Rozz-Tox Manifesto/Ralph Records Buy or Die 5

This is the first post on this blog relating to a new research and writing project I began a couple of months ago, more context will trickle out shortly but I’m posting here now in the hope that others interested in the subject might get in touch with any additional info. For now this will probably be of interest only to those who are big fans of Gary Panter (there’s plenty of those) or The Residents.

Gary Panter’s Rozz-Tox manifesto seems to be one of those things that had small ambitions but inspired alot of others to do stuff (like the often quoted line about the Velvet Underground’s first album “everyone who bought it formed a band”). I’ve been doing some old-fashioned art history research to try and uncover a few more details about where and when the manifesto was published – it seems like if people care enough about this its worth trying to put together a more definitive timeline, also to help measure what influence it had and where. I’m not going to delve into the sentiments of the manifesto at this moment, if you’re not familiar with it this version is the more accurate one online.

According to a blog post on Gary’s old site that you can see on Wayback Machine, the manifesto was first published divided into separate weekly items in the personals section of the Los Angeles Reader throughout 1979, an approach attributed to thrift but which seems wholly appropriate to the manifesto’s culture infection mission: “back then getting something set in type cost money. By running it in the Reader, it got set in type for free”. The manifesto then did the rounds of early 80’s Californian alternative press, appearing in STUFF, New West and San Francisco magazine Boulevards, as well as Ralph Records Buy or Die Catalogue 5, 1980:

Another step in the media infiltration campaign was through the RESIDENTS. I approached the CRYPTIC CORPORATION with the manifesto and they were kind and swell enough to include it on some of their record releases. On these releases the image appeared without copyright as an anonymous logo of a pseudo movement, free to pass along. And that was the spirit in which the Cryptics accepted it. And many people reproduced the manifesto from the cover art or from insert flyers in their records which were distributed worldwide.

The Ralph version is the one most seen online (actually the only scanned version online as far as I can see). I’ve seen this credited as the version from New West magazine, unless it was a facsimile of the Ralph catalogue page that was re-printed there, which seems unlikely. I was uncertain which edition of the catalogue the manifesto appeared in but managed to buy a copy of #5 on discogs, and sure enough there’s the manifesto on page 13:

Ralph Records ‘Buy or Die’ No.5, April 1980, pages 12-13: Rozz-Tox Manifesto, see also Rozz Tox T-shirt advertised on page 12.
Ralph Records ‘Buy or Die’ No.5, April 1980, outside cover, artwork by Gary Panter.

I’ve scanned the whole catalogue, you can access a PDF below if you want it (sharing this for research purposes, if any copyright holders want me to take it down let me know)

Seeing the whole catalogue doesn’t really turn up any extra information or context really, but it also came with an article from the September 1980 issue of Trouser Press (no.54) magazine which the previous owner had carefully cut out: ‘Ralph Records: Surrealism A Go Go’, which interestingly opens with a quote from Rozz-Tox, also mentioned during the article

“The catalogue also includes the Rozz-Tox Manifesto, which deals with the creation of a “broad-based art movement” and “a pseudo-avant-garde that is cost-effective.” Pretty neat, huh?”

showing that the manifesto was already having a wider recognition and influence in the culture of the time. The article is otherwise pretty much the standard Residents biography that you will now find elsewhere, but might have been largely new information at the time. You can read that full issue online here (pages 29-31).

‘Ralph Records: Surrealism a go go’ from Trouser Press No.54, September 1980.

Side note: here’s a review of the great ‘Tornader to the Tater’ from issue 78, October 82 of Trouser Press.

My attempts to find any other print versions of Rozz-Tox have otherwise drawn a blank so far. No issues of LA Reader or Boulevards seem to have made it online. I thought I got close with the archive of scanned STUFF magazines on the adsausage site. Issue #30, 1981 contains a Panter-drawn ad for the Pee-Wee Herman stage show, and the contents page tantalisingly listed ‘Gary panter’ for page 121. I reached out to adsausage and JJ Englender who runs the archive very kindly sent me a scan of page 121:

Gary Panter, THE ART POLICE Rule Book, stamped with Gary’s customary date stamp. STUFF Magazine #30, 1981, p.121

It seems most likely Rozz-Tox must have been in STUFF before THE ART POLICE rule book, owing to the manifesto’s single reference to ‘Join the art police’ and Panter’s blog:

‘Some nice young people came over and tried to join the ART POLICE. I told them I wasn’t forming any, but that there were some ART POLICE in Chicago they could join.’

JJ kindly checked his other copies of STUFF in case he hadn’t scanned it but no luck there. So I’m putting this out to the world in the hope someone will send something through. Any information or images relating to the following much appreciated:

– Which issues of LA Reader did the free ads run in?
– Which issues of New West and Boulevards?
– Did it appear in any other issues of Buy or Die, or just number 5?
– Any other known records/magazines that might have contained the manifesto in authorised or unauthorised reproductions?

Get in touch danielseankelly at gmail dot com

Author: danielseankelly

I'm a practicing artist. This blog is for me to channel my ideas into writing, through short form essays.

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