Four years ago, the editors of seminal 1980s BMX publication Freestylin' Magazine joined forces to release a book chronicling the days of the magazine and the riders popularized on the pages of the magazine. For anyone who read Freestylin' in its heyday, it was a must read. And it did a brilliant job of revisiting with former BMX Freestyle superstars to shed new light on an everlasting BMX question: whatever happened to that guy?
As a student of that magazine's pages, it offered fascinating insight into life after BMX and everything that encompassed life as a BMX Freestyle pro before, during and after the first wave of popularity.
Around the same time that Freestylin' dominated the BMX scene, across the country, in a small city known as York, Pa., a group of BMX riders was pushing the evolution of flatland riding, video making and do-it-yourself zine making. That group, known as The Plywood Hoods, consisted of Kevin Jones, Mark Eaton, Brett Downs, Jamie McKulik, Mike Daily and a revolving assortment of visitors over the years including Dave Mirra, Leif Valin and Chase Gouin.
Jones revolutionized flatland, Eaton created one of the very first rider-produced BMX videos and Daily documented their scene in a creation he called Aggro Rag. Beginning in 1984, Daily produced 12 issues of the publication, and it became perhaps the most well known rider-created publication outside of the actual BMX magazines of the time.
Daily explained Aggro Rag's loose approach in a 2010 interview with ESPN: "Everyone constantly wanted to see what new flatland tricks Kevin Jones and Mark Eaton were doing. The 'zines gave insight to our team, and to riders we admired. Craig Grasso, Gary Pollak, Dizz Hicks, Jason Parkes, Pete Augustin and Chris Moeller were all interviewed "off the record" for Aggro Rag. We were always trying to break new ground, but with a sense of humor. We didn't really have a master plan."
We were always trying to break new ground, but with a sense of humor. We didn't really have a master plan.
Aggro Rag lasted for five years during the late '80s, ending in 1989. The Plywood Hoods endured, ultimately releasing 10 videos under the "Dorkin in York" name. Then, life happened. Though the majority of the Hoods continued to ride, paths diverted away from York. Jones stayed in York, while Eaton made the move to Philadelphia to work in film and television production. And Daily headed to California to edit BMX magazines, including Go: The Rider's Manual and BMX Plus!
After the demise of Go, Daily settled in at BMX Plus!, writing his first novel ("Valley") and slowly drifting away from the BMX scene. He eventually settled in Portland, Ore., and continued writing and performing as a spoken word artist. Several years ago, Daily decided to restore a 1985 CW California Freestyle, and somewhere along the way, the idea to rekindle Aggro Rag was born.
Last week, some 22 years after the release of issue 12, Aggro Rag issue 13 was released. Dubbed "The Hip-Hop issue," Aggro Rag 13 is a limited edition run of 500 issues, signed by the Plywood Hoods and autographed by S&M's Chad Johnston, who graces the cover. The issue runs the gamut from vintage photos of Eaton and Jones to tributes to Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys written by former Freestylin' editor Mark Lewman.
In addition, Daily tracked down 15 of the most innovative flatlanders from the late '80s, including Tim Treacy, Marc McKee, Frank Garrido, Aaron Dull, Chad Johnston, Greg Higgins, Chris Day, Joe Gruttola, Jim Johnson, Adam Jung, Derek Schott, Gerry Smith, Dave Nourie, Craig LePage and Gary "Pinky" Pollak.
This is where it gets really interesting for a dedicated flatland nerd like myself. Whereas the Freestylin' book offered insight into the big name pros of the time, Aggro Rag 13 goes underground to discuss everything from Joe Gruttola's accidental one-footed double decade to backyard inventor Tim Treacy not being able to purchase the magazine that featured the photo of him doing the trick. Daily's persistence in tracking down these riders, and his concise memory for minute events that happened over 25 years ago adds another brilliant piece to the puzzle in the scattered world of BMX Freestyle history.
There is much more to the zine, including interviews with Aesop Rock, and fiction, poetry and art by an assortment of contributors. But for the diehard BMX fan with a knowledge of late '80s flatland as it transitioned into rolling and scuffing, the 15 interviews conducted by Daily are essential reading.
Aggro Rag issue 13 is currently available direct from Daily for $10 postage paid the U.S., $11.50 in Canada and Mexico, and $13 shipped worldwide. To purchase a copy, visit the new Aggro Rag website. There are only 500 issues, so act fast. And in the immortal words of Aggro Rag, "Ride First, Read Later."