Paul Gorman is…

RIP Billy Murphy: ‘There were many kings of the King’s Road but only one Emperor’

Dec 20th, 2014
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//Billy Murphy by Sean Moorman//

“There were many kings of the King’s Road at different periods of time but there was only one Emperor”

Lloyd Johnson

Very sad to note the passing of Billy Murphy, a thoroughly lovely bloke whose contribution to street fashion – particularly in Britain and specifically in and around the King’s Road – is sorely underrated.

I knew all about Billy’s significance in his field decades before I met him; as I wrote here, his shop The Emperor Of Wyoming was “an extremely important staging post not just in the story of British rock and roll fashion but also the development of the vintage scene in this country”.

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//Stetson, embroidered shirt and hand-tooled leather belt from The Emperor Of Wyoming. Photo: David Parkinson for Club International, February 1974//

The received histories of the Chelsea thoroughfare  concentrate on 430 King’s Road and places such as Acme Attractions, but ignoring The Emperor Of Wyoming presents an incomplete picture of the retail landscape there in the early to mid-70s. Murphy’s shop was a major draw, and rightly championed by influential fashion editors  of the period such as Janet Street-Porter and Pru Walters.

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//Red, yellow and green check shirt, gun-belt, whip and tie-ring from The Emperor Of Wyoming. Photo: Karl Stoecker for West One, May 14, 1974//

Put simply, Murphy’s particular area of excellence formed the missing link between the niche sales of Americana imported and explored by one of his close pals Trevor Myles at the nearby Paradise Garage in 1971 and the explosion of interest when another King’s Road outlet, Flip, started shipping substantial amounts into the UK towards the end of the decade.

And during my researches, when I turned up photography of his lovingly curated clothes in an issue of Club International, I made sure to dig out a pristine copy for Billy. Not that he struck me as the type of character to trade on his past; Billy’s unassuming nature was just one aspect of his delightful charm which will be missed by those who knew him well and the thousands like me who pleasured in just a passing acquaintance.

Thanks to Sean Moorman for his kind permission to feature the portrait of Billy. Visit Sean’s site here.

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Desirable ties + lots more from East London’s exuberant EsDes

Dec 19th, 2014

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I’m really proud of my niece Esme Bradbury, whose exuberant handmade designs via her label EsDes have received a boost with inclusion at the Craft Council’s Established East London pop up shop at Westfield Stratford.

I’m particularly keen on the ties, but the flamboyant Es – who makes everything herself and is an alum of Harrow Art School like much earlier students David Allen, Malcolm McLaren, Pamla Motown, Charlie Watts and many another notable – also produces great separates in incredible prints, including shirts and dresses, kid’s clothes and all manner of accessories.

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Established East London is open until December 21. Visit the EEL Facebook page here for more details.

The EsDes website is here.

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Wild Westway Western Wear at the Joe Strummer Subway

Dec 15th, 2014

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I first met artist/curator Robert Gordon McHarg III two decades ago, when he was developing a sadly unrealised television project based around the annual Christmas extravaganza conducted by our mutual friend, Robert Lopez, aka El Vez The Mexican Elvis.

Gordon does good stuff, usually with a rock & roll inflection, and often-times connected to his pal Joe Strummer, The Clash and the west London neighbourhoods this Quebecker has adopted as his terrain for nigh-on three decades.

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Who can forget Sandpaper Blues, the compilation released as a limited edition CD to accompany his exhibition of wood art of the same name? Like predecessors Vini Reilly’s 1980 LP The Return Of The Durutti Column and Guy Debord and Asgar Jorn’s 1959 book Mémoires, the release featured a sandpaper cover (which wreaked havoc on neighbouring Digipaks). Among those who contributed tracks were Strummer, Wayne Kramer, Maria McKee, Wilko Johnson and John  Mayall.

The latest event/installation at Gordon’s prolific Subway Gallery, in the underpass at the heart of The Clash’s stamping ground where Edgware Road meets Harrow Road in Paddington, is Wild Westway Western Wear, a seven-day pop-up shop to raise funds for a Strummer statue he is determined to unveil next year.

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The handsome looking store opens tomorrow evening (December 16) and runs to Christmas Eve; Gordon has assembled a stunning array of Westernwear, related books, knick-knacks and ephemera.

Visit Subway Gallery in person at Kiosk 1, Joe Strummer Subway, Edgware Rd/Harrow Rd, London W2 1DX and online at the website here.

Here’s Strummer and the Mescaleros performing Sandpaper Blues on the 1999 album Rock Art & The X-Ray Style.

Photos courtesy of Subway Gallery’s Alessandra Travagliati.

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Queen Viva! Original punk rocker + lollipop lady

Dec 9th, 2014
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//Viva Hamnell at Glastonbury Festival, from Amanda Bluglass’s short Viva Punk Rebel//

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//Viva Hamnell at Port Eliot Lit Fest 2006 with her daughter Jane and son-in-law Rik Gadsby modelling McLaren, Westwood and Reid punk designs for The Look//

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//The crowd went wild and jogged the photographer’s elbow: onstage in this blurry shot with Viva in Jamie Reid’s Sex Pistols Fuck Forever t-shirt, Port Eliot Lit Fest, 2006//

Punk had great freedom with no rules. I couldn’t sing, but I got up there and sung. It didn’t matter. You had to have the spirit and the energy.

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My first meeting with Viva Hamnell eight years ago was not untypical, I subsequently learnt.

74 at the time, she was viewing the various Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood and Jamie Reid designs I was co-opting friends and attendees at Port Eliot Lit Fest to model that year to illustrate an event for the newly published second edition of my book The Look.

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//Hamnell goes about her Lollipop Lady duties in a 70s TV news item//

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//Left in the 70s//

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//Lining up with fellow members of The Bricks//

Having surveyed the Naked Cowboys, Mickie & Minnie and Snow White & Her Sir Punks, Viva plumped for Reid’s 1986 BOY t-shirt issue of his poster design for The Great Rock & Roll Swindle: Sex Pistols Fuck Forever set in flouro-pink.

And when she closed the show by strolling on stage wearing the shirt, the crowd naturally went wild.

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Amanda Bluglass’s documentary portrait Viva Punk Rebel captures this indomitable rule-breaker, whose embracing of punk rock as a 43-year-old freshly divorced lollipop lady in 1976 set her on a life of adventure – taking in membership of Cornish punk band The Bricks and involvement in the Elephant Fayre and Lit Fest at St Germans and the Glastonbury Festival – which lasts unto this day.

Viva Viva!

Thanks to womenyoushouldknow.net for the link to Bluglass’s film.

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Jah Wobble talks Bohemian Chelsea, Aswad, Hawkwind, Sid VIcious and selling his Metal Box bass to the JAMC

Dec 4th, 2014

wobbleThis is nice; pal and fellow Chelsea Arts Club member John Wardle talks about the importance of the immediate neighbourhood, its artistic tradition going back to the likes of Whistler, the licentiousness of the Cremorne Pleasure Gardens in Victorian times, the Bohemian atmosphere engendered by the 70s slums around the Lots Road Power Station and how all of this combined to create the breeding ground for punk.

John also talks about his love for Hawkwind, Sid Vicious, how he sold the bass he played on Metal Box to the Jesus & Mary Chain for a drink and why he should really have done the interview topless…

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Knockout R&B every night: Ian McLagan 1945 – 2014

Dec 4th, 2014
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//Ian McLagan, right with guitar, in Twickenham Art School band The Cherokees, sketched by Barney Bubbles – then Colin Fulcher – in 1963//

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//”Come Cossack”: Ticket designed by Bubbles for The Muleskinners’ Christmas 1964 gig on Eel Pie Island//

Rolling Stone’s obituary description of Ian McLagan as “jovial and charismatic” has nailed the character of this charming man.

It seems to me that Mac chose to accentuate the positive and keep playing his vital music, an admirable trait in one who had often been dealt an unfair hand by the fates (not least when his beloved wife Kim was killed in a car accident in 2006).

As an alum of the early 60s Twickenham beat scene, Mac was a valued contributor to Reasons To Be Cheerful, my book about his art school friend, the graphic designer Barney Bubbles.

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The Return Of The Saint: Cameo by The Saints + directed by Peter Medak at The Marquee…but is that Shinny in Seditionaries?

Dec 3rd, 2014
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//Is this Shinobu Kanai aka “Shinny” in a Seditionaries top in Episode 9 of the first series of The Return Of The Saint, broadcast November 1978?//

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//Kanai  in The Great Rock N Roll Swindle, 1980//

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// As “Japanese Woman” in the opening sequence of Insignificance, 1985//

Currently doing the rounds of the punk groups on various social networking sites is this clip from the cheesy 70s revival of classic 60s British television series The Saint.

Entitled The Arrangement, episode nine of The Return Of The Saint was broadcast on November 5, 1978 and starred such UK TV drama stalwarts as Carolyn Seymour, seen here looking glam in a car in Soho’s Wardour Street outside The Marquee where the great Aussie band The Saints are crashing through Swing For The Crime from their Eternally Yours album.
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Die Kunst ist in Gefahr – Blessed & Blasted is back! Art Is In Danger, 1925

Dec 3rd, 2014
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//George Grosz’s book jacket for of Die Kunst is in Gefahr, published by Malik Verlag, Berlin, 1925//

“Today’s artist, if he does not want to run down and become an antiquated dud, has the choice between technology and class warfare propaganda. In both cases he must give up ‘pure art’.
Either he enrolls as an architect, engineer or advertising artist in the army (unfortunately very feudalistically organized) which develops industrial powers and exploits the world; or as a reporter and critic reflecting the face of our times.”
From Last Round, the conclusion to Art Is In Danger

Today I’m returning to Blessed & Blasted – my occasional series about art manifestos – with Art Is In Danger, issued as a small book in 1925 by George Grosz and John Heartfield’s brother Wieland Hertzfelde.

This choice has been triggered by a charity shop acquisition of the catalogue for the 1979 London exhibition Neue Schachlichkeit And German Realism Of The Twenties, an examination of the so-called “New Objectivity” which arose as a reaction to the establishment of Weimar Germany.

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PiL logo tape, flyers for the Limelight and Generation X, Allen Jones artwork, the 1967 Gear Guide: Excavated ephemera of a London youth

Nov 24th, 2014
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//Copy of PIL’s Metal Box complete with tape printed with Dennis Morris’ logo for the band; DB reckons this may have come from the group’s guitarist Keith Levene//

During a recent visit to his mother’s north London home, NY-based expat DJ, art/publishing player and blogger DB Burkeman took the opportunity to recover some of the ephemera of his youth, including the items you see here.

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//Flyer for evening at the London outpost of Peter Gatien’s 80s club brand featuring Barnsley (now Barnzley), Tim Simenon (of Bomb The Bass) and the Wild Bunch’s Nellee Hooper//

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//Photo of Allen Jones artwork obtained from Burkeman’s first employer//

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The Family Acid: New book of the photography of a psychedelic pioneer, reggae archivist, actor and anthologist

Nov 17th, 2014

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One of my favourite Instagram feeds is The Family Acid, run by Kate Steffens, daughter of reggae archivist, actor, anthologist, psychedelic pioneer and photographer Roger Steffens.

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