Revolt Into Style

8 03 2012

Looking around the ARC for some interesting things to show visiting fashion students from FIT I picked up Revolt Into Style, by a typically pompous and penetrating Brit, George Melly, in 1970.  The title by the way was later a song by Bill Nelson, a Glasgow record label, the headline over an endless number of music articles, layered upon political and pop stances taken before and after it’s publication, and now available as a Faber reprint.  Here’s a few very nice fashion statements:

“Hapshash and the Coloured Coat” is the curious trade name of two young men called Nigel Waymouth and Michael English. They are musicians in the avant-garde pop idiom, but also, and it is this aspect which is relevant here, poster designers. They are cool, polite and very beautiful to look at with Harpo hair styles, unironed marbled shirts, tight trousers, loose belts and two-tone Cuban boots. I talked to them in their house in Notting Hill and within a few sentences felt, as is usual when in conversation with the Underground, that I had tumbled into a world where time operates at a different speed.  [p. 136]

And on Mary Quant and husband-bankroller Alexander Plunket-Green:

“They opened Bazaar in the King’s Road, Chelsea, on a comparative shoe-string in November 1955. They had no business experience but a lot of flair. Mary Quant’s genius was to stylize the clothes of the poor but imaginative art students, to throw a custard pie in the face of every rule of what up until then had constituted British fashion, to spell ‘chic’ as ‘cheek’.

She was lucky in her moment. She and Plunket were at the centre of a small social group which became known as the Chelsea Set, and whose parties and general way of carrying on had won the total attention of the gossip-writers of that period. Quant’s clothes received an extraordinary amount of publicity. She was seen and rightly as a concrete expression of something new. The Chelsea Set carried on in the classic smart upper-class way reminiscent of the ‘ Bright Young Things’ of the 20s. It had many of the same traits : a tendency to tease the lower middle classes by showing off and to patronize the working classes.”  [p.145-146]

Noticing the intriguing and elaborate “Plunket-Green” I said, “I know a Plunket-Green.”  So I called Sooze Plunket-Green, Nile Rodgers’ right-hand woman, and sure enough, from that side of the family, Mary Quant a makeup mentor in her youth.

“Male pop fashion was a different case. Admittedly by the late 60s it had assumed its place as parallel and almost inter-changeable with its female counterpart; but at the beginning it was more of a genuine pop manifestation, a general upsurge rather than the work of any one man.

The Teddy Boy style of the middle 50s I have already described early in this book as an example of how pop culture operated in its primitive days. It is perhaps worth repeating and stressing, however, that what made it significant was that it represented one of the first successful attempts to establish a male working-class fashion with a symbolic rather than a functional raison d’etre.

Yet not all the elements that fused together to make up male pop fashion came up from the tribal life of British working-class adolescents. The other principal source was based on the East End Jewish tradition of good tailoring, as exclusive in its way as Savile Row, if based on a different premise: the necessity to reveal conspicuous expenditure rather than to conceal it.” [p.148]

The above revelation could easily describe the styling and stance of inner city youth in America at this time, both Italian and African Americans.  And just for fun and my absolute final fashion statement of the year …



3 03 2012

Grad students from FIT will be visiting the ARC next week to get a tour and look at some fashionable things from our collection.  So we thought we’d pull a few covers by groups who have a strong or ever-so-weak link to clothing, style, mode, fashion and fabrication. These students in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice, will be presenting a symposium @ FIT on Saturday, May 5, “Two-part Harmony: Music and Fashion.”

Monday night was an opening of “Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution” by another group of grads @ the FIT Galleries.  The show is beautifully mounted, Eurocentric and London specific.  If you’ve ever seen the poor clothing displays at some other institutions – ill-fitting and badly draped – you can appreciate the care.  The Bob Dylan face-dress is a revelation.  With an emphasis on Mod, what people wore here in the States is only lightly touched on, with nary a tie-dye in sight – let alone a Velvet Underground all-black beat leftover.

This is not a survey of my sixties: long hair, flowers in your hair, Afghani coats, embroidered Indian shirts, Amerindian fringe, macramé, granny dresses, granny glasses, peace signs, bra-less, boas, beads, bellbottoms, headbands, sandles, guitars, sitars and some rockabilly beat-girl skiffle styling.  Or some Rockers to battle those Mods.  But they do mention Françoise Hardy (THE “Ye Ye” Girl), display some extraordinary leather boots and Beatle booties, and offer a loop of fab vintage pop shop footage.

I would recommend a viewing of “Comic Strip” by Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg for French TV, (worst jumpsuit ever by a major designer – you do the research) and a little more about the music that accompanied the look.  But this is a fine overview of Eng-a-land Swings and the kids who made designers pay attention to the street, be it Carnaby or Haight.

Click on any cover to see the slideshow…


21 02 2012

ARCsters recently attended the opening, book signing and reading at the swell Ed Sanders gallery show at Boo-Hooray Gallery on Canal Street.  Ed was kind enough to sign a copy of his new book, Fug You, (here’s a good review from the times) and two of our albums.  The reading centered on his obscenity arrest and trying to avoid getting the judge who sentenced Lenny Bruce.   Street pretzels and mustard were served.

We were a little surprised to see that one cover that we had signed was shot by society photographer Richard Avedon.  Seemed the antithesis of what the Fugs were up to.  Then an industry insider told us that a ‘certain exec’ at Reprise/Warner Bros. used big name photographers like Avedon just to say they owned a print by Avedon.   My guess is that the cost was a chargeback to the artists!

The show was put together by avid collector and impresario Johan Kugelberg, who was kind enough to offer to help us track down the recordings we are missing.

Here’s a list of The Fugs’ holdings @ ARC

• Belle of Avenue A, The  (Reprise, RS 6359, 12″, 33.3, LP, n.d.).  White label promo w/ publishing info on label.  M-

• Belle of Avenue A, The  (Reprise, RS 6359, 12″, 33.3, LP, n.d.).  Red-top label.  VG+

• Fugs First Album, The  (ESP, 1018, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1965).  Black + white photo on cover.  Black text label.

• Fugs First Album, The  (ESP, 1018, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1965).  Black + white photo on cover.  “Reissue of Broadside BR 304″ on front cover.  Riverside Dr. address on label.

• Fugs First Album, The  (ESP, 1018, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1965).  Black + white photo on cover.  Orange custom label.

• Fugs First Album, The  (ESP, 1018, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1965).  Color painying on cover.  .  Orange custom label.

• Fugs, The  (ESP, 1028, 12”, 33.3, LP, 1966).  Black + white photo on cover.  STEREO “stereo” sticker on cover. Three photos along top of back cover.

• Fugs, The  (ESP, 1028, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1966).  Black + white cover.  STEREO “stereo” on back cover. Three photos along top of back cover.

• Fugs, The  (ESP, 1028, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1966).  Black + white cover.  Mono

• Fugs, The  (ESP, 1028, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1966).  –.  COLOR COVER “STEREO” on upper right corner of back cover.

• Fugs, The  (ESP, 1028, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1966).  –.  COLOR COVER “STEREO” on left side of back cover.

• The Fugs Second Album  (Fugs, FCD-9669-2, 5″, -, CD, 1993).  .  Reissue of 1967 album with 5 bonus tracks.

• Golden Filth – Alive at the Filmore East  (Reprise, USA, 6396, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1970).  –.  Tan label w/ “stereo” on bottom.  1 M-; 1 VG-

• Golden Filth – Alive at the Filmore East  (Reprise, USA, 6396, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1970).  Tan label w/ “stereo” on bottom; “Warner Communications” on label.  M-

• Golden Filth – Alive at the Filmore East  (Reprise, USA, 6396, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1970).  Tan label w/ “Warner Communications” on label.  M-

• Golden Filth – Alive at the Filmore East  (Edsel, UK, ED 217, 12″, 33.3, LP, [1970]).  5014757132179.  Eighties British reissue of 1970 LP.

• It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest  (Reprise, 6305, 12″, 33.3, LP, n.d.).

• Proto Punk; The Fugs Greatest Hits Vol. I  (PVC / ARI, PVC 8914 / AD 4116, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1982).  Compilation of ESP recordings.

• Star Peace: a Musical Drama in Three Acts  (New Rose, France, ROSE 115, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1987).

The Fugs / Firesign Theatre .   Sampler  (Artemis, 197, 5″, , , 2003).  Advance promo in generic package, no cover.

• Songs From a Portable Forest  (Gazell, GPCD 2003, 5″,  CD, 2003).

• Tenderness Junction  (Reprise, 6280, 12″, 33.3, LP, n.d.).  Richard Avedon photo on cover.  Autographed.

by Ed Sanders:

• Beer Cans On the Moon   (Reprise, MS 2105, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1972).  M-.S-7

• Beer Cans On the Moon   (Reprise, MS 2105, 12″, 33.3, LP, 1972).  White label promo.  M-. Autographed front cover.

• Sanders TruckStop  (Reprise, 6374, 12″, 33.3, LP, n.d.).  White label promo.  Publishing info on label  M-

• Poems for New Orleans  (Paris, 2007, 5″, -, CD, 2007).  7 33792 77102 4.

Candy kisses, raspberries, banana-nana-babouvism

14 02 2011

Well, it’s a traditional view of pair bonding, but at least the title, Girl Meets Boy, gives the majority gender top billing.  Happy Valentines from your institutional love machine, ARC.

No kisses for the latest show up at the Museum of the City of New York where I saw, Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment, on Saturday. Now it’s not their fault that this was wall-to-wall webpages, blown-up and boringly the same; blame the Smithsonian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture who put the show together, who own most of the material on exhibit.

This is a show designed for easy travel, hence the modular panels, so slack given.  But after Carnegie Hall, the Apollo is America’s greatest venue.  It wouldn’t hurt to bring some vision to the task, certainly offering more than the same small and smaller screen presentation you could sample from your couch.  I suggest a re-look at one of the few good music exhibitions ever mounted, Rock ’n’ Roll 39-59, at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art Contemporain in Paris (June 22–Octobre 28, 2007) – if not exactly waxing philosophical (but at least trying), offering an exhaustive and spectacular look at what happened, beautifully mounted and thought out. Then again, imagine anyone complaining about the depth of a gallery show about popular music.

I arrived behind forty Black high school students, who whisked through the whole thing in under six minutes.  Other than that viewers were me-like, post 50, white.  My highlight was seeing Mr. Schiffman’s (longtime owner) index cards listing artist payments and comments on their performances.  Take these first and last entries on Bo Diddley:  “8/19/55 – Very lowdown rhythm and exciting”… “10/17/58 – Popularity seems to have diminished to nothing”. Tito Puente’s first note complains that he has no drawing power.   A nice surprise was learning that minstrel’s blackface was once available commercially in a tube.

Speaking of bad execution, as the Egyptian ‘revolution’ in Tahrir Square was playing out, I was immersed in reading source documents of the French Revolution. Now whenever you think you know something about something, there’s another level of specificity, a realm of concerns, a focus unique to the inheritors of a tradition that brings you up short.  So I struggled through ‘babouvism’, an extreme take on sharing, made real in a movement entitled, “the conspiracy of equals” (our next blog rename?), a touchstone of communism.

I’ve attached some portions of the unsuccessful defense mounted by one of the founders, François-Nöel Babeuf (“Gracchus”) at his conspiracy trial in 1797.  He touches on a million inequities (“Education is a monstrosity when it is unequal”) and makes an easy slip and slide into a discussion that presages the creative commons and the ethics of filesharing.

“The products of industry and of genius also become the property of all, the domain of the entire association, from the very moment that the workers and the inventors have created them, because they are simply compensation for earlier discoveries made through genius and industry, from which the new inventors and workers have profited within the framework of social life, and which have helped them to make their discoveries.  Since the knowledge acquired is the domain of everyone, it must therefore be equally distributed among everyone”.

No wonder they killed him.

Inexplicable, ridiculously, the only way I’ve been able to keep the movement’s unfamiliar name in my head, is to incorrectly sing Shirley Ellis’ manifesto-like “Name Game”.

Obviously Shirley knows Presidents Day is upon us, and in the second verse she deconstructs Lincoln, not a very common name to posit haphazardly.

As I walked my 60 block walk to the museum, I found this mural on Lex around 116th St.  Not French, but honored in Spanish Harlem; another Queen with big hair, but always kept her head; a Cuban who loved Reagan and shunned revolution; called that “skinny Negresse” when she replaced Myrta Silva in La Sonora Matancera, they let her eat cake; Reina de la Salsa, Celia Cruz…

Tuckered out, after a great lunch @ Sisters Caribbean Cuisine (47 E. 124th St), I took the Lex line home.  On the platform, huddled and pretty much singing to himself, I couldn’t believe the miniature foot-powered double drum kit this genius had put together.  I gave him more than I gave the museum.

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