The priceless footage of Teddy Boys & Girls dancing and talking about their cult lifestyle in the early 70s at the bottom of this post comes from the East Anglian Film Archive, which provides access to 200 hours of moving images relating to the part of the UK 100-or-so miles east of London.
//Chuck Berry with Paul Shaffer, Thames TV Studios, Lower Ground, Waterloo, London, May 16, 1995//
I saw Chuck Berry play live twice, and have written previously about the first time when, supported by David Bowie-endorsed revivalist rockers Fumble, he performed a truncated set at the Rainbow theatre in north London’s Finsbury Park in September 1973.
The second time was frankly bizarre. He and Little Richard sat in with Paul Shaffer and his band during a live broadcast of The David Letterman Show from the UK capital in 1995.
//Berry lower right and Little Richard, top, performing with Shaffer and his band//
This commenced, I kid you not, with a rendition of Knees Up Mother Brown.
I had been invited to be in the audience at the Thames TV studios in Waterloo by Warner Music’s press office after interviewing another of Letterman’s guests, Elvis Costello, for British trade weekly Music Week. That evening Costello performed Little Richard’s song Bama Lama Bama Loo in tribute.
The experience of sharing cigarettes at the bar of the crowded green room with Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders (they were promoting the latest series of AbFab) was topped only by the sight of the lean Berry striding into the room with his guitar strapped on, wearing a sizeable pair of red Lionel Blairs. So similar were they to the trousers he had worn at the Rainbow 22 years earlier that I wondered whether they were the exact same ones.
Berry looked amazing, as did the more retiring LR. I was too awestruck to approach either, a fact which of course I now greatly regret.
Sayonara Chuck Berry, a titan who changed Western culture for the better.
He and Little Richard are introduced around the five minute mark in the clip below.
//Van Ravenstein with Gallant (wearing his trademark Japanese schoolboy’s cap adorned with gold charms). From photo by Francis Ing//
Images of the novelty t-shirt designs détourned by the late Malcolm McLaren for sale in Seditionaries in 1978 are rare, which is why this shot of Apollonia Van Ravenstein and Ara Gallant from a spread in a late 70s issue of L’Uomo Vogue is extra special.
As punk expert/collector and design academic Paul Burgess notes, references to 430 King’s Road turn up in the most surprising places.
So thanks to him for notifying me about this photograph of the coolest address in pop culture – and in particular the tiger stripe-flocked Ford Mustang which adorned the street outside during the Paradise Garage phase – in a 1976 light educational book for young children.
//The Stiff Records clock. Concept: Jake Riviera, design: Barney Bubbles, lettering: Caramel Crunch, 1977. No reproduction without permission//
Stiff Records was on fire in 1977.
The British independent record label, with owners Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson snapping up acts and art director Barney Bubbles applying his unsurpassable skills to the visualising of their music, came straight out of the traps 40 years ago this month with the release of the first ‘punk’ LP Damned Damned Damned by – who else? – The Damned.
I am fortunate enough to be able to state that the first live music concert I attended was the midnight double bill of Frank Sinatra and The Count Basie Orchestra at London’s Royal Festival Hall in May 1970.
//The headliners at the RFH, May 1970. Photo: Getty//
//At The RFH, May 1970. Photo: Getty//
I was 10 years old. My resourceful mother wangled tickets for the entire family, with one of my sisters selling programmes. That gained her access to the artists’ area; she gave me the backstage pass which I duly placed in the school project autobiography I wrote the following year.
A few years back I came across Malcolm McLaren’s annotated copy of Indian Rawhide, the anthropologist Mable Morrow’s study of the folk art produced by Native American tribes which inspired the late cultural iconoclast in the conceptualising with his partner Vivienne Westwood of their Spring/Summer 1982 fashion collection Savage.
//Frontispiece to Morrow’s book, published by University of Oklahoma Press in the Civilization Of The American Indian Series, 1975//
//From Indian Rawhide: design produced by the Apache Mescaleros in Taos, New Mexico, matched by McLaren and Westwood with book-end marbling on this Savage slip dress. No reproduction without permission//
//The Apache design as it appeared printed on the end of the train on a Worlds End jersey toga dress. No reproduction without permission//
McLaren obtained a copy of Morrow’s book during travels recording his debut solo album Duck Rock. Since the Pirate collection of March 1981 had established a post-Punk direction for himself and Westwood and their Worlds End shop and label, McLaren set about investigating the powerful ideas residing in pre-Christian ethnic cultures, selecting Indian Rawhide as the text with which to frame the next group of designs.
My McLaren biography, to be published in spring 2018, will reveal that research – particularly literary – was one of the life-long consistencies in his approach to creative acts.
The musician Robin Scott told me that McLaren was an avid attendee of art history lessons during their spell as students at Croydon Art School in the 60s, and a couple of years before his death in 2010 McLaren confirmed that he was inspired in part to open Teddy Boy revival emporium Let It Rock at 430 King’s Road in 1971 after reading Nik Cohn’s peerless post-WW2 youth cult history Today There Are No Gentlemen.
On Thursday evening, veteran photographer Joe Stevens will be at Book & Bar in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, presenting an illustrated talk on capturing the wonder that is woman, from Caroline Coon to Yoko Ono via Lulu, Madonna, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith and a host of others who embody one of my favourite song titles: Man Smart (Woman Smarter).