TO MARK VALLEN'S "ART FOR A CHANGE" WEBSITE
The Monthly Manifesto of Angry Refusal
1st Punk Rock Publication. Essay
by artist Mark Vallen ©
the thumbnails for full cover artwork and a Slash editorial
is a celebration of the first punk publication in Los Angeles,
Slash Magazine. It is also a tribute to the late Claude
Bessy, the editor of the incendiary magazine, as his editorials
are being published here for the first time since the late 70's
by kind permission of his wife, Philomena. Each original Slash
cover is accompanied by one of Bessy's searing opinion pieces.
hope to provide ample historical evidence of the glorious creative
mayhem that existed in my sun-drenched city in the late 70's.
I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, when
punk barged its way into our consciousness and forever changed
the way we thought about music.
Magazine grew out of the tasteless wasteland of Los Angeles in
1977, when a cluster of punk malcontents emerged who would challenge
prevailing attitudes with as much verve as any group of nonconformists
who had preceded them. Slash set trends not only in music, but
also in street fashion and visual art. It offered tirades against
the corrupt music industry and its stars along with endless rants
in favor of turning the status quo upside down.
provided coverage of local punk concerts and extensive interviews
with LA punk bands like the Weirdos, Germs, X,
Fear, and Black Flag. It also gave approving coverage
to English bands like the Clash, Sex Pistols and
the Damned - when hardly a single US paper would dare write
about them. Slash was also the primary source of record reviews
for punk and "new wave" records. I was an avid reader of Slash
from the beginning, but in 1979 decided that perusing its inflammatory
pages was not enough. One day I waltzed into their offices and
got myself hired as a part time designer and production artist.
Ultimately I was to contribute two cover illustrations to the
publication, both of which are presented here (Sue Tissue &
Slash was founded by Steve Samioff and Claude
Bessy on May Day of 1977. Bessy turned out to be the publication's
main writer and editor. Samioff grew bored with Slash and around
1979 he partnered with Bob Biggs, a bohemian entrepreneur who
saw a goldmine in Slash. In 1980 Samioff handed the project over
to Biggs, who terminated the publication and built a record label
upon its ashes. I'm eternally proud to have created the cover
art for the very last issue of Slash. an edition as hard hitting
and full of integrity as the first issue. It's hard to believe
that in only four years of existence as a publication, Slash would
have attained such far reaching success. It not only helped change
the face of music, it trailblazed a path that eventually would
have an effect on millions.
Bessy's words have been ringing in my ears for many years now,
so I'm thrilled to be able to inflict his vision upon the rest
of the world by posting some of his old Slash editorials on these
pages. What's remarkable about Bessy's diatribes is that, while
they reveal just how far we've come - they also show how little
has actually changed. The screaming banality observed by Bessy
in the late 70's has now grown so pervasive that few seem to notice
any longer. Ever so often I recall working at the Slash office,
putting together the pages of the magazine - all the while hearing
Claude typing in the other room, chuckling as he contemplated
the effect his words would have on an unsuspecting audience. Sometimes
he'd excitedly run out of his tiny room with a mischievous glint
in his eyes, to share with me some of his poisonous barbs.
One of my favorite Slash stories concerns
the reviewing of vinyl records. It was 1980, and the number of
records and tapes sent to Slash by bands hoping to be reviewed
was staggering. Most submissions were vinyl 45 singles self-produced
by bands who then promptly faded into obscurity. One day we received
a 45 sent to us from Ireland by an unknown band. Claude placed
it on the turntable and we listened to it once, before he muttered
something about "typical pop" and tossed the record aside. It
fell into the Slash Black Hole of music not edgy enough to be
considered punk. The name of the single was I will follow,
and the unknown band was U2.
working at Slash Magazine, I crossed paths with a number of artists,
writers, musicians, and photographers - but few such encounters
could top my being rude to one of the contemporary art world's
biggest stars. One day, as I was designing pages for the magazine,
Bob Biggs popped in with a disheveled looking blond fellow. I
immediately recognized the scruffy fair-haired man, but feigned
blankness (not being a fan of the luminary). Claude Bessy had
stopped pecking at his typewriter in the adjacent room, no doubt
to better overhear something.
stepped up to me with his guest at his side, and with stars in
his eyes pronounced, "Mark, I'd like you to meet David Hockney."
Barely looking up from my work, I said, "Should I know that name?"
Biggs was more embarrassed by my insufferable attitude than was
his famed UK artist friend, but the both of them retreated to
a friendlier setting. Bessy emerged from his room sniggering and
grinning ear to ear after having heard the encounter. I had apparently
passed his test of not falling to celebrity worship, and from
then on he considered me a friend.
after Slash Magazine folded in 1980, Claude and Philomena left
the country for good, eventually settling in Spain. The Hollywood
punk scene had splintered and many of its innovators moved on
to other things, though a few of the original torch bearers continue
to exemplify the spirit of '77. Punk rock exploded onto the world
stage in the late 70's like a cataclysmic act of God - and just
in the nick of time. It saved some of my generation from the clutches
of a mind-numbing conformity. But as it's been said, "the more
things change, the more they stay the same." Slash was just one
small stab at altering society and re-energizing a rebellious
state of mind, a mission that is certain to be taken up by others...
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