rich, Bonzo, John Denver, Bill Haley, Karen Carpenter and my childhood friend John Lennon.

Clip from Komo 4 Seattle.