Friday, February 12, 2010

Kickin' It Old School / BMX and Freestyle Mags

Alrighty then, let's dig out of the snow and get back to it. After a bout with a tummy bug, I'm ready to try and go at it with a vengeance this weekend. A long promised series of scans on the birth of the girlie pulp is coming soon, but first I'm going to indulge in some brazen nostalgia in a few posts of appreciation for the magazines of my youth.

I don't get much into my personal life here on the mags blog, but, for those of you that haven't guessed, I'm one of those confused members of Generation X, a child of the 80s. As I've arrived unexpectedly here at 30-something, it's been kind of wild to see a resurgence in 80s culture. Some of the college kids or British pop stars look classic new wave, all pretty in pink (r.i.p. John Hughes) and bodacious, and many merchandising franchises and TV shows from the day are back in vogue. G.I. Joe, Transformers, and now the A-Team are all taking another spin on the tilt-a-whirl and it's caused me to reflect that much of my childhood was spent enthralled in some of these fairly soulless diversions. One diversion that I reflect upon, though, was truly enriching. I feel very blessed I was part of BMX and freestyle culture in the 80s, it will never be quite the same.

BMX and skate culture has it's roots in the 70s, but the 80s saw these "extreme" sports explode in popularity and become part of the larger culture. Perhaps it was the conformity or the absurdity of the age of Reagan, but the bad boy element of these fringe sports began to gather a huge following from kids like me from all parts of the country captivated by the grace and explosivity of what these guys were doing with the everyday objects of childhood, the bike and the skateboard. Docs like the excellent documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, Rising Son - The Legend of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi, or Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (all highly recommended) do a great job of capturing how the athletes of the day were caught up (and were victims of) the move of fringe sports culture into the main. All of a sudden hugely popular, skateboarding and biking skyrocketed in popularity and a whole industry boomed up around the culture. In the arena of fashion, the kids were wearing Vision Street Wear or Bones Brigade Ts and wearing Vans or Airwalk shoes meant specifically for sports to school everyday. Bike and Skateboard manufacturers were producing new models championed by particular stars, and kids were buying the most up-to-date deck or bike frame. And heaven forbid, the rebellious attitude and sense of freedom engendered by the sports and culture had kids everywhere behaving very badly. Good Times, baby!

On Friday night or Saturday morning, my brother and I and perhaps a friend or two would go to the track with our parents, a fantastic, supportive atmosphere for all involved. Us kids would get up on our pedals, wait for the gate to go down and pedal our asses off to the finish line. Parents cheered, racers smiled, and there was always next week to do better - BMX racing builds character. Sure you could crash hard and break something, but these battle wounds are a mark of pride to those that get them and toughened up many a kid and the risks contribute to a sort of brotherhood among those that brave them. Kids that might not go out for the baseball or football team can get their exercise too and have a great time getting it. Wholesome family fun.

On the other days when we weren't racing, we were still on our bikes riding around all corners of town, every curb a possible ramp, every bench an possible object to trick on or from. The cityscape no longer a cold assemblage of concrete and steel but a playground to be interacted with, rife with possibility. A set of stairs or rail might become a meeting place for skaters. A forgotten culvert a haunt for freestyle BMXers. And as a result of all this uncommon usage, another result. We were de facto outlaws. Signs would go up in the respectable downtown areas prohibiting bikes and skateboards. City managers distraught that their precious concrete was being grinded down by skate hoodlums put the cops on notice, tickets were to be given. Perhaps this is one place I learned a (healthy) disrespect for authority. I remember one kid that liked to slap "SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A CRIME" bumper stickers on cop cars. And in many ways all this was a bit of a game. We'd be chased by cops (and seldom caught I might add), and I think even the cops were having a good time of it. We rode all Summers long into the evening, seeing miles of our berg. Such really are some of my most precious memories of my teen years.

And a large part of this culture was the magazines. I can look at the cover of the magazines from back when and remember who owned that particular issue. They'd be read over and over again, tricks learned, racing results studied, new gear wished for. One of my pals even won a nice Haro frame in a write-in contest, and I don't doubt that to this day he remebers it as one of the happiest moments of his life. Make no mistake, these magazines are pure awesome and stand on their own merits outside of my nostalgic drivel. The photography and graphic design in many of these magazines really stands up, and the love that was in the batter comes through in the quality of the pages. The largest luminary to come out of these magazines was Spike Jonze who would go on to direct some classic music videos from bands like the Beastie Boys, Weezer, and The Pharcyde and then on to produce such postmodern classics as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. I just discovered his "What's Up, Fatlip?" video and doc last week and both are absolutely brilliant. And much of his aesthetic comes right out of this sports culture - the gonzo and prankster approach of the mags and vids, the tricked-out camera angles, the experimental need to do something different and push the envelope are what have made him so successful in his various aspirations.

Anywho, when I rediscovered these magazines on ebay, I bought a handful right away and scanned one and shared it. Someone pointed out to me this website full of great remembrances of old-school BMX:

I was absolutely gobsmacked at what I discovered there, a whole stash of scans along with other great remembrances. The scans have since started to be hosted here on what I think is really a great setup for sharing scans:     EDIT: DEAD LINK R.I.P.

It really touches me that some fellow BMXers care so much for the history and the sport to put the time and care in to do this, Johnny's letter on that homepage is great. And the scans are great too, when I talk about the potentials for popular scanning to record our documents and involve the people in our history, this is exactly what I mean.

But enough bullshit outta me, let's get to the mags. For your enjoyment tonight, here's two issues I've scanned. I plan to throw down the occasional BMX scan in the future towards the old-school archives in heartfelt support for all the mags I've enjoyed from those sites, you guys are doing a great job.

First up, BMX Action, June 1987. BMX Action v12n06 (1987-06.Wizard)(The Grommits-DREGS).cbr

Get the scan here.


Samples. A couple riders I loved as a kid, Pistol Pete and Greg Hill:


Ah, that mid-air, I'm truly fucked feeling, kids always wear your helmets when performing aerial maneuvers

And a second scan, a key ish, the first Go!, a merger of Freestylin' and BMX Action, and a helluva mag

Go! v01n01 (cover reads Freestylin' BMX Action) (1989-11.Wizard) (DREGS).cbr
Get the scan here.


 And the message from Lew, the mag's first issue mission statement

Sampleage. Lots of great photos in this issue from Spike Jonze so I'm not gonna hesitate to put up a bunch

Last one, incredible.


Much love to the guys that rode with me, if you read this entry, I hope you enjoy it.

Back tomorrow with another couple childhood mags that many of you gen x-ers might remember from your school daze...


junior polanco said...

man, kudos to you for this piece...bmxa, freestylin´, go! can never get enough praise...that pic of matt doing the one handed one footed x-up is a fave, I love collecting old school, and I want to build a beat up sport replica like that, I recently got the frame, fork and bars, and was looking for an angle to it, and this pic just rekindled the whole thing, thanks! btw,what matt said on that page about contests made me look at them in another perespective, and greatly enhanced their purpose since then...matt rules...

takeshi007 said...

Although BMX started predominantly with racing in mind, different variations of the sport were developed, including freestyle and dirt jump BMX. Freestyle BMX refers to the use of bikes for performing tricks on flatland and in skate parks. Dirt jump BMX involves riding off-road over dirt on bumpy surfaces. Accordingly, BMX bikes adapted to suit each variation.

BMX racing