Sunday 15 January 2012

Documentary film about Tara Browne from 1966

Following my recent post about Tara Browne, I am posting this newly uploaded film about Tara Browne - a French documentary from 1966. A fascinating insight into a life of a socialite in 1960's Swinging London - we get a rare glimpse of clothes , music, cars and girls....and of course, Tara.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

John's Children modeling for John Stephen

Two members of British Psychedelic band John's Children are modeling kaftans designed by John Stephen in 1967. The band was mostly remembered for their 1968 song "Desdemona" (which was banned by the BBC for containing the line "Lift up your skirt and fly") as well as the fact that their line-up at one time included Marc Bolan.  

Saturday 7 January 2012

Bolan As Mod

Mark often summed up his youth by bragging that had always been a star, 'even if it was only being the star of three streets in Hackney'. To the few close friends in Stoke Newington who shared his hopes, he probably was - wrote Marc Bolan's biographer , Mark Payntress. Before T.Rex, before Tyrannosaurus Rex, before John's Children, even before his brief stint as Toby Tyler, Marc Bolan - then known under his real name, Mark Feld - was an 'ace face' in a Mod community of Stamford Hill, North London. Since the age of twelve, young Mark had been obsessed with clothes and he'd stop at nothing to get hold of the latest fashions: I was quite a villain (...) although I never hurt anybody. It came about because I was really into clothes, I mean obsessionally into clothes. I was about twelve and I'd steal or hustle motorbikes to pay for them. Clothes were all that mattered to me (Mark Payntress, Marc Bolan in The Sharper World - A Mod Anthology , ed. Paolo Hewitt, p 43). Diminutive Mark often used services of Bilgorri - a tailor popular among East End gangsters - to have his suits adjusted to his small stature. One of Mark's friends from that time remembers his visit to local meeting place in Clapton: He came in with his crowd from Stamford Hill Jewish youth club, who were rivals of ours, and I hadn't seen him for a while. The change was unbelievable. He was very slim, obviously taller, and was dressed from head to toe in his Modernist clothes : bumfreezer jacket, button down shirt, all the gear. He was obviously the leader of this gang and he came in and took the place over. We all thought, "Who does he think he is?", he was so sure of himself. But he always had a strong personality, even when he was nine (Hewitt, p 42). Mark Feld's position as 'ace face' was assured when in September 1962, he was featured in Town magazine in an article titled : "The Young Take The Wheel" written by Peter Barnsley. The photographs in the article (taken by Donald McCullin) showed fifteen year old Mark, and two of his twenty year old mates - Peter Sugar and Michael Simmonds. Town called them 'Faces Without Shadows', presumably because the pace of a Face's lifestyle was too intense to cast one (Hewitt, p 45).

Barnsley, impressed by young Mark's arrogance, articulacy and knowledge of the scene, made him a star of the article. That gave Mark an opportunity to enlighten the public on the subject of main priorities of a Mod 'ace face': 'You got to be different from the other kids' , says Feld. 'I mean, you got to be two steps ahead. The stuff that half  the haddocks you see around are wearing I was wearing years ago. A kid in my class came up to me in his new suit, an Italian box it was. he says, "Just look at the length of your jacket," he says, "You're not with it," he says. "I was wearing that style two years ago," I said. Of course they don't like that (Hewitt, p 46).

Peter Sugar, Michael Simmonds and Mark Feld in Town magazine, September 1962. Note Mark's leather waistcoat - an extremely expensive garment at the time, and almost impossible to find in Mark's size. It was custom made by his neighbour, Mrs Perrone.

In the article,apart from clothing and lifestyle, Mark Feld also shared his views on why he unusually supported both, The Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament (It's all exhibitionist, isn't it? I'm all for that) and The Conservative Party (they're for the rich, so I'm for them).

Mark Feld with the copy of Town, 1962

The article in Town shows that even at the age of fifteen, Mark Feld had all the qualities required for the rock star in making - immaculate style, arrogance, a desire to be rich and famous. But it also captures the Mod movement in the period of transition - Feld and his friends were not the original Modernists - they did not discuss existentialism while smoking Gitanes in cafes. But it is also hard to imagine them in parkas battling Rockers at the Brighton beach (Although Mark Feld, who was sometimes picked on because of his small stature, would get into occasional brawl in Mod clubs). The original Modernist indicate this period as the beginning of the end of Mod. One of them, Steve Sparks said: Mod has been much misunderstood. Mod is always seen as this working class, scooter - riding precursor of skinheads, and that's a false point of view. Mod, before it was commercialised was essentially an extension of the beatniks. It comes from 'modernist', it was to do with modern jazz and to do with Sartre. It was do do with existentialism, the working class reaction to existentialism. Mark Feld (who later became Marc Bolan) was an early example of what  was the downfall of mod, which was the attraction of people who didn't understand what it was about to the clothes. Mark Feld was only interested in the clothes, he was not involved in thinking (Jonathon Green, A Days In the Life in The Sharper World - A Mod Anthology, Ed. Paolo Hewitt, p 50).

As for Mark Feld himself, he was unimpressed with the article in Town magazine.It came out about seven months after they'd actually come down to see me and taken the pictures - he said - During that time, a Face's wardrobe would have been completely transformed - several times over (Hewitt, p 48).

18 year old Mark Feld in 1965.

Always ahead of everybody else, Feld eventually ditched the Mod look around 1965 , at least a year before it went out of fashion for good.He also changed his name to Marc Bolan (having also tried Toby Tyler) He did remain obsessed with clothes, however, and within next few years he went through few different incarnations - a singing guitarist with psychedelic proto-punks  John's Children (who performed all dressed in white), a hippie minstrel with Tyrannosaurus Rex, before becoming a precursor (and perhaps, an inventor) of Glam Rock and finally achieving superstardom with T.Rex in 1971.

Marc Bolan with John's Children, 1967

'The Third Degree' is a forgotten gem from Bolan's early career. He recorded it in 1966 - before he joined John's Children. It is one first singles to feature Bolan as a singer.It is alsoa great dance number.


Tuesday 3 January 2012

New Untouchables NYE Party

Here are some photos  I took at the New Untouchables NYE party at 229 in London. When I go to NUTS, taking photos is never a big priority, which should explain why my photos are low in number and poor in quality. They should however, give you a general idea of how much effort NUTS regulars put to recreate various 60's fashions. Among hundreds of Mods in sharp suits, I spotted quite a few people dressed in psychedelic/peacock style.

This double breasted jacket is from Pretty Green - Liam Gallagher's boutique. It will set you back a considerable £540. 

The clubnight was traditionally divided between 3 rooms: Beat/Psych room (where we spent most of the evening), Northern Soul room and Skinhead/Ska room. The rooms were not synchronized as far as time was concerned, which gave us a rare opportunity of witnessing two New Year countdowns - first in beat room and then in soul room. Apart from top dj's of London Mod scene, the other attraction of the evening was a tribute band to The Small Faces called The Small Fakers who performed Small Faces' classic 1968 album 'Odgen's Nut Gone Flake' in its entirety, as well as a few hit singles such as 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It' or 'Tin Soldier'.

The Small Fakers

Although it was a great evening, I, personally left the venue feeling slightly 'unfulfilled'. In spite of having quite a good knowledge of sixties psych/garage music, throughout the six or seven hours I spent there, I have only heard about six songs I actually knew. Despite being used to the fact that at NUTS dj's often compete with each other to see who will play the rarest and the most obscure records, I find it slightly irritating, that they treat their dj sets solely as an opportunity of 'displaying' their expensive record collections. They seem to forget that people come to those clubnights to dance, not to admire taste and musical knowledge of the dj's. I quietly hoped that on NYE, the 'obscure stuff only' rule would be loosen up a little, but clearly I was wrong. I did not expect to hear Beatles or Stones, not even The Seeds or Electric Prunes, but surely throwing 'I Cannot Stop You' by Cherry Slush, or 'A Question of Temperature' by Balloon Farm (which I heard on past NUTS nights)  wouldn't destroy dj's credibility.I realize of course, that the dj's (most of whom had been on the 'scene' for decades) might be bored of playing certain songs,but after all, djing is not always about playing songs YOU want to play. Sometimes you have to play a song you hate, or are bored of. I feel strongly about it, because, as a 60's Psych/Garage obsessive, I rarely have opportunity of hearing my favorite songs in the club. And I think the fact that I spent money on the ticket and travelled all the way from Brighton gives me a right to complain.
Despite all this, I am sure I will be coming to the future NUTS clubnights, and I encourage any other 60's obsessive to do the same (after all, my criticisms are based on my personal taste). I certainly look forward to their Easter event on the the 6th of April when they are putting on The Pretty Things, Crazy World of Arthur Brown and recently reformed July. This amazing line-up will be followed by all-night psychedelic freakout inspired by legendary UFO events at Roundhouse in 1967.