Paul Gorman is…

Happy Birthday British rock and R&B, born 55 years ago tonight at the Ealing Club when Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Eric Burdon gathered around Alexis Korner

Mar 17th, 2017

//Top: Entrance to Ealing Club stairwell with jeweller’s to its right, early 1960s. Photo: ealingclub.com. Above: The entrance as it is today//

“Suburbia is the breeding ground for the richest and most innovative cultural production of the 20th and 21st centuries” Rupa Huq, writer and MP for Ealing Central & Acton, 2013

An advert in the New Musical Express for a “Rhythm & Blues Night” staged 55 years ago today – on St Patrick’s Night, March 17, 1962 – sparked the British musical revolution which soundtracked youth culture in the West for decades.

The ad proved a lure for suburban London teenage r&b fans including Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, while Eric Burdon, soon to be vocalist with The Animals, hitchhiked the 300 miles from Newcastle to join them in witnessing the main performance by Blues Incorporated (in fact he and Jagger traded verses on stage during a rendition of Billy Boy Arnold’s I Ain’t Got You).

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What’s it going to be then, eh? An ‘unforgettable evening of typewriters, music, rough cider and poison-pen letters’

Feb 24th, 2017

//Anthony Burgess, Chiswick, west London, 1968, with the border collie Haji, “crafty, disobedient, and ignorant of the sexual life, except in perverted forms peculiar to himself […] He had no loyalty, leaving that commodity to us”. Photo: IABF//

Tomorrow is Anthony Burgess’s centenary; would that I could, I’d be in Manchester, specifically at the Engine House, Chorlton Mill, 3 Cambridge Street, home to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation for its celebration of the great fellow with an “unforgettable evening of typewriters, music, rough cider and poison-pen letters”.

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Bend Sinister: Trump The Toad

Feb 16th, 2017

//1960 Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition. Jacket design: Eric Ayers//

“This choice of a title was an attempt to suggest an outline broken by refraction, a distortion in the mirror of being, a wrong turn taken by life.”
Vladimir Nabokov, from the introduction to the 1963 edition of Bend Sinister

Donald Trump’s nightmarish occupancy of the US presidency has occasioned quite a few literary comparisons, causing sales spikes for such dystopian works as George Orwell’s 1984 and prompting arguments about whether other books more accurately envisioned what passes for our current version of reality: see Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

An admittedly cursory check around hasn’t turned up anyone else who, like me, makes the connection to Vladimir Nabokov’s 1947 novel Bend Sinister, about a bereaved world-renowned philosopher living in a totalitarian state run by the repulsive schoolmate he had once bullied and nicknamed “The Toad”. This tyrant, Paduk, rules via his Party Of The Average Man.

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Sayonara Martin Stone 1946 – 2016

Nov 10th, 2016

Martin Stone hopped, pre-dawn, through the Cheshire street market, scavenging books. Winklepickers, tourniquet trousers, mildewed beret, bulging swagbag: Blind Pew impersonated by Max Wall. Cigarette grafted to trembling, prehensile fingers, he was an anthology of retro fashion. And in his wake there shimmered a vortex of gossip and, amazingly, goodwill…  Iain Sinclair, The Independent, February 18, 1995

Sad to note the passing of Martin Stone, dapper devil and rock and rolling rare book dealer par excellence.

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Stop look and listen: It’s called Rubber Stamping baby

Oct 8th, 2016

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Artist/illustrator Stephen Fowler’s Rubber Stamping is an engaging guide which stems from his rich body of work in primitive, D-I-Y printmaking.

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Sex signage: Was McLaren inspired by Lubalin’s cladding for the Georg Jensen flagship NY store?

Sep 30th, 2016
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//Detail, clad signage for Georg Jensen, 601 Madison Avenue, late 60s. From Herb Lubalin: Typographer, Unit Editions, 2016//

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//Detail, shop signage designed by Malcolm McLaren, made by Vick Mead, 430 King’s Road, London, 1975. From a photograph by Peter Schlesinger//

Was the late Malcolm McLaren inspired by one of the greats of 20th century graphics in his creation of the astonishing signage for Sex, the fetishistic fashion boutique and incubator of punk rock he operated with Vivienne Westwood at 430 King’s Road in west London between October 1974 and November 1976?

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Reckless Daughter: A barnstorming Joni Mitchell anthology

Sep 22nd, 2016

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Hats off to barnstorming Barney Hoskyns for compiling new Joni Mitchell anthology Reckless Daughter, which is published in November.

I fell under Mitchell’s spell in my early teens at the behest of an older brother and was lucky enough to see her live in the gig-crowded year of 1974 at London’s New Victoria Theatre.

Even while punk raged I kept the faith; 1975’s The Hissing Of Summer Lawns and the following year’s Hejira are stone classics to which I constantly return, and not just for the peerless music. The designs by her own hand (Mitchell is an accomplished visual artist) and the fashion-sheen photography of Norman Seeff add to the allure.

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English Heritage plaque dedicated to the great Laurie Cunningham

Sep 22nd, 2016
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//The plaque at 73 Lancaster Road. Photo: Peter Tarry//

Great news about the English heritage blue plaque dedicated yesterday at 73 Lancaster Road in north London’s Finsbury Park, one-time home of the late great footballer Laurie Cunningham.

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//Dermot Kavanagh speaks at the unveiling. Among those in attendance were Cunningham’s friend Cyrille Regis, his former girlfriend Nikki Brown and members of his family. Photo: Peter Tarry//

As I’ve written here before, Cunningham’s significance extends outside of his considerable achievements as a sportsman; the first black player to represent England and be signed to an overseas club (Spain’s Real Madrid), he lived his tragically short life off the field at the cutting edge of street style and club culture.

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‘They open their minds to better ways of doing things’: A People’s History Of Woodcraft Folk by Phin Harper

Sep 18th, 2016

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“The pastime of deriding the young never seems to grow old. Kids on the street: more must be done to tackle gang warfare. Kids inside; internet addiction is out of control. Kid sitting alone: depression epidemic. Kid running round: ADHD epidemic. Kid aces exam: standards are slipping. Kid flunks exam: no aspiration. The conditions the young endure are invariably a playground for adult moral grandstanding…

“For those who believe the voice of children is worth listening to, Woodcraft Folk has blazed a trail.”

Phineas Harper, Introduction, A People’s History Of Woodcraft Folk, 2016

My father, a career soldier of 26 years standing, was not strict, but on certain issues of upbringing he stood firm: a trophy-winning marksman himself, he would not allow us toy guns or quasi-army paraphernalia. In addition, joining the scouts was out of bounds. Like many who came of age in the 1910s and 20s he deplored the militarism the movement promoted among children. Doubtless the deaths of two of my uncles in the Great War lay at the roots of this.

He disparaged a Pacifist position, feeling it was his duty to serve, and so joined up as soon as he could, later playing his part at the pivotal battle of El Alamein in 1942. But after World War 2, militarism, even in the form of childish game-playing, was anathema.

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Talking about Legacy: The story of The Face at ModMag 2016

Sep 16th, 2016

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Apologies for not posting for a while; I am currently focusing energies on my book Legacy: The story of The Face, which is published by Thames & Hudson in autumn 2017.

Launched in 1980 by print publishing pioneer Nick Logan – the editor of the NME during its ’70s glory years, the man who also founded Smash Hits, Arena, Arena Homme Plus, Frank and DeluxeThe Face magazine brought the news on the dizzying developments of popular culture for two decades.

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