Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hells Angels

Enough of PO-MO, that and a steady diet of hamster essays had me reaching for Hawkwind's Space Ritual, the live double album from 1973, this morning. Somethings clearly wrong. Still, it was refreshingly out there to hit the spot.
I'm going to talk about the Hells Angels to the second year on Friday. The subject is 'context' and they need to discover their options. By the time you get a third through Hunter S Thompson's 1966 book, his first, the part where he's beginning to realise he's more into this than he thought, it's clear the Angels have become figures of some importance, in fact not unlike the followers of Achilles in The Iliad. Now that's not what my mother thought, it's not what Mick Jagger thought either if you watch Gimme Shelter. However, the context in which the Altamont free festival was suddenly (there) considered a disaster and the 'end' of the sixties had more than a whiff of conspiracy about it. It seems, If you consider it in context, and read the Kool Aid Acid test at the same time, the Angels were integral to the whole scene in a more spiritual way than mum could possibly have contemplated. We should definitely think about our need for filthy outlaw gangs more constructively.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Postmodernism in Rock 5

Of course there were some bands who only narrowly missed the bedroom/basement. Queen would be one, saved only by the worlds most obvious and glorious frontman. Styxx and Rush were saved in the opposite way because they realised their audience were so lost they never left their bedrooms in the first place and never wanted to. They concentrated on buying kit. Yes decided to just do all possible variants on 'progressive' rock music in one song (Starship Trooper is an excellent example- the only Yes you will ever need) or later, spread it over dire triple concept albums which my brother still treasures and which strangely venerated Roger Dean. Kiss realised it wasn't about good taste, it was about what tasted good and especially what was good for them, well at least for two of them (Gene and Paul). What was good for the other two didn't quite work out (Peter and Ace). Meanwhile, if I remember rightly, Led Zeppelin struggled onward to produce magisterial yet somehow too brilliant to be played very often albums such as Physical Graffiti, which is why you can now buy plenty of near mint copies for c£40. You won't play them either, you might as well hang them on your wall (people were now producing actual books of album cover art, I wrote my 'O' level English Language essay on the subject). Supertramp managed against all odds to combine the sentiment of Jane Austin with rock, and mutations such as 'southern rock' can still be heard with the bass ploddingly way too high in the mix and the guitar player still practicing his scales and going on and on (Molly Hatchet worst example).
Amazing what you're thinking when you're cooking to Planet Rock.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Postmodernism in Rock 4:1 Boston

Do not name your band after a town, that is if there are still bands to be named here in 2012 and not just random accumulations of individuals intent on careers winning 'get me out of here' or 'dancing' or for that matter 'masterchef'.
Back in 1976 there were still bands and the urge to be in bands and do band things, but there was also the first opportunity to be but not to be, to make the music but stay in your basement. This was the personal choice, and there's nothing ostensibly wrong with it, of Tom Sholtz who lead a band that was not a band called Boston, a man who would describe the music industry as 'alright if it wasn't run by drug addicts and businessmen', longtime vegetarian and supporter of many a worthy cause who certainly knew one wah wah peddle from another (he went on to make them).
You'd know Boston couldn't really be a band because they spend the first half of the sleeve notes to their debut album explaining just how much of a real band they are, and as usual, the lady doth speak volumes. It is clear that they are distinctly bedroom orientated, and by that I mean sitting with your mates in their bedroom listening to it in preference to more carnal activities. They even write songs (track one side two) about being in a rock band. On the second album, they proclaim 'No Synthesizers and No Computers' as a last grab for authenticity.
The first record, which sold more albums than any other in 1976, also says a lot, especially about your Hi Fi system. Mine leapt for joy at this perfect test for it's fidelity, not a crackle or pop came from this mint 12"relic saved for £1 from e-bay, and it was time for me to lie back and indulge in the first two albums of Boston's hooklines in melodious rock. I have been there many a time before.
Unfortunately after 'More than a Feeling', a song to blame for many a youngster leaving parties in Dumfries with the realization there must be something better in the world than that (and also realising they mustn't call their band 'Dunfries') Julie said it was too loud. I said 'It's supposed to be loud' which in retrospect, sounds amazingly lame, like I was...fourteen. The album is amazing, but it is not rock music, it is a musical step to post rock music, it is, indeed, a milestone in not making rock music that sounds better than rock music does.
See similarly Frampton Comes Alive and Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous. Yep, it's time for me to face those demons one by one, no mercy at all.

Friday, 27 January 2012


For people like me who believe the housing question was pretty much solved by 1959 with the house we live in (above) and that the rest ever since has merely been a question of political contingency and commercial squalor, mucking around over student masterplans all day can bring some irritation. The thing is, you either let the students make all the terrible mistakes they have got it in them to make and hope that they will never do it again - ie be liberal with their liberalism, or you rather categorically tell them to stop their nonsense and learn to do it properly. Certainly in the first place you'd need a heightened sense of humour/irony/absurdity and in the second large tear ducts.
It is possible that Liberalism+Liberalism=Disaster, in short it brings around a kind of torpid lack of faith in anything, political malaise and eventual fascism and gas chambers. That's at least what happened to Germany in the twenties and if I read the signs correctly it's pretty much what's happening here today. Goebbels biography provides a straightforward lesson. The guy was a HOPELESS ADOLESCENT, positively marinated in malaise. And look what happened!
I also begged the question how many students had been good at maths at school. To study at my architecture school back in the seventies you had to have maths A level. Yesterday I understood why for the first time in thirty years. Being barely proficient at maths might be an indication that you could apply logic. I suspect the principals at the (otherwise godawful) Bristol University understood this at least and put it in as a rather useful caveat to the admissions procedure to avoid faffing about over portfolios and suchlike at all.
Such nouse is in short supply.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Lessons of History

Just watched The Professionals again, I prefer it with the sound off, gives you a better chance to read the context of the mid seventies. What I see is often a historical wonderment. Today we had middle class terrorists in farm buildings, always with a dominant female, plotting and shooting pumpkins.We had the counter terrorism forces running about a lot both up and down a thousand escape stairs in the city and up and down in helicopters in the country, or all chasing each other around in Ford Cortina's (gold with black vinyl roof) Capri's (similar) or Granada's and even the occasional Triumph Toledo (!) in abandoned railway termini (Manchester?). What does this mean?
Well we no longer tread, police wise, 'Softly Softly', we have terrorists like the Baader Meinhoff Group, and they are 'lead' by a WOMAN! Next we have loads of old warehouses with escape stairs due to INDUSTRIAL DECLINE (we students would move in next- see Metropolitan Wharf- I woz there, alongside early pioneers of U2 videos god help me- and then have to move out again pretty quick for the loft livers), we have helicopters for the police because we have some notion of ACTION MAN. We have pumpkins from FREDERICK FORSYTH from The Day of the Jackal. We have cream leatherette suitcases full of money because YOU STILL HAD TO CARRY IT ABOUT and PLASTIC (but not credit cards). And you still had to wind on your Pentax and the women were suddenly NOT TO BE TRUSTED (feminism). Amazing what you can learn.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


I've been drawing, good old fashioned drawing with a clutch pencil scale rule erasing shield set square and so on, on a space the size of a postage stamp on my desk, I feel very artisanal indeed and I also, once finished of a two hour session, ache like hell.
I'm drawing the revisions to our kitchen which are not very grand at all, in fact the amount of time I've spent drawing them, if I counted the cost, would double the contract, but it has made me think about drawing once again, realizing that it is in this case at least this is my architectural insurance policy, that if I can draw it, and draw it enough times at enough scales, then Scott must be able to build it ever so easily. I'm sure also that this is not going to be the case but I must keep the faith by drawing those cupboards with those particular dimensions and that door that just won't hit the boiler when you open it (and will feature a fabulous 18inch by 5ft poster of a 1960's Reno Cocktail waitress on the door- any ideas on how to fix that to that?) and getting it simpler and simpler so it will in theory get easier and easier. If only this will be the case, instead I know I'll be roosting in the Ramada Inn somewhere in Docklands for £60 per night while Scott destroys the place staring blankly over the landscape when the phone will ring and Scott will say something like 'You know that rail thing you've made into a conduit....that's not going to happen.'
What a curious business, but I will admit to enjoying the satisfaction of drawing skirting boards and so on in axonometric once again and contemplating the use of coloured pencils. I always hated drawing in ink, far too accurate, but I'm very drawn to a emotional fudge of the clutch pencil. 'Always draw wood with a pencil' the old moderns used to say; they were idealistic see.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Easy to Slip

It's so easy to slip, that's good Little Feat song from Sailin' Shoes, and I felt it today alright, three months on from hospitalization to the day and now bouncing down the Shoreditch High St, lecture course on the whole history of architecture over, browsing paint for our kitchen works and contemplating not so much jazz, but the undoubtedly interesting later modern abstract screen prints that Rocket Gallery have on sale and that Risom chair I promised to buy, sitting presently in their bargain basement. In the old days, my enthusiasm would have dragged me first in to the White Horse, for calmness and thought before venturing in to the land of modern classics, but no, I went straight in and bought the bloody chair and a print by some lovely old modern who finished his days staring out of a window in Jutland. Bugger. I hadn't even had a drink. So then to the White horse and Lily's all for saying I'm too thin and I'm feeling pretty bloody good and.....this is how you slip. But, slippin's OK I think, if you rescue yourself, so I did and bought bread and fish from the Conran shop in punishment and away home for tea and the last of Julie's fabulous homemade biscuits. Phew.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Curious Postcard

This is Goethe's study. Curious photograph. A very interesting wastebasket for a man writing in the eighteenth century, when of course, this photograph couldn't have been taken. Note the blinds.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Nice Postcard

Lenin, Mao, Goebbels

Last night Amazon asked me if I wanted to twitter the fact that I'd bought 'Joseph Goebbels: Life and Death'....
I don't. But if I did, should I add my other purchases I wondered? Or was it just the mention of Goebbels (incidentally one of the three most important figures of the twentieth century alongside Mao and Lenin) that had stirred the beast? Of course, the point is Goebbels himself would have very much approved of this little mechanism. The other day Julie googled herself and Reno and up came my blog I'd written precisely nine hours earlier - where Reno isn't even mentioned! The machine knows! Ooooh Errrrrr.
In case anybodies interested I'll admit to a sabatier kitchen knife, four sets of miniature photo postcards (Alpine), antique postcard of Goethe's study featuring interesting waste basket, antique postcard of a cable car (Alpine - See Above) and an antique miniature carved Alpine hut disguised as a moneybox from Antwerp (guess we'll all soon need one of those) and confess to total madness.
Whether it be Ebay or Amazon, it is clear they know everything. Any minor fixation urges my pushers to 'recommend especially for me!' And they do this on an almost hourly basis. If I didn't check in a couple of times a day they would assume I was dead and probably tell everybody.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Greek Tragedy

The end of civilization may well have been sealed by the third series of 'Take Me Out', and any logic overturned by copywriters who have gone mad with utterly absurd adverts showing mums needing to check out the appliances (!!?) in student residences (meaning bandwidth !!!) but it might have caught it's last breath last night by the showing of The Reader. This film, and I don't watch a hell of a lot of films apart from re-runs of The Dambusters and exhaustive brain mash such as the Battle of the Medway, was fucking fantastic.
Caught on the horns of a dilemma, that's it, that's everything in that film, from whether nazi guards should have released prisoners from burning churches, to whether young lawyers should spring ex-nazi guards on the basis of their illiteracy, to things generally being, well at best, unfair, to dealing with who you loved long long after you loved them, to the right and the wrong and the law, all absolutely brilliantly done while reading The Odyssey (of course). A brilliant exercise in the virtue for those in my Ancient Greeks class who didn't quite get it.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Postmodernism in Rock 3

Actually it was Iron Maiden and it was Paschendale (see below) But I've got the first two Boston albums coming my way for a pound each and I can't wait. Boston are clearly the unhippest band in the world right now but in 1976 you couldn't have moved without More Than a Feeling, and the fact that the Darkness copied them....well!
1977's Heroes by David Bowie was the first album I bought that I knew my older brother had no interest in. Heroes is a modernist enterprise. Berlin blotted out the rest of the landscape. Lyrically it is pretty much pure 'cut up''fold in' whatever, the WS Burroughs technique that jumbles things up to make a strange kind of sense if you enjoy his cocaine fueled detective show; 'Somethings going down the chips are down I'm under Japanese influence and my honour's at stake...You wake up and sleep, You can b(u)y god, it's monday, slither down the greasy pole.... ' Robert Frip played guitar however he wanted and Eno was still interesting. The bloody things been reverberating round my head for weeks after one playing on Christmas Eve.
Of course, punk was also a modernist enterprise, busses going to Nowhere and Boredom, no longer 'Further' like the Merry Pranksters school bus. Very apt, and the best singles, such as The Ruts 'In a Rut' a pure reinterpretation of the blues even if they didn't give a damn (see also The Stranglers).

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Postmodernism in Rock 2

Julie and I are doing our taxes. It is a ritual of paper shuffling, shredding and eventual disposal done to the tunes of Planet Rock. From this mornings listening I can confirm and enlarge upon yesterdays prognosis. Certainly modernist rock, as exemplified by Zeppelin's Heartbreaker or the Stones Gimme Shelter, both from 1970, are straightforward blues mewings put to astonishing effect, meanwhile it is clear that ACDC are the SOM of modernist Rock, ever to be relied upon to give the dog a bone forever and ever.
Beyond this, the post modern rock trajectory suddenly demands the need for story telling. Weirdly architecture did this too, we called it narrative. Usually, for rockers, these are everyday stories of roads, Armageddon or fairyland. Archetypes heard this morning include Bon Jovi's Dead or Alive but could include almost anything from anybody hacking down rock verse from 1974 on. Here Jethro Tull are exemplary (in an awful way) and became at one dreadful point in history the biggest live act in the USA, and Yes who remain indefensible. A further extremity of lyrical garbage would be reached with Rush, who even bring in quaintly Disneyesque motifs (Tom Sawyer). However I'll save that for later. I think it was Def Leopard who actually tried to do the Somme.
Meanwhile remember Judas Priest's 'Breaking the Law' is exactly the same as Thin Lizzy's 'Boys are Back in Town'.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Postmodernism in Rock

Did my 'Postmodernism in Rock' lecture today. Postmodernism being a fraught subject to define precisely, and these being first years, 'Rock' is an obvious and visceral place to start. First take some blues, delta blues or whatever - poor black men doing whatever they can on the very edge of existence itself. I chose 'Peetie Wheatstraw' for excellent songs like 'You ain't goner stop me drinkin' and 'I want some seafood' (or whatever- find 'em on You Tube). Now this is your original rock, and to non aficionados, all the tracks sound the same (handy). This is the bedrock of rock. To develop from these beginnings the modernization process has to somehow turn these characters in to Led Zeppelin and make them GODS (Faustian overtones and modernist project). Now it's important to state that the lyrical content (sexual innuendo etc) remains basically the same as do the repetitive chord structures, but what is added is tremendous POWER and GESTURE (Bonzo's drumming and Percy's trousers). Once you have Led Zeppelin, then you let the ROCK mix bubble for a while and out pops anything from Motley Crue to The Darkness, these become your post-modern archetypes out a condition of massive over consumption. Motley Crue decide that it's all about acting, pure BE AM DO, be it, then you are it, and then you finally do it, then go back to being it again and doing it again and so on without stopping in ever decreasing circles. The Darkness, at least by death nell album No2 (produced by Roy Thomas Big Error) even calling the album 'one way ticket to hell and back,' decide to interrupt the spirit of becoming and crash and burn conspicuously in a huge cloud of cocaine within which no doubt writing a song about going bald (track 6) becomes HUGELY FUNNY all night long. However 'Bald' can be monumentally brilliant only in the ironic sense. With 'Bald' you can't get behind the ironic sense nomatter how good the riff is. Hair IS, after all, the ultimate Rock signifier!!!!
(so in both senses, you've lost the music)
Voila, there's your postmodernity for you.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Stingray's Beautiful Ones

Ate a whole pizza and ice cream, yes I did, as well as the house red, oh YES I enjoyed myself, and I'd no idea how good it was going to feel.
Stingray is a pizza joint on Columbia Road, we wouldn't normally go there but what the hell, it's populated conspicuously by new media youth, the sort in cheque caps and skinny brown jeans and big black crochet scarves and serious looks and that through the hedge backwards hair. They are the types who cannot yet afford Brawn down the street and sweetly lay their film scripts, treatments, or whatever, out on the tables to discuss.
It's a look, may be a whole way of life, that's so sweet it's almost Waltons, and none of them would be out of place on a '37 knucklehead Harley, her on the back with her hair bound washerwoman style in a tea towel, him in a duster, beard and goggles. Old? I could just see myself as Granpops. Still it did make me relish what it was to be young and so serious that if you split up you'd kill yourself, and I guess it's appropriate for them to feel that cool there rather than trying to do it in Bury St Edmunds. We were, after all, in the midst of the next generation of Beautiful Ones. They should enjoy that misery while it lasts.
In fact, thats exactly what they were doing. I have never quite witnessed a demographic who looked quite so conspicuously pleased with themselves.
Very good pizza, ice cream and house red.

Friday, 6 January 2012

R Crumb

Some things that arrive as a result of my midnight rambles on e-bay are a delight. Take this, straight from Sacramento, $100, the set of Crumb blues heroes (partially shown above) and this, fellow pickers, is one beautiful piece. There is something about Crumb, and there's something about 'small multiples', sets like this, that just blows me away. I fantasize that on seeing Crumb, Gerhard Richter did his 48 western philosophers, in grey of course. I once tried an alpine hut series of old post cards, didn't get far, my old professor painted nothing but sheds, until he moved backwards to nothing but trees. Julie's done endless 'Beauties of Today' and there's hardly a day without sets of 'men wearing watch chains' or whatever slipping through the letter box.
Multiples of the same thing, we like them, they allow us to establish difference.
I'm wondering if anybody's ever done an architects series like this? I suspect such an apparently simple idea is beyond the general consensus. Instead we have Hellman drawing architects like their buildings.

Thursday, 5 January 2012


My e-bay enthusiasm for the retro seems contagious to many things, from paperback books to re-runs of The Professionals on TV, but I have to remind myself that for every Mini Cooper S there was an Austin Allegro around the corner, and that every canny e-bay seller knows this, and knows that I cannot necessarily tell the difference either, especially in the more esoteric areas of design. This much anticipated box of six tea spoons (teaspoons, fuck me, what AM I doing!) was a considerable disappointment in the spoon if not in the excellent graphic department. The spoons were overpriced tinny crap, the original box rather nice, but do I want to spend fifty quid on a small b0x? Meanwhile, if I translate retro design to 'things I'm doing now' I might find everything looking like a bad book on gestalt psychology from Pelican in 1973, and that wouldn't do at all.