Sunday, February 18, 2018

Dream English Kid 1964-1999 AD - Mark Leckey (2015)

Mark Leckey's film 'Dream English Kid 1964-1999 AD' is a collage of what he has termed 'found memories', fragments from a life time of TV, adverts and other audiovisual media that sketch out a kind of oblique autobiography of growing up in the UK in the second half of the twentieth century. I did too and have similar interests to the artist so not surprisingly it strongly resonated with me.

As with his previous 'Fiorucci Made me Hardcore', music is central to the film but in a particular way. Short samples are manipulated and looped so part of the enjoyment to be had is spotting some of their sources.

The 1960s section of the film features the opening chord of The Beatles 'Hard Day's Night', a space  launch and Harold Wilson's famous 'White Heat of Technology' Labour conference speech. Possibly some distorted chords from Summertimes Blues in the mix there too, as well as some stylophone. A child plays while an old tape recorder appears to play a snatch of Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game.

A frisbee heralds the 1970s. Strains are heard of Charles Aznavour's She - a massive UK hit in 1974 - as a woman in her underwear does a her hair in a mirror (a recreation of an illicit childhood memory?). A candle in the dark alludes to the power cuts of that period. Hard to believe now that in 1972 and 1974 electricity supplies were cut off as the Government sought to preserve coal stocks during miners' strikes.

We are entering the post-punk period. A couple of words are heard from Blondie's Heart of Glass ('in between'), and there is footage of Joy Division playing at Eric's in Liverpool, a 1979 gig which Leckey apparently attended - we hear echoes of the drum sounds from She's Lost Control (I think). Scenes of young kids outside Eric's are punctuated by one word which might be 'punks' from 'Part Time Punks' by the TV Personalities. To scenes of urban decay we hear what sounds like the opening drums from The Fall's Totally Wired fading into the only lengthy sample in the piece - a section from And the Native Hipsters 'There goes Concorde Again'.

Some football fans move us into the casual and not so casual 1980s. There is a joyous section of women dancing while Luther Vandross loops ('never too much') plus a little Kate Bush ('I put this moment here' from Jig of Life), but there also seems to be a moment of sorrow as the same women observe a minute's silence. All this is intercut with one of the danger moments of the Cold War - the shooting down of a South Korean airliner (Flight 007) by a Soviet jet in 1983. This was a time of heightening tension when nuclear war seemed to be a permament possibility, leading many of us into the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Leckey refers to this showing signs of apparent Nuclear Winter desolation and there seems to be a short clip of Peter Watkin's The War Game in there - this famous depiction of a nuclear attack on Britain was made in 1965 but banned from TV. In the 1980s it was often shown at CND events, I remember seeing it at Luton Library Theatre in this period.

The focus shifts to early 1990s London - the opening credits of 'London Kills Me' (1991) giving way to  (partially reconstructed?) footage of squat life, then Black Market Records in Soho. A flick through a record bin looks more like Leckey nodding to his musical influences rather than the actual selection in Black Market as we see albums including Soul II Soul, Stations of the Crass, Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures, Joni Mitchell's Blue and The Beatles' Hard Day's Night.

Some Soho street footage (including Old Compton Street), then a recurring fragment of Double 99's speed garage banger 'Rip Groove' takes us into images from the August 1999 solar eclipse, watched by crowds all over the world.

Threaded throughout is footage of empty motorways - perhaps highlighting their periodic transformation from images of gleaming modernity in the 1960s to their later graffiti'd actuality, not to mention desolate future remains of a vanquished humanity in a post-nuclear world.

I was initially confused by the closing sequence - why is Marianne Faithfull juxtaposed with a Pretenders record spinning round? In fact, this just spells out the title of the film. The word 'Dream' (from cover of John Lennon's No. 9 Dream - something I worked out via help on twitter), Faithfull's (Broken) 'English' and the Pretenders 'Kid'.

So let me know if you spot anything else...

DREAM ENGLISH KID 1964-199AD from Mark Leckey on Vimeo.

Although you can watch it online, it is best seen on full screen which you can do at Tate Britain, London in the Sixty Years room until Sunday 25 February 2018. The room also includes some other key works linked to musical and social history over this same period, including from Coum Transmissions, Jeremy Deller, Chris Ofili and Jamie Reid (the last day for this room is also 25/2/18)

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