After I had recently read Peter Doyle’s Get Rich Quick (see Day #64/365a) and its tales of goings on during and around the Australian tour when Little Richard renounced rock’n'roll and turned to another form of transcendence via religion, I found myself searching, researching and wandering through the life and work of that particular “War Hawk”, Mr Richard Wayne Penniman.
One of the things that’s fascinating looking back at the be-pomped Little Richard in the 1950s is just how transgressive and beyond the norm he seems even today.
At a time when society could still be shocked to its core by a hairstyle and mode of dress, its hard to imagine how much this particular gent must have worried the “squareheads” (to quote Peter Doyle / Australian slang of the time).
How times have changed.
To quote a certain co-wrecker of civilisation and post-Penniman worrier of society Mr Genesis P. Orridge:
“I think something very smart happened a few years ago. There’s no need to make anything the enemy anymore.
If you don’t make anything the enemy then you can accept it back as activity that can feed into your powerstructure – you co-opt everything and everyone.
Not only do you not have to waste time controlling people, but you also defuse the problem and make more money. Everything could be subverted by commerce and fashion and logos.”
But really, I think I should leave the final word or two to Mr Penniman:
If you should not know, Earls of Suave were a suave, escapee Elvis, garage-esque-a-billy band that graced stages and vinyl in the early 1990s.
Amongst their ranks they variously included a number of former and future members of Gallon Drunk, The Flaming Stars, The Stingrays, Thee Headcoats and Thee Headcoatees and could almost be considered a prototype gathering for a combo yet to arrive.
There’s something more than a little iconic about these covers – particularly A Cheat – and they may well have shared a pre-burlesque-shimmy-and-shake-revival, tumbling forward in time with the gals that grace the sleeves of the Las Vegas Grind albums (see Day #38/365a).
Have a goggle at some relatively rare flickerings and screaming here.
I recently perused one of the 1965 biographical films of Jean Harlow – the one with future cult and sometime John Waters favourite Carroll Baker as Ms Harlow (there were two released on the same day, with the same name back when).
I suspect(!) it plays a little fast and loose with the facts of the story but it’s a fine piece of techicolor blonde bombshell-ness and eyecandy nonetheless
Although made in the 1965s, it feels more like 1950s, Marilyn Monroe era glamour – putting me in mind of our own hurricane in mink, Diana Dors.
Ms Baker looks almost more Harlow-esque than Jean Harlow herself, something of a personification of back in the day swish and silk glamour and the film seems almost like a hyper-real simulacra that had tumbled forward in time rather than something that was created in the Swinging Sixties.
I first heard Marc Almonds album Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters a fair few years ago now when it first was sent out (escaped?) into the world.
I would have loved to have seen the faces of the record company executives when this chap they had signed who had hit the pop chart topspots with previous records presented a dramatic, diva-filled, late night, Spanish themed album named after the art of onanism; an album with a Jean Genet inspired pop-but-disturbing transgressive video for its “hit” single (directed by Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson of Coil and Throbbing Gristle), all accompanied by homo-erotic Cocteau-esque illustrations of sailors.
And I suspect Afterhours may well have a fair few roots in this album and indeed the work of Marc Almond back when; for a while hisself and his work felt like Soho and heart of town neon alleyway shennanigans encapsulated and this album in particular sums up the sense and spirit of a certain late night dissoluteness which I can trace forwards to today and my own work.
Mother Fist connects to his kohl-eyed bedsit-land Soft Cell era music but it’s wandered off somewhere more… mature, sophisticated, elegant but still a body of work that plays with the theatre (and actuality?) of sleaze.
I’m not knocking Soft Cell here, that would be fighting talk around these parts, as they’re one of those times when pop allows in something not quite normal or it has one of it’s Mutant Moments I suppose but Mother Fist was an evolution of a world and cultural view from somebody who was out to explore rather than retread.
Marc Almond’s site is here.
That pop-but-unsettling video to Ruby Red can be viewed here.
Peruse the album in its various forms here.
Well I could use the phrase femme fatale to describe the gals that inhabit her paintings and world but… I don’t think it would quite suffice. It wouldn’t capture their utter hardboiled, tough talking, (killer) high-heeled attitude.
The book Hollywood in Kodachrome captures a point in time when film stars were presented as existing in an almost otherly human, elsewhere atmosphere than day-to-day folk (suitably, one chapter is titled When Godesses Roamed The Earth).
Here the use of a particular film stock presents them in surreal, saturated colour (reflecting the use of vivd, sometimes beyond real Technicolor in the cinema).
There is an almost surreal element to them and their composition; these are images from a grown-ups never-never land of flowing white satin gowns and impossible glamour.
Of more recent photographers, who would I compare them with? Well, if Pierre et Gilles were to meet David Lachapelle in an imagined 1940s Hollywood dreamland, well, that may well be heading in the general direction.
Although they are taken by a variety of photographers – George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull, John Engestead, Paul Hesse, Ernest Bachrach, Bernard of Hollywood, Robert Coburn, Ray Jones, Bud Fraker, Frank Powolny and Eugene Robert Richee amongst others – there seems to be a uniformity of vision to them and the book appears nearer to a fine art photography monograph than a collection of commercial photography taken from a variety of sources.
Quite frank lovely stuff. But a glance at one or a few of the photographs is a seductive invite or welcome to another world.
Along which lines, from the book itself / Arthur Miller:
“Glamour, that transhuman aura or power to attract imitation, is a kind of vessel into which dreams are poured… A beautiful woman can turn heads but real glamour has a deeper pull…”
It’s not that Das Phantom Von Soho, hailing from Germany is 1964, is necessarily a great film but it was/is a particular reference point for Afterhours in the way that it imagined the streets and back alley joints of Soho at the time, particularly in the early part of the film.
In similar way that the teenagers in Karlheinz Weinberger’s photographs could be said to have “created their own version of rock’n’roll that made you think they had only ever experienced the original source via an out of tune radio”, this was a vision of Soho two or three steps removed, a sideways glance and reimagining of its stories and mythology via representations in film, fiction and tabloid salaciousness.
An English translation of the background on the film courtesy of an ether robot.
Peruse the relatively recent release of the film (and its somewhat prurient / misleading cover) here.
There is a certain, very British understated (dour?) glamour and sense of kitchen sink-esque escapism to a proper cafe. Greasy spoon sounds derogative but essentially that’s what I’m thinking of – your well-kept, well run greasy spoon cafe.
Along such lines; Edwin Heathcoate and Sue Barr’s London Caffs book is a collection of formal photographic portraits and text overview of such cafes.
The books feels like a time capsule, a recording of establishments that have stood against the march of time; formica, tiling and silvered hot water geysers resoluteness.
In and around London’s Soho you used to find (and still occasionally find) such places – often they had a sense of deep rootedness, that their Mediterranean owners had been running them as a family business for more than a generation or two.
Looking through London Caffs recently, the pages seem to open of their own accord to a cafe where the light was a little more golden, the magic a little more present.
Not unsurprisingly, this was The New Picadilly, the art house of such things. I use that phrase as these cafes, their rituals, ambience and so forth could represent a certain kind of folk art.
There is / was a sense of pride to the workmanship of running good cafes along these lines, a certain artistry.
Sometimes such leanings would be more pronounced, more overt than in other cafes. Soho and its nearby environs seemed to house a number of these, classic cafes as it were and The New Picadilly was one such place.
Here (and inside other similar fellow travellers) that workmanship / artistry stepped over into a particular kind of flamboyance or showmanship, an obdurate tradition or ritualism to how your cup of tea and slices of bread and butter would be prepared, served and bantered amongst.
It is now gone, departed under the feet of progress. Which brings me back to the London Caffs book and the sense of it being a historic snapshot.
This was pertinent when the book was published in 2004 and I suspect even more so now as an increasing number of such traditional cafes and their ways have disappeared.
Visit traces of The New Picadilly at Classic Cafes here (which is also home to a not dissimilar book by Adrian Maddox and a fine resource on such things).
Peruse London Caffs here.
This photo from the cover of Tom Waits Small Change album I think captures a certain something just about right – a kind of dissolute, lowlife, in the gutter, earlyhours of the morning, when did my life disappear off the end of a barstool-ness.
It has Mr Tom Waits in fine boho/hobo fettle and quite possibly the future Elvira-Mistress Of The Dark Cassandra Peterson.
I say quite possibly because the lady herself has this to say on the subject:
“I’ve stared at it really, really hard, and I’m pretty sure it’s me” and attributes such not quite sure-ness to something of a life lived during the 1970s.
Anyways, Mr Tom Waits, a tip of the hat to you sir.
PS A couple of escapee outtakes from the above mentioned shoot, that I’ve only recently stumbled upon:
Peruse the album here.