Paul Gorman is…

“Because it’s so damn good!” Extracts from my exclusive interview with pioneering illustrator/photographer Jim French, who has died aged 84

Jun 18th, 2017

//Jim French. Photo: SHOWStudio//

The American illustrator and photographer Jim French – best known for his pioneering endeavours in the field of homoerotic art – has died at home in Palm Springs at the age of 84.

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RIP Robyn Beeche, 1945 – 2015

Aug 20th, 2015
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//Top: The photographer in A Life Exposed; above: One of Beeche’s arresting images from the show for the McLaren/Westwood collection Nostalgia Of Mud, March 1982//

I’m saddened by the news of the death last week of the great Australian photographer Robyn Beeche.

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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//

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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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Guest post: Peter Knock pays tribute to Robyn Denny (1930-2014)

May 26th, 2014
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//Robyn Denny, early 60s. Photo: Bernard Jacobson Gallery//

Artist/illustrator Peter Knock pays tribute to the British ‘Situation’ painter Robyn Denny, who has died:

Sad to learn of the death of abstract painter Robyn Denny last Tuesday (May 20).  It surprised me that he was, in fact, 83; my image of him is locked into the 60s when he was one of the hip and talented artists to have emerged from the Royal College of Art (where he studied in the 50s).

Great Big Biggest Wide London, Denny’s mural for Austin Reed’s Regent Street store, conveyed classic 1960s new age optimism, and received the ultimate seal of approval as a piece defining of its era when The Beatles asked to be photographed standing in front of it in 1963.

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All The Way From Louisville: Leee Black Childers

Apr 7th, 2014

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).

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//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.

Sayonara Leee.

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‘I work in the belief – or dare – that I remain a perennial beginner’ Rose Finn-Kelcey: 1945-2014

Feb 25th, 2014
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//Divided Self, 1974. Black and white silver gelatine print. 46.6 x 70cm//

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//Sad And Lonely, 2006. Wood, paint, aluminium, fairground lights. 7.4 x 3.7 x 1.5m//

“I work in the belief – or dare – that I can continue to reinvent myself and remain a perennial beginner.”

Sad to note the death of the British artist Rose Finn-Kelcey.

Read Guy Brett’s obituary for this “wonderful artist and great person” here.

Ridinghouse’s recently published monograph Rose Finn-Kelcey – which contains essays by Brett, Sarah Kent and Michael Stanley – is available here.

Visit the artist’s website here.

 

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Junior Murvin: Memories

Dec 4th, 2013
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//My copy of the Tedious/Memories 12in//

Junior Murvin – who has died aged 67 – will forever be associated with the rebel cool of his 1976 Lee Perry-produced single Police & Thieves. Yesterday morning’s BBC Radio 4’s Today news programme displayed it’s trademark ham-fisted approach to pop culture when eagerly proclaiming the song his shining achievement by managing to misname Paul Simonon “Mick Jones” in an interview introduction and rushing to gush unconvincingly over an excerpt of The Clash’s version.

Personally, I favour another Lee Perry collaboration from the same period, the epic single B-side Memories.

I bought the UK 12inch mix on a shopping spree in a record shop tucked away in an Earl’s Court side street one late afternoon in 1977 on the recommendation of the shop assistant.

At 8mins 45secs, Memories is not only a sonic adventure to match the very best of 70s dub, but also a sweet, romantic song, the yearning, regretful theme over Perry’s bubbling cauldron of rhythms perfectly matched to Murvin’s falsetto whoop (I found Police & Thieves too preaching, which I guess is why it made sense for The Clash – always complaining about being told what to do, they tended towards dictating to their audience).

The flip, Tedious, is pretty good, as were other Black Ark explorations such as Closer Together, but nothing in my view in Murvin’s body of work touches the tenderness of Memories.

Remember him this way:

 

 

 

 

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Photography: Soho Pam by Carla Borel

Jan 23rd, 2013

Regulars on both sides of various Soho bars having been mourning the familiar figure the vast majority of us knew simply as Pam.

This portrait by photographer Carla Borel captures Pam’s charm, sweetness and light. And she’s in her element, outside The French.

Alastair Choat, landlord of The Coach & Horses, is hosting the wake for Pam after the funeral next Wednesday (January 30) from 3pm.

Read the obituary of Soho Pam here; at the time of writing this had been shared online more than 1,000 times within less than 24 hours of posting.

View Borel’s exemplary portfolio here.

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Justin de Blank: 1927-2012

Jan 5th, 2013

//Marque, Barney Bubbles, 1969.//

I interviewed the restaurateur and fine food champion Justin de Blank – who died last month aged 85 – for Reasons To Be Cheerful; de Blank recognised Barney Bubbles’ design talents when the pair met at the Conran Group’s design studio in the 60s.

//Justin de Blank, mid 70s. Courtesy Melanie de Blank.//

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