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‘He was like a walking hit of acid’: Remembering Rex Thompson of the Summer Hits (1968-2016)
09.14.2016
11:59 am

Topics:
Fashion
Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
Los Angeles
Surfing
Mixtapes

Rex in the Sea of Cortez, Baja Mexico 2001
Rex in the Sea of Cortez, Baja Mexico 2001 Sasha Eisenman/Sun-Godz
 
In the early 1990’s a 22-year old surfer kid from Newport Beach hit the L.A. music scene and turned it inside out. Rex Kingsley Thompson (nickname: “Tatarex”) was a thin, cool, attractive, 6’4” tall creation that looked like he had just arrived in a time machine. His band The Summer Hits released a handful of singles between 1992-1996 and were played on BBC Radio 1 by legendary deejay John Peel. Then like a flash, Rex left southern California for Europe without a penny in his pocket where he spent twelve years exploring chic, tropical islands and castles with beautiful women of royalty. Last week the news of Rex’s passing at the age of 47 hit the internet and saddened thousands of friends and followers who recount his super unconventional lifestyle and profound cult-like influence on people everywhere he went.
 
Known around skateboard parks for always drinking pink lemonade, Tatarex was also somewhat of a local at “The Wedge” in Orange County, a surfing spot just off the end of the Balboa Peninsula popular for its big waves and laid-back lifestyle. As a mohawked youth back in Glendora, Rex had originally intended to be a tennis player but once he hit his 20’s and left home he began shifting his focus towards other interests such as fashion, the beach, music, and recreational drug use. “He walked around like he was this psychedelic blue blood sometimes. You know what I mean? Because he was always asking everybody about their fashion, and clothes, and hygiene, and appearance. He didn’t judge you he would just kind of point people in the direction of the finer things in life. Not just expensive things, but the things that make you live free and think that you can really enjoy life” says longtime friend Brent Rademaker.
 
Rex drove around in a Volkswagon bus he called “Peanut” searching local vintage stores for groovy clothes and groovy records. Brent recalls the modes of communication before cell phones existed: “He worked at the Newport Classic Inn, I’d call him there. The only way to get in touch with him would be to call him at work. He’d answer the phone ‘Good afternoon the Newport Classic Inn Hotel this is Rex speaking’ It was kind of like the thing in Quadrophenia when the Ace Face gets outed as a bellboy. I even went down there and Rex is dressed in a button-down shirt with a tie. Darren and I came from Florida and Rex really lived all things west coast and lived all things southern California. He made us honorary Californians and he didn’t treat us as outsiders.”
 
The Summer Hits, mid-'90s collage courtesy of Brent Rademaker
The Summer Hits, mid-‘90s collage courtesy of Brent Rademaker
 
With no prior musical experience or training, Rex picked up a left-handed bass and taught himself to play. After his first band fell apart (a C86 influenced local group called Speed Racer) Rex formed The Summer Hits by recruiting friends Darren Rademaker and Josh Schwartz (of the lo-fi “indie rock” band Further). They released a handful of 7"s on labels such as Small-Fi, Volvolo, Silver Girl, and 1000 Guitar Mania. Rex’s unique singing voice on the 8-track recordings was nearly drowned out by a wall of fuzz and feedback, with lyrics that reflected all of his most favorite things: summer, the beach, drugs, listening to music, girls, runnin’ from the fuzz, and retreating into the desert night.
 
In 1997 the year following the band’s split, Brent issued The Summer Hits compilation CD on his own label Xmas Records. “I took every dime I had to put that Beaches and Canyons CD together. I found all the comp tracks and all the singles and all the tapes and I took them down to Capitol (Records) tower and mastered them. The guy looked at me like I was insane when it came on. You know? And I’m like ‘Can you add even more fuzz?’ and he’s like ‘What?! I can’t clean these up,’ I said ‘I don’t want you to clean them up, I want you to make them dirtier.’”
 

 
Besides being the life of the party and a psychedelic social butterfly, Rex Thompson had been making amazing mixtapes which were then duplicated and passed down by friends and friends of friends. The more tapes Rex made the deeper the tracks got and the more extensive his handwritten linear notes became.  One tape of Rex’s in particular titled Find the Sun really stood out amongst his circle of friends and focused on recordings from 1966-1973 by groups all over the world experimenting with the “west coast sound.” Rex’s personal description of the tape was “Magic hippie vibes for lost cosmic children with countrified brains.” Brent recalls, “It had a great title and it was full of obscure, beautiful, beautiful groups. One day Chris Gunst, Josh Schwartz, and I were listening to that tape and one of us just said ‘We can make a group that sounds like this.’ Slowly our clothes started changing, next thing Chris was wearing cowboy western shirts.” L.A. supergroup Beachwood Sparks was formed, they had a successful career on Sub Pop Records and were later featured on the soundtrack to the 2010 cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. “We wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for that tape and Rex’s influence.”
 
Radio Stars vol.8 mixtape courtesy of Sasha Eisenman
“Radio Stars vol.8” mixtape courtesy of Sasha Eisenman/Sun-Godz
 
Find the Sun mixtape linear notes courtesy of Maura Klosterman
“Find the Sun” mixtape linear notes courtesy of Maura Klosterman
 
“Another thing that speaks so highly of Rex, the linear notes on his tapes are so in depth. And I’m not saying that the pre-internet world didn’t learn or share knowledge or do research. But at what he had at his disposal he really went in depth and he knew what he was talking about when he was talking about country rock, psych, folk, west coast garage, fuzz. Whatever it was, he knew it.”
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
The lost art of surfer movie tickets
03.24.2014
05:00 pm

Topics:
Art
Movies
Sports

Tags:
Surfing
Endless Summer


 
Movie tickets are not something to which we give a lot of thought from an aesthetic point of view, and really why should we?  They exist to be torn in half within minutes of purchase. The generic, bluish, thermally printed and perfectly utilitarian stubs we’re used to today were preceded in my youth by the classic red “ADMIT ONE” tabs that did the job just fine in the days when most cinemas had only one or two screens.

So it was a truly pleasant surprise to find The Gallery of Surf Classics’ trove of 1960s surf movie ticket stubs. Many are very plain, but some of the graphic tickets are marvelous. Now, apart from breakouts like Bruce Brown’s classic The Endless Summer, surf movies weren’t nearly as mainstream as the Frankie & Annette beach party movies that simplified the culture for America’s landlocked. (As a Cleveland kid and a great indoorsman who doesn’t tend to much get hung up on the whole So-Cal vibe, movies formed the basis of my knowledge of surf culture, to which I’m a consummate outsider.) These were essentially niche sports documentaries that screened in high school auditoria and civic rec centers, so I find it pretty amazing that anyone would have taken the time and expense to craft such elaborate tickets for these films.
 

The Endless Summer, 1964
 

Walt Phillips’ Once Upon a Wave, 1963
 

Grant Rohloff’s Too Hot To Handle, 1963
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Surfer Mark Visser makes history by riding 30-40 foot waves in complete darkness
01.20.2011
11:58 pm

Topics:
Sports

Tags:
Surfing
Mark Visser

image
 
This is absolutely awesome. Very early this morning surfer Maker Visser rode 30-40 foot giant waves in Maui in complete darkness lit only by LED lights built into his life vest and surfboard while helicopters hovered overhead filming the event.

It wasn’t until I saw the pictures I realized how big it was. This project has been two years in the planning and it was the scariest, but most exciting thing I have ever done,” says Visser. “Riding in complete darkness meant I had to go off feeling. I had to zone out from how you normally ride and just be part of the wave. I am so pumped to achieve something that no one thought possible and that I was told was couldn’t be done.”

Transworld Surf has the scoop. Read it here.
 

 
Via The High Definite

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
A classic surf film from the 1960s: ‘Blue Surf-Ari’

image
 
In the 1960s, surfing was exploding on both coasts. I know. When I was 14, I bought my first board for 50 bucks, a humongous 9.5 ft. Jacobs with a battered nose, and rode the wild surf of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Back then, the coolest things a young cat could be was in a garage band or a surfer.

There was a glut of sixties Hollywood surfing films in which stars like Fabian, Elvis, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello never got wet. And then there were the low-budget indie documentaries that featured bona-fide surfers like Ricky Grigg and Greg Noll riding real waves. Blue Surf-Ari was one of those films. Despite threadbare plots, cheesy voice overs and lots of footage of teenyboppers milling around waiting for something to happen, these flicks did deliver when it came to awesome wave action. What the low-budget surf films lacked in narrative, they made up in some dynamite footage of surfers shredding down the walls of bigass waves, shooting the curl and being battered by merciless bodies of water.

This is for the old skool. Dig those longboards.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment