Punk Portraits
Painting by Mark Vallen

Mark Vallen 1979
Acrylic on paper. 22" x 30"

Claude Bessy left his native France and came to the U.S. in the late 1970's. He was a cofounder of L.A.'s Slash magazine in 1977 and became its chief writer, record reviewer, and editor. Bessy went by the punk nom de guerre of Kickboy Face (a name inspired by a favorite Reggae artist).

In his writings for Slash, Claude exhorted readers to ever greater heights of rebellion, filling our minds with dreams of musical insurrection and the fall of western civilization as we knew it. His vitriolic attacks on the corporate music industry were deservedly rude and hostile, and he tirelessly promoted punk as the last great hope for rock. I befriended Claude while briefly working at Slash. He was brash, mischievous, and thoroughly lovable!

Sitting at his typewriter with a gleam in his eye, Kickboy would bang out rants on class war and the punk movement. He had guts and integrity, the likes of which I've rarely seen since. Not satisfied with just writing about the punk scene, Claude eventually put together an incredible band by the name of Catholic Discipline (which appeared in the documentary film The Decline of Western Civilization by Penelope Spheeris).

When Slash ceased publication in 1980, Bessy eventually grew tired of the U.S. and left the country, explaining his move by saying, "The scene was not fun anymore, so I bailed on L.A. and the USA, never to return the day Ronald Reagan was elected." Claude and his wife, Philomena Winstanley, moved to England where Claude worked at Rough Trade Records in London for a few years. Eventually they ended up in Barcelona Spain. Sad to say, this brilliant rabble rouser succumbed to lung cancer on October 2, 1999 at the age of 54. God rest his soul - the punk scene of L.A. would have been very different without Bessy.

"One's music must show how ridiculous the past few years have been, one's music must show how incredibly vacuous the productions of the so-called pop stars are, one's music must show how disgusting the pretentions of establishment rock are becoming." - Kick Boy 1977

I'm privileged to be able to say that I made the acquaintance of this remarkable enfant terrible. I did my acrylic painting of Claude sometime in '79 while he was in a pensive mood. He wore his favorite Sex Pistols T-shirt for the sitting. By the way, Claude was an antifascist. The swastika was an icon unfortunately picked by early punks for its tasteless shock value and as a statement against mindless conformity. My friends at Artifix Records have released a CD compilation of live recordings by Kickboy's band, Catholic Discipline. The recordings comprise the only album the band released. To hear in part what the original punk scene of Los Angeles actually sounded like, pick up this great 21 track CD.

Detail of Kickboy painting