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)

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Steve Strange and Camden Palace

Following our earlier post on the Camden Palace from The Face, 1983 here's a couple more courtesy of the excellent Like Punk Never Happened - Brian McCloskey's Smash Hits Archive (click on images to enlarge).

The first article, from July 22 1982 is a review of a live event for Gary Crowley's Tuesday Club Capitol Radio show with live appearances from Culture Club, Bananarama and The Higsons. It includes a great picture of Joe Strummer with Jennie Belle Star, Jerrry Dammers and Chrissy Boy from Madness.

In terms of a regular night out at the Palace, Deborah Steele's article from Smash Hits, 15 August 1983 is more evocative. It is headlined with Steve Strange's description of the Palace (which had opened some 18 months previously) as 'A club for the people created by the people'.

'The Camden Palace... a place full of famous people trying to look ordinary and ordinary people trying to look famous... Many would go so far as to argue that Thursdays represent what British pop is all about - the people, the stars, the music, the fashions  and the attitudes... Steve Strange (of course), The Palace's genial host, signing autographs, having his picture taken and looking very striking in 'Tom Bailey' goggles and blue tea towel wrapped round his head. He tells me his new image is going to be that of an American footballer. Also pretending not to be famous are Edwyn Collins from Orange Juice, Chris Foreman from Madness, Miranda and Jennie Belle Star, a couple of Hoovers and George and Andrew from Wham! Oddly enough, no-one really pays these 'stars' too much attention ("everyone's a star here", says Steve)...

'The quality of the sound is incredible (and loud too) and the light show has to be seen to be believed. Lazers, strobes, neon strips and great shafts of light beaming out of computer-controlled rotating gantries, it's like the famous spaceship scene out of Close Encounters. Add to that a massive video screen which descends every so often to show the latest pop videos and you can understand why so many people do nothing but dance all night... Whether it's the bar proppers, posers, pop-stars upstairs or the dancers on the floor, The Palace is about having a good time'.

The music from DJ Rusty Egan is described as 'largely electro-disco with a few old Roxy Music and Simple Minds evergreens', catering to a crowd in a diversity of styles - an 'assortment of Boy George clones, bleached quiffs, fish-net stockings, expensive suits and sunglasses'. People queuing round the block to pay an 'expensive' £4 to get in and £1.60 a drink.

Steve Strange with Jennie and Stella Barker of the Bellestars
cutting the cake at Camden Palace first birthday party
(Smash Hits, 12 May 1983)

See also:  Posing at the Picture Place, Standard, May 11, 1983 for a reminder of the dole/cash in hand day lives of the night time diy superstars - ''I’m wrecked', Nick announces as he downs his sixth pint of lager at about 2am. “I was so late waking up yesterday I had to take a taxi to the dole to sign on before I went into work.” Nick [not his real name, obviously] looks startling in a hat so huge it has to be seriously trendy, and is well aware of the irony of his remark. He is 19 and clears £80 a week in Vivienne Westwood’s clothes shop which also dresses him for next to nothing, another £15 on Saturday checking coats in a nightclub – oh, and of course £22 social security. “That’s just pin money,” he says. “It pays the rent.”... Mike uses his £25-a-week dole on top of what he earns in Kensington Market to fund his nights out. Among a repertoire of sharp practices people here admit to, fare-dodging is regarded as essential and one 18-year-old charges friends £1 for lifts in his car home to the suburbs'.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Poison Girls interview - Leveller magazine 1982

Interview with Poison Girls from 'independent feminist/socialist magazine' The Leveller (published from 52 Acre Lane, SW2), December 1982 - click on images to enlarge.

The Leveller interviewers expressed mixed feelings about it - 'It was a friendly interview yet we left dissatisfied, as a lot of the time we felt we were talking at cross purposes. What Vi says on the record and to us shows she feels deeply about the status of women. But together the group expressed  the anarchist view of everyone being equally oppressed, and so we often felt we hadn't got through to each other. They felt that government control was some kind of abstraction whereas to us, it was very real (the DHSS, the police). PS it was a very nice curry'.

I think at the time there were many anarchists who would have had a very different perspective to Poison Girls, like the folk who did the paper Xtra! for instance. But the Leveller collective's take on the band wasn't far from my own young anarcho ambivalence about the band, and indeed about Crass, in that period. On the one hand I had this respect - which older me now sees as condescending - for people over the age of 40 still making some noise politically and musically! Understanding too of their wish to break out of the confines and expectations of the punk ghetto. But also frustration at the somewhat burnt out on activism, been there and done it vibe, e.g. Lance saying 'I remember feeling when the Vietnamese war was over that there was a big hole in my life... I realised that I wasn't in this to oppose the Vietnam war, becuase once it was over I felt disappointed'. Maybe older me can appreciate this honesty and also Vi's critique  of macho posturing about other people's struggles : 'that's a very patriarchal thing, puffing up self-importance to talk about things like that and to avoid dealing with what's going right a the foot of the mountain'. Their personal is political approach challenged me in a positive way, but then as now the personal isn't enough to solve politics.