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The Short Happy Life of Easyriders Magazine

As Outlined by J.J. Solari

By J.J. Solari

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Now that we are totally acquainted, the owner of this site, this internet entity, this block, this stone, this worse than senseless thing, this I say, this Bikernet, this Keith "Bandit" Ball person, has consented - with great reluctance and argument against the idea..... to permitting me to fulfill my desire to say my eulogy to Easyriders here on his "voice in the wilderness" as I call it, or "website" as he calls it.

He has, in fact finally encouraged it because, let's face it, you, me, and him are the only ones here reading this: so, what the fuck harm can it do, ya know?

Keith "Bandit" Ball
Keith "Bandit" Ball

I have nothing to gain at this point by kissing Easyriders' ass. So, trust me
when I say Easyriders is the sole reason everyone knows what bikers -
rather than motorcyclists - are. Easyriders is the reason everyone and
literally their grandma has tattoos. Easyriders is the reason American
patriotism - now called white Nazi supremacist nationalist hatred rather than
American patriotism - exists today at all. Easyriders is the reason everyone
who has a motorcycle wants everyone else to think they are a Hells Angel,
and Easyriders is probably the reason Trump actually made it to the

In 1971 however everyone was afraid of waving the American flag, hippies
and commies ruled the land and bikers were so far off the radar that even
seeing one stranded on some desert highway in its (not his, but its)
sleeveless denim jacket, actual motorcycle boots, helmetless head with
hair that looked like Jesus had personally cursed it, and of course ten years
of crud caked on its "body" if there even was one under the was
enough to send the Good Citizen and his family into a lower gear of the
station wagon and swerve into the wrong lane to make a wide berth and
then swing back at 100 miles an hour to get the hell out of there and leave
him to his fate.

This creature was Easyriders' target audience.

Talk about publishing suicide.
But, no, that didn't happen. Easyriders made Issue 1 about chopped
Harleys and the loons that lived on them and directed all content material at
them and only them and did it from an editorial point of view of the
magazine personnel being just like they, the audience, were and if anything,
possibly worse. "Worse" in this case meaning "even more grungy and not
just wasted but fundamentally inferior from perhaps maybe even a genetic
point of view."

The self-deprecation aspect, meaning the "let's face it, we're fucked-up
imbeciles who are human embarrassments to algae" aspect of the staffers was an almost charming, endearing quality, and the occasional publishing gaffes; wrong page numbers, pictures upside-down, pages actually actually helped the reader to think "Yeah, I'm fucked up, but,
Jesus, not like these poor slobs."
Hidden within this utter ruin was a subtle winning formula that as far as I
am concerned has changed America.

For one thing very few of the people
creating the magazine actually had names. They had slangage. Spider.
Bandit. Wino. Madman. Housemouse. Muthuh. I mean you would open it
and get confused and go "...what the fuck?..." But you know
what? Whoever is it that loses interest in something if their first reaction to
it is " what the fuck?" That's right, no one. They keep examining it to try
and make some sense out of it.

There were three American magazines at the time that anyone ever really
paid attention to, Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler. All three targeted men.
Playboy pretended to be aimed at an audience that didn't actually exist:
suave American males who considered hot naked chicks prized
possessions worthy of high-minded conversation and elegance mixed with
moments of advanced levels of erotic sophistication capable of being
unleashed quietly and stealthily to achieve a sublime seduction of said
beauty upon satin sheets on canopied beds in Austrian chateaus over a
weekend to be repeated next weekend at Telluride with a different woman.

Penthouse on the other hand showed actual entire vaginas.

Hustler appealed to pornmongers. Hustler made no pretense at sophistication in fact it prided itself on anything that would promote
ejaculant to either ooze or squirt from a penis, and if it was promoted in an
utterly vulgar and tasteless way so much the better as long as the job got done.

Politically all three were liberal and considered America to be endurable but
much in need of improvement, preferably by fiat.

Easyriders showed up one day about that time to no fanfare. It too was
targeted to men but to men who rode Harleys more than they drove other
vehicles or even walked and most of whom belonged to clubs whose members were utterly devoted to avoiding what most people considered to be "normal human beings."

These Harley riders sort of appeared to look like some sort of reversed metamorphosis, where normally a disgusting and revolting caterpillar will transform into an angelic butterfly, for some reason what up until that time were normal people somehow got transfigured into filthy absolutely unappealing cakes of grease and tobacco fumes and liquor and body odor. All of whom rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles that eventually turned into stripped-down, elongated homes.

To ride a motorcycle at all on the highway in the United States is a bad
idea. To ride one that weighs ten thousand pounds, while drunk or stoned
or on Benzedrine, at 80 miles an hour for 50% of every 24 hour
period.... you have to have something seriously fucking wrong with you.

Turns out in the ‘50s there were thousands of 18-30-year-old American men
who were doing this. The American Press, which is comprised exclusively
of failed novelists, noticed these aberrants but made short shrift of them,
that is, they looked at them as one might look at a new species of insect
that may or may not be dangerous, and to the general public they were so
fucking revoltingly fucked up and out of all known parameters of sanity no
great "movements of public opinion" singled them out for destruction and
they didn’t seem to be communists and in fact they wore swastikas and
German helmets and SS paraphernalia so they couldn't be communists and
since the American Citizen of the day - women wearing dresses and men
wearing suits - had just endured five years of war with the Nazis and had
beaten them to fucking extinction.... seeing American men with Nazi
paraphernalia was looked upon with amusement because riding Harleys
day and night was stupid enough. Wearing Nazi costuming mixed with filthy
dungarees and leather on top of it all was sheer total buffoonery.... creating
an attitude by normal people of "Let's just walk around them, dear, hold our
noses, and maybe they will just ignore us."

Turns out bikers did ignore "normal citizens." There is one "biker incident"
on record: Hollister. Which was notorious for its sheer novelty. There was
never a peep from bikers ever again that anyone right this second can
sound-off about. Go ahead, see if you can come up with one. That's right,
you can't. Thank you. OK, there's maybe two others. They don't count.

So Easyriders appeared and was directed specifically at this hidden obscure horde of humans known mostly through hearsay and through a book about the Hells Angels written by Hunter Thompson.
The Hells Angels are very good at figuring people out and there is no way
they could not have known that Hunter Thompson was not going to make
good on his promise to buy bucketloads of beer for them after the publication of his book. But they okayed the deal anyway and Hunter Thompson came through with no beer.

If the general public saw bikers at all it was through B movies at the drive-ins. Period. In short, they were on no one's radar because they didn’t want to be on anyone's radar and
Easyriders targeted these desert and woodland apparitions for readership.
And scuttlebutt was rife that bikers couldn’t actually read. So, you haffta say
to yourself "What was Easyriders fucking thinking."

To this day no one knows. Bikers started in California and Easyriders started in California, which was probably more logical and likely than a plan of action. The first issue came out in 1971 and had articles about custom Harleys, filthy riders, braless
girlfriends, beer, references to illegal substances, pistols, knives, skulls,
more skulls, additional skulls, some supplemental skulls on page 27 and a
back cover devoted to some depictions of fleshless human heads. That's
right, more skulls.

The advertising was basically images of business cards of shops and leatherworks and "outlaw" biker clubs, bike parts for sale,
lawyers-on-call and one freak-out thing after another and topping the charts
a section of correspondence to and from jailed felons.

Easyriders was the first publication to proclaim that felons in concrete cells
are living human beings who YOU probably don't even know, so fuck you, if
you are shocked that we're friends with these pariahs. That was the attitude
of the mag. This alone is what was an easy motivator for liquor store managers to keep Easyriders hidden on an "ask for it" basis since the publication was not making a secret that it was not something likely sitting in Ozzie and Harriet's bathroom magazine stand.

And certainly no one could say that Easyriders was "selling out" to
corporate America since corporate America was making sure it was not in
any way associated with Easyriders Magazine. That was to change
eventually. All over the place.
And so, it was that the patriotic unknown unheralded, much derided and
despised cheery self-proclaimed lowlifes of American male society came to
discover that some clearly insane optimistic idiots were dutifully churning out a monthly magazine you had to ask for devoted entirely to patriotic unknown unheralded, much derided and despised, cheery self-proclaimed lowlifes.

Sales increased. Contents increased. Art was paid homage and reverence,
most of it from untutored talent working in cells or shacks or scary brick
buildings in slums. Creativity was praised and displayed, America was
treated with respect. The flag was brought out of hiding, "biker fashion" -
which now is Actual Fashion - was displayed and arrayed, rugged
individualism was encouraged, wisdom and intelligence when dealing with
interpersonal dealings and relations were valued more than obeying the
dictates of - usually a child-molesting - magistrate, legislator, or a zombie
law enforcement officer.

Being a leader was valued more than being a follower, but being a follower of someone you recognized as a good leader
was also a noble slot. If there was such a thing as "a remnant of Israel"
bikers were the "remnant of America."
The psychological philosophy of the magazine was "Screw you but that's
no reason we can't be friends."

Yes, I know, it's confusing. Bikers enjoy
watching you be confused regarding them. It's one of their ideas of fun. It
was a psychological attitude that lured non bikers to its pages. "These can't
be real people and they can't really do these things and live like this. And
the things they think are funny.... no. No, that's just not right."

An obsession by the "normal citizen" had been ignited. The central fuel for this biker
characteristic of "oddness" is the reality of death on the highway. You see,
you shouldn't really be living your life for the sole purpose of piloting a stripped-down large Harley back and forth, up and down the American landscape and having that as your job description. Because it's fucking
dangerous on three thousand levels. But it's very fun to do. Especially when inebriated.

Now you might say, "But that's totally irresponsible!" Hey: screw you but that's no reason we can't be friends. Do you see what I'm saying here? You can't get through to these people. And they consider
that part of their charm. And it makes gallows humor basically a requirement to, of all things, keep you sane.

If the target audience of Easyriders could be described in a quick and, to
use Rush Limbaugh's formerly favorite word, overarching way it would be
"hippies with anger issues." Over and above the Harleys, which no hippy
would ever get near much less ride, Easyriders fodder were all for free
love, controlled substances, uncontrolled substances, and a willingness to
have their minds altered. It's been said that altering a biker's mind can only
go one way: towards improvement. Whether that was the objective is pretty

For a magazine devoted to what society deemed reprobates there was a
focused attention to aesthetics and visual imagery. Harleys hand-rebuilt
from the ground up were a monthly feature, visual art by Mann, Robinson
and Duggan featured, respectively, two- page oil paintings of lifer-bikers in
their literally free-wheeling environments by Mann, quasi-psychedelic cartoonage by Robinson of idealized "perfect specimens" of totally healthy handsome burley men-of-action bordering on chaos and their ultra Daisy Mae girlfriends, all usually surrounded by beer, flies, often excrement, flying fists, mountains of rubbish, surreal motorcycles and a complete domination
of existence.

 Duggan focused on experimental illustration of tales, one of
his experiments getting the magazine banned in England for three months.
The target audience found something at last in the "mainstream" of life - a
publication - actually treating them like admired individuals. What very likely was probably not expected by the publishers was an increasing following
by customers the target audience enjoyed devoting their lives to avoiding:
"normal America." The result of which has led to things like the current
President of the United States routinely mentioning bikers as allies and to
things like....and this is difficult to type.... the Sons of Anarchy.

Apparently Easyriders' job is done: bikers are not reviled but emulated,
there are more people tattooed than not, pot is normalized, prisoners get
some empathy not stigmas, the flag is cheered not hidden, and America is
at last on a course that has some actual chance of becoming what it was
on the day of the colonies' defeat of the British Empire: a land of liberty.

Thanks very likely to Easyriders Magazine. _________jj solari

Click for more J.J. stories. Scary shit!
Click for more J.J. stories. Scary shit!

You can read more from J.J. in his horrible book.—Bandit

Get a famous Hal sticker with each order.
Get a famous Hal sticker with each order.

We sell a few Hal Robinson inspired T-Shirts and art.—Sin Wu

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Reader Comments

Well said, right to the point.

Dave cumming
STOUFFVILLE , OntOrio, Canada
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Editor Response Thanks.
Hey Bandit, good to see things are still in motion in the publication world of cycling. I'd just like to thank you for allowing my cousin (Big Daddy Drew)to introduce me to you back in '94 at your office. It was one of my highlights of my visit to California. And I really liked your desk it inspired my imagination but I never imitated it, kind of a guys thing of honor, but I did put together a lamp due to that visit and inspiration.
Live long and ride hard.

Keith Nation
Hodgenville, KY
Sunday, March 31, 2024
Editor Response Thanks brother,

Feel free to stop by our new place, if you come to Sturgis for the Rally.
For Keith ET3 Ball; it’s been a while since the Maddox, biker mag I thought you were nuts! Always happy it worked out! Heard you were in SD. Oh by the way I’m the one who found and returned your brown faced Seiko! Hope all’s well!!

Grant Getscher
Scottsdale , Az
Thursday, November 2, 2023
Editor Response Hey Grant. Thanks, all is well in the Black Hills, living the outlaw dream.
My mom had some pictures in an issue in the '80s but I'm not sure which one. I would like to find it since she passed. Any recommendations on how to do that? Thanks.

Daina Adams
Herald, CA
Saturday, May 6, 2023
Editor Response Sure, you can now go to Classic Easyriders and buy a digital subscription to all the back issues. You can pick a decade and start to look at every issue, year by year.
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