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Ancient Champion: Reyner Banham Loved Los Angeles When Los Angeles was the Future

Ancient Champion: Reyner Banham Loved Los Angeles

When Los Angeles was the Future

by Ancient Champion, Columnist
first published: March, 2022

approximate reading time: minutes

What are the public-commercial buildings we should send people to see in Los Angeles? "Gas stations maybe, any kind of edifice that has to do with the car." - Ed Ruscha

Hey-ho, I'll begin here with Reyner Banham, and his 1972 movie, Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, made for the BBC (I think). I'll end with the notes about the current BBC Director General Tim Davie's current work. Some days I think the BBC is the greatest of all time and some days I think that there are a very large number of people paying for a service that doesn't serve them. It's like an appropriated Mark Fisher dictat of realism, it would be easier to die than to imagine a BBC that serves the people who pay for it to exist. It is so weird isn't it? Whenever a working class voice is heard on BBC radio, that voice can sound lugubrious, jolting and jarring, like they don't belong because, we are so used to not hearing ourselves. Voices betray interests. Whatever, whatever.

Reyner Banham's Loves Los Angeles, why look? Why worry about the weird shortcomings that seem kooky, seem charming and seem so academic-eccentric. And while he begins at the Watts Towers, meets Ed Ruscha, lives in Greene and Greene's Gamble House(!), the movie does seem a little bit Alan Whicker-ish without the dictators. However, Reyner Banham is a no longer living legend and these 50 minutes are a lovely indulgence. Accept nuance and lugubriousness and a little clumsiness and embrace that you are about to take a ride with Reyner through 1972.

Is there any town in the world other than Los Angeles where art is industry? Let's play the movie...

Great watch right? Whatever, 50 years later I can't change anything about an English Man in Los Angeles. I do think that the ideal he wrote, broadcast and taught about is kind of the Los Angeles I moved to and lived in and still believe in. I felt free in Los Angeles like no other place I've ever lived. Banham's in neighbourhoods and like any city, it's mainly about the interesting people you get to know in your neighbourhood that matter. He's Reyner Banham, he gets to know a lot of interesting people.

Salisbury-Ruscha-BanhamEd Ruscha, Mike Salisbury, Reyner Banham: your guides to public-commercial architecture in 1972

Anecdote alert: I'd visited Ed Ruscha's Apartments with my photographer friend Chad, and some Ed Ruscha Gas Stations too. So often the buildings, within a short space of time had become strip malls. That contains its own frisson, although not equal to actually finding a Ruscha Apartment building still standing. Or backing gently away from kids who thought we were cops snooping around in their neighbourhood with a camera. Then That English Man Accent in Los Angeles came in very handy... 

Is it simply kooky, that Reyner Banham drives by social and racial divisions.- as Richard Williams says? No city can ever be as real as it would have itself perceived. And so this movie can seem flawed for sure, the divisions are absolutely there, but this film is not about divisions and for all its flaws, flaws are part of its beauty. Fill in your own gaps. Los Angeles is still figuring out how to be the futuristic city on a hill. 

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles was added to YouTube by Tyler Gross, and I am hugely grateful for that. So if it disappears in the future, could be a copyright thing, I am sure you'll still find it out there.

To lose one popular, charismatic, widely-respected, heavyweight, lead presenter on a flagship news show who’d very recently busted wide open the Prince Andrew abuse scandal to a speechless nation, may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two in 2022, looks like carelessness? No, fecklessness more like. Welcome to the shit world being constructed over at the BBC by Director General Tim Davie, a man more committed to doing the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorris’ work for her than she is. And in case there’s any misconception, Nadine’s current stated work is the end of the BBC as we know it. Tim Davie is redolent of an archetypal downwardly mobile eternally lower tier football league type chairman I think. Forgetting that the fans don't pay to see the people sitting on the boardroom seats, they pay to see the talent on the field. They pay to see stars express themselves. Oh well. There was more but obviously most pre war news no longer matters much, really so.

There's a lot of cultural stuff here, so finally to mention, in my real job I am actually an unpopular pop musician after all, if you don't know my work, well, hmmm, I removed most of my music from Spotify in support of Indie Arie's anti-racist boycott, and I am getting to the rest... If you are unfamiliar with what I do, well, if I was a University Challenge quiz show question, it would be something like "Who is the commercially unpopular writer and musician, described the by writer, actor and musician Kirk Lake, as 'the indie Tony Hatch'?" Here's a demo from my forthcoming Hollywood Adjacent EP that if you listen, only you will have heard... (LA Proved Too Much For The Man!). Artist friendly Bandcamp is where you can mainly find me in my pompous pomp right now.

This week I am beginning to somehow, don't know quite how yet, to reverse engineer my LP Music Inspired By The Museumgoer of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with my new drummer pal, Adrian and I can't use his real name yet as he has a professional reputation to protect. He gets it though. My easy listening for still difficult people thing... I am excited. Can someone come over and teach me the guitar chords to my music?

Watch out summer west midlands off-grid festival crowds, here we come.
how do Adrian and AC recreate this?

Essential Info
Ancient Champion 'fan' video by Jay Lewis - thanks, Jay!
Available now: Six Stories About Motoring Nowhere - a collection of short stories about motoring nowhere from Amazon and Elsewhere - Bear Book Shop in Bearwood, f'rinstance.

Ancient Champion

Ancient Champion writes for OUTSIDELEFT while relentlessly recording and releasing instrumental easy listening music for difficult people. The Champ is working on Public Transport, a new short story collection that takes up where 2021's Six Stories About Motoring Nowhere (Disco City Books) left off. It should be ready in time for the summer holidays. More info at

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