Friday 27 October 2023

Friday Photo #54


With Mum's side of the family, I'm fortunate to have a well documented photographic trail to follow back through time, as far as the early years of the 20th century - Dad's much less so. Dad was one of seven children, but there are no photos of any of them in the family archive prior to their respective marriages in the 1950s. In my whole life I've only ever seen one photo of my paternal Grandfather, a man who was born in 1889 and passed away three months after I was born in 1960. From what I can gather he didn't attend the wedding ceremonies of any of his offspring, or if he did, he excused himself from the group photos, most of which I have copies of. There are precious few surviving images of my paternal Grandmother, Alice (1890-1967) and all of those were taken by my Dad in her later years. This is Alice in 1964. I have faint memories of her formidable presence at family gatherings, which was in stark contrast to the frailty of my maternal Grandmother.

Friday 20 October 2023

Friday Photo(s) #53

You may be familiar with Anish Kapoor's 2006 sculpture Cloud Gate, situated in Millennium Park, Chicago. Due to its shape, the huge reflective piece quickly became referred to as The Bean. In February, mere weeks before I touched down in New York, Kapoor's 15 years in-the-making Big Apple version of The Bean was finally unveiled, located just a few hundred yards from my cousin's apartment. Where Cloud Gate stands unencumbered on prominent display, its Tribeca counterpart gives the impression of having been forcibly squished beneath a canopy in the entrance of a large residential building, spilling out across the sidewalk. I was keen to take a good look at the sculpture, but the area was very busy during my initial visit so I only managed to snatch a quick side angle shot from Leonard Street. On the Sunday morning, while on an an extended wander in search of coffee, I found Church Street practically deserted, allowing me to capture The Bean head-on. The imposing structure is 58ft long, 19ft high and cost an estimated $8-10 million dollars to create. 

Spoon - Me and the Bean  

Friday 13 October 2023

Friday Photo(s) #52

While there was a conspicuous lack of interesting gigs during my visit to New York in March, I did have a few cultural bits and bobs set in stone long before I boarded my flight. One of those was a trip over to the Meatpacking District to catch 'Edward Hopper's New York' at The Whitney a couple of days before the show closed. Given that it was so late in the retrospective's five month run, together with the necessity to pre-book not just a ticket, but also a specific timeslot, I more or less assumed that the gallery space would be easy and comfortable to negotiate. How wrong I was. It was absolutely rammed, ridiculously oversold. I'm guessing that The Whitney had decided to ring every last drop out of the popular exhibit before it packed up and shipped out. The Hopper art on display was almost exclusively modest in size, which meant needing to get as close as possible to each piece while continuously jostling with the crowds for a couple of hours. It was like being in an ongoing series of scrums, moving slowly through the gallery. The work itself was of course fantastic. I was particularly interested by the many magazine illustrations on view, an area of his life I knew little about. Then there were the sketchbooks. The creative process in any artform is a thing of mystery and fascination to me and it was riveting to see as he edged, over successive pages, ever closer towards a finished masterpiece we know so well.

Monday 9 October 2023

Move Out of My Way

From slap bang in the middle of the 1970s comes Bunny Clarke, aka Bunny Rugs, soon to become lead vocalist with Third World, but here in a solo stylee with the follow up to his cover of 'To Love Somebody', which, confusingly, he recorded as Bunny Scott.....I hope you're taking notes, there'll be a test later. The tune in question is 'Move Out of My Way', a militant Lee 'Scratch' Perry produced groover that didn't trouble the chart compilers of the day to any great extent. What it did do, however, was spawn a number of dubs and versions, including this oddly disturbing example, released under the title 'Kojak', by Perry himself on the 'Revolution Dub' LP later the same year. With the titular lollypop-sucking cop playing on the TV in the background as he works, Scratch retains just enough of Clarke's vocal to inject disorientating stabs into an eerily stripped back rhythm track, which I've always found a little unsettling, but perhaps that's just me. Who loves ya baby?

Bunny Rugs & the Upsetters - Move Out of My Way

Lee Perry - Kojak

Friday 6 October 2023

Friday Photo #51

There's a weekly feature over on Instagram that's been going on for a very long time, whereby old family photos are dug out and shared every Thursday, using the hashtag #throwbackthursday. It's an interesting way to catch glimpses of a world long gone, via anonymous vintage snapshots and memories. I've contributed to #throwbackthursday most weeks for at least 4 years now and a number of those shots have also graced these pages at one time or another. As a consequence I've plundered dad's boxes of slides and negatives multiple times, yet every now and then I still unearth one I've missed, today's being a prime example. I don't ever remember seeing this photo before a few weeks ago and I have to say that the ancient, over-exposed image caught me emotionally off-guard when I stumbled upon it.

It was taken in 1961. Dad is holding me on the pillar of the wall in the front garden. He's looking up, smiling. And me? I'm clearly loving the thrill of being up there, at just about the height I'd one day reach. These are roughly the respective perspectives Dad and I would have of each other for most of my adult life, after I'd shot past his 5' 10" at around the age of 15 or 16. It's always nice to see a photo of Dad & I together. There aren't that many in the archives, as he was the family photographer, with Mum & I as the frequent subjects. A quick squint on Google Street View shows me that, remarkably, the front garden wall is still standing, albeit in a refurbished state, 62 years later.

Human League - Empire State Human

Monday 2 October 2023

Monday Long Song

'Free', recorded in 1989 and issued on the soundtrack of the awful 1990 film 'Flashback', was the parting shot from the classic line-up of Big Audio Dynamite. Later in 1990 a new recording of the song, rechristened 'Kickin' In', appeared on 'Kool Aid', the first LP by Mick Jones' raw recruits now trading as Big Audio Dynamite II. In 1991 the same song surfaced once again on their live 'Ally Pally Paradiso' album, though by this time, somewhat confusingly, it had reverted to its original moniker, 'Free'.

Here's that 1989 swansong from the original BAD.

Big Audio Dynamite - Free

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