//Electric Colour Company’s Roderic Stokes and David Smith with Carol Davey at Blueberry Hill, 91 King’s Road, London, 1970//
Here are a couple of images relating to late 60s/early 70s British design studio Electric Colour Company; I’m writing a magazine feature about their exceptional body of work which ran from signage, custom-built furniture and shop designs (notably Mr Freedom, Paradise Garage and City Lights Studio) to lighting modules, display objects, interior decoration, murals, custom cars and fashion accessories.
In November 1970 the King’s Road boutique Blueberry Hill was launched with a comprehensive fit-out – reported at a substantial-for-those-days £3,000 – by the ECC team of Andrew Greaves, Jeffrey Pine, David Smith and Roderic Stokes.
//By the time this coverage appeared in the February 1971 issue of Design magazine, Blueberry Hill had been closed for several weeks//
Despite the extraordinary nature of the shop design – which included cloud-form light fittings in neon strip and a timber counter with spray-on brickwork finish resembling a well-head – Blueberry Hill closed after just six weeks when the landlords opted to replace it with a more bankable betting shop.
//Irene Smith and Dinah Adams with the ECC-customised Ford Fairlane 500, 1970//
//Advert, Time Out, 1970//
The other photograph shows ECC fellow travellers Dinah Adams – who designed clothes for Mr Freedom, Paradise Garage and Granny Takes A Trip – and Irene Smith with the customised Ford Fairlane which also appeared in the East End company’s advertising.
I’ll give the nod when my piece on Electric Colour Company is nearing publication.
The industrious British designer/illustrator Kate Moross is celebrating the publication of her book Make Your Own Luck with a London exhibition surveying the impressive body of work she has assembled to date.
I recommend the book highly, and not just because Moross gracefully thanked me for what little input I may have had. Also, as a fellow dog-lover, it’s great to see that Moross’s beloved Shiba Inus Tako and Ebi are given prominence on the flyleaf.
//Front cover, Rock Archive, Various Artists, Windmill Records, 1972//
It is relatively common knowledge among those interested in the careers of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and their series of extraordinary shops that they supplied clothes to the 1973 album Golden Hour Of Rock & Roll; Let It Rock at 430 King’s Road was clearly credited on the back of the record sleeve.
//Front cover, The Golden Hour Of Rock N Roll, Various Artists, Pye/Golden Hour, 1973//
//The photograph on the Rock Archive cover was flipped to better accommodate the text. Here it is as originally shot//
But I have fresh information which helps towards a greater understanding of McLaren’s project to investigate the detritus of popular culture’s recent past. During a bout of research recently I came across this earlier and hitherto undocumented use of Let It Rock clothing in a music context: the front cover of Rock Archive, a budget LP compilation released by the specialist British independent label Windmill in 1972.
And I am detailing the clothes on the cover with images taken inside Let It Rock which have never been previously published.
//Starke shirts with 50s sports jacket on Let It Rock wall, January 1972. Photograph: David Parkinson//
//Starke label detail//
Each garment worn by the model – whose attempts at rocking out resulted in his giving every appearance of suffering considerable pain – comes from the deadstock of British brands assiduously assembled by Malcolm McLaren and his art-school friend Patrick Casey for the opening of the world’s first avowedly post-modern retail outlet in November 1971.
From the ground up, the Rock Archive cover star wore black suede Denson’s Fine Poynts, ice-blue Lybro jeans with 12in cuffs, a Frederick Starke flyaway collar shirt and a studded and decorated Lewis Leathers early 60s Lightning jacket (which featured a highly collectable 6-5 Special patch).
//Jack Henry Moore (right) outside the Melkweg, Amsterdam with fellow film-makers Kit Galloway and Dave Jones, early 70s. Photo: The Generalist/The Videoheads//
Jack Henry Moore – who has died aged 73 – was one of the unpindownables of the counterculture in the 60s and 70s.
Known principally as a pioneering video film-maker and sound recordist (the archive he leaves behind is estimated to contain more than 70,000 hours of tape compiled over five decades), Moore was central to the establishment of many of the foundation stones of the underground in London and other European cities.
//With Lennon and Ono 1968. Photo: The Generalist/The Videoheads//
Moore joined fellow ex-pat American Jim Haynes in his theatrical experiments in Edinburgh in the mid-60s, where they staged productions by the likes of Lindsay Kemp. As in his native Oklahoma, Moore’s openness about his homosexuality necessitated a geographical shift, this time south to London.
The last time I saw photographer/manager Leee Black Childers – who has died aged aged 69 – was fleetingly, a year or so ago at the crowded launch of his book and exhibition at London’s The Vinyl Factory.
The first time I saw Childers was at The Speakeasy at a March 1977 concert by his charges The Heartbreakers. The poster for that gig, featuring his London rooftop portrait of the band, hangs behind me as I type.
That night and for the rest of his London stay over the next couple of years this Southern gent could be spotted at such haunts as The Ship in Wardour Street, his presence notable for lacquered pompadour, authentic sharkskin suits and slick black winklepickers, his reputation bolstered by the knowledge that Ian Hunter had dedicated Mott The Hoople’s All The Way From Memphis to Childers – who, in fact, was raised near Louisville, KY – and that he created the apocalyptic collage on the inner gatefold of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs LP (which now appears spookily prescient of the devastation of 9/11).
//The inner gatefold of my well-worn copy of Diamond Dogs showing Childers’ apocalyptic photographic collage//
Childers appeared awfully frail at the Vinyl Factory launch, so news that he had been rushed to LA’s Cedar Sinai hospital during another bout of book promotion a few weeks back was worrying but not unexpected.
In conversation in 2009 Childers revealed a promotional plan for his book then in preparation: he wanted it to be published after his death so that he could be utterly honest about his extraordinary life and set of acquaintances. The promotion would consist of a series of pre-recorded chat show appearances, all ready for broadcast as soon as he expired. He wondered whether the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman would be up for it.
Well, it wasn’t to be. The book came out and though unwell he appeared to be enjoying being back in the spotlight.
I am told Childers’ archiving was ramshackle and can find no website dedicated to his photographic work. This is shame because no one was embedded in and simultaneously chronicling the demi-monde of glitter, glam and punk, of Warhol’s Manhattan, Iggy’s LA and McLaren’s London, in the manner of this charismatic soul.
Among the lines launching Tokyo’s new fashion and music retail outlet The Pool is a collaboration between Japanese streetwear labels Fragment and Peel + Lift on a fresh version of the 1976 Anarchy Shirt design by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.
The reissue, in four versions, is a stripped down reproduction of one of the original variants created by McLaren and Westwood to be worn by the Sex Pistols and for sale in their shop at 430 King’s Road in its incarnations as Sex and Seditionaries.
“I had been a student in the 60s, and the anarchic student movements in France really framed my critique,” McLaren told me in 2007. “This particular shirt celebrated that.”
The original designs used as a base the deadstock Wemblex brand shirts stored in boxes at McLaren & Westwood’s flat in Clapham, south London in the mid-70s. “They were pin-striped and made in cheap cotton in the early 60s when the ‘pin-through’ collar style – an American look – was fashionable,” said McLaren.
“I wore and wore them and then, one day, Vivienne decided to paint stripes over one. She showed it to me and together we customised it, using my son’s stencil set, with slogans such as “Only Anarchists Are Pretty” and “Dangerously Close To Love”.
“As well as layering the stencils to increase the impact, I attached silk patches of Karl Marx I discovered in shops in Chinatown which sold Maoist literature. I chose him because his book started the Socialist and workers’ movements in the 19th century. Also, Vivienne and I liked his beard.
“Marx was a writer/author, a creator of ideas, not a politician like Lenin. Marx represented a greater significance and was important to us because he lived in London at one point.”
//Flyer for The Rock n Roll Show printed on the back of a subscription form for Oz magazine, July 1972. The Move were replaced by lead member Roy Wood’s new band Wizzard; this was their first gig. Original Brit-rocker Heinz was added to the bill; his backing band would soon become Dr Feelgood//
I acquired my first underground press publications in the summer of 1972, at about the point when the sector was taking the nosedive from which it never recovered.
Still, better late than Sharon Tate, as they say. Aged 12, my taste had been whetted by sneak peeks at an older brother’s collection of magazines when a guy called Kevin O’Keefe who lived down the road gave me a few copies of Oz, including number 43, the July issue.
A few weeks later, to my astonishment, the newsagents in Hendon’s Church Road started stocking Frendz. I folded issue 33 between a couple of music papers and pored over it in my bedroom.
//Front cover of OZ 43, the issue which included the Wembley flyer//
//Front cover, Frendz 33, September 1972//
//Crowds around the Let It Rock stand. From the 1973 film London Rock N Roll Show directed by Peter Clifton//
Neither of the magazines are shining examples of the genre, but they had something in common: the centre spread of OZ 43 contained a subscription form back-printed with a flyer for the London Rock N Roll Show, a one-day festival of original 50s acts and those who could claim kinship held at Wembley Stadium on August 5 that year.
And for me the most beguiling article in Frendz 33 was a two-page stream-of-consciousness report of the event filed by one Douglas Gordon and illustrated with photographs by Pennie Smith, soon to leave for the NME and carve out her reputation as one of rock photography’s all-time greats.