Wednesday 30 March 2011

Once you pop you can't stop

I recently went for a trip on the tube and I didn’t want to get off!  YouTube, that is, not the Central Line…

That’s the thing about YouTube though, isn’t it?… A desire to satisfy a nagging curiosity about something or other starts me off on a journey that I could never have predicted.  Just because, after finding what I originally searched for, I glance over at the right hand side (oh, those fateful ‘Suggestions’) and something catches my eye.  And then something else.  And something else.  And so it goes on.  From then on I’m enslaved. Next thing I know I’m miles away from where I began and going down Google side-streets too, amassing a load of probably useless information but feeling strangely satisfied at having crammed a few more pieces of music trivia into my poor, overcrowded brain.

Well, this time it started off with The Eyes (as so many things do…!)  The Eyes were a great ‘60s mod/freakbeat band who I’d discovered during the ‘80s when a lot of obscure beat and psychedelia was gathering renewed interest and being reissued on some brilliant and fascinating compilation albums.  Well, I fancied hearing ‘You’re Too Much’ again – it’s so good… 

Then, looking over at the right hand side, I spotted something unexpected… a track by the Nerves, who I vaguely knew to be a ‘70s band, and the song was ‘Hanging On The Telephone’.  The original.  It appeared on a Nerves EP back in 1976. I don’t know why it was a suggested track but I’m glad it was there.  I just had no idea that Blondie’s excellent chart-topping single from 1978 was a cover version, I’d always thought theirs was the first.  It’s such a great song so I was intrigued to find out a bit more about the Nerves….

To cut a longer story short, I found out that the songwriting talent behind ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ is Jack Lee, who also wrote ‘Will Anything Happen’ – again, a song I only know from hearing Blondie, as this is the B-side of their 'Hanging On The Telephone' single and also appears with that on the album ‘Parallel Lines’.  (For trivia fans, Jack Lee also wrote ‘Come Back And Stay’, covered by Paul Young – he of '80s chart fame, who had great success with it.  Lee's original is on his solo album 'Jack Lee's Greatest Hits' and is far more emotive.)  But the best part of this journey was that I found, totally unexpectedly, two other songs that I’d never before heard and now love.  I had no idea that I would fall for this '70s power pop quite so much.  So here they are for you too.

The Nerves: When You Find Out.

The Plimsouls (a later offshoot from the Nerves): A Million Miles Away

And just so you can set off on the same trip too if you like, travelling on a parallel line perhaps - although your final destination may turn out to be somewhere quite different, here's where it all started...

Tuesday 29 March 2011

London loves, part one

I’ve been thinking about London a lot lately.  I haven’t lived there for any length of time that counts, only in an outer north eastern corner of it for the first three years of my life, about which I remember very little.  Oh, apart from a rather bloody incident involving the back of my head and a brick, from which just the memory and a faint scar on my scalp have remained.  (The moral of that tale is: toddlers, do not play games pretending to be a naughty child who won’t go to bed in which you and your friends use house-bricks for pillows). 

I was born in the London Hospital at Whitechapel, a big, rambling building with centuries of history, once home to Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, and (perhaps apocryphally) within the sound of Bow Bells, which apparently makes me a Cockney.  You won’t find me down the rub-a-dub rabbiting with the Pearly Queen about jellied eels, though… my family relocated to the sticks before I was four.   London, however, can still make me feel childlike in some ways as it holds a degree of magical appeal.   For me it’s a bit like a fairytale mixture of good, bad and ugly, as well as sometimes very beautiful: a place of contrasts.  Whenever I step off the train into Liverpool Street Station, where flocks of people in dark suits dash about purposefully in all directions like hungry starlings, I feel like I’m entering another world.  A metaphorical world of secret rooms in high towers, deep dark caves, scary ogres and charming princes, not to mention the genuine palaces, a real-life castle and some very much alive-and-kicking rats in underground tunnels.  I find our capital slightly unsettling at times yet often thrilling, full of people and things with the potential to fascinate, horrify, annoy or beguile me; it is big and different and legendary.  I know, it’s just a city – but it is an inspiring one.  And it is its legendary aspect that inspired this little magazine called One Eye Grey, ‘a penny dreadful for the 21st century’.

Each edition of this pocket-sized publication is a spine-tingling collection of pieces based on traditional folktales, ghost stories and a sprinkling of urban legend, but what makes them so uniquely appealing is that they are retold in the context of modern London.   In the first three issues the stories, all written by the magazine’s creator Chris Roberts, are skilfully linked through a main character and his group of friends and this provides a sub-plot which enriches each individual tale very satisfyingly.  In subsequent volumes, discrete stories have been contributed by a number of different writers, but all are evocative and chilling enough.  I’ve long been a fan of a good scary story – adolescent memories of reading what seemed like an endless number of volumes of the Pan Book Of Horror are lodged deep within my psyche – so reading about apparitions, shape-shifters, witches and metamorphosing rodents is appealing.  But what enhances One Eye Grey is the contemporary setting, the more adult approach and content (some nice juicy helpings of sex, violence and modern slang) - and London.  I want to read each story and visit every associated location, then scare the pants off myself, not just by the price of a London pint but with imaginings of a shadowy female figure on Maiden Lane or the giant rat with eyes of different colours (the eponymous One Eye Grey) lurking near Cannon Street Railway Bridge.  These often specific geographical references make each account more vivid and help satisfy a teasing desire to believe in them.

If you want to scare the pants off yourself too, One Eye Grey is available from

Unsurprisingly, I’m going to conclude this post with a London-themed song - I know it's obvious, and there are too many good ones to choose from! - but this could be the first of a few.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Pick up a Penguin

I’ve mentioned charity shops on here before as the source of many an interesting and cheap item of clothing in my student years, and whilst they seem no longer to be a treasure-trove of Parisian-print dresses or ‘60s slingbacks, occasionally you can just stumble across something else that’s good for little more than the price of a Mars Bar.  This lovely Penguin paperback is one of them, found recently in Oxfam.

I’m developing a bit of a weakness for these forty-plus-year-old Penguin paperbacks with their orange spines and well-thumbed pages.  You know they’ve been loved before, indulged and enjoyed.  Sometimes there’s an inscription, in faded blue fountain pen ink perhaps, that teases you to wonder more about their previous lives on bookshelves you’ll never know.  As with my beautiful early copy of ‘Absolute Beginners’ which I wrote about in a previous post, this rather wonderfully worn and jaundiced 1966 edition of ‘Exile and The Kingdom’ just has that certain something (that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’…)  So much has been published about Albert Camus -  journalist, author, philosopher, pacifist, Nobel Prize winner for Literature, and a good deal more - it seems extraneous for me to write a lot here but I have to say that on starting this collection of his short stories I am hooked, and keen to read the rest of his work.

I especially like the theme of exile in these stories, the plight of those who feel alone or that they don't fit in some way, be it physically, psychologically or spiritually.  In these short and fairly simple tales, Camus depicts, amongst others,  a French woman in Algeria feeling isolated not only by her surroundings but also by her passionless marriage, an Arab prisoner who has been transferred to a desert outpost before his delivery to prison, and a group of men returning to their factory after being on strike.  Camus satisfyingly and skilfully evokes both emotion and environment with great power; I’m looking forward to reading them all.

I’ve enjoyed finding out more about Camus and his life.  There are some rock’n’roll connections which tickle my fancy too - The Manic Street Preachers were open about his influence (and Nicky Wire dedicated the song ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ to him), Mark E Smith named his band The Fall after a Camus novel, the Cure’s song ‘Killing An Arab’ was described by Robert Smith as being “…a short poetic attempt at condensing my impression of the key moments in ‘L'Étranger’”.  And, as was pointed out to me recently, the philosopher does bear a bit of a resemblance to Joe Strummer…

Oh, I love how 50p spent in a charity shop can take you down a little road of cultural education – an even better way to help you work, rest and play than any piece of chocolate confectionary.

And if you can spot the rather tenuous connection to this, award yourself a Mars Bar (you could even make it a king-size one).

"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer" Albert Camus

Saturday 19 March 2011

A(r)t your service

Just wanted to share this advert, also from a 1967 edition of The Artist.  It’s hard to imagine the government needing so many full-time illustrators in its employ, but it’s rather nice to think that being a Civil Servant could include, for some, the chance to spend their entire working day creating ‘illustrations…posters… magazine layout’ etc.  In my brief spell working in a Civil Service office I seem to remember doing quite a bit of that kind of thing too, but somewhat more surreptitiously… doodled portraits and random sketches on telephone pads were not exactly what I was being paid to do.

courtesy 'The Artist' magazine, volume 73, 1967

To put the starting salary of £653 per year into context, the average house price in the UK in ’67 was a little under £4000, and you could buy a brand new MGB sports car for £960.  And had I been an illustrator for the Civil Service in 1967, my annual pay could have bought me 593 paper dresses, which I might have worn to work (no such thing as the paper-free office then…) as long as I resisted the temptation to doodle portraits and draw random sketches on them – although, thinking about it now, that might have been pretty cool.

Monday 14 March 2011

Talking of rockets…

It’s an embarrassingly tenuous link from the last sentence in my previous post but with the word ‘rocket’ in mind, I just want to share a song that has lodged itself in my brain for now.  I can’t find out much about Rockettothesky at the moment apart from the fact that it’s the name used by 30-year old  Norwegian singer, musician and poet Jenny Hval for some of her output.  I find this particular song, which has been around for at least a couple of years, incredibly haunting and melancholy – it presses the musical buttons in me that make me want to weep and I don’t know why!  But it may sound familiar to you if you’ve seen recent UK TV adverts for Femail, the women’s magazine supplement of the Daily Mail.  I’m certainly no DM reader, but I have to concede to their good taste in rather bizarrely choosing an extract from this song, which seems a million miles away from some of the Femail articles I found online today (on ‘leggings that promise to banish muffin tops’, etc.)

I’m reminded a little of ‘Willow’s Song’ from the excellent film, ‘The Wicker Man’ and I think Jenny’s voice is also in a similar vein to that of Kelli Ali (who, for trivia fans, recorded a version of ‘Willow’s Song’ on her solo album ‘Butterfly’ as well as previously singing it under the title of ‘How Do’ on the Sneaker Pimps’ album, ‘Becoming X’).  I can see this leading to a whole new post about that great film one day - but for now I’ll forego the wicker man, and give you ‘Grizzly Man’ instead.  Tissues at the ready…

Thursday 10 March 2011

How to pack 10 wives in a mini

As well as having some copies of ‘The Artist’ from 1967 I've inherited a couple of editions of the AA’s ‘Drive’ magazine from the same year.  Alongside articles on how far £50 will get you on a continental holiday or how to drive and grow slim (it’s all about the way you sit and how you can exercise your head and shoulders while waiting at traffic lights, apparently    presumably not by leaning out of your window to shout abuse at the driver in front…) plus stylish adverts for the Triumph Herald and the Ford Corsair, I came across this

(courtesy Drive magazine Spring 1967)

So, how do you pack 10 wives into a mini, and why would you want to? (don’t answer that…)

As titles go, it's eye-catching, so I’ve borrowed it.  But all is not as it seems.  Those women pictured are in fact, one and the same (no!!!) and represent the ideal wife who knows how to pack holiday suitcases that take up so little room it won’t force her husband to have to sit on the roof-rack.  In fact they won’t need a roof-rack at all.  Just one suitcase will do.  A suitcase which contains no more than ten items of clothing, each of which can be worn for a different holiday occasion and each of which will ensure that the (one) wife will dazzle and impress and invite much admiration and, well, just do all the things that wives in 1967 were required to do.

Here we have a ‘go-anywhere-at-anytime’ dress made of creaseless Tricel jersey in bright orange, pink and yellow (I think it should be re-titled the ‘be-seen-anywhere-at-anytime’ dress), an evening trouser suit in pink, purple and blue made of ‘silky nylon and acetate jersey’ and a striped motoring jacket with trousers made from ‘Dacron and cotton’.  Tricel?  Acetate?  Dacron?  I love how fabrics were made to sound as synthetic as possible.  Now that we are beckoned by the promise of all things made from natural fibres, organic cottons, real wool from alpacas that have only eaten grass that has never been trodden on by human feet, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day sackcloth and ashes literally become an eco fashion choice (the ashes clearly fit into the recycled category).  Yet back then it seemed the more chemical sounding something was, the better.

But the best is yet to come.  See that groovy green and pink dress, second from left, modelled by our lovely wife-for-all-occasions pretending to be four years old?  It’s made of paper. 

Paper dresses were a short-lived but rather amazing phenomenon of ‘60s fashion.  You can see how the idea caught on at a time when disposable items were so desirable.  In the US, the Scotts Paper Company's advertisers said this about their paper dress, "...Wear it anytime...anywhere.  Won't last forever...who cares?  Wear it for kicks - then give it the air."  

They were cheap (the one in this picture cost 22 shillings, compared to the £5 you’d have to spend on the orange shift dress) so you didn’t even have to wash them - just go out and buy a new one.  If you got bored with it you could throw it away and replace with a different design.  Same goes if it gets creased or damaged – just get another.  . But of course damage was one of the pitfalls.  They did rip easily.  Chemicals – yes, those beloved chemicals – could be added to the paper to make them more fire-resistant, but there were still risks.  On the other hand, if you thought your dress was a bit too long, or a bit too tight around the neck, or you even wanted to make it a little bit saucier with some strategically placed holes, just take a pair of scissors to it and – sorted!  And they were ideal for displaying bright, bold patterns and graphics.  One famous version was called ‘The Souper Dress’ inspired by the Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup can print.  The dress featured Campbell’s red, black and white soup labels in its striking design and was used by them as an advertising campaign. 

Another successful paper dress was made by Hallmark and known as the ‘hostess dress’.  These were created to match their paper party napkins and tablecloths.  Oh, lovely!  (Although I would have thought there was a danger of your guests wiping their fingers on you, greasy from potato puffs and Smiths exciting new salt & vinegar crisps.)

In 1967, such was the delight at how modern and practical paper clothes could be that someone predicted that in 1980 a quarter of all clothing expenditure would be on paper ones.  But then the world of the future seen through 1967 eyes was so different in many ways from our reality.  Speaking of the advantage of paper clothes in years to come, one textile designer even said, "After all, who is going to do laundry in space?"  Presumably not one of the 10 wives he'd have packed in his rocket...

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Playing footsie

If anyone is in need of a little light relief  (I am) and would like a bit of a laugh at my expense, then please come and take a look at my feet…  

Before you ask me to peel off my socks I should explain that I mean the ones below, extracted from my ‘Ideas’ book of late 1982.

The ideas in question were (thankfully) not part of some elaborate ambition to be a shoe designer, so Manolo Blahnik had nothing to fear… but were compiled for a project given to students on the illustration course I was on at the time by the inspiring author, illustrator and poet, Colin McNaughton.  We were all in awe of Colin whose influence was highly motivating, even though then he was yet to impress the world with Preston Pig.  He came along to college once a month or so, and gave us themes to expand upon in any way we liked to help us work on our thought processes and techniques in a totally unrestricted way.  The theme here was (in case you couldn’t guess) ‘shoes’.  By the time we’d explored each subject fully with our minds and our pencils, the pages of our ‘Ideas’ books were full of anarchic scribbles, cuttings, doodles, finished paintings, notes, half-eaten cheese sandwiches, etc.  Some students may have taken them seriously, others abstractly; for me it was playfully.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity for stupid visual puns and corny (especially in this case, and that in itself is corny…) attempts at weird jokes. 

Other subjects we were dealt included 'Christmas', 'sex' and 'faces' (but not 'sex faces'...).  Sex was a good one - I might come back to that later.  Once I’ve taken my socks off.

Now - fancy a song?  A song with shoes in it? 

Monday 7 March 2011

Starkers with Straker

I do like the simple graphic covers for these 1967 editions of The Artist magazine that were given to me a few years ago.  They look quite contemporary, with their lower case titles and the sans-serif typeface, although I suppose all that’s really saying is that a lot of current design trends have been influenced by work from this era.

The magazines aren’t the most exciting or stimulating to look at, but I was intrigued by these adverts in the back pages which seem to offer something indeed very exciting and very stimulating to look at (if you like that kind of thing).

(courtesy The Artist magazine volume 74, 1967)

I love the wording in these ads.  I’m not sure what ‘affective perception’ is, nor quite how one does actually ‘kindle aesthetic experiences that merge a feeling of tomorrow with the pattern of the past’ but it does all sound rather impressive, only to be somewhat let down by the rather more basic line drawing.  Take a look at it in close-up.  There seems to be a good deal of emphasis on a nude female’s rather ample behind and a slightly strange hand gesture from the portly gent in the foreground.  I can only imagine what he’s saying…. “Hey, look what I’ve found, it’s a microcosm of the forces which play upon the mind and emotions of the creative person!  And she does have a lovely arse…”

It seems that Jean Straker (1913-1984) - Jean as in Jean Paul Gaultier, not Jean Shrimpton - was quite a figure in photography circles in the ‘50s and ‘60s, well-known for his prolific depictions of the female nude.  During the Second World War he was a conscientious objector and had a photographic career recording hospital operations (eww), but in 1951 he founded the Visual Arts Club in Soho, where he offered members the chance to participate in anatomical observations of a very different nature in the form of nude photography sessions.  (Presumably it was just the models who were nude.)  His work featured in a (then) notorious book, ‘Nudes Of Jean Straker’ (does what it says on the tin) published in 1958, and whilst he was insistent that his work was pure art and not pornographic, he had trouble convincing the authorities.  Many of his prints were in fact confiscated and he was prosecuted in 1962 under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act.  He naturally argued that his photographs were of ‘artistic value’ but, unlike Penguin Books winning the case over Lady Chatterley’s Lover for it being considered to be of ‘literary merit’, he lost.  Jean went on to campaign for freedom of expression and freedom from censorship in the arts.

One of the most interesting things I discovered about Jean’s work is that he was rather imaginative with his compositions.  His subjects can be seen wrapped in theatrical masks, amongst strange branch-like structures laden with tinsel; in one he pictures his model on a set that includes various items of ironmongery and a bed frame, whilst she wears a skirt made of chicken wire (so not strictly nude, then…)  But my favourite is ‘Nude Study 1963’ where you could be forgiven for thinking that the model is not nude at all.  She is ‘clothed’ in some kind of projection of black with white dots, which make it look as if she is wearing a dark, patterned cat-suit, creating shapes on her body and shadows around her.  The effect is strikingly modern.  (Do look it up - it's on various sites - but I don't wish to reproduce it here due concerns about copyright). Also, rather refreshingly, his prints were not, ahem, touched up. We are reminded too that this was an era before cosmetic surgery.  For all the surrealism of the sets, his subjects were very much real.

Friday 4 March 2011

'Just what I always wanted' / 'Now those days are gone'

The rather incongruous mention of Bucks Fizz of all people in my recent post reminded me of another old picture from around 1982 so I pulled it out from its mouldy plastic sleeve in the portfolio behind the sofa…

Please, please make allowances for me being still in my teens at the time I drew this…and don't look too closely at the hands and feet (of course, now you've read that, you probably will...)

I think I was inspired by the Top Of The Pops video for the Land Of Make Believe single where they get to dress up in several different outfits, some of which were just ridiculously inappropriate, so I was being tongue-in-cheek here by including the very clichéd-looking punk Destroy t-shirt - although I could be wrong, but I’m not resilient enough to sit through the whole video to check if Bobby ever did don such a garment parody-style.  (Just for people who don't know me personally, or on whom any irony may be lost, I was NOT a fan!)

I got really into depicting pop people of the time in rather bizarre ways which may explain this

Whether you were to threaten me with lead piping in the library or not, I just don’t have a clue now why I’ve shown Mari Wilson as a Cluedo character (maybe because she didn't need hands or feet...?), though I think I probably had the intention of creating a whole set of music-related cards for the game one day. And now I think about it, it could include, oh….Dr John, Colonel Abrahams, Professor Green (Yes! That works on two levels!), hmmm…Missy Elliot…?  Mr Mister…?  Then again, perhaps not…

Both Bucks Fizz and Mari Wilson were doing well in the music charts then and somehow these illustrations, amongst others, got me to this stage the following year...

...which was very exciting and I did go down to their Carnaby Street office and met the very nice Art Director who wrote the letter.  I think I got a free cuppa out of it and the thrill of knowing I’d sat on the same loo seat as Siouxsie might once have done -  but nothing else.  The pictures were returned to their plastic sleeves in the portfolio, which has now lived behind several sofas over 27 years, and unsurprisingly never saw the light of day until here, which may explain the mould. 

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Man about the haunted house of horror

Who could possibly resist a 1968 film that contains all (yes, all) of the following:-

swinging London (Carnaby Street)
music by the Pretty Things/Electric Banana
mini-skirts and cut-through dresses
an American teen idol
lots of blood
a seance
actors who were also in ‘Bless This House’ and ‘Get Carter’
Chesney Hawkes’ mum
a gothic mansion
and the star of ‘Man About The House’?

…I couldn’t!

From the moment the excellent, melancholy John Barry-esque theme tune (called ‘The Dark’ by Reg Tilsley) starts up you know you’re in for a bit of a period piece horror treat (and a bit of a laugh, too). ‘The Haunted House of Horror’ (or simply ‘Horror House’ as it was known in the US) is as corny as hell, and to contemporary eyes and ears the acting and dialogue are more hammy than a ham sandwich with extra ham.  It was one of the first slasher movies and after its rather long and fairly slow start when you really wonder if you’re watching the same film whose tagline at the time was 'behind its forbidden doors an evil secret lies', it suddenly gathers pace and gets all Evil Dead on you (or at least a bit Evil Not-Looking-Too-Healthy.)  Deadly weapons are wielded, blood is splattered and screams echo around the dark walls of a deserted Addams Family type mansion.

It does seem like it was trying be all things at once, which should make it fail really but somehow you want to forgive it for trying too hard and let it off for its over-zealousness.   Firstly there are plenty of period references amongst the youthful group of trendy friends in their groovy clothes, the subtext and dialogue hinting gently at various themes of the time like drugs, drink and sexual amorality. The obligatory party scene is lifted from being a rather dull affair by the soundtrack of the Pretty Things in their guise as The Electric Banana.  Great music.

Then there is an element of an Agatha Christie whodunit about it as you find yourself automatically trying to solve the riddle of who the killer might be, looking for clues, motives and wondering about double bluffs.

Whilst very tame there’s a slight undercurrent of sexual tension: one character tries to ditch her stalky (and frankly very creepy) older, married lover, and wants to get it on with one of the group (who is also willing) behind the back of the latter’s rather timid and unadventurous girlfriend.  Another character seems to want to keep her options open, even after the murders have begun, and even with a possible suspect.

Thrown in for good measure too is a scene in a restaurant where an inhouse band are playing something rather groovy, the group is in fact the Jasmin Tea who were an obscure pop band of the time.

And then there’s Carnaby Street, moonlit nights, a ghost story, jealousy, guilt, violence, suspense and… Frankie Avalon!  Yeah, it is perhaps the cast of this film that makes it endearing too.  Frankie looks out-of-place with his clean-cut looks and neatly brushed helmet hair, but his presence probably attracted some extra viewers.  You can also see Richard O’Sullivan before his days as Robin in ‘Man About The House’.  Older members of the cast include Dennis Price (from dozens of  films but, going through the list, I’ll make special mention of ‘Theatre Of Blood’, another great horror flick) and George Sewell, also of course well-known for many films of which one of the best must be ‘Get Carter’.  Going on to play the role of the son in the TV series ‘Bless This House’ a short while later, is Robin Stewart.  Plus Carol Dilworth, who married Len 'Chip' Hawkes from the Tremeloes, was a gameshow hostess on ‘The Golden Shot’ and later gave birth to the one and only Chesney Hawkes.

I also want to make special mention of the beautiful Jill Haworth, who was very striking in this for her acting, which seemed so much more natural, unaffected and believable (however dodgy the script got) than that of her colleagues.  Her character in this stands out too; she is cool and sassy with a nice line in sarcasm.  And great eye make-up.  Jill had a number of acting roles throughout her life, including parts in Burke’s Law, Rawhide and even a stint as Sally Bowles in the stage version of Cabaret which she saw as the peak in her career, but it seems she is mostly remembered for being a ‘scream-queen’ in low budget horror films.  Jill died on 3rd January this year, aged 65.

Finally, a piece of cultural trivia is that the original script was intended to be more psychedelic and that David Bowie was lined up to play a major role, which I think might have worked; it’s not hard to imagine him as the film’s most earnest and enigmatic character, Richard. But apparently there were concerns about Frankie Avalon’s presence in the same film – whilst David would have been the prettiest star, it was thought he might clash with the young American.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Shoes and handbags?

I’m not a shoes and handbags kinda woman at all, in spite of having a bit of a fetish for nice boots (as posted earlier), but I was going through my old portfolio again and came across these pictures I’d drawn in 1981 which reminded me of just what kind of shoes and handbags I possessed at the time.  So I’m just going to indulge that memory for a moment. 

The shoes were unearthed in a charity shop (naturally) and were possibly ‘60s.  Very uncomfortable of course (probably the wrong size to be honest but how we suffer for our art…)  And the handbag I remember well for being fabulously tacky with its silky leopard-print panel and the rest in shiny black patent  (clearly something of a penchant for shiny black patent has stayed with me since.)  Note the cigarette box poking out – Silk Cut by the look of it – I didn’t smoke for long but it was one of those things that so many students in my year seemed to do.  We even had a pet name for them:-  ‘oolies’ (not ‘oilies’ as in ‘oily rags: fags’ but definitely ‘oolies’ for some reason).  The college stairwells and lobbies used to stink of our Silk Cut and Rothmans, and occasionally something stronger too. (In the studios themselves, the smell of fixative spray and cow gum was enough to give you more than any nicotine or herbal high.)

Fashion-wise this was a great era for an impoverished student (though I was fortunate to be undertaking further education at a time when grants were the norm. Yes, we were actually given money to study and we didn't have to pay it back...)  I’d moved on from being predominantly punk by that time (and the patience it takes to put egg-white in your hair every day runs out eventually) - enjoying a wider range of music and clothes, the latter mostly being hunted out from charity shops which at that time were a fantastic and exceptionally cheap source of unusual old items, because so few people were interested in anything vaguely vintage or anti-fashion, it seemed.  And they didn’t have that overpowering smell of industrial-strength washing powder then, either…  I remember finding a black and pink dress with a  scenes of Paris print on it (oh, how I’d love that now) and with hair up in a Pebbles-type top-knot, (minus the bone – although chicken bones did feature a short while later during the tribal/goth/Southern Death Cult years, to be expanded on another time perhaps), lacy tights, the snakeskin slingbacks, plenty of black eye make-up, a plastic ring from a Christmas cracker and an old man’s cardigan to top it all off, the overall look must have been not unlike one of Diane Arbus’ photographic subjects or an extra from 'Summer Holiday' who'd got dressed in the dark.   Great escapism in a year remembered for (amongst many other unsavoury things) Peter Sutcliffe, the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, and Bucks Fizz winning the Eurovision Song Contest…

I was probably listening to this at the time too…

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