Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gerry Anderson Fashions

The death this week of Gerry Anderson has sparked an outpouring of nostalgia from those brought up on his TV programmes in the 1960s and 1970s - Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO, Space 1999 etc. And yes this is partly a nostalgia for the future that never happened, the thrilling world of space travel, underwater exploration and mass luxurious leisure that children in that period were told would be their birthright in Tomorrow's World by the end of the 20th century. I won't labour the point - Simon Reynolds has after all written a whole book about Retromania - but not only has that future not materialised but the whole belief in the future expansion of human possibilities is often dismissed as a mere retro fixation. The Association of Autonomous Astronauts (1995-2000) was partly an attempt by some of the children of the Gerry Anderson generation to carry forward that hope - inevitably we  called our 1999 conference in London 'Space 1999: ten days that shook the universe'.

Never mind the lack of personal jetpacks, one of the many disappointments of living in the actually existing 21st century is that the futuristic clothes in Gerry Anderson's shows haven't really caught on. There was a period in the techno mid-1990s when interesting fabrics and unisex clothing took off, with labels/shops like Vexed Generation in Soho. But for now looking like you crawled out of an early 1970s  album cover seems to be enough for the average hipster - though to be fair is that any more retro than desiring to look like you crawled out of an early 1970s TV show about the future?

UFO (1969-70)

UFO (1969-70)
The costumes for Space 1999 were designed by Rudi Gernreich (1922-1985), a refugee from the Nazis who was one of the founders of pioneering US gay rights organisation The Mattachine Society

Space 1999 (1973-76)

Space 1999 (1973-76)

Destiny Angel from Captain Scarlet (1967)

Thunderbirds (1964-66)

Well at least Britney Spears had a go at channelling Thunderbirds as a space age air hostess in the Toxic video:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

All Nite Mod Rave - Bradford 1964

Another example of 1960s 'rave' - an advert for an 'All Nite Mod Rave' on 18 July 1964 in Bradford, at the Coffin club in Ivegate, featuring Herman's Hermits and The Mutineers.

Another venue at the time was the 'Futurist Theatre' in Scarborough - built as a cinema in 1921, and still going strong today.

There was also 'The Big Beat Scene' tour in 1964, featuring Gene Vincent, Millie, Lulu and others.

Source: the fascinating Bradford Timeline Concerts and Package Tours 1956-67

(see previously: 1960s raves)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Norfolk Police smash up speakers - and boast about it

Earlier this week (December 12), Norfolk police posted a short video on Youtube with the title 'Seized rave equipment destroyed'. An accompanying press release says:

'Officers from Norfolk Constabulary have re-iterated their zero-tolerance of unlicensed music events by destroying seized equipment The speakers, generator, amplifier and cables were confiscated following a rave in Feltwell Woods, West Norfolk on 4 March. The offender was fined £100 plus costs and a destruction order for the equipment was issued by the courts.The equipment was destroyed by officers at King’s Lynn police station on Tuesday 11 December 2012. The items destroyed were:
  • 8 standard speakers measuring 2’x2’
  • 2 Peavey UL Speakers measuring 24” x 42”
  • A Stephill generator
  • A Crown amplifier
  • 3 metal cases
  • 1 plastic case containing jump leads
  • A draper tool box
  • A small container of diesel
  • 1 nitrous oxide cylinder'.
 The video shows a hammer smashing up the which could obviously have been put to good use, and indeed a local music charity 'Community Music East called it a "waste of equipment" that could be used by the county's "under-resourced" groups'. Bizarrely a police spokesperson told the BBC (13 December 2012) that "If the equipment was sold or donated there is a possibility it could be used for unlicensed music events in the future." Well that would apply to any musical equipment, why not send the police round to music shops with their big hammers and smash up all the amps and speakers in case they end up at a free party!

Not a great bit of PR - as of last night tonight it had received 4 likes, and 311 dislikes.

As covered here before, Norfolk has been the focus for an ongoing cat and mouse struggle between police and sound systems. Here's a couple of other recent examples:

‘Police were called to a disused quarry in North Creake over the weekend after reports of around 700 people arriving for an illegal rave. Police first received a call to the unlicensed music event at around 10.30pm on Saturday night, the event was located on a remote area of land that is difficult to access by vehicle. Police air support were used overnight, in addition to officers on the ground, a local gamekeeper and farm manager to monitor the situation and bring the event to a peaceful and safe closure. Sound equipment and a van were seized from the site, and police made two arrests for possession of drugs with intent to supply. Police noted all vehicles leaving the site and many were searched with several dozen drivers being breathalysed, but none were found over the limit for drink or drugs. (Lynn News, 22 October 2012)

Two men have been convicted of organising an illegal rave, which attracted about 200 people to a site near Beccles. The pair, who pleaded guilty when they appeared at Great Yarmouth Magistrates’ Court yesterday, [Monday, October 15] were told thousands of pounds of equipment, seized by police at the July 14 rave at Gillingham, would not be returned to them… The pair pleaded guilty to a charge of committing unauthorised licensable activity under the Licensing Act 2003, after the court heard the rave attracted about 200 people and caused “extensive damage to property”. They were also each given a two year conditional discharge, ordered to pay £150 compensation to the farmer and £85 costs… The court heard that R. had sent text messages to a large number of people, saying “the number for the Norfolk party is” followed by a mobile telephone number, and “keep it off Facebook...pass on to safe ravers.” It also read “see you rigside” – a reference to the large set-up of speakers and amplifiers used to play loud music, known as a “rig”.

Gary Mayle, prosecuting, said that when asked by police if the turntables were his, M. said: “It would be pretty hard to have a party without them.” Items seized also  included 18 speakers, five electrical power generators and four “disco light projectors”(Norwich Evening News, 16 October 2012).

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Operation Condor: Prohibition London

If anyone got robbed, burgled or raped this weekend in London and wondered where the police were when they needed them - hey, they had other things on their mind.

Around 4,000 cops took part in a 48-hour 'Operation Condor' operation to enforce alchohol and other licensing laws. According to The Guardian today: 'Since 8am on Friday police have visited nearly 6,000 premises, where 1,046 offences were reported or disclosed during the operation, dubbed Operation Condor. Twenty-two venues were shut down, including pubs, saunas and massage parlours, with police checking for sex worker cards and that no-drinking zones had been enforced... At least 297 people were arrested for various offences, including 38 for theft, 20 for public order offences, 20 for possessing Class-A drugs, 22 for possessing Class-B drugs, 26 for possession with intent to supply, seven for possessing offensive weapons, 18 for drunkenness, and 52 for immigration offences' (in other words mostly victimless 'crimes' which any fishing expedition rounding up people in bars and clubs would find).

The operation included a show-piece raid on 93 Feet East in Brick Lane on Friday night: 'One of the largest individual operations involved 175 officers, including the Territorial Support Group, the Met police's helicopter and dog units, who raided the 93 Feet East club in Brick Lane after reports of dealers selling Class-A drugs. Police arrested nine people for offences, including possession of drugs with intent to supply, and the club was closed'.

The police have posted some 'raid porn' footage on youtube showing them piling in to 93 Feet East, the message being 'we are big, we are tough, and we mean business'. Ludicrous really, these periodic blitzes have been going for decades and they don't make the slightest difference to the levels of drug taking, or drinking after hours.

helicopter footage showing swarm of police at 93 Feet East 
By they way are the Metropolitan Police aware of the resonance of the term Operation Condor, particularly for the many Latin American migrants in London? It was also the name for a notorious campaign of terror conducted by right wing dictatorships in South America in the 1970s, during which tens of thousands of people were tortured and executed.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Discotheque Dress for Party Dancing (1964)

Previously we discussed how the word Discotheque, coined in France by the 1940s, seems to have entered the English language in the early 1960s, with the opening of La Discotheque club in London by 1961 and a spate of articles in 1964 which used the word to refer to both a nightclub and a French-influenced style of dress. Another blogpost at OUP uncovered that in July 1964 the name of the dress was abbreviated to 'disco' in an American newspaper article and in September 1964 Playboy was the earliest example so far of the word 'disco' being used to describe a club, as in 'Los Angeles has emerged with the biggest and brassiest of the discos'.

Here's some pictures of the Discotheque dress, which seemingly by December 1964 had already been codified as a Vogue pattern advertised in Australian Women's Weekly 2 December 1964. Note too that here the name was abbreviated to 'disc dress' (and indeed the London club was sometimes referred to as 'The Disc')

Discotheque dress for party dancing!

'Here it is, the disc dress - the freshest, swingingest fashion for Christmas party nights ahead. Skinny and short and in one piece, it's a terrific dress for young mods who like to follow the swing beat'.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Turner Prize 2012: Sub-Cultural Traces

Glad to see Elizabeth Price win the Turner Prize. Pleased too that she mentioned her (similar to mine) Luton upbringing in her winning speech referencing arts cuts and threats to arts education in schools: 'It’s incredibly depressing listening to the comments people made earlier that a young girl from Luton going to a comprehensive might not be able to imagine being an artist and might not have the opportunities I’ve had'. 

Leaving aside my bias, I do think her film 'Woolworths Choir of 1979' is the most powerful work in this year's Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain in London. It cuts together three sets of images, drawn from Church architecture, 1960s/1970s female music performance and most poignantly a fire at Manchester Woolworths in 1979 in which ten people died. The film both utilises a didactic public information style of address, and critiques it by refusing to tell people what to make of the connection between these three themes. The threads include the notion of the 'choir', the name for part of a church as well as a group of singers/dancers or chorus; and the common hand gestures of humans in disparate situations, the 'conspicuous twist of the wrist' shared by dancers and a desperate wave from a burning building.

The use of a real tragedy in this way is controversial, but the film's rescue from the archives of a chorus of voices from the time restores this tragedy to the public memory from which it has largely faded. It also calls into question how our familiar visual shorthand for historical periods (the kind of 1960s and 70s fashion, haircuts, and music used elsewhere in the film) excludes these kinds of less cosy and familiar events.

Liz was a founder member of 1980s band Talulah Gosh (as well as later performing as one half of The Carousel), and with that knowledge in mind you can't help but noticing some of the continuities - in particular the appreciation for girl groups. The Shangri-Las 'Out on the Streets' features prominently in the (pleasingly loud for a gallery) soundtrack to the film.

One of the interesting things about all four of this year's finalists is their links to sub-cultures/counter-cultures beyond the art world, either in their personal biographies or as reference points in their work. Well to start with there's Liz Price's indie-pop thing (and as mentioned here, even before she went to art school she was hand printing tickets for a 1985 Luton punk gig benefit for the local Unemployed Workers Centre with bands including Karma Sutra, Party Girls and Click Click - I helped out with that gig too, wish I'd kept the ticket!).

Paul Noble was involved in the 1990s Claremont Road/Leytonstone road protest against the M11. According to Josephine Berry Slater & Anthony Iles, 'Paul Noble who had been involved early on in the campaign began to fix home-made blue plaques onto derelict houses in the path of the road (a trick later copied by Gavin Turk to egotistical ends). The inscription on the plaques read: Our Heritage: This House was Once a Home'. Is it too fanciful to see in Noble's drawings of a fantasy city-scape some echo of the alternative urbanism of Claremont Road?

(photo from Little Tramp's excellent Claremont Road set at Flickr)

Luke Fowler's film about radical psychiatrist R.D. Laing (pictured below), All Divided Selves, can't help but feature lots of interesting archive footage from key 1960s/1970s counter-culture moments linked to Laing such as The Dialectics of Liberation 1967 conference at the Roundhouse, the London Street Commune and The Anti-University of London.

Meanwhile, Spartacus Chetwynd's performance art is pure Happening and embedded in a playful DIY/squat  aesthetic that can be traced back via Glastonbury Green Fields to Mutoid Waste Company and beyond (texts in her part of the exhibition inevitably mention Bakhtin's notion of the Carnivalesque, as well as less obviously Nikola Tesla) . As well as claiming now to live on a 'Nudist Commune' near Nunhead, Chetywynd participated in some of the !WOWOW! warehouse/squat events around Camberwell and Peckham (2003-2006), which also involved fashion designer Gareth Pugh in the days before he was making clothes for Beyonce and Lady Gaga.

The Turner Prize exhibition continues until 6 January 2013.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Discotheque enters the English language: 1960-66

Thanks to Google news and other archive searches it is possible to date reasonably accurately when words came to be widely used, at least in printed form. I believe the term discotheque (which literally means 'record library') to describe a nightclub where people danced to records dates back in French to World War 2. Several online sources mention that a club called La Discothèque opened on the rue Huchette in Paris in 1941.   

But it seems to have taken another twenty years for the term to catch on in English. The 
first newspaper references I have come across date to 1963-5,  with a number of items in The Times (London) referring to The Discotheque Club in Soho.

The paper reported on 18 October 1963 on the trial of Norbet Rondel, a former heavy for landlord Peter Rachman, who was accused of 'demanding menaces from Sergiusz Paplinski, proprietor of the 150 Club at Earls Court Road'. The court heard that Rondel had been a doorman at the Discotheque Club run by another associate of Rachman, Raymond Nash.

The following year the club was named in Parliament as the 'Soho nerve centre' of the 'purple heart racket' (Times, 10 June 1964), and a quote in the article suggests that the Discotheque Club was already open by 1961 .  In January 1965, five people appeared in court charged under the new Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964 after being arrested in a police raid at the club in Wardour Street ('Youths and girls on drug charges', Times, 26 January 1965).

Rondel died in 2009,  and I have written a bit more about La Discotheque Club here (incidentally Marc Bolan worked there as a cloakroom attendant in his early 'Mark the Mod' days). As well as being sometimes credited with being London's first disco, it seems to have acted as a bridge for the word itself becoming established in English. Before long there were other clubs with similar names, and the word was being used generically for a place where records were played to dance to. By 1966 there was a Discotheque club in Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford, where in September a crowd of youths fought with police (Times, 12 September 1966). The Times also reported that a plan had been approved at St Mary's church, Woolwich: 'In the crypt a discotheque will be established as  centre for youth work' (24 August 1966).

YeYe and New York Discotheque

Another route into the printed English language seems to have been via fashion writers at Associated Press (AP) at around the same time.  Elsie Beall, an AP Fashion Writer reporting on a New York Couture Group event, made the first reference I have found to discotheque in an American paper in July 1964 to describe a dress: 'There aren't many short evening dresses around for fall except for the discotheque - pronounced dis-co-tek, in case you are having trouble with that world as we did at first hearing. It is just a slip of a dress, almost always black and flaring, or ruffling out at the high knee, with plenty of whirl for doing those dances where the feet stay in one spot while the rest of the body twists in all direction. Discotheque, it seems, is the name of the little Paris dance halls where the whole thing started'  (Ocala Star-Banner 17 July 1964 - like other AP reports this would have been syndicated and probably printed in many local and regional papers, but not all of them are online).

On the same day an AP report of the same event printed in the Nashua Telegraph stated: 'The faithful and femme fatale black dress or suit will be on the scene next fall like a million shadows. It will be sleek and chic, dressed up with white for the day, but bare and naughty at night for wearing to the discotheque'

Another Associated Press Fashion Writer, Jean Sprain Wilson (1923-2009), used the word the following month. Reviewing a James Galanos collection noted that 'For the discotheque enthusiasts the dresses were barer, with V-plunges, halter necks or shoestring straps uncovering pale raw bones' (Owosso Argus Press, 14 August 1964 and other local papers)/

The same writer makes the first published use I have found of the word 'discotheque jockey' in the context of the influence of French 'Ye Ye Styles' in New York:  'YeYe, the French version of youth's rebellion against the stodginess of old folks over 25, is now going strong in the USA. Born in Paris as a hip response to songs with a beat, YeYe came to be a term for audacious styles worn by young misses, then grew in meaning to encompass the current mood of youth itself - lively and uninhibited. Ask a New York den what is YeYe in town, for instance, and she undoubtedly will describe a popular hamburger joint with juke box movies; or a discotheque jockey at one of the fancier hotels who keeps crowds gyrating frenetically by blasting not one but three jump-and-wiggle records at once' (Eugene Register Guard, 23 October 1964)

Associated Press also mentioned the word in the surprizing context of a report about a party at Windsor Castle with 16 year old Prince Charles as MC!:  'Like it was a rave, man... the first Beat Ball in the history of the British royalty... The castle's crimson drawing room was turned into a discotheque - a nightclub which provides only recorded music for dancing'.

(Miami News, 28 Dec, 1964)

After writing this I have come across a recent Oxford University Press article covering similar territory - and coming to similar conclusions. They also note the first printed references in 1964 to the abbreviated version 'disco' to refer to both the dress and the nightclub.

See also: