As an angry late teen, I loved Crass’ music — I still do — but I’m more than aware that my frequent flirtation with big brands is at odds with the group’s ideals. I’m content to be a sellout though. Before I became an apathetic thirtysomething (there’s plenty of room for a mid-life crisis where I start wearing a nose ring and start squatting after a year abroad) it was Crass who taught me the true meaning of anarchy (though, to be fair, Snufkin in The Moomins gave me a good grounding on its philosophies when I was a lot younger) and plenty of their music still holds up today, not least because it retains an intelligence and subversion (that romance magazine flexidisc stunt was ingenious) that’s still vital. Through all the aggressive imagery (via Gee Vaucher) and anger, Crass’ logo gave their work a legitimacy and Dave King’s snake-wrapped cross is a classic piece of band branding. Scott Campbell is a fan too, judging by his appearance here.
MOCA’s Art of Punk series has been superb — the Black Flag edition was incredible (the only band logo I would have — and do have — tattooed on me) and the Crass episode is equally superb. King’s decision to avoid elements touching to make it perfect stencil fodder was a masterful one. While I’d seen all Raymond Pettibon’s Black Flag flyers, I’d never seen the retaliation art that Pettibon quietly unleashed in fury to parody Chuck Dukowski and Greg Ginn after his work was used (and dissected) on the Loose Nut album cover, leading to some legendarily bad blood between Raymond and Greg.
Having spent part of my teenage years absorbing Iceberg Slim and Chester Hines’ novels and carrying on like that kid on the cover of Ice-T’s Home Invasion cover, I have a soft spot for Mr Slim’s work. Still, it’s curious to see the pimp portrayed as hero in popular culture `(that Don ‘Magic” Juan Emerica shoe was one of the most misjudged projects in years) given the strong-arm tactics and manipulation that Iceberg describes. I support the Seagal Out For Justice pimp-through-the-windscreen technique, but there’s still a certain mystique to the late 1960s and 1970s world of pimpdom (I blame Willie Hutch and Max Julien) and that curious regressive, showboating but squalid realm that the Hughes Brothers’ American Pimp explored. It’s easy to see how such ostentatious characters could fire a kid’s imagination when they saw them in their neighborhood.
Iceberg Slim did a solid job of depicting the trade as seedy, dangerous and vicious and I’m still fascinated by his tales of mentor Sweet Jones (R.I.P. Pimp C) who was apparently based on a character called Albert Bell who went by the name “Baby” Bell (no relation to the wax covered cheeses). Anyway, is glamorising pimpdom any worse than deifying the bullying, psychotic actions of mobsters who murdered their way into popular culture? Ice-T has produced the documentary Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp about the man and the myth around him. That footage of his masked 1968 chatshow appearance (shouts to Blue Howard) is tremendous.
With a Le Coq Sportif resurrection currently going down, it’s a good time to admire this reflective, hybrid vintage running top that recently sold at Diggermart. Like Cool V’s Le Coqs next to Biz’s Safaris on the Goin’ Off sleeve, it’s pretty damned hip-hop. On that topic, the 1988 commercial below (filmed from a TV on camera) for Baltimore’s Charley Rudo Sports showcases an array of Le Coq Sportif athletic pullovers as the new thing. You need to pay homage to Rudo’s sporting empire because alongside two other Baltimore sport shops they brought the Nike Air Force 1 back. Without them, that reign post-1983 may well have never happened.
While we’re talking about Le Coq Sportif and its old location, check out the commercial for Harput’s in its Oakland location circa 1988 after the Richmond location closed. Check the Fila selection but more importantly, anyone hitting the sale to grab the Nike Air Windrunners they showcased was in luck. Not only is the brown Escape edition there, but the even more fiendishly rare Escape Windrunner in lighter tones (weren’t the AM90 Escape II and the Escape Huarache based on those colours?). The SF location of Harput’s is still one of the greatest stores I ever visited.
Zak’s in San Leandro deserves a shout for its Slacks, slacks and more slacks, selection of Lotto, the suede jacket guy, their Cazals and an array of Bocci silk shirts.