Wednesday, 22 October 2014

See no evil

My Dog Sighs, Bristol, October 2014

A lot of fuss on social media and the national press about a new piece of graffiti in Bristol today.  Apparently it was for a new Banksy but much more interestingly there's a new My Dog Sighs.  This is the stuff.  Just look at the detail. 

#Bristolcan Hug, My Dog Sighs, 2013

 It isn't the first time MDS has hit Bristol, there's been a big Hug down near the docks since Upfest 2013.

 Banksy, Girl with the Pierced Eardrum, Bristol, October 2014

The new Banksy is a puzzler, inasmuch as it doesn't say anything.  Usually there's a message, or a joke.  In fact a Banksy is generally a one liner - you look, you see the clever, you feel smug because you "get it" and you move on.  Ideal for table mats.  But there's no joke here, no story, no messsage.  Perhaps he thought by having something neutral it wouldn't get defaced like Art Buff or erased by the council like the Clacton piece.  No such luck Banksy. It had a tin of paint chucked over it within 24 hours.  Unless he did it himself and it is part of the work.

Perhaps the significance will become apparent later.  Another question is why there? It's quite tucked away (you need to go round the back of the SS Great Britain and you'll find it in a kind of alcove.  It would be quite easy to walk by without noticing).  Although it's not quite as hidden as it first appears. You can see it from the other side of the river.  And from the top of the hill opposite.

Here's a couple of classic Banksy pieces from Bristol.

The best piece of street art in Bristol today is probably this piece by DANK:

Neon Knights, DANK (Dan Kitchener), Bristol, 2014

And here's a couple of other pieces in Bristol by DANK.

OK - one more quick look at some detail of My Dog Sighs Bristol piece.

My Dog Sighs, detail

Upfest, North Road, Bedminster, the beating heart of Bristol's stree art scene. Plus gorilla by Cheo.

Kopsky, collab with Cheo, Bedminster, October 2014

Cheo & Kopsky, North St Bedminster, Bristol, October 2014, 
Finally, a little tag from Southampton looking over the Avon.

 tag, Jip, Bristol

Saturday, 18 October 2014

and there it was, gone

One of street art's attractions is its epheremality.  It pops up in the night, blossoms for a short time and then gets painted over, maybe by a council worker with a tub of whitewash, maybe by another graffiti artist.  Catching it while it's there is part of the attraction, knowing you're seeing something that not everyone is going to get to see.  Just seeing them makes us part of the process, like hearing a tree falling in the forest.  If we didn't see it perhaps it wouldn't have happened.  Photographing it, blogging it takes it a stage further: puts it out in the world for all to see.  Part of the process.

Here are three amazing pieces, from a subway in Southampton UK, photos taken a couple of weeks ago.

Lark 37, Southampton

Samer, Southampton

 Samer, Southampton

That last one, including the tags that partly cover it, might just be my favourite piece of street art.  Look at it today:

An entirely pointless piece of graffiti.  Vandalism.  And look at Lark's piece:

Why? Oh, why?

Samer's other piece is underneath this tag.  That's ok, that's the natural cut & thrust of things.  But those other two, pffffnrrrggggggggggg.  If you're gonna go over a piece, leave something better.

Here's a couple more by Samer in Portsmout.  Samer may be from Basingstoke, may have gone to university in Portsmouth and gets down to Southampton every now and again.

Samer, Portsmouth, 2013

Samer, Portsmouth, 2013

And finally, here's a long gone Lark 37 tag:

Lark 37, Southampton, 2014

Monday, 13 October 2014

Art buff

"It's not even comfortable"
"It's art, it's supposed to make you feel uncomfortable"

 the pavillion of dreams 

day of radiance

on land

 the plateau of mirror

the sinking of the titanic

decay music

tin can puppy

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Never Knowingly Undersold

Big business doesn't need any help from me advertising its wares but this set of adverts currently to be seen on hoardings and in newspapers around Southampton is worth sharing.  The images reflect the city's maritime tradition and mimics the art used to market that tradition.  They're by Adam & Eve who also don't need my help

Have a closer look.

Lipstick vogue

Shine a light

Baby Cheeses

Coming from Merseyside Lewis's holds a special place in my psyche.  Going over to Liverpool on the ferry, visiting Lewis's (and Phillip Son & Nephew) on a Saturday afternoon with Auntie Annie.  Why, I can't remember.  Lewis's had the Christmas Grotto and a statue exceedingly bare. I never did understand Lewis's claim to be "never knowingly undersold" (.) We also use to go in Frank Hessey's music shop. And finish off in Reece's in Clayton Square.  Auntie Annie was a good Christian woman, with nary a bad thought in her head.  She loved all God's creatures except pigeons which she hated with a vengeance.  Bless.
Edit: Liverpool Lewis's had nothing to do with John Lewis Partnership. Thanks anonymous commentor. I've lived down south for half a lifetime and always assumed . . . it must have been George Henry Lee's claim to be never knowingly undersold. The same slogan was in Tyrrell & Green's here in Southampton before T&G closed and became John Lewis in West Quay where they still claim NKU.

Friday, 3 October 2014

1973 - as usual

I guess that the youth of today feel that the new music of today is the best music that has ever been. You and I know that's not true.  The music from when we were teenagers was far better. I find it strange reading books about music written by people a few years older or a few years younger than me.  They either say that the music died when the Beatles split (Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head) or punk did nothing and it wasn't until the 80's that music got going again (Bob Stanley, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah; Simon Reynolds, Rip it up and Start Again).  A couple of years age difference is a rock and roll generation gap.  In 1975 NME ran a big retrospective of Jim Morrison by Nick Kent.  To my 14 year old mind the late Lizard King was a relic of an ancient past - he'd only been dead four years but was definitely of a previous generation.

It's interesting to look at the rise and fall of The Doors cool ratings.  In The Beginning their cool quotient was high: they looked good, they were great musicians; songs like Light My Fire, The End, When the Music's Over had an epic grandeur.  The first couple of albums had a great mix of pop, jazz, blues, rock, poetry, mysticism, magic. The men don't know but the little girl understands. But they were too pop for the heads and they were too weird for the pop kids and Jim was a bit of a prat.  Thinking about it, I reckon by the third album most people thought of Jim Morrison the way we think of Bono - the God complex overshadows the talent. So the cred was gone. The Soft Parade had its moments but LA Woman was a dull blues bar band.  Although some people liked it.  Morrison went off to find himself, lost himself and died July 1971. Good for sales for a while but over a four period the Doors had gone from Great White Hopes to pretentious has-beens and back a couple fo times.  Forgotten men until 1975 and rehabilitated by Jerry Hopkins' No One Gets Out of Here Alive, An American Prayer and the NME Nick Kent article.  The Doors and the Velvet Underground were the only 60s bands it was ok to like in the late 70s.  And then Oliver Stone's movie, based on Hopkins' book, killed the dream.  The Doors stock plummeted.  Perhaps Ollie would like to make a film about Bono.

None of which has anything to do with 1973.  For anyone my age (plus or minus one or two years) 1973 was the beginning of the greatest period of recorded music, a period which lasted right up until roundabout 1979.  The transition from pop music to rock music (or singles to albums) was easy then. From the Chinnichap brigade - Sweet, Suzi Quatro - it was a small step to Bowie and Roxy Music.  From Bowie to Lou Reed to the Velvets, from Roxy to No Pussyfooting to King Crimson . . .  And the voyage of discovery . . . going to Earlston Library to borrow records.  Working through all the rock albums (there weren't that many) and  moving on to Mahavishnu John McLaughlin and Devadip Carlos Santana and some truly astonishing music.  Being spoilt listening to John McLaughlin at the age of 12 - I could never be impressed by guitar histrionics after that.  After that it was always about the song, not the clever dickery.

So, the stand out song of 1973 - what was it?  Has to be Life on Mars.  Pop music didn't get any better than Life on Mars.  The song was a couple of years old (came out on Hunky Dory) but was released as a single in 1973.  The accompanying video showed the Man Who Fell to Earth - he was a lad insane, he was the starman, laying down some rock n roll, he had your mother in a whirl (she wasn't sure if he was a boy or a girl).  Life on Mars, the song, the video, the perfomer - all have an other worldly feel.  This ain't rock n roll - this is  . . .

The song has the same chord sequence as My Way, which is why Hunky Dory's sleeve notes say "inspired by Frankie".  Or more accurately the song is based on Comme d'Habitude. There will be more on this, courtesy of Mme Akriche soon!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

1972 (part two) you won't fool the children of the revolution

1972 The story so far: At the age of ten, lured in by the shiny bait of Elvis' Hollywood movies, hooked by Heartbreak Hotel and reeled in by the corporate bods at RCA I became Elvis' biggest fan.  Fairly obsessive.  OK, completely obsessive.  33 movies? Saw them all. I had a copy of the Elvis Monthly Annual which listed every album, every single, every song he'd recorded.  I started ticking them off.  I collected singles, albums, eps, copies of Elvis Monthly.  I'm not ashamed of it.  If you've got to be obsessive about a musical hero then Elvis was about as good as it got. 

But Elvis was only half of my burgeoning obsession with music.  The other half was Everything Else.  Because of Elvis I wanted to hear more old school rock 'n' roll.  Because Elvis might be in the charts I had to watch Top of the Pops.  Because I might find another cheapo Camden album I had to go through all the racks in all the record shops.

It's all about broadening horizons.  One step at a time. 

If you look at the top 100 songs of 1971 there's a fair few good songs.  I know most of the top 24 but after that it starts gettting a bit vaguer and even if I know the songs I learned them later on. If you look at the top 100 songs of 1972 it is a whole different story.  I know every one of them.  The split is quite clear.  Songs from 1971 and before were songs that already existed. Even now they look old. Songs from 1972 and after were new. 

T Rex had hits in 1971 with Ride a White Swan and Get It On.  They were from before my time.  In 1972 T Rex had hits with Metal Guru, Telegram Sam and Children of the Revolution.  These were NOW.  Nobody had heard pop/rock music before.  NOW it was happening.

School's Out, Mama We're All Crazee Now, Silver Machine, All the Young Dudes, Virginia Plain, Stay With Me,  even Rocket Man and Crocodile Rock.  Sure there were Osmonds (Crazy Horses kicks ass), David Cassidy and Michael Jackson, but they were for girls.  I didn't need to worry about them.

I think it is worth looking at the whole list.  This could take a while.

01           Nilsson                                                 Without You
02           Royal Scots Dragoon Guard             Amazing Grace
03           Donny Osmond                                  Puppy Love
04           The New Seekers                              I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing
05           Lieutenant Pigeon                           Mouldy Old Dough
06           Chuck Berry                                        My Ding-A-Ling
07           T Rex                                                     Metal Guru
08           Neil Reid                                              Mother Of Mine
09           Chicory Tip                                          Son Of My Father
10           Don McLean                                       American Pie
A bit of everything there.  Nilsson for the mums, the bagpiping Royal Scots Guards for the dads (I bought my Dad the album for Christmas), the New Seekers for the advertising world (coke adds life where there wasn't any before), a couple of novelty songs for the kids, T Rrex for those of us who knew where it was at. I really don't remember Neil Reid, but I'm guessing that was a Christmas or Mother's Day hit.  Chicory Tip were a band form rock's second division, punching above their weight (like Southampton beating Man Utd in the FA Cup) but bugger me they're still going and you can go see them on Sunday afternooon at the Dog and Duck at Plucks Gutter near Canterbury.  Call 01843 821542 and tell 'em the Corn Poppy sent you.  Looking through their gig diary I see they're playing just up the road from me in May! Date for my diary!   
And at Number 10, pop pickers, American Pie.  Everyone thinks they know American Pie. Some people sing along to the chorus. I understood it held the keys to the kingdom.  I knew what day the music died (February 3rd 1959), I knew who wrote the Book of Love (the Monotones) because it was on the That'll be the Day soundtrack (which came out in 1973).  I even understood how and why the jester stole the thorny crown from the king as he was looking down.  This was a history lesson; this was the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, this was the Rosetta Stone, this was a not only an historical overview it placed things in a cultural perspective and a personal narrative.  I believed in rock and roll and, yes, music can save your mortal soul.  Can't teach you how to dance real slow though. Not without standing on your feet.

1972 - that's the way it is

In the summer of 1972 BBC 2 showed a series of Elvis films every Tuesday teatime.  It might not have been Tuesday.  It might not have been Summer 1972.  Perhaps it wasn’t BBC 2 at 6 pm, but that’s the way I remember it.  These films were bright, shiny, empty, beaty, big and bouncy, much like the gallery PopArt of the Sixties.  They looked good but there was nothing behind the fa├žade.  Elvis didn’t really go to Acapulco, London or Hawaii; he was on a sound stage in Hollywood, knocking out three movies a year, taking three weeks over each.  There is an echo of Warhol’s silk screen rationale – bashing out product as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Don’t worry if the ink runs or the colour is too bleached or too much – we like it like that.  For the critics it is a commentary on the vacuity of modern life; for the viewer (of Elvis film or Warhol print) it is bright, shiny, empty, beaty, big and bouncy.

Elvis, Andy Warhol, 1963

Of course Warhol covered Elvis who was as American as a Coke Bottle or a serial killer.  There was a show at the Ferus Gallery in 1965 alongside multiple portraits of Elizabeth Taylor.  It didn’t go down that well.  Warhol wrote:

it was thrilling to see the Ferus Gallery with the Elvises in the front room and the Lizes in the back. Very few people on the (West) Coast knew or cared about contemporary art, and the press for my show wasn't too good. I always have to laugh, though, when I think of how Hollywood called Pop Art a put-on! Hollywood ?? I mean when you look at the kind of movies they were making then — those were supposed to be real???' 

Elvis, Flaming Star publicity still, 20th Century Fox, 1960

Warhol used a still from the movie Flaming Star, one of Elvis’ few “serious” films.  There were almost no songs in it, apart from the title track.  A song he sang to the Injuns round the campfire was dropped after it raised a round of laughter at a test screening.  The relative failure of Flaming Star against the much brighter, shinier, emptier, beatier, bigger and bouncier GI Blues released a few weeks earlier meant that Elvis stopped doing serious films.  (Note for pedants: Wild in the Country was already in production).

Being ten years old I didn't worry about all that.  All I knew was that I loved the songs and it was a shame the story got in the way.  Before long I was sitting there each Tuesday evening with a cassette machine and microphone, recording the songs.

At the age of 10 I became a fully fledged record buyer.  The first were all Elvis.  First single, first EP, first cheapo album, first proper album.     The first single was I Just Can’t Help Believing.  A schmaltzy ballad for sure but quality all the way.  Bought at Rumbelows in Wallasey, a white goods shop, selling fridges and washing machines. And Phonograms. And records. You could listen to the records in listening booths, basically sheets of hardboard full of holes with a speaker behind.  They used to get shirty if you asked to hear more than one record.  They didn't have much of a range either.

The first ep was actually a maxi single.  There were two released at the same time.  My mate bought one which featured Jailhouse Rock, Teddy Bear, Are You Lonesome Tonight and a stray called Steadfast, Loyal and True.   I bought the other which featured Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog and Don’t Be Cruel.  Heartbreak Hotel was classic and futuristic, far more progressive than the pop music of 1972.  All music from then on was measured against this yardstick. 

The first cheapo album was on RCA Camden called I Got Lucky. 
Never found a four leaf clover to bring good luck to me,
no rabbits foot, no lucky star, no magic wishing tree
but I got lucky (I got lucky)
yeah I got lucky (I got lucky)
when I found you. 

There were a whole series of Camden albums which had a (relatively) good lead track on each side followed by four or five clunkers.  And the first proper full price album, That’s The Way It Is. 

From Elvis I started to explore Rock n Roll.  The following season's BBC 2 teatime movies were Jerry Lewis films.  I watched the season waiting in vain for Great Balls of Fire.  Apparently that was another Jerry Lewis.