Tag Archives: ralph bakshi



24 hours late on the blog updates and still not much to say. The leather jacketed or vested ne’er-do-wells of old always fired my imagination in movies and magazines, but I can’t help but think that gangs were making more of an effort to dress back in the day. Juvenile delinquency looked particularly fucking cool in the 1950s and 1960s, back when the dawn of the teenager had “squares” bricking themselves at grease-slicked haircuts and tribal uniforms. These pictures from a 1957 LIFE feature on Upper Westside and Bronx gangs called Teen-Age Burst of Brutality make alleged thugs look like rock stars. An Egyptian Kings member looks cool calm and collected on the way to be quizzed for a murder, complete with fans peering in the window, and the crew shot of the Laughing Jesters in Manhattan makes them look like the best gang ever. People generally seemed to look more excellent 50+ years ago.


While the gang jackets in this anti-hoodlum film from the 1950s are the worst thing ever, the gangs in the 1961 San Francisco based documentary Ask Me, Don’t Tell Me which has some kind of religious redemption overtones (and did the blog rounds back in 2009 when it seemed to go into public domain) has crews of dudes who are deeply stylish, until they start doing decorating and digging holes and being productive members of society because society asks them to be — it completely does the opposite of discouraging anyone from not wanting to stand on a street corner playing elbow tit (as depicted in The Wanderers). Even in the 1970s, the gang jackets on the cover of New York Magazine‘s March 27, 1972 cover story on east Bronx gangs (which can be read here) would almost certainly have a kid reaching for the marker pens to decorate a garment so he and his friends could rumble with neighbourhood rivals.


Ralph Bakshi has drawn some great hoodlums in flicks like American Pop and Coonskin and given his escalating inability to work within the system, an initiative like Kickstarter is the perfect way for him to raise capital. He’s currently working on a series called Last Days of Coney Island with pledged voice work from folks like Matthew Modine and there’s some amazing incentives to pledge some dough here ($35+ for a Bakshi character doodle?). And I’ve talked about Ralph’s work here a lot of times, because Wizards, Fritz the Cat and Lord of the Rings, plus shows like his Mighty Mouse redux had such a big impact on me — if you don’t know who he is, educate yourself immediately by picking up a copy of Unfiltered and reading this interview with him from a year ago. The sketches and imagery from Last Days of Coney Island look pretty good so far.







Does anyone else recall Champion’s Japanese licensee putting Champion on some extremely underwhelming hiking boots in 1995 to capitalise on a boom in hiking heritage? I thought I dreamt it until I pulled out this old ad again. They really did a number on the iconic ‘C’ right there.



Dave Tompkins is good. Really good. It’s worrying that the ability to edit blog posts and online content to your heart’s content could make writers complacent. The fear of editorial rejections and the finality of submitting to print is a fair motivator to improve your written word. Current hip-hop writing isn’t up to scratch – it’s all top 10s in bite size controversy-heavy morsels or a link-heavy sentence above a Sendspace link. I need more.

I haven’t peeped the new Vibe format, but using their site as a barometer, I imagine the “black Rolling Stone” elements of the magazine’s heyday have vanished – those lengthy features on white hillbilly gangbangers, or hefty prison visit chats. Dave Tompkins’s work isn’t some SEO-friendly nugget of facts and release dates. He’s been eclipsing other writers with splattergun bullets of facts, history and a real reverence for hip-hop culture for years now, somehow contextualising it, bringing together the sci-fi and street level in those final few paragraphs in Rap Pages, URB and Big Daddy. His Paul C article is a pinnacle piece.

You understand then, why the notion of Tompkins writing a book on the history of the vocoder created a buzz to match that of the speech synthesising subject matter. Chances are you don’t write like Dave. I suck by comparison, but I don’t let it get me down any more. Dave’s 1994 review of the debut Artifacts LP for Rap Pages opens with, “Too often unsung and un-MCeed are the masters of markers and aerosol-ballers with the gall.

My own, more sycophantic review of the same album (neatly sidestepping the 5 dull tracks on it), my first for SpineMagazine back in early 2000 is a leaden affair, opening with “‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ is one of those rare LP’s where everything is tight- the lyrics, the production and even the cover design.” Yeah, go Gary. Draw ’em in on the first sentence. Jesus. That’s why Dave Tompkins writes incredible books like ‘How to Wreck a Nice Beach’ (“How to recognise speech” misheard via the vocoder) while I jot down notes about sneakers. We know our places.

While I’d been holding out for the rumoured Tuff Crew book he was reportedly penning, ‘How to Wreck…’ delivers. It’s as visually arresting as it is linguistically lavish – old flyers, notes, military pamphlets, customised cassettes, machinery, ads and specially penned portraits of key personnel in the instrument’s lifespan. A scholar like the author could’ve left it wilfully clinical – nothing but words and the occasional diagram, and it would’ve worked somehow. Yet this is a hardback trove of information, written with the man’s usual hyper-factual flair as the warfare and political roots give way to overrated Brit-rockers, soul music filtered, Cylons and the Auto-Tune plague. Then there’s the fainting, the poisoning and the electrocutions. These things can make a man light-headed. Oh, and you’ll develop a new respect for Donnie Wahlberg.

As one who got giddy not at Kurt’s guitar but by local boy Mr. Troutman’s robo-gear in Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, this has made my year. I’m not flicking pages to reinforce what’s already filed in the cranium – I’m reading to be enlightened, and Dave Tompkins is an educator who lets the machine do the talking this time around, imbuing it with a real humanity. One of the best music-related books in a long, long time. Speaking of Spine – check the homie Zaid’s review here.

Check Dave Tompkins’s 1995 graffiti-themed editorial from URB below. A work-of-art in itself. Taken from the excellent ‘Press Rewind If I Haven’t…’ blog.

Plus Dave taught me that the 1979 film ‘Zoo zéro’ combines Klaus Kinski with a vocoder.



Having missed out on missing the increasingly prolific Danny Trejo (I’ve been a fan since he was fighting in ‘Runaway Train’ and getting offed in ‘The Hidden’ ) by a few seconds in Los Angeles last week, and blown away as I was by the signed machete Estevan Oriol had in his office, I’ve been following the controversies leading up to the new ‘Machete’ movie – Trejo is that dude. If you’ve read Eddie Bunker’s ‘Mr. Blue’ you know he’s no joke. Now Robert Rodriguez has announced he’s making a live-action version of Frank Frazetta’s ‘Fire And Ice’ alongside Ralph Bakshi. Serious news – Robert generally seems to deliver on his announcements, and this could be the ultimate Frank tribute.

Props to FirehouseSoundDK for upping some (too) brief footage of the great Conroy Smith, don of the digital age, performing ‘Dangerous’ at Sting ’88 a week or so ago. It’s been the soundtrack to this warm weekend. Apparently he’s currently incarcerated on drug charges. Stay up, Conroy.