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  • Get Rich Quick; Peter Doyle and Antipodean hidden histories

    Get Rich Quick-Peter Doyle-Afterhours Sleaze and DignityNow, I suspect this is a bit Western/Europe culturally centric of me but until quite recently I’d not ever really thought of Afterhours-esque culture and subculture in Australia back in the day.

    Peter Doyle’s work is one of the things that has changed that, in particular his collections of photographs from the Sydney Police archives – City Of Shadows / Crooks Like Us and more recently his first fiction book Get Rich Quick.

    It’s a book set in the early to later 1950s, just pre and during the explosion of rock and roll and concerns itself with a (curiously likeable considering he’s actually something of a toerag) chap called Billy Glasheen who is variously a dance organiser, scammer, bagman and tour manager for visiting rock’n'roll acts.

    Along the way the book mixes fact and fiction and weaves in amongst the semi-hidden histories of Australia in a way that put me in mind of writing by Jake Arnott, Cathi Unsworth and maybe also Anthony Frewin in his London Blue or even a touch of David Peace (although a somewhat lighter/easier read than the last chaps fictions).

    …one of the highlights of the book is the telling of Mr Glasheen’s “keeping the wheels greased” on the famous/infamous tour where Little Richard renounced rock’n'roll and looked towards god; it captures the excitement of a moment in time when everything began to change in the face of the old guard and the bodgies and widgies (sort of Australian slang at the time for male and female juvenile delinquents / Elvis-esque proto-rock’n'rollers / rockabillys / teenagers) music and style began to go mainstream.

    Visit Crooks Like Us / City Of Shadows around these parts at
    Day #34/365a.

    Visit the collection of photographs here and here. Peruse the books and Peter Doyle’s fiction work here.

     

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  • Horst Friedrichs Or Glory: 21st Century Rockers and the custodians / carrying forwards of myths

    Horst Friedrichs-Or Glory-21st Century Rockers-Prestel books-Lewis Leathers-photography book-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-4b
    Horst Friedrichs Or Glory: 21st Century Rockers photography book focuses on a contemporary vintage inspired culture, one which although it arrives from a similar 1950s to early 1960s era as teds and rockabilly is possibly less well known, conspicuous or possibly easily/fully defined.

    The photographs I’m drawn to in particular are the ones where there is a grand, almost mythical take on the classic British biker/rocker; a distilling, refining and carrying forwards of ton-up boy, Ace Cafe style from back when.

    Horst Friedrichs-Or Glory-21st Century Rockers-Prestel books-Lewis Leathers-photography book-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-b

    They put me in mind of a Morrissey-esque imaginary landscape populated by the characters of the 1964 film The Leather Boys; a subculture that belongs more to the roadside cafe than the nightclub, more a cup of hot tea than a night on the tiles.

    Although these are photographic portraits of the “real” world, they also remind me of Nick Clement’s work and his simulacra of other eras (see here at Afterhours or elswhere in the ether here); as in his photographs there is something very precise and considered about the style and the details – not a million miles removed in that sense from their subcultural folklore opposites, mods, in a way.

    The Rockers clothing and style is often utilitarian in purpose or origin but this sits alongside a totemic use or value of it as signifiers of a particular mindset, lifestyle and sometimes group membership.

    Great Britain/England /Or Glory 21st Century Rockers Great Britain/England /Or Glory 21st Century Rockers

    Though, rather than mod, the contemporary rocker style shown in Or Glory may be nearer to the Japanese word otaku and its association with obsessive interest and detail…

    Along which lines, visit Horst Friedrichs at fellow re-creators and custodians of past motorcyle/rocker styles, Lewis Leathers here.

    Visit Horst Friedrichs site here and the Or Glory book at its publishers Prestel here and elsewhere
    here.

     

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  • Mojo (1997) – a lost document of a lost Soho…

    Mojo-1997 film-Jez Butterworth

    It’s a curious thing the 1997 film Mojo.

    It was based on Jez Butterworth’s play of the same name – indeed he directed the film.

    Mojo-1997 film-Andy Serkis-Jez ButterworthSet in 1950s Soho, all rival night club owners, coffee bar rock’n'roll discoveries and early Gallon Drunk-esque quiffery/brylcream (well, in intention at least – Aiden Gillen looks somewhat contemporaneous and out of place). All the elements are their and it’s something of a curio but if memory serves correctly it doesn’t quite gel and deliver that, well, Soho period glamour and grime in the requisite manner. Shame really.

    I say if memory serves because I remember seeing it at the cinema when it came out and perusing the soundtrack around the same time…

    …and since, apart from a TV showing it seems to have more or less disappeared from view and apart from a dubbed Italian video (renamed Soho) I don’t think it’s been sent out into the world on shiny discs and the like.

    Mojo-1997 film soundtrack-Jez ButterworthAnd talking of the soundtrack – it’s a curious thing. A mixture of indie pop of various shades (St Etienne, Warm Jets, Beth Houghton), sometimes Soho habitue Marc Almond, a touch of jazz, American mondo R&B (J.J. Jackson & The Jackaels – Ooh Ma Liddi), doowop-esque crooning from The Skyliners and most curiously for me a collaboration by Nick Cave & Gallon Drunk on the once upon a time Toni Fisher “smash hit” The Big Hurt.

    Although Gallon Drunk in various ways and forms have crossed paths with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (sharing a stage, James Johnston playing with the band at various points, Terry Edwards playing on Where The Wild Roses Grow and so on), I think this is the only time that the two conjoined in such a way and so the soundtrack has tended to stick in the old mind.

    The Big Hurt original here. Mr Cave and Messrs Johnston etc here. The (redubbed?) trailer. A few traces in the ether: Portobello Pictures.

    Peruse the soundtrack here.

     

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  • Drink Me, Eat Me: The seduction and wish to flee of Eugenio Recuenco’s never-never land…

    Eugenio Recuenco-Revue-teNeues Verlag-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-1

    If David Lachapelle’s best known work is a kind of beyond real reimagining of the here and now, Eugenio Recuenco’s is its parallel world brethren from a never-never land that belongs to a previous time that you can’t quite define…

    Eugenio Recuenco-Revue-teNeues Verlag-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2

    I could well draw a line of connections between David Lachapelle’s, Eugenio Recuenco’s and Erwin Olaf’s work – they share some aesthetic and positional similarities; all exist in an imaginary world and land that mixes/draws from commercial fashion photography, high-end almost Hollywood-esque production values, fine art photography that moves away from the more gritty, social realist, documentary side of such things.

    Eugenio Recuenco-Revue-teNeues Verlag-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-3

    It’s this sequence in particular that I love of Eugenio Recuenco’s work; set in some imaginary hotel from a not quite definable past (1920s-1930s-meets a touch of 1970s glamour-esque?) and creates a world where Vanessa Paradis’ other world sister has booked a room in this plush, velvet, Disney-gone-rather-dark fantasy; all clockwork villains, wax like staff, keyhole peepers and bath time on the roof accompanied by your very own jazz trio…

    …dreamlike, seductive and somewhere that makes me both want to visit and escape – as may well do all good fairy tales.

    (Looking at the work again I can see a touch of the previous era decadence, style and glamour of Biba, maybe a smidgeon of Blue Velvet/last episode of Twin Peaks era David Lynch and talking of fairy tales, Alice’s adventures down the well and through the looking-glass.)

    Eugenio Recuenco-Revue-teNeues Verlag-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-4

    If you have the pennies, there is a rather fine and grand 300 page collection of his work called Revue. Visit that at its publisher teNeues Verlag here and peruse it here.

    Visit Eugenio Recuenco’s site here and photographs from this particular sequence here.

     

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  • The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and the converse glamour of a dash or more of seediness…

    The Spy Who Came In From The Cold-1965-Richard Burton-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity

    “They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me. Little men, drunkards, queers, henpecked husbands… civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives…” Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold / England Sandwich by Earl Brutus.

    Although the film was released in 1965, this laserdisc cover to The Spy Who Came In From The Cold seems as though it could well belong to – or at least be a precursor of – Richard Burton’s work in the 1970s such as Villain, when he could lend his roles an air of bitter, corrupt, seediness (and indeed where the films themselves seem heavy with an air of such things).

    Although more overtly bitter, in a way his work at this time reminds me of Robert Mitchum in the 1970s in The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (and possibly The Big Sleep – see Day #10/365a / Farewell My Lovely – see Day #3/365a) – the same sense of tiredness, of world weariness, of a man who knows somewhere deep down that his fingerholds are nolonger there…

    Which brings me back to seediness, the converse/curious glamour it can have and this quote:

    “Seediness has a very deep appeal… It seems to satisfy, temporarily, the sense of nostalgia for something lost; it seems to represent a stage further back…” Graham Greene, Journey Without Maps – stumbled upon I expect via the writing of Retromania author Simon Reynolds.

    Peruse the current day sending forth of the film here.

     

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  • Roswell Angier, American Suburb X, showgirls and a certain rogueishness…

    a kind of life-conversations in the combat zone-roswell angier-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity

    For a fair while I was somewhat obsessed with a handful of images from Roswell Angier’s 1976 photography book/project “…a kind of life”: conversations in the combat zone.

    a kind of life-conversations in the combat zone-roswell angier-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2

    a kind of life-conversations in the combat zone-roswell angier-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-3The top two on this page in particular seemed to capture a certain kind of afterhours rogueish that I wanted to, well, capture with my own Afterhours photography/work and they also put me in mind of Mr Joe Whitney’s photograph from outside portal that was The Black Gardenia in Soho, London (see Day #15/365a).

    (Although I’ve tended to work more in amongst a kind of imaginitive theatre of such things whereas  ”…a kind of life” is actually a very raw examination of showgirls and others lives amongst the underbelly of a certain area of Boston in the US.)

    The photograph below puts me in mind of David Lynch’s work around the time of Blue Velvet (see Day #24/365a) and Twin Peaks – one of those times when life seems to have crossed over into a beyond real story (see Day #13/365a).

    a kind of life-conversations in the combat zone-roswell angier-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-4View more on  ”…a kind of life” at American Suburb X here and here – well worth a wander for a particular take on fine art photography that draws me in while also often having a not-quite-definable transgressive and seediness to it.

    Although now long out of print, you could purchase the book via here or indeed through the ways and wiles of modern technology you can view the whole thing at ExposedtoLight.

    (PS Tread carefully when viewing those links – as I said a moment ago, this is life somewhat in the raw).

    Peruse the book here.

     

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  • Afterhours #10

    Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-Image 10-noir-vintage-photography-a soho of the mind

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  • Expresso Bongo and a surprising Soho Johnny

    Expresso Bongo-1959-Wolf Mankowitz-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-book“SOHO JOHNNY NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD OR LOST IT SO FAST”

    Well, I never really thought I would watch a Cliff Richard film and think “That’s kind of quite decent actually”.

    Expresso Bongo is the 1959 (almost) film debut by Mr Richard and is the celluloid adaptation of the West End musical.

    At points it wanders into not-so-decent more mainstream cheese and even exploitation but and although it’s no Small World of Sammy Lee (see Day #7/365a), nor a World Ten Times Over or even a Beat Girl, it’s actually a rather decent capturing of that just pre-swinging London and Soho period that I have something of a soft spot for.

    Although it doesn’t necessarily have Sammy Lee’s inherent grit/edge, if memory serves correctly it does share some kind of sense of Soho hustle and basement showgirl-ness.

    The book was written by Wolf Mankowitz – who also appears in the film credits as a sandwich board man that announces his own credit… which is a nice touch and along with a few others, such as the pin-up girl stage curtains, makes the film at the very least an interesting curiousity.

    Expresso Bongo-1959-Wolf Mankowitz-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-Sylvia Simms-Cliff Richard

    The film was directed by Val Guest, whose work has made an appearance around these parts before – see Hell Is A City at Day #21/365a – and who was also responsible for the somewhat classic and Flaming Stars song title lending The Day The Earth Caught Fire (and by the 1970s, like much of the UK film industry he had wandered into British smut comedies such as Au Pair Girls and Confessions Of A Window Cleaner).

    Expresso Bongo-1959-Wolf Mankowitz-Afterhours Sleaze and DignityExpresso Bongo-1959-Wolf Mankowitz-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-Soho

    Places to wander to:
    Further Expresso Bongo Soho/London location shots.
    Wolf Mankowitz’s novelisation.
    Expresso Bongo’s opening credits – a nice snapshot of a certain time and place.

    Peruse the film here.

     

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  • Deborah Turbeville – Past Imperfect, filmic ghosts, grain and the deconstruction of traditional photographic perfection

    Deborah Turbeville-Past Imperfect-Steidl books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2

    There are a small number of photographers whose work has in some subtle way influenced my own… a certain stylishness, a delicacy of touch, a ghostly creation of otherly worlds quality, a sense of indefinable time and place, a use of grain, texturing and the deconstruction of traditional photographic perfection.

    I suppose that number would actually be directly Deborah Turbeville and Sarah Moon (and Ellen Von Unwerth in a slightly different, more overtly playful/stylish/fashion orientated manner).

    These are photographers who have a strong fashion background and have taken such aesthetics, genre photography and commissions to somewhere else – nearer to a very personal, fine art vision.

    Deborah Turbeville-Past Imperfect-Steidl books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-4

    I can’t remember now how I first came across Deborah Turbeville’s work but if you should want a seductive, haunting starting point then I would suggest a first exploration of Past Imperfect, the 2007 book published by Steidl.

    This gathers a selection of her work from 1974 through to 1998; the photographs and the book itself are works of beauty, being created and presented in a manner that explores and expands the photography book format and design.

    Deborah Turbeville-Past Imperfect-Steidl books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity

    When I was recently re-exploring her work I came across a description of Past Imperfect via photoeye that I thought captured the spirit and stories of her work rather well:

    She pioneered a look of antique decadence, using distressed film and prints to capture models as Miss Havishams in faded fin-de-siecle glory. Some 15 series, structured like short stories or novellas, encapsulate that unique sensibility and elegant aesthetic. They remind the viewer, as one critic has written, of films they would have liked to have seen, and inspire comparisons to Luchino Visconti, Jean Cocteau, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Joel-Peter Witkin. 

    Turbeville’s vision is unorthodox-at once haunted and haunting. She creates those effects with the help of favorite actresses and models, largely unknown, acting as a repertory cast. They interpret her endangered species, anachronisms, out of sync with their time and context, playing mutations in a mannequin workshop, statues in a Paris art school, and automatons in a derelict factory. And they help to create a characteristic sense of fragmented dreams, of dislocation, hallucination and time without boundaries-the past imperfect.”

    Deborah Turbeville-Past Imperfect-Steidl books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-3

    The book is now out of print although details on it can still be found at Der Steidl here. Peruse it further here.

     

    (As an aside and a look into dedication to the book making process, visit How To Make A Book With Steidl here.)

     

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  • Insignificance and bending the language of cinema / time and space

    Insignifance-1985 film-Nicolas Roeg-Theresa Russell-Criterion Collection-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity

    Now, Nicolas Roeg’s 1985 Insignificance – what a fine celluloid tale.

    I think I first saw it back when, not long after it had been made – a fair few years ago – and rewatching it recently I was just as taken by it as I was then.

    It concerns the 1950s set story of a somewhat iconic female movie star – known only as The Actress – who visits a somewhat iconic thinker – known only as The Professor in his hotel room, to discuss life and the theory of relativity.

    MBDINSI EC005

    Along the way it takes in McCarthy-esque trials, Mr Tony Curtis as a flop-sweating politician (The Senator), The Actresses husband (The Ball Player), science, pogroms, peace, war – all the little questions.

    It is wonderfully accessible, entertaining and looks just beautiful, with Theresa Russell, who plays The Actress, capturing the breathy iconography and shimmering screen sensuality of her character just so; this is a flight of fancy, a playing with instantly recognisable images and tropes from the past and cinema’s history not to present a simulacra of times gone by but to create something new.

    Insignifance-1985 film-Nicolas Roeg-Theresa Russell-Criterion Collection-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2

    Insignifance-1985 film-Nicolas Roeg-Criterion Collection-Afterhours Sleaze and DignityAlong which lines, Nicolas Roeg said at the time:

    If the grammar of cinema is at all changed or dented, it’s resented far more than in other mediums.

    During its 110 minutes, Insignificance takes the grammar and language of celluloid on a playful – although not always light in tone – journey,

    This is defiantly explorative cinema and in many ways it feels like a film of the type that rarely now gets made and certainly if it does, it would be unlikely to have a relatively mainstream release and stars of a certain calibre attached to it.

    To be a video-phile, Insignificance is available on a lovely transfer via the Criterion Collection (though you will need a way to play multi-region Blurays if you’re watching it on this side of the pond).

    Peruse that and its various other disc encasings here.

     

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