Chris Squire – RIP

June 29, 2015 Leave a comment

I’m very saddened to learn of the death yesterday (27th June) from leukaemia, of Chris Squire, the bass player and only member of the prog band Yes to play on every single studio record they made, from their formation way back in 1968 until last years… erm, whatever it was called (to be honest, I gave up listening to the new records many moons ago…)

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But back in my teenage days, I was a huge Yes fan. I got my mum to embroider their wondrous Roger Dean designed logo on the back of my denim jacket, bought American imports of records I already had just because they had different covers and paid ridiculous sums of money for 12″ singles on blue vinyl…

The trio of records they released during 1971 and 72, namely The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge meant more to me musically than virtually anything else, and until my discovery of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream in the mid 80’s when I went to Uni and headed inexorably towards the electronica that makes my ears happy today, I would eagerly espouse their merits to anyone within earshot…. I still rate Close to Edge very highly, so much so it inspired one of my tattoos

A truly phenomenal bass player, the complex patterns, lines and rhythms Chris created using his trademark Rickenbacker 4001 are certainly not to everyone’s taste, but his technical ability was beyond doubt. The sad irony is that I saw an advert only 2 days ago in Saturday’s Guardian Guide for a Yes gig next year at the Albert Hall, where they planned to play two albums, Fragile and Drama all the way through… And said I should go, for old times sake, and I admit I was thinking about it…

Now I guess it won’t happen… Yes are famous for having replaced every single member of the band at one time or the other over their 46 odd year career, but somehow a Yes without Chris Squire, surely that’s a step too far. The journey had to end sometime…

Stanley Kubrick { one-point perspective }

June 2, 2015 Leave a comment

I came across this rather intriguing video online recently….

 

Who knew that Mr. Kubrick had such a thing for centrally positioned, one point perspectives in his films… Can’t say I recognise all the clips (probably because I’ve still never seen Barry Lyndon all the way through) but it’s truly fascinating seeing them all together like this.

Top marks to whoever realised how often Kubrick used this visual device, found all theses instances and edited them together…

Steve Cobby : Everliving

May 25, 2015 Leave a comment

After what seems like an age of not having written anything, I’m back with renewed vigor and enthusiasm after a week in the sun, suggesting things you didn’t know you wanted to know about, but that I find fascinating…

EverlivingFirst up is one of dance music’s truly unsung geniuses whose newly released album Everliving is very, very good indeed…

I first met Mr Steve Cobby in the mid 90’s when he was one half of a band called Fila Brazillia with Dave McSherry. My good friend Danny Kudos was in the enviable position of manufacturing and distributing all the excellent music put out by Fila and the other electronica bands on Hull’s finest label, Pork Recordings, a label jointly started by Steve and the semi-legendary Dave (Porky) Brennand.

Me & Dan saw Steve and the other Pork boys whenever they came down to London to play (which was often) in excellent venues that no longer exist: upstairs at Turnmills, The 333, The Vibe Bar and The Blue Note to name but 4. As an aside, they were the very first DJ’s I knew about that used CDJ’s, lugging their own machines all the way down from Hull…

Anyway, with the release of this new album, it’s reassuring to learn that Steve is creatively still firing on all cylinders. Everliving is a wonderful thing: down tempo, up tempo, reminiscent, contemporary, familiar and challenging all at the same time. Everything you would expect and more…. The cover painting by Derklox-Cloxboy is pretty excellent as well…

Fila Brazillia’s LP’s “Maim That Tune” and “Old Codes, New Chaos” and Steve’s previous solo work as Solid Doctor (especially “Beats Means Highs”) have never left my all time favorite records lists, but other than odd snippets from Danny, I’d lost touch a bit with Steve’s more recent career if I’m honest. I’d listened to (and enjoyed) last years Saudade LP, but it didn’t grab me in the same that Everliving has over the last week or so…

But after a quick search through the web, it turns out that Mr. Cobby has been anything but slack, writing under a string of aliases, including J.J. Fuchs, J*S*T*A*R*S and The Cutler (with Porky) and has fingers in many other projects, including producing the music that accompanied Hull’s successful City of Culture bid for 2017; forming Hey, Rube! with Stephen Malinder, ex Cabaret Voltaire. Needless to say I was a massive Cabs fan back in the day (a link to their band camp page is here, and it’s sounding pretty good to my ears).

And finally it seems that Steve has been working alongside Darren Emerson, yet another person I rate very highly, on his (hopefully) soon to be released solo album.

Honestly you turn you back for a minute….

Mac Conner: The Man who drew the American Dream…

April 5, 2015 Leave a comment

We went along to the House of Illustrations Gallery in Kings Cross on Good Friday to see a small exhibition of the work of the commercial artist most closely associated with Mad Men era New York.

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Macaulay (Mac) Conner was a Madison Avenue based illustrator whose work graced the pages of the many 1950’s and 60’s lifestyle magazines published throughout North America, a country swollen with pride and full of optimism for the future, where success, wealth and a perfect family life in the suburbs were the corner stones of the American Dream, readily available to everyone who read the articles and features that Conner’s work accompanied.

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And whilst we may look back at those times now as more divisive, with their conspicuous racism, latent sexism and rampant consumerism, in the simple terms of what Mac Conner was commissioned to illustrate, his ability to capture the very essence of those heady times is unquestionable…

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As with many exhibitions, the images accompanying this post, wonderful though they are, do not really do the originals justice. Almost all the paintings on show were produced using gouache on board, allowing Conner to paint faces and figures with a confidence and ability that is endlessly impressive.

Conner was also something of a stylist, using devices such as a limited use of mid tones for skin or a single block colour such as the green above or the purple below, to give the images greater presence.

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And in his own small way he was also a rebel. The restrictions imposed by commissioning editors were, as I understand it, if not draconian then certainly restricting and Conner’s inclusion of strong women, intimate positions (for the time) and black faces is certainly worthy of credit..

So an excellent little show and a marvelous insight into an era that we really only see these days, through the filters of the 21st Century.

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The Android Invasion: William Mitchell & Doctor Who…

April 3, 2015 Leave a comment

Don’t ask me why, but I started watching an old Doctor Who the other evening. I’d scanned the TV page looking for something to watch as I ate my tea, and as I read the title “The Andrid Invasion”, a vague recollection of a faceless, robot version of the lovely Sarah Jane (Elizabeth Sladen) popped into my head…

Elizabeth SladenDating from the mid 1970’s and starring my personal favorite Doctor, Tom Baker, it is to be honest, a rather shonky affair that probably would have been better left as a memory.

The acting, the sets, the story, the effects, all conspire to produce something so frighteningly low key (even for the 70’s) that I’m amazed we all watched these shows so avidly at the time. And as for the androids and their alien masters … men in white boiler suits and crash helmets with guns built into their pointing finger, and little trolls. Hmmm…

Anyway, about half an hour in I was just about to give up when what should the Doctor walk out from behind, but something that looked remarkably like a sculpture my friend Bill Mitchell might have made…

A couple of screen photos and an email to Bill and sure enough, a genuine Mitchell it turns out to be…

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Bill tells me this work dates from the early 1970’s and was created using his sand blasting technique to carve away at solid lumps of brickwork. It’s located at the Harwell Atomic Center near Oxford and at the time was a very hush hush commission for him, due to the nature of the atomic research and the secrecy of the Cold War. he sent me this photo he took after it was finished. Bill also did some work inside the building apparently, but that didn’t appear in the show…

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The building itself looks quite interesting to my eyes. Beautifully made precast concrete panels clad the walls and as for the cantilevered entrance canopy above, very stylish…

Bill tells me the commission came from the War Office, for whom he also did work at a “secret tank factory”. I think I’ll have to ask him to tell me more about that one..

Sadly like many of his external sculptural works from this period, Bill doesn’t know if it’s still there and from online aerial sites it’s difficult to tell, as the greenery has matured considerably since the BBC set up their cameras to film a man in a long scarf running past.

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Having looked at aerial photos trying to work out where Bill’s work might be on the campus, I couldn’t help but notice the massive, doughnut shaped building that goes by the intriguing name of The Diamond Light Source. And so the seed of another post is planted…

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Secret 7″. Still not good enough…

March 29, 2015 6 comments

Sadly my three submissions for this years competition have been rejected once again, which apart from being disappointing, is a bit of a shame as I’d tried to assess why last years efforts didn’t make it and do something more in keeping with those that got chosen, i.e. less photos, more colours, less realism, more graphics…

Maybe I shouldn’t feel too bad. There were over 4500 entries for the 700 sleeves available, which if you’re new to the excellent Secret 7″ project, equates to 100 separate, individual designs for each of their seven chosen songs. I also imagine that another 100 or so sleeves will be allocated to guests and invited artists submissions (which is totally fair enough btw) so the actual sleeves available for the rest of us is probably nearer 600.

Still as with last years, I really enjoyed making them, so I’ll probably give it another whirl next year… It’ll be interesting to see the exhibition at Somerset House in a couple of weeks time, see what I can learn this time around.. (which is probably that I will always be a year behind in terms of style…)

My submissions were a suitably psychedelic sleeve for Let Forever Be, by The Chemical Brothers: JA_Chemical Brothers_smlThe imprints of hammer blows for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer:

JA_Peter Gabriel_smlAnd the silhouette of a greyhound for Underworld’s Born Slippy…

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The Kensington Air Terminal…

March 18, 2015 3 comments

 

My And is currently reading a Miss Marple novel, one of the last ones that Agatha Christie wrote I think. Entitled At Bertram’s Hotel, it was published in the mid 1960’s and tells the tale of the now elderly (was she ever anything else…) detective’s stay in a swish London hotel, and the usual fatalities that seem to follow the redoubtable detective like a bad smell…

wlat-k65-108-aerial-view-1965I digress. The reason for this post is that in the story, reference is made to The Kensington Air Terminal… Intrigued, And went off to the internet to investigate and sure enough such a thing actually existed, moreover, it would seem that it is now almost totally forgotten..

Situated overlooking the Cromwell Road, on the site of what has been a Sainsbury’s since the 1980’s, and almost equidistant between The Albert Hall and Earls Court, was a group of buildings that together formed a direct link between Heathrow Airport and the city.

Before the rail link was completed in 1977, getting to Heathrow could be a time consuming business by all accounts. BEA (British European Airways) hit upon the idea of creating a central hub where travelers could check in and relax before being transported along with their baggage by luxury coaches to the airport proper, making good use of the recently opened M4 motorway.

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Cut away illustration of temporary terminal from The Illustrated London News

The first temporary two storey building (above) was completed in 1957 and proved so successful that a more permanent solution was soon being planned. Designed by Burnett, Tait & Partners, this new facility included additional parking (via some impressive circular access ramps) restaurants and retail opportunities, airport style waiting areas and departure gates, along with a residential tower above. It was finally opened in the early/ mid 1960’s to great fanfare and excitement…

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Sadly due to increasing security regulations, land prices and airline takeovers, the building was only in operation for around 15 years or so before being redeveloped by Sainsbury’s.

There is very little online about this intriguing building. The excellent post at The Library Time Machine by Dave Walker is where I found all of the images and much of the info.

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How the building (now known as Point West) Looks today

How the building (now known as Point West) Looks today

 

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