Monday 28 February 2011

Absolutely beguiling

Talking of Peter Blake…. I love this book cover by the man himself and feel privileged to have been given this beautifully yellowed 1964 copy of the excellent Colin MacInnes novel, ‘Absolute Beginners’ which I treasure. As a child I used to love that pristine-ness of a brand new book, the way the pages were hard to open (which added to the excitement), the smell of the paper and the perfection of the binding – now funnily enough I really love faded, old, creased and discoloured books.  There’s probably something subconscious in there about getting old and a bit creased oneself…

So… if you don’t already know it, this is a compelling and entertaining read as well as being historically educational in its own way - it really does evoke something of the time in which it was set.  Apart from portraying the more overt aspects of racism leading to the Notting Hill riots of 1958, it also captures very well that sense of being an ‘outsider’, which anyone who has ever been into any sort of vaguely underground scene, or has ever felt marginalised by any kind of prejudice, would understand, I’m sure.

Linguistically it’s really fascinating too – the book’s highly likeable narrator (or, as described on the back cover blurb: ‘our guide on this conducted tour of London’s teenage sub-groups’) has a very natural, engaging style which makes it feel as if he’s speaking to you and it’s full of colloquialisms of the time; words such as ‘hip’, ‘cat’, ‘man’, ‘dig’ and ‘junkie’ make several appearances as examples of teenage speak (I’d always wrongly believed that some of those words didn’t appear until later, but the proof is here.)

Rather endearingly my 1964 edition has been censored; expletives are shown as ‘f—k’ and ‘a—e’, there’s even a ‘f—t’ in there (would have thought that might have passed) and you can also find ‘c—t’.    I’m guessing that this was some kind of compromise (?) on the part of Penguin Books, following their trial under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 over ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, as D H Lawrence’s 1928 novel was published in its unexpurgated totality in 1960 (including the expletives I’ve mentioned above), only after the jury at the trial returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’.  Apparently the 1959 act had allowed the possibility for publishers not to be convicted for obscenity if a work was decided to be of ‘literary merit’ -  and Lawrence’s was.  Presumably the expletives in ‘Absolute Beginners’ in this edition were only allowed through in this censored form, which seems a bit daft to me considering that you’re going to read them in your head as the full word anyway…(and if you didn’t know what ‘f—k’ stood for, you probably wouldn’t be the type to read the book in the first place…)  Would love to know more about how the degrees of censorship changed in books over the years if anyone has any more info, as I know f—k-all about it…

Anyway…today’s song has a fairly tenuous link: just that it’s from 1959, the year of the book’s publication, nothing else. (Yes, I’m avoiding the obvious again, no Bowie or Jam.)  But Johnny Kidd and the Pirates ‘Please Don’t Touch’ is just so good and I like to think it might have been playing on a jukebox in a coffee bar as the book’s un-named narrator makes his way through Soho.  And of course the song is also memorable for being covered so well by Motorhead & Girlschool.

Sunday 27 February 2011

A movie émouvant

And from the shallows we swim into deeper waters.  Was very moved recently by the film Of Gods And Men (Des Hommes Et Des Dieux) by Xavier Beauvois. The subject matter (based on a true story) sounds unlikely perhaps: a group of French monks in an Algerian monastery dealing with the increasing threat of terrorist attack, but it was captivating in its depiction of rising tension and emotion as the monks dealt with their dilemma of ”should I stay or should I go?”.  So you know this film’s not going to be some kind of Carry On Up Yer Habit….although it was not without its humour and you do get to hear a monk say “fuck off” (in French).  However, it was a deep and thought-provoking film with an air of serenity about it much of the time in spite of the mood of escalating fear at its core. I was very impressed by its cinematic beauty - striking vistas, strong, expressive close-ups -  very much a visual film, with little dialogue really and an unhurried pace, aesthetically and psychologically satisfying. To me it evoked something of a nouvelle vague film in that way.   Felt quite privileged to see it at its first night of a trial of i-cinema too – according to the blurb at the local theatre: it was played via high-spec servers, live via satellite recorders through high definition projectors.  So basically not your ordinary 35mm film reel but like watching a film on a giant internet screen without the biscuit crumbs in your keyboard.

Michael Lonsdale, who played the monastery’s rather lovely old doctor, Luc, looked somewhat disconcertingly like Peter Blake.  And even more disconcerting is the fact that he had previously played the villain Hugo Drax in Moonraker.  Check out pictures.

Get your kicks here

... with some fantastic footwear.  You gotta love kinky boots.  I’m almost literally dipping my feet in the shallow end of blogging here, but you can’t beat a nice pair of shiny shiny, shiny boots of (non-)leather, so here is just one of them for your delectation.  Recently bought off ebay at a bargain price from a lovely lady, they are called ‘Psychedelic’ and made by Mia, really retro-looking.  Apparently these were found in Canada; I don’t think you can get them over here. So shiny you can see your face in them (should you wish to stoop to that level and take a look at yourself, but I wouldn’t recommend it). 

I’m thinking of posting a regular musical recommendation on here but today I’m resisting the obvious one by Nancy Sinatra. I’ll stick with Nancy for being so appropriately kitsch, but given that it’s winter and I need some cheering up, I’m opting for Summer Wine (with Lee Hazlewood and his wonderfully rich voice.)  I look forward to both the summer and the wine…

First Post The Past

On wondering how to start this I’ve been partly inspired by reading Philip Leslie’s blog, The History of Philip Leslie, (Philip is the talented author of 'The History Of Us' published by Legend Press last year) and decided to go through my old art college portfolio.  So I’ll be posting a few images here from the days of Letraset and the Grant projector… (let me know if you had experience of the latter; so few people seem to remember them.) These will be in no particular order but it seems fitting today to post this original image which was used in the sleeve art for Flux Of Pink Indians’ ‘Strive To Survive Causing Least Suffering Possible’ (originally released on Spiderleg 1982).  Fitting because Andy Smith with whom I was good friends throughout Art Foundation and who later went on to join Flux, died on 4th February 2011, so this picture just connects me to both Flux and college days and therefore him too.  (And I do have another rather close connection to Flux which will remain undisclosed for now.)

I seem to remember that I had a bit of a thing about potato prints at the time but doubt I would have done too well as a wallpaper designer.  And what is that strange-looking box whose knobs are being twiddled by the Anne Diamond lookalike?  Oh, it’s an eighties TV set.  That’s… Progress.
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