I’ve always meant to ask The Flaming Stars chaps where the painted artwork that appears on a number of their album covers comes from… fine and lovely stuff…
If you should not know The Flaming Stars work, it comes highly recommended around these parts: suave, garage noir / Soho basement-and-back-alley-back-in-the-day-ness, leant vocals by Rocket In My Pocket/Straight From The Fridge Dad author Mr Max Décharné…
I had a hankering after Peter Doyle’s Crooks Like Us book ever since I first saw it on the shelves of a library I was then frequenting a few years ago now… and then it relatively recently tumbled through my door via a fortuitously priced finding (it’s out of print and has generally become a little heavy on the old bank balance if you can find it).
To quote from elsewhere about the book/its photographs:
“In the 1920s Sydney police began quietly assembling a gallery of the citys most light-fingered, fleet-footed, silver-tongued rogues con artists, magsmen, housebreakers, thugs, gunmen, shoplifters, drug dealers, pickpockets and hooligans. These extraordinary images resurfaced in the 1980s, long after the original paperwork had been lost and the crooks, the cops and all who remembered them had passed on. Based on years of research into police files, court records, newspapers and other sources, Crooks Like Us offers a glimpse into the difficult lives of these fugitive souls what they did, who they hurt, who hurt them, where they came from and, sometimes, where they ended up. Illustrated with rich, emotionally charged police Special Photographs from the Justice & Police Museum, Sydney, Crooks Like Us opens a secret door onto Sydneys hidden histories.”
I know that at the time these were taken, how these people looked and dressed was probably quite day-to-day (for the world they lived and “worked” in) but over the years and decades they have gained something else; the photographs have a genuinely film like, almost too perfectly representing a particular style and early-to-mid-twentieth century hoodlum aesthetic; a very real forefather of noir.
The book is accompanied by another, City Of Shadows, which alongside the portraits is a somewhat more gritty, hard hitting, not for the faint hearted collection that includes forensic crime scene photographs: tread gently if you should go a-looking.
Peruse the books and Peter Doyle’s fiction work here.
SOHO VICE… WILL SHOCK LONDON AND SCARE THE PROVINCES”
Ah well, you can’t say fairer than that. The Flesh Is Weak – early(ish) Soho shennanigans exploitation number from 1957… all brylcream and bad intentions.
Possibly file not too far away from Cosh Boy in terms of shock and titillation (which was also the first British film to receive an ‘X’ Rating and starred a near-just-starting Ms Joan Collins).
And talking of the artwork that accompanies films (see Day #2/365a) – I have something of a softspot for seeing how such things wander off around the world…
Peruse the film here.
Of course, it probably helps that he was part of the Francis Bacon/Colony Room crowd of folk back in the day and he was often photographing people who knew who lived and embodied a certain way of life but it’s not just that… his photographs capture a certain something, something indefinable and deeply ingrained.
The John Deakin Photographs book (see left) was one of those that I took out from the library and just didn’t want to take back, it snuck under my skin and was something of a profound influence on Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity…
Now, I don’t want to sound poncey but I think to a certain degree part of me tried to channel what he did in the sense of trying to capture a way of life that is inherently part of and ingrained in some people.
I also love that he didn’t store his photographs at all well, so many of the surviving prints are torn and damaged, which to my mind just adds more to the general atmosphere and well, dissoluteness of them.
The above Photographs book is where I first came to Mr Deakin’s photography, although there have been two more recent ones; A Maverick Eye: The Street Photography of John Deakin and the rather nicely titled Under the Influence: John Deakin, Photography and the Lure of Soho, which was co-published by Art/Books and accompanied an exhibition in 2014 at The Photographers Gallery – positioned, appropriately enough just beyond the edge of Soho.
All three were edited by Robin Muir…
Anyway, Mr Deakin, wherever you may be, I salute you! Clink!
I have something of a softspot for Robert Mitchum in the 1970s: he’s like a big tired bear of a chap… there’s a kind of world weariness to him that’s ideally suited to the likes of Farewell My Lovely, The Big Sleep and The Friends Of Eddie Coyle…
…and I also have something of a softspot for the posters, artwork, lobby cards, video cases etc that accompany such films, particularly when they’re part of lost and sometimes forgotten media. At the top of is the artwork to the CED videodisc – a kind of precursor of DVDs where the film was read with a record player like stylus rather than a laser.
Anyway, Farewell My Lovely, 1975… a fine slice of neo-noir, hardboiled gumshoe-ry. Lovely looking and some rather fine lighting.
Peruse the film here.
From afterhours wanderings…
If I had to pick just one Afterhours releated book to rescue from a burning pile, well that would be a somewhat difficult task but I expect this would be quite near the top.
Why? Well, the best parts of the book are a document of Swiss rock’n’roll rebels who became folk devils and got their societies knickers all in a twist back in the fifties.
But these weren’t any ordinary fifty rockabilly types; to paraphrase the introduction, they had 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; a reimagining all of their own rather than a recreation.
Mr Weinberger’s work was in part founded in a homo-erotic interest and these photographs look a touch as though their inhabitants created Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising before it happened.
But to my mind they’re more fascinating and intriguing as these are real life, self-created cartoon characters, ones who could have fallen through a time warp from a hair salon run by the dreams you could imagine The Cramps might have had.
The book is now rare as hen’s teeth and just as pricey (thanks to my sister for tracking down a copy for me when it was still in print).
Further background on the gent and Photographs 1954-1995 here.
Strictly speaking it’s a song on the album From The Heart Of Town.
It’s a portrait (an ode?) to Mr Jake Vegas, who has been something of an inspiration for Afterhours and as a friend recently said “Jake is Soho”.
Whereas longstanding Soho gents and characters, such as Jeffrey Bernard, are reasonably well known and their lives and antics have been documented over the years, Mr Vegas has not had that (dis?)honour. I think that part of Afterhours has been about how to rectify that; how to, in as respectable manner as possible, tell the story of the world and culture he has been a part of and helped to create.
Over the years I think I’ve owned The Heart Of Town in four different formats (single CD, original double CD release, vinyl and Terry Edward’s Sartorial Records re-release. And I’ve bought it for at least two other people. I’m not sure if I’ve had it on cassette or the vinyl version with the Live EP. Well, that’s my chap-ish record spotter paragraph)…
It was something of a “Getting ready to go out for late night shenanigans” album for me back in the day…
Listen to Jake On The Make here.
Purchase the extended re-release via Sartorial Records.
Around seventeen years ago I stumbled upon a semi-hidden world which only truly came alive well after midnight and which existed in the heart of London.
It was a place and time inhabited by characters who could have tumbled from films of their own making, a sideways glance at a reimagined indefinable past; a world of modern dav spivs, foot-high quiffs, lizard skin-lined cars, tooting saxophones, unlicensed speakeasies and sharp suits.
It left an indelible mark on me and went on to inspire much of my creative work and cultural passions.
More than a decade later I began to revisit my old haunts and companions with a camera slung over my shoulder: I wanted to try and create a tribute to a world where I spent some of my youth and also a photographic soundtrack to the imaginary film it inspired and which has played behind my eyes ever since – an attempt to capture my own particular Soho of the mind.
Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity is the result.
This site is a documentation of my the work from that journey; my shutterbugging and cultural exploring.
Thanks for reading, viewing and perusing.
While we’re considering bars imbued with a sense of speakeasy-ness…
One of the places that I kept finding myself returning to (or rather being drawn to) while I was taking photographs for the Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity book was Ye Olde Axe in London’s East End.
This was a traditional bar, with traditional British bar fittings – quite opulent in fact, ornate and velvet walled, although admittedly in its own particular slightly worn manner.
Earlier in the evening it was a bar where shall we say gentlemen could enjoy the appearance of gals in various states of deshabille – not in a contemporary playful burlesque manner, more in an overtly prurient / transactional (and possibly curiously traditional for East End / central London) manner.
It would then be filled with a fine mixture of East End hipsters, suavely attired older gents and gals who had been enjoying their own versions of reimagined culture from the past for a fair few years before vintage / retro trends became fashionable / mainstream, a scattering of sharply dressed arty-mod-soul chaps and the like.
All of whom would be carrying out the time honoured traditions of imbibing, staying out too late and one over the eight, carousing, wooing, staggering and the like while cutting a rug to a soundtrack of classic rock’n’roll, garage punk etc.
As with The Black Gardenia (see here), it was a world unto itself – something that seemed to be highlighted in the summer / spring months when you would step out from its dimmed fug to find that the night had become day, the sun was now out and things had started to feel surreal.
The photograph/collage above is from I think the first time I went to Ye Olde Axe.
It seems to capture or conjure up a mixture of the reckless late night suaveness (and indeed the surrealness) of the place rather well and I’ve stayed rather fond of it (a touch of the Deborah Turbevilles / Sarah Moon to it as well, if I say so myself).