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John Peel asks original punks the Mekons, the Slits & others about ‘punk, publicity and profit’
10.16.2017
11:42 am
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The Mekons
 
On October 6, 1978, on BBC Radio One, John Peel touted a TV program on which he appeared, to air the next week, on October 12—exactly 39 years ago last Thursday, as it happens. Here’s what Peel said: “The UK Subs are on Omnibus on next Thursday evening on BBC-1 television, along with the Mekons, the Slits, Jim Pursey, Alternative TV, the Desperate Bicycles, and the playlist committee among other things, and my good self, seen heading a football with more skill than I bet you imagined I had.”

Omnibus was a popular arts program that was in existence from 1967 through 2003. Peel’s documentary was titled “The Record Machine.” Recently the BBC Archive Twitter feed dropped a fascinating supercut from the doc featuring prominent punk bands discussing, often with great subtlety and insight, some of the issues bands were facing as to the ethical status of promotion, publicity, and product.

As the punk movement moved past its initial impact, bands had to confront some basic questions about the meaning of touring and releasing albums—in short, adopting punk as a career—when the underpinnings of the movement included a rejection of established modes and a commitment to the community of downtrodden and frustrated youth. As astute in the interviewer’s seat as he is as a DJ, Peel consistently presses the bands to explain where their heads are at in terms of signing contracts, releasing “product,” touring, and generally balancing the conflicting aims of gratifying fans, preserving artistic integrity, and making some goddamned money!
 

The Slits
 
In Leeds, Mekons manager Mick Wixey snarks that “we’re not on the verge of retirement yet” and registers the injustice of having to make an impact in London in order to get signed to a label. Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69 ruminates on the necessity of allying oneself with an established label in order to finance the process of touring before asserting that Sham 69 saved punk. Ari Up of the Slits whips a soccer ball at Peel’s head just when he’s trying to ask whether the Slits feel any political commitment to working with smaller labels (Viv Albertine says “nah”).

Mark Perry of Alternative TV—who earlier had put out one of the first punk zines, Sniffin’ Glue—relates how bummed out he was when the Clash signed with CBS and registers his disgust at the “two pound fifty” the Buzzcocks were charging for tickets at the time. The most epigrammatic of the bunch might be the UK Subs’ Charlie Harper, who reports that “we done a gig for fourteen pound—and we lost two quid.” Ouch.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.16.2017
11:42 am
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They Were There: Composite photos of Queen, Jagger, Beatles and Floyd on London streets then and now

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I’m reliably told that photographs are polysemous—that is they have multiple meanings which can change depending on mood or understanding of what the image represents. Seems legit.

So let’s take, for example, the picture posted above of three long-haired guys hanging around some city street in the 1970s. It kinda looks like a regular snap of buddies hanging together. But, as soon as we realize its a pic of John Deacon, Roger Taylor, and a rather cool-looking Freddie Mercury of Queen, this picture takes on a whole new meaning.

Now that we know who it is, we probably want to know where this picture of Freddie and co. was taken. The trio was photographed standing outside 143 Wardour Street, Soho, London, in 1974. Next, I suppose we might ask, What were they doing here? Well, from what I can gather, it was taken during a break in the recording of the band’s second album, Queen II at Trident Studios directly opposite. Then we might inspect the image to glean what feelings these young nascent superstars are showing.

Photographer Watal Asanuma beautifully captured the personalities of these three very different individuals (and to an extent their hopes and ambitions) in a seemingly unguarded moment. Queen was on the cusp of their chart success with the “Seven Seas of Rhye” and the imminent release of “Killer Queen.” This photo now has a historical importance because of what we know this trio (and Brian May) went on to achieve.

I guess some of us might even want to go and visit the location to see where exactly Freddie or Roger or John stood and maybe even recreate the photo for the LOLs. It’s a way of paying homage and drawing history into our lives.

For those who can’t make it all the way to London, Music History, the Twitter presence of Rock Walk London, has been compiling selections of such pictures and making composites of the original image with a photo of what the location looks like today. Okay, so it saves the airfare but more importantly It’s a fun and simple way of bringing to life London’s rich history of pop culture in a single image.

If you like this kinda thing and want to see more, then follow Music History here.
 
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More then and now pix of Jagger, Clash, Floyd, and more, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.16.2017
11:34 am
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Kids dressed up for Halloween like Prince, Adam Ant, KISS, & even a baby Björk
10.16.2017
11:32 am
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A kid version of Adam Ant in his “Prince Charming” getup. Awww.
 
Halloween is nearly upon us, and that means that it is also the only time of year that you get a pass for letting your toddler hold a bottle of Jack Daniels because it happens to be part of their “costume.” If your kid is still a baby, they, of course, have no real say in the Halloween costume decision-making process, mostly because they can’t yet express themselves verbally, which leaves you to dress your said baby like Björk when she made her famous red-carpet appearance at the 2001 Academy Awards in a dress made to look like a swan (created by designer Marjan Pejoski). You wouldn’t be the first parent to do so—and I’ve got photographic proof of that.

This post was inspired by my discovery of one of Glasgow’s coolest inhabitants, photographer, and lecturer Simon Murphy who delights in helping dress up his two daughters as various musical icons such as Janis Joplin, or the alcohol-swilling vocalist for The Pogues, Shane MacGowan. To achieve an authentic look based on MacGowan’s notorious dental problems, Murphy used cake icing that had been colored black to mimic his infamous mouth-full-of-decaying-teeth “smile.”  As a child of the 80s, I spent a lot of time dressing up like Ace Frehley from KISS along with every other kid that liked to rock and roll all night—so I had to include some choice, vintage images of the youngest members of the KISS Army all dressed up to trick or treat. Now, in honor of our Lord and savior The Great Pumpkin, check out the photos of kids looking cooler than we ever did dressed up as rock stars ranging from Angus Young, to our dearly departed Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie, that I’ve posted below.
 

Baby Björk FTW!
 

A mini-version of Prince.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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10.16.2017
11:32 am
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Alastair Riddell & Space Waltz: New Zealand’s answer to David Bowie were a teen sensation in 1974
10.16.2017
10:02 am
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Space Waltz
 
Haling from Auckland, Space Waltz were a New Zealand glam band, fronted by singer/guitarist/songwriter Alastair Riddell. After a major TV appearance that shocked the country, Riddell and Space Waltz were overnight sensations, but their success was short-lived.

Riddell formed Space Waltz in 1973, though they were originally called Stewart and the Belmonts. After deciding to focus on Riddell’s songs rather than the cover material they were playing, they changed their name to Space Waltz in 1974. Once the group solidified, Riddell’s bandmates were Greg Clark (guitar), Peter Cuddihy (bass), Brent Eccles (drums), and Tony Raynor (keyboards)
 
Early lineup of Space Waltz
An early version of Space Waltz.

Looking to get the most eyes and ears on their new group, Space Waltz determined they should try out for the Studio One—New Faces TV talent contest. Their subsequent audition was a success and soon the group would be seen by a national audience. With a panel of judges and a variety show format—largely consisting of schlocky middle-of-the-road performers—the program was American Idol meets The Ed Sullivan Show. On the August 21, 1974 episode of Studio One—New Faces, Space Waltz were the final act of the evening. Performing Riddell’s “Out on the Street,” the unit—especially their singer—made quite an impression. As Riddell later put it, adults across the country were “shocked and appalled” by his band.
 

 
Global Glam and Popular Music: Style and Spectacle from the 1970s to the 2000s is a 2016 collection of scholarly essays concerning the glam genre. In the piece “Spotting the Rare Sequined Kiwi: Three Approaches to Glam Rock in 1970s New Zealand,” author Ian Chapman writes about Space Waltz’s TV debut and how it impacted New Zealand’s youth:

The younger members of both studio and television audiences reacted to “Out on the Street” with unbridled enthusiasm, while Riddell’s energetic stage presence and unique appearance found similar favor. Performing in make-up and lipstick and wearing a flamboyant costuming, Riddell’s vocals were highly affected while his strutting, posing, and general air of commanding confidence engendered a wide range of reactions, again largely depending upon the age of the viewer.

Space Waltz were instantly famous in New Zealand, with EMI signing the band before the TV competition even ended. At the time, David Bowie was one of the most popular glam artists in New Zealand and Riddell was viewed as the country’s version of Ziggy Stardust.
 
Out on the Street poster
 
“Out on the Street” was rush-released as a single, in order to coincide with Space Waltz’s second television appearance, which would be the Studio One—New Faces finale. The group did another Riddell original, “Beautiful Boy,” with Mike Chunn from Split Enz on bass. Ultimately, they don’t end up with enough votes to win the New Faces contest, though it hardly mattered. Before the vote tally, one judge on the panel exclaims, “My mother hates them!” But he also praises the unit, predicting “Out on the Street” will be a hit.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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10.16.2017
10:02 am
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Every crate digger’s nightmare: Record store has ‘Whipped Cream and Other Delights’ and nothing else
10.16.2017
01:32 am
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If there’s one thing all record collectors have in common, it’s the experience of running into Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass innumerable times…. like literally, every time you go into a record store you haven’t been to already. If you’re flipping through the A rack or the H rack (different stores do it different ways), then at some point you’re quite likely to flip past the familiar green image of a comely lass (Dolores Erickson was her name) wearing nothing but an impossible quantity of a cream-like substance (it was actually shaving cream, and she was pregnant at the time).

Released in 1965, Whipped Cream & Other Delights was the fourth album Alpert put out, and it was one of the most massive successes of pop music history—which explains its ubiquity in today’s used wax market—everybody’s parents had the fucking thing. (Knowledgeable music fans will know that it appeared on A&M Records, primarily because the “A” in A&M Records stands for “Alpert.”)

According to Wikipedia, more than 6 million copies of the album were sold, and unlike later eras there was no question about what format it appeared in—for many years it was vinyl or nothing…. It’s the National Geographic of albums, every record store owner comes across it all the time. Hell, even Maude in The Big Lebowski owns a copy.
 

 
Last week Dave Taylor, who runs Weirdsville Records in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, on the northern edge of Detroit, pulled a funny kind of prank when he decided to switch up the visual look of his store for an hour or two. You can see the results above and below—a full wall of Whipped Cream & Other Delights and Whipped Cream & Other Delights fronting every bin! (Yes, in case you were wondering, the unseen albums in the bins are not all Alpert’s masterpiece, they’re just regular albums.)

Anyone who would name his store Weirdsville and would transform it into a shrine to Herb Alpert is OK by me. I reached out to Taylor and got him to discuss the stunt. His amusing opening salvo went like this: “Every day we get records in. There will be AT LEAST 2 of these in every stack! 9 out of 10 households had this record! It’s a great record and who can’t love this cover?”

One of the most interesting aspects of the display is that Taylor went out of his way to make sure customers understood that the copies are not for sale. Taylor says that he has about 75 copies of the album, and sheepishly admitted that he is “stockpiling the Herb.” A couple years ago DM introduced readers to Rutherford Chang, who is quixotically trying to corner the market in the Beatles’ White Album, and Taylor has seemingly cemented his status as one of the world’s leading Whipped Cream & Other Delights collector—although in this case many used record store proprietors might have a head start in terms of catching up to him!
 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.16.2017
01:32 am
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Exquisite Corpses: Polly Morgan’s sculptural taxidermy
10.13.2017
10:06 am
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‘Myocardial Infarction.’
 
Polly Morgan is an artist who specializes in taxidermy to create works of disturbing beauty. Morgan describes her craft as “as part butchery, part sculpture.” While her work may not be to everyone’s taste, it should be noted that all of the animals used by Morgan either died from natural causes or had unpreventable deaths. She has a long list of suppliers, from zoos, vets, farmers, and even family members, who supply her with a range of dead animals.

It wasn’t a straight path to her chosen career. Morgan tried her hand at a variety of jobs before deciding on following-up on a long-held interest in taxidermy. She was raised in the English countryside in a household filled with a menagerie of animals. As a child, she had wanted to keep the bodies of her pets that had died. Morgan now sees her work as “an opportunity to freeze that moment.”

It was while working in a bar that Morgan started her studies in taxidermy. She had asked a friend where she could find a piece of taxidermy for her apartment. Her friend suggested rather than buying one she make one herself. After scouring the Yellow Pages, she eventually contacted George Jamieson, a taxidermist based in Cramond, Edinburgh. For around $200, Jamieson instructed Morgan on the basics of taxidermy. Jamieson gave her a pigeon to work on, which she completed within a day. This was in 2004. Since then, Morgan has exhibited her taxidermied sculptures to considerable acclaim across the world and has been fêted by the likes of Banksy and Damien Hirst.

You might think all this working death and dead animals would make Morgan a tad morbid and even overly downhearted. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Morgan thinks it silly to have an emotional attachment to something that is dead. It’s just decaying flesh. Instead, she believes what she is doing is very positive by making something beautiful out of death.

See more of Polly Morgan’s work here.
 
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‘Lovebird.’
 
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‘Just as Sudden.’
 
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Detail from ‘Rest a Little on the Lap of Life.’
 
More of Polly Morgan’s exquisite work, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.13.2017
10:06 am
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Jozef van Wissem buries the dead in his new video ‘Virium Illarum,’ a DM premiere
10.13.2017
07:16 am
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The composer with holy book, custom lute and Thoreau essay

Writers usually describe Jozef van Wissem as a composer who plays the lute, which might create the mistaken impression that his music sounds like the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble. It’s closer to stoner rock. Some DM readers will know his collaborations with Gary Lucas of the Magic Band, Zola Jesus, and Jim Jarmusch. His excellent score for Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive won the Cannes Soundtrack Award in 2013.

Van Wissem says his new album, Nobody Living Can Ever Make Me Turn Back, is “a follow up of sorts” to music he wrote for the National Gallery in 2008 to accompany Hans Holbein the Younger’s painting “The Ambassadors,” an image “famous for its anamorphic skull.” Everything on this record is a reminder of mortality, from Cindy Wright’s cover art to the 13 ringing minutes of “Our Bones Lie Scattered Before The Pit.”

Though the album’s title sounds vaguely like something you might find inscribed in Latin on the walls of the Paris Catacombs, or in Greek in an Orphic temple, it’s actually the penultimate line of “This Land Is Your Land”:

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Van Wissem seems to ask, What about the dead?
 

Cindy Wright’s cover art for ‘Nobody Living Can Ever Make Me Turn Back’
 
In the video for the album’s first track, “Virium Illarum” (Latin for “of those powers”), van Wissem and Jacopo Benassi find a use for their set of matryoshka coffins. Director Federico Pepe explains what they’re up to:

A single moment can make a life, a simple shade of a happening can become stone in our memory, a voice once heard can be guidance for a lifetime. That means that they all deserve to be categorized or “buried” in our minds and souls with the same importance.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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10.13.2017
07:16 am
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Weird Al announces tour of all original material—no parodies
10.13.2017
06:15 am
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Weird Al Yankovic has maintained a 41-year-long career, with a string of hit singles, four grammy awards, and six platinum records, hanging on longer than most “serious” pop stars. Weird Al doing a parody of one of your songs is generally the point when you realize you’ve “made it” as a musician.

Hardcore fans of Weird Al, “Weird Alcoholics,” know that each of his albums contain a few original Al-penned tracks. Besides being the most successful song-parody artist of all time (of Al time, even?) Weird Al Yankovic, is a brilliant comedy songwriter.

This week Weird Al announced via social media that he was preparing a national tour of intimate venues in an Unplugged or Storytellers type setting, where his band would perform stripped-down versions of “almost exclusively” original songs and no parodies.

In his announcement, he addresses his fans that might be expecting a big spectacle and hit songs, warning, ” if you’ve really got your heart set on seeing fat suits and Segways and hearing all your favorite parodies… this probably isn’t the tour for you.”

It might sound like I’m trying to talk people into NOT buying tickets… Actually, I just want people to be very aware of the nature of this tour so that they can make an informed decision now and not be disappointed later. Having said that, I know that there’s a small but enthusiastic subset of fans that literally have been waiting decades for this kind of a show, so… this tour is for them. And me. And the band. After putting on “multimedia extravaganzas” for 35 years, we just wanted to take it down a few notches and have a little musical palate cleanser.

Because all my concerts in the past were so highly produced, they needed to be rigidly planned down to the SECOND, and therefore the shows were virtually identical from one city to the next. But since this tour is unencumbered by theatrics, we have a lot more flexibility. So… EVERY SINGLE SHOW WILL BE DIFFERENT. We’re going deep into the catalog and mixing up the setlist every night. This show will be loose, unpredictable, and maybe a little sloppy – we’ll be making it up as we go along.

On a personal note, Weird Al was my first concert. I saw him as a kid on the In 3-D tour. I was a huge fan at the time. Weird Al was the first artist I ever wrote a fan letter to (which he responded to with a hand-written note on a promo glossy telling me “don’t forget to eat your broccoli!”)

As I got older, I eventually lost interest in following his career or releases, though I’ve always held a huge amount of respect for him as an American treasure. This announcement is the first time I’ve genuinely been excited about seeing Al perform again. I plan to attend one of these shows and think it will make a great bookend to not having seen him since the In 3-D tour. It’s kind of like if you watched Rocky and then never watched another Rocky movie until Rocky Balboa.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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10.13.2017
06:15 am
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Robyn Hitchcock and Graham Coxon cover Syd Barrett’s ‘Octopus’ for new Philip K. Dick TV series


 
Right now Channel 4 in the U.K. is running Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams—U.S. viewers will be able to see it once it gets on Amazon Prime next year. To my eye the series appears to be an almost slavish attempt to recapitulate the magic of Charlie Brooker’s dazzling Black Mirror, but really, any excuse to adapt ten early-period Philip K. Dick short stories with movie stars and high production values is A-OK with me.

The series was developed by Michael Dinner (Chicago Hope) and Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) and features, in the various episodes, such familiar faces as Steve Buscemi, Bryan Cranston, Anna Paquin, Vera Farmiga, Terence Howard, and Greg Kinnear.

Episode list:
“The Hood Maker” (originally published in 1955)
“The Impossible Planet” (1953)
“The Commuter”  (1953)
“Crazy Diamond” (“Sales Pitch,” 1954)
“Real Life” (“The Exhibit Piece,” 1954)
“Human Is”  (1955)
“Kill All Others” (Published as “The Hanging Stranger,” 1953)
“Autofac” (1955)
“Safe And Sound” (Published as “Foster, You’re Dead!” in 1955)
“Father Thing” (Published as “The Father-Thing,” 1954)

In connection with the visionary themes of solipsism, madness, and unhinged reality, the series’ makers recruited Robyn Hitchcock and Graham Coxon of Blur, Kevin Armstrong, Johnny Daukes, and Jon Estes to collaborate on a cover of “Octopus,” by rock and roll’s most famous mental ward occupant, Syd Barrett. “Octopus” is the first song on the second side of Barrett’s first solo album, 1970’s The Madcap Laughs. One thing that sets “Octopus” apart is that this is the song in which the lyric “the madcap laughs” appears.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.12.2017
02:08 pm
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The original guide to identifying criminals from 1909
10.12.2017
09:46 am
Topics:
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About three years ago, defenders of civil liberties were understandably angsty over the news the F.B.I. had launched its Next Generation Identification system—a billion dollar operation intended to replace the old fingerprint system with “the world’s largest and most efficient electronic repository of biometric and criminal history information.” This meant investigators could identify perps from stored information like DNA, voice recognition, latent prints, personal history, and iris and face recognition technology culled from mugshots, surveillance camera footage, and even selfies taken from social media.

A lot of people were blaming the government, Big Brother, fascism, communism, and all the usual suspects for this monumental change to detective work and our privacy. But personally, I blame Alphonse Bertillon, coz he was the dude that started the whole thing off in the 19th-century.

Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914) was a French detective. He believed everything had its place and that the world had an order. Bertillon had an unremarkable early career first as a soldier then as a lowly clerk with the Prefecture of Police in Paris. It was while working as a police copyist that Bertillon first recognized the random way in which cops investigated crimes. There was no proper system for identifying criminals and no code by which detectives could investigate crime scenes. Sure, there were crime scene photographs and artists sketches, but these were all rather ad hoc.

To solve these issues, Bertillon came up with the mugshot as a means of identifying criminals and codified a precise photographic process for documenting crime scenes in the 1880s—both of which are still in use today.

He also gave investigators a biometric system for identifying criminals. This involved measuring their height, the length of their arms and legs, the size of their heads, the shape of eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and any other identifying characteristics like wrinkles, scars, birthmarks, etc. This system of breaking down criminals into identifiable component parts was known as Bertillonage. It included an early form of facial recognition, which gave cops a “cheat sheet” for getting their man.

Bertillon’s Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques (Synoptic Table of Physiognomic Traits) helped the cops identify criminals and criminal types. It was rather like identikit pictures. It was used as a tool of capturing ne’er-do-wells right up to the turn of the last century when it was quickly superseded by fingerprints.
 
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See more of Bertillon’s ‘Synoptic Table of Physiognomic Traits,’ after the the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.12.2017
09:46 am
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