Upside Down: The Creation Records Story is a roller coaster of film, which tells the incredible tale of one of the most important independent record labels of the past fifty years - Creation Records.
This excellent film reveals how the gallus Glaswegian Alan McGee started the label with a £1,000 bank loan in the 1980s, and went on shape music in the 1980s and 1990s, as he made Creation home to such talents as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Medicine, The Pastels, Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits, Super Furry Animals, The Boo Radleys, Saint Etienne, Momus, My Bloody Valentine, 3 Colours Red and Oasis - who were signed for £40,000.
McGee originally thought Liam Gallagher was the band’s drug dealer, as he told the Sun:
“I was up in Glasgow seeing my dad and I wasn’t sure I’d even go to the gig. I got there early by mistake. Oasis were on first, before most people arrived. There was this amazing young version of Paul Weller sat there in a light blue Adidas tracksuit. I assumed he was the drug dealer and that Bonehead, the guitarist, was the singer.
“It was only when they went on stage I realised it was the lead singer Liam Gallagher. I knew I had to sign them.
“Noel and I talked after the show and just said ‘done’ and he turned out to be a man of his word.
“I was lucky to be there. We didn’t send out scouts. Most of my signings were because I happened to see new bands. That couldn’t happen any more. If a new band as much as farts it’s all over the internet.”
It would be silly of me to introduce Divorce to a brand new audience, I feel, without also pointing people in the direction of the other relatively new Glasgow band that absolutely slays (in a punk fashion) - Ultimate Thrush. Being the day that’s in it, this can act as another special dedication to Kate and Harry. Perhaps this is a suitable soundtrack to the conjugal rituals that will take place in Buckingham Palace tonight?
Ultimate Thrush come from the same Glasgow School Of Art-influenced noise/d.i.y. nexus as Divorce, but have a very different approach. Comprising just one guitarist, one drummer and a lead screamer, they too make one hell of a racket but this time sound like a more math-rock take on the better bits of the Jesus Lizard. It should be noted that the drummer and guitarist are brothers, and are both incredibly good and incredibly tight.
Another band who have a dedicated mosh-pit following, Ultimate Thrush usually take to the stage dressed only in white sheets, and have been known to crucify their fans for the benefit of spectacle. Their stated aim on forming was to piss people off, but this backfired majorly as they are now one of the most popular live acts in the city. They have toured the UK and released a split tape with Divorce on Milk/Winning Sperm Party, and their debut 10 track EP on Winning Sperm Party is one of the best rock releases I have heard in the last 5 years. If you like punk/noise/thrash/Black Flag/Melvins/Sonic Youth I really can’t recommend it highly enough. As a taster, check out these two rehearsal clips:
You can listen to and download (for free) the debut Ultimate Thrush EP from Winning Sperm Party. If you want to hear more, I guess you could go to their MySpace.
What a beautiful day. The sun us shining, birds are singing in the trees, flags are fluttering in the breeze. It is, indeed, a nice day for a white wedding. And down in old London town, ancient rites of passage are being replayed as we, the British Nation, stand as one in mind, body and spirit to salute the dawning of a new era, the start of a new chapter in how we the common people are governed over by ancient power elites.
As the future king takes his bride-to-very-shortly-be up the aisle, I too would like to do my small (but perhaps significant) part in helping write this page of history. Tonight I shall be dressing as a priest and singing “Gett Off” at a gypsy wedding reception in Salford, but until then I will turning the volume up, banging my head, and revelling in the girl-powered noise glory of Glasgow’s Divorce.
Inspired to form at a gig by modern noise legends Aids Wolf, Divorce launched in 2008 with a core ratio of four girls to one boy, and a run of chaotic but highly energised gigs around the city. The mosh-pits they inspire are instantaneous and legendary, with as many women being thrashed about as men. The group released their first (self-titled) 10” single on the Optimo label in 2009, to considerable acclaim, and have gone on to release split singles with Comanechi and Ultimate Thrush. A full album was recorded and mixed for release in 2010, but was put on indefinite hold after the departure of the singer Sinéad and guitarist Hillary.
While this may seem like a career-ender for anyone less committed, Divorce have taken it in their stride, moved on and hired a new singer called Jennifer. There have been some new demos floating around on the net of this new line up (that sound great) and having seen Divorce mark II play I can confirm that they have lost none of their energy and connection with the crowd. Now, if only they can get their fingers out and finish another album, then we’d really have an excuse for the country to take a day off work, get blind drunk, and beat up anybody perceived to be even slightly different.
W/S of cranes and ships along the river and docks, tinged orange by winter’s twilight. City lights sparkle, the small theaters of tenement windows, the sound of distant traffic, blue trains rattling to the suburbs.
: Glasgow, 1963
Interior Night: The Lindella Nightclub. Wisps of smoke, tables along one side of room, a bar with a scrum of customers, eager to get drunk, enjoying themselves. Backstage - a band, The Gleneagles, are ready to go on. They can hear the audience getting restless. The bass player asks if everything is okay? Over the sound system, the voice of the compere introducing the band. This is it. A ripple of applause, a rush, then the band is on stage. At the rear, a young girl, who looks hardly in her teens, her hair bright red, sprayed with lacquer, and set in rollers. She has a cold, but smiles, and looks confident. A pause. She checks with the band. The audience are uneasy, mutter quick comments (“Away back to school, hen”). Laughter. Then 14-year-old Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, opens her mouth and sings:
The voice is incredible. Little Richard, Jerry Lewis and The Isley brothers all rolled into this tiny figure at the front of the stage.
At the back of the room, a woman stands slightly away from the crowd, which is now mesmerized by the young girl’s singing. The woman is Marion Massey, and she will become Lulu’s manager.
: (V/O) When I was fourteen, I was very lucky. I was discovered - to use a terrible term - by a person who was absolutely sincere. Since I was five, people had been coming up to me saying: ‘Stick with me, baby, and I’ll make you a star’. In fact, nobody ever did anything for me. Then Marion came along.
CU of Marion watching Lulu perform.
: (V/O) She looked so peculiar that first time I saw her. Her hair was in curlers underneath a fur beret. She had a terrible cold, was very pale and wore three jumpers. But I was very intrigued by her. It wasn’t her singing;There was something tremendously magnetic about this girl. I knew she had the makings of a great star.
: London, 1964
Interior Day: Lulu performs on Ready Steady Go
More scenes from Lulu’s life co-starring David Bowie, Sidney Poitier, Maurice Gibb and Red Skelton, after the jump…
Back in the 1980s, when I had nothing better to do than watch TV and collect unemployment benefit, I saw a video of the artist Bruce McLean. It was shown as part of Channel 4’s art series Alter Image in 1987, and after watching, my first thoughts were: Who the fuck is Bruce McLean and what does he want?
I was lucky, I had time to go and investigate. In the library, I found this:
Maclean / McLean an Anglicisation of the Scottish Gaelic MacGilleEathain. This was the patronymic form of the personal name meaning “servant of (Saint) John”.
Interesting. But not quite right. Later, there was more.
Working in a variety of mediums including painting, film and video projection, performance and photography, Bruce McLean is one of the most important artists of his generation.
It was with live works that McLean first grabbed the attention of the art world. An impulsive, energetic Glaswegian, he became known as an art world ‘dare-devil’ by critiquing the fashion-oriented, social climbing nature of the contemporary art world in the ‘70s. At St Martins his professors included the great sculptors of the day, Anthony Caro and Phillip King, whose work he mocked ruthlessly. In Pose Work for Plinths I (1971; London, Tate), he used his own body to parody the poses of Henry Moore’s celebrated reclining figures, daring to mock the grand master himself.
Pose Work for Plinths (1971)
The notion of using his whole body as a sculptural vehicle of expression led him to explore live actions: ‘it was when we (a collective) invented the concept of ‘pose’ that We could do anything’. Pose was live sculpture: Not mime, not theatre, but live sculpture. My colleagues, Paul Richards, Ron Carr, Garry Chitty, Robin Fletcher and I created Nice Style ‘The World’s First Pose Band’, which performed for several years, offering audiences such priceless gems as the ‘semi-domestic spectacular Deep Freeze, a four-part pose opera based on the lifestyle and values of a mid-west American vacuum cleaner operative’. Behind the obvious humour was a desire to break with the establishment, something that he has continued to do throughout his life and work. In 1972, for instance, he was offered an exhibition at the Tate Gallery, but opted, for a ‘retrospective’ lasting only one day. ‘King for a Day’ consisted of catalogue entries for a thousand mock-conceptual works, among them The Society for Making Art Deadly Serious piece, Henry Moore revisited for the 10th Time piece and There’s no business like the Art business piece (sung).
Now, I knew. Bruce McLean is a performance artist, a conceptual artist, a painter, a sculptor, a film-maker, a teacher, a joker, who knows art can be fun, which is always dangerous.
Bonus clips, including Tate Gallery interview with Bruce McLean, after the jump…
Ivor Cutler was a poet, humorist, singer/song-writer, and performer, who was, by his own admission, “never knowingly understood.” Born into a Jewish middle-class family, in Glasgow’s south side, Cutler claimed his life was shaped by the birth of younger brother:
“He took my place as the center of the Universe. Without that I would not have been so screwed up as I am and therefore as creative. Without a kid brother I would have been quite dull, I think.”
He believed his younger brother had replaced him in his mother’s affections, this led Cutler to attempt bashing his brother’s brains in with a poker. Thankfully, an observant aunt stopped him. Soon his resentment to his two brothers and two sisters changed as he discovered music and poetry. At 5, he discovered politics after witnessing the bare-foot poverty of his school friends, and aligned himself to the Left thereafter.
After school, he worked at various jobs before he settled as a school teacher, teaching 7-11-year-olds music and poetry. His work with children inspired and reinforced his own unique view of the world:
He recalled how, in an art class, “one boy drew an ass that didn’t have four legs, but 14. I asked him why and he said it looked better that way. I wanted to lift him out of his cage and put my arms around him, but my intellect told me not to, which was lucky, because I probably would have been sent to prison.”
In the 1950s, Cutler started submitting his poetry to magazines and radio, and soon became a favorite on the BBC. His poetry was filled with “childlike wonder of the world”, created through the process of “bypassing the intellect.” He was, by his own account, a “stupid genius,” , as the London Times explained
Such genius derived from his ability to view life from the opposite direction to that taken by society, and his ability to empathise with the implications of that viewpoint, as in his one-sentence poem: “A fly crouching in a sandwich cannot comprehend why it has become more than ordinarily vulnerable.”
Cutler had a cult following of loyal fans, which included John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who cast him in their The Magical Mystery Tour film; DJ John Peel, who devotedly played Cutler’s releases; Morrissey and more recently Alan McGee and Oasis.
Ivor Cutler: Looking for Truth with a Pin was made shortly before Cutler died. The program has contributions from Paul McCartney, Robert Wyatt, Billy Connolly and Alex Kapranos, and is a fitting testament to the great man, who made life so much more fun. More interesting. More mysterious.
Admittedly, he might not be everyones cup of warmth, but as Cutler said himself:
“Those who come to my gigs probably see life as a child would. It’s those who are busy making themselves into grown-ups, avoiding being a child — they’re the ones who don’t enjoy it.”
I started reading Christopher Isherwood in my late teens, when I became a “paying guest” to an elderly spinster, who lived in an old tenement in the west end of Glasgow. She lived in the top floor apartment, where I rented the large front room, with a view onto the oval-shaped park below. My landlady was in her late seventies, bird-like, translucent skin, who whistled and took snuff in large pinches, sniffed from the back of her hand. She had inherited the apartment from her sister, and the interior had remained unchanged since the 1930s. The hallway with its bell-chimes for Maid, Bedroom 1, Bedroom 2, Parlor, and Dining Room, all still worked. In the kitchen was a range, and a small scullery with its fold-down bed, where the servant would have slept. Coal fires were in all of the rooms except mine. Of course, there was the occasional modern appliance, a TV, a one-bar electric fire, and an electric cooker, which was still in its plastic wrapping, and not to be used “under any circumstances”. Food was cooked over something that looked like a bunsen burner (what my landlady called “a blackout cooker”), and chilled products were kept in a larder. As for hot water, well that was never available, as the boiler was kept under lock and key, and toilet paper was sellotaped, to ensure I bought my own. The front door was locked at eight o’clock and the storm door bolted at nine. After ten, she never answered the door.
At the time, I was reading Goodbye to Berlin, which as you can imagine very much suited my surroundings. Like Isherwood’s character, Herr Issyvoo, I was surrounded by “the tarnished valuables and second-hand furniture of a bankrupt middle class.” A mantel-clock, a heavy glass ashtray, a green baize card table, orphaned figurines of a shepherd boy and shepherd girl, tending to their flocks, a large wooden bed (one leg broken) made in the 1920s. But perhaps, most significantly, was the fact my landlady had worked in Berlin as a furrier for a department store during the 1930s, and she often told me tales of her time in Germany. “Oh those Hitler Youth,” she once said, “Such smart uniforms, but the terrible things they did.”
At times it all made me feel as if I was living in Ishwerwood’s world, as in the evenings I would hear the whistles out in the park below. But unlike Herr Issyvoo, these were not young men calling up to their girlfriends, but dog owners calling to their pets.
The son of landed gentry, Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was born in 1904, at the ancestral seat of his family, Wybersley Hall, High Lane, England. His father was an army officer, who was killed during the First World War. His mother, Kathleen, had a fractious relationship with her son, and she later featured in his stories.
At school he met and became life-long friends with W. H. Auden and Edward Upward. He attended Cambridge University, but found he had no interest in his studies, and was sent down for writing a facetious answer to an exam question. It was while at university that he became part of the famous literary triumvirate with Auden and Stephen Spender, who were hailed by the Left as “intellectual heroes.”
Instead of studying, Isherwood wrote an anarchist fantasy with Upward, centered around the fictional Mortmere:
...a village inhabited by surreal characters modelled on their Cambridge friends and acquaintances. The rector, Casmir Welken, resembles a ‘diseased goat’ and breeds angels in the church belfry; his sidekick Ronald Gunball is a dipsomaniac and an unashamed vulgarian; Sergeant Claptree, assisted by Ensign Battersea, keeps the Skull and Trumpet Inn; the mannish Miss Belmare, domineering and well starched, is sister to the squire, and Gustave Shreeve is headmaster of Frisbald College for boys.
Though none of the stories were published at the time (and Upward destroyed most of them later on), it was the start of Isherwood’s writing career, and led on to his first novel All the Conspirators in 1928.
Stifled by England, Isherwood followed in his friend Auden’s footsteps and moved to Berlin. It proved an historic re-location, one that inspired the first of Isherwood’s important novels Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin. Literature aside, Isherwood’s main reason for going to Berlin was “boys” - blonde, working-class youth.
Isherwood supported himself in Berlin by working as an English tutor, and he used this experience to form the basis for his Berlin stories, and the creation of his eponymous central character. “I am a camera,” Isherwood famously wrote at the start of Goodbye to Berlin, for he saw Herr Issyvoo as “unobtrusive, sexless,” someone who could only observe, and examine the lives of those around him. When later asked why he had not been more explicit about his character’s homosexuality, Isherwood said that if he had come out, then it would have been “a production,” something that would have “upset the apple cart” for the other characters. The poet Stephen Spender claimed Isherwood once claimed he couldn’t imagine how people behaved when he was not in the room.
During the 1930s, Auden and Isherwood wrote a series of plays together, The Dog Beneath the Skin, The Ascent of F6 and On the Frontier, which dealt with their own identities and the idea of masculinity as exemplified by a hero. They also traveled to China to cover the Sino-Japanese War, and published a diary of their exploits. It was this war that convinced Isherwood to become a pacifist.
Perhaps because of the horrors the pair had witnessed in the East, Auden and Isherwood traveled to America in 1939, just before the Second World War began. It was an event that led the two writers to be castigated as “cowards” and “deserters”, for leaving their country in its moment of need - as if Auden or Isherwood’s presence would in some way stop the advance of Germany. Auden stayed in New York, living in a house with the stripper and pulp writer, Gypsy Rose Lee, and novelist Carson McCullers; while Isherwood moved to the west and California, which he described as more “dreamy and strange”, more theatrical.
Here he reworked some of his Berlin stories, but he lacked the zest to keep him inspired. Like many other writers, Isherwood turned to Hollywood for financial security, but had the sense to realize he wasn’t “some great genius prostituting [himself]”:
“I always realized it was very good training, and it made you realize things that you often lose sight of, by getting so arty and literary, that is to say, the fundamentals of telling a story, and the very simple things of putting A before B, and B before C, and getting it all sorted out, and telling it in a direct visual way, and that is always you can learn by working for the movies, and it doesn’t matter what it is.
Auden thought it nice work if you can get it, and said “At least you sold dear what is most dear.” Isherwood scripted a Rage in Heaven (1941), starring Ingrid Bergman and Robert Montgomery and The Great Sinner (1949), starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. Later, in the 1960s, he co-wrote the screenplay, with Terry Southern, for the classic film version of Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One (1965), and then co-wrote, with Don Bachardy, a memorable take on Mary Shelley’s gothic horror, Frankenstein the True Story (1973), with James Mason, Michael Sarrazin,Jane Seymour and David McCallum.
During all this time, he continued to write novels, most notably Prater Violet, based on his first dealings with film-making and the rather brilliant, but under appreciated, Down There on a Visit. On a more personal level, in 1953, he met Don Bachardy, the man who became his life-long partner.
In the sixties, Isherwood achieved considerable success with his “devastating, unnerving, brilliant book” about middle-age, A Single Man. The novel’s central character George, is like Isherwood, and describes a day in his life, when he no longer fears annihilation but survival, and all the debilitating side affects old age will bring. Isherwood said the book was about:
“...middle age, because what I wanted to show was the incredible range of behavior in middle age, part of the time on eis quite tending towards senility, and other times one is rash that is way a way boyish, and apt to indulge in lots of embarrassing behavior, at the drop of hat.”
In the 1970s, Isherwood returned to the Berlin of his youth with his autobiographical memoir Christopher and His Kind, it was a crowning achievement to a literary career that had already delivered at least three or four of the twentieth century’s best novels.
Gore Vidal has said Isherwood is “the best prose writer in English,” which is perhaps true, as Isherwood’s writing is subtle, clever, and is always fresh, even after repeated readings.
This documentary A Single Man: Christopher Isherwood 1904-1986 wa smade not long after his death and composed from a selection of interviews from British TV from the 1950s-1970s.
For fans of Isherwood, the BBC has just completed a drama Christopher and his Kind, adapted form Isherwood’s book, starring Matt (Doctor Who) Smith in the title role, which will be broadcast later this year. Further information can be found here
The rest of ‘A Single Man: Christopher Isherwood 1904-1986’, after the jump…
Michael Prince‘s photographs of the last days of the George Hotel, capture the faded elegance of this once famous location, now sadly replaced by anonymous shops. The pictures were taken in the spring of 1998, just months before the Hotel stopped accepting bookings and closed its swivel-doors for the last time. Michael is a Glasgow-based director and photographer, who has now collected these historic photographs together in a book called Goodnight George.
Situated at the top of the city’s Buchanan Street, the George Hotel kept its doors open for 162 years of business, offering accommodation to actors, performers, the rich and not so famous. Stan Laurel stayed here when he performed at the city’s Britannia Panopticon Theatre, just before he left for America, as did Cary Grant (then just Archie Leach) and later Joan Crawford. The hotel was known as the “nearest”, for it was handily situated between the main points of entry into the city, and ideally placed for all of Glasgow’s theaters. At one time it had over a 100 staff, including twenty-two chefs in its kitchens.
Things change, and by the late nineteen-seventies the George fell in to disuse, and its owner, Peter Fox, a former ballroom champion, let its rooms out to the homeless and unemployed. By the nineteen-nineties, the building’s faded grandeur proved an attraction to film-makers and promo directors. It was amongst these rooms that key scenes for Trainspotting (the scenes in the circular hotel room doubled for London, where the drug deal takes place) and The Big Man (Liam Neeson getting his rocks off) were filmed.
I lived here, on-and-off, from 1996, moving room-to-room, often as the hotel’s only tenant (apart from Mr Fox), until the George closed its doors in 1998. It was a great place to live, with 4 floors, six unused bars, a large kitchen, smoking rooms, a cocktail lounge, and a dance parlor, where a few club nights were had. After it closed, the interior was demolished and replaced with retail units, like Virgin Records. Where once I laid my head is now pop, and my feet, country and western, which is a shame, as the George should have been Glasgow’s answer to the Chelsea Hotel.
More of Michael’s work can be viewed here, and his book Goodnight George is available here.
More of Michael Prince’s photographs, after the jump…
The novelist Ewan Morrison came to prominence in 2005 with his excellent collection of short stories The Last Thing You Read. Since then, Morrison has written three novels, Swung, Menage and Distance, which are amongst the best new fiction published in the UK over the past decade, and if you haven’t already, do go read him.
Ewan’s a clever man, a former TV Producer and Director, who has now created Tales from the Mall, a project he describes as ‘a book of short stories and facts about shopping malls, it’s a compilation of aural history and urban folklore; it’s also an ongoing video project. It might turn out to be a new kind of book app.’
Over the past few months, Morrison has been interviewing staff at various malls thru-out Scotland and the north of England - cleaners, car park attendants, retail agents, designers, town planners and security guards:
‘...recording their tales, confessions and anecdotes and on the way discovering a lot about how the modern world actually works and how consumerism effects and transforms people on a subconscious level.
‘People actually love shopping, and hate themselves. The two things are connected.’
He has compiled this information into short stories, some of which he has made into animated video clips. Now, in an exclusive interview with Dangerous MInds, Ewan discussed his thoughts, ideas and ambitions for Tales from the Mall:
‘I know that Malls sound boring - it must seem a bit like writing about airport terminals or trains stations, but it’s not. Malls are, it turns out, one of the most important subjects in the world. They are really the homes for the worlds leading multinational corporations and are portals to the non-space of globalisation.
‘Malls create cultural conformity and eat away at the values and traditions in all countries they move into. They also spread virus like. GAT, NAFTA, the IMF, the World Bank – these international trade and loan agreements are all about malls. “We will give you this billion dollar loan on the condition that you privatize certain tracts of land and facilitate these corporations” – that’s how Malls spread.’
This spread has been aided by recent political and cultural events.
‘Since the fall of the Berlin Wall the developing world has been hit by a shopping mall pandemic, while ironically in the US malls have started dying-out at capital moves east and the US landscape has surpassed the point of retail saturation. The UK jumped on the bandwagon in the Thatcher era, and now is building new malls to deal with the problems caused by malls.
‘Malls are not just places where some people shop. Malls are all about temp labor and sweatshops and unsustainable resources being repackaged into cycles of planned obsolescence. Malls are about the artificial manipulation of desires and the expansion of sexualised youth culture into our daily lives. They are about making everything including people, increasingly disposable. They are about living on credit and working in repetitive jobs that make you desire an escape. You see, this is fascinating.’
From his many interviews, Morrison has uncovered what he describes as some “astounding” things. For example, the “check-out girls” or “till Jills” suffer from high instances of deja-vu and amnesia; mall car parks are often used as a “try-out space” by some transvestites; malls have even become a safe, go-between space for divorced parents to hand the kids over to each other on restricted visitation times.
‘I’ve also come up with a theory about how consumerism is encouraging divorce, and how the sexualisation of retail has resulted in malls being magnets for extreme behaviors.
‘These are important facts of recent history, which can only really be told through the medium of storytelling. I’ve quite simply been retelling other peoples tales, in much the same way Dave Eggers did with Zeitoun.’
But Morrison has been doing more than re-telling tales, he has also invited stories, poetry and videos from the public, via his site and through The List magazine, all of which have been ‘eye-opening, very telling and moving.’
‘One is about losing virginity, another is about losing a child, another is about shoplifting, and another still is a poem inspired by a mall fountain. I’d like to get more of these coming in.
‘Doing this project shown me the hundred small ways that people resist and modify consumerism in positive ways every day, even those at the bottom of the pecking order who clean up other peoples crap from shopping mall floors. Some of the funniest and deepest tales have come from cleaners and car park attendants. The biggest discovery of all is that mall workers have really funny, dark stories to tell, and that storytelling is a really big part of how they make their anonymous, repetitive jobs bearable.
‘So as well as stories that I’ve re-told, and a few I’ve made up, the idea is to have a book- as-portal, which has at its core nine key stories (named after retail outlets) and around that people can contribute their own mall tales into a growing archive which is open ended and open access.’
This possibility of an app for the project means the book ‘would keep growing over the years as new audio, video and written material comes in from other people. After a decade the thing could be immense.’
‘The idea however is not to castigate, critique or damn shopping malls. but to treat them as a culture in much the same way that historians and archivists treat dying tribes or folk songs. I’d originally thought that Malls might prove barren ground – that really consumerism is empty and has no stories to tell – but I turned out to be wrong. There’s an amazing diversity and richness in people’s mall tales.
‘Over time I realised I wanted to dig out the history of malls and how they’ve come to dominate the globe, and it turned out no-one had actually compiled a decent and readable history yet. So that too has become part of the project.
‘The history of the mall is really the history of American style capitalism. On the local level, I was amazed how the self identity of my city - Glasgow - is blind to it’s own reality. People from Glasgow still tend to look back with nostalgia’s soft focus to the days of heavy industry on the River Clyde. The fact is that Glasgow has had a life post-post industrial decline. It is perhaps because Glasgow is so full of old communists that the reality has not been accepted – Glasgow is now the UK’s leading mall city. It has the second largest amount of retail space per head, next to London; it has five vast malls, one on each of its tributary roads. Its central street is the only one in the UK that has a mall at either end, which makes it “the seventh largest retail avenue in the world”. So part of my project has been to own-up to the fact that Glasgow is incredibly consumerist, and to find out how the city came to be like this and how it operates. How it effects people.’
Ultimately, Morrison believes the mall will die out:
‘I predict that Malls will start shutting down in the UK, as they have done in the US, and also that we will start to see malls targetted with violence, vandalism and political demonstration in the coming years of austerity– as people look for a representative symbol to blame and attack. Bricking a building is easier than attacking a brand logo. Malls in Europe will burn, as the department stores they put out of business burned back in the late 80s.’
If you have any stories, comments or would like more information about Tales from the Mall then check here.
John Butler’s superb latest animation T.R.I.A.G.E. is a speculative tale showing how:
A sick and failing area is swiftly restored to sound financial health
T.R.A.G.E. is an acronym for
Of course, triage is “the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.” With this in mind, any similarities between actual events is purely intentional.
Bonus animations by John Butler ‘Unmanned’ and ‘Sub Optimal’ after the jump…
In 1993, Scottish artist Douglas Gordon exhibited his 24 Hour Psycho, a slowed-down screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film that lasted twenty-four hours. The project contained “many of the important themes in Gordon’s work: recognition and repetition, time and memory, complicity and duplicity, authorship and authenticity, darkness and light.”
In 2005, talented artist Chris Bors created his own version of the film and art work, but this time as 24 Second Psycho.
24 Second Psycho appropriates the entire Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho and condenses it into twenty-four seconds. Tweaking the concept of artist Douglas Gordons 24 Hour Psycho, where Hitchcocks masterpiece was slowed-down to a crawl, here the process is reversed to accommodate society’s increasingly short attention span. Seeing Hitchcocks most lasting contribution to cinema flash before your eyes in a matter of seconds represents our new information age where culture is packaged for easy consumption at a breakneck pace.
Bors work has been exhibited at PS1 MoMA, White Columns, Sixtyseven and Ten in One Gallery in New York, Casino Luxembourg in Luxembourg, and the Videoex Festival in Zurich, Switzerland.
Also over on You Tube, Joe Frese has created a variety of mini masterpieces, including his own Sixty Second Psycho.
Bonus clip Joe Frese’s ‘Sixty Second Psycho’, after the jump…
In the mid-1960s, Billy Connolly formed a folk group with Tam Harvey called The Humblebums. Connolly sang, played guitar and banjo, while Harvey was accomplished Bluegrass guitarist. The duo made a name for themselves playing venues and bars around Glasgow, most notably The Old Scotia, the famous home to Scottish folk music, where Connolly would introduce each song with a humorous preamble, something that became his trademark, and later his career.
In 1969, The Humblebums released their first album First Collection of Merry Melodies, it was soon after this that Gerry Rafferty joined the band. Rafferty had previously played with The Fifth Column, which also featured his future Stealer’s Wheel partner, Joe Egan, and had scored a minor hit “Benjamin Day” with the group. Rafferty’s arrival into The Humblebums changed the band’s direction and Harvey soon left.
The New Humblebums, or Humblebums as most still called the pairing of Connolly and Rafferty, began to achieve far greater success with their mix of Rafferty’s plaintive vocals and melodies and Connolly’s upbeat tunes and fine guitar playing. That same year, the duo released their first record together and band’s second album, The New Humblebums. The album was a major-hit in Glasgow and was well-received nationally. Amongst its most notable tracks were Rafferty’s “Look Over the Hill & Far Away”, “Rick Rack”, “Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway” (later covered by Shane MacGowan and The Popes), “Patrick” and “Coconut Tree”. While Connolly contributed the single “Saturday Round About Sunday”, “Everyone Knows” and “Joe Dempsey”. The album’s famous cover painting was by fake “faux-naïf” painter Patrick, aka legendary playwright John Byrne, author of The Slab Boys, and subject of Rafferty’s song “Patrick”..
The Humbelbums’ success was compounded with the release of their next album, Open Up the Door, in 1970. Here was Rafferty’s “Steamboat Row” (later covered by Stealer’s Wheel), “I Can’t Stop Now”, “Shoeshine Boy”, “Keep It To Yourself” and “My Singing Bird”; along with Connolly’s “Open Up the Door”, “Mother”, “Oh No” and “Cruisin’”.
If this had been a Hollywood film, the next part of the story would be international success and world domination, but this was Glasgow, and Connolly and Rafferty wanted different things. Rafferty wanted to concentrate on the music, while Connolly was finding he was more interested in talking to the audience and being funny than performing as a folk-singer. A split was inevitable. Rafferty went to form Stealer’s Wheel with Joe Egan; while Connolly started his career as a comedian.
In today’s press, Connolly is quoted as saying of his friend and former bandmate:
“Gerry Rafferty was a hugely talented songwriter and singer who will be greatly missed.
“I was privileged to have spent my formative years working with Gerry and there remained a strong bond of friendship between us that lasted until his untimely death.
“Gerry had extraordinary gifts and his premature passing deprives the world of a true genius.”
Last year, the actor and director Peter Mullan took top honors at the San Sebastian Film Festival with his latest film Neds. Neds is short for Non Educated Delinquents, and Mullan’s film deals with the subject of “neds” and their teenage gangs in Glasgow of the 1970s. Something, as Mullan explained to Demetrios Matheou of The Observer back in 2001, he knows about from his years as:
...a member of knife-carrying Glasgow street gang the Young Car-Ds; hanging around, fighting with other gangs, chasing girls, getting drunk. Despite being a bright, bookwormy boy, he was truant from school for the entire year of his gang career. He recognises this now as a crossroads in his life, from which his fellow Car-Ds inadvertently helped him find the right path. ‘They eventually asked me to leave, for two reasons: one, they always felt I was slumming it - because I would use words like “flabbergasted”.’ He grins, remembering the embarrassment. ‘And also because I wanted to up the ante, I wanted us to do really crazy things.’ For a change, he won’t elaborate. ‘Quite rightly they said no. They saved my life, no doubt about it.’
Mullan went on to study at the University of Glasgow, where he excelled as a student until he suffered a nervous breakdown.
‘I just put a ridiculous pressure on myself,’ he recalls. ‘I was terrified of failure, and paralysed by the idea of success. It had a lot to do with class, I think, with deep-rooted class insecurity. Everyone I met at university was middle class. I thought, “Who am I to be here?”’
He eventually returned and re-sat his finals, but in-between, Mullan found a stability amongst actors and joined the student theatre. From this his career as an actor began.
For seven years after he left university Mullan combined teaching drama in the community - in borstals, prisons, community centres and, for two years, at the university itself - with performing. This was the heyday of left-wing theatre companies such as 7:84 and Wildcat. And Mullan helped set up guerrilla troupes with names like First Offence and Redheads, touring western Scotland with overtly political plays influenced by the likes of Brecht, Howard Barker and Dario Fo. Thatcherism, the miners’ strike, the National Front, were typical subjects - ‘anything that related to what I felt to be true about the working class’.
He knew he was a Marxist by the time he was 15, despite his Catholic background. ‘Truth is I don’t think God on a daily basis,’ he shrugs. ‘I think politics, science.’ In the 80s he regarded himself as being further to the left than Militant, refusing to join either those rebels or the Labour Party itself. ‘The irony was that Labour very mistakenly sent me a letter throwing me out - when I wasn’t actually a fucking member.’
Mullan is now an internationally respected actor and director - with acting credits in such films as Trainspotting, My Name is Joe, The Claim, Miss Julie, and work as an awrd-winning director with his feature films Orphans and The Magdalene Sisters. This year will see the release of his third feature as director, Neds.
However, his first work as a director was Close - a grim, brutal and darkly humorous tale of one man’s murderous breakdown in a tenement block or “close”. It is a powerful and violent piece, one that hints at the violence in Mullan’s own background:
More than that, Mullan describes a household almost under siege from his alcoholic father’s dark personality. ‘There are some people who walk into a room and they oxygenate it, by their very being there’s fresh air,’ he says. ‘Then there are those who come in with the smell of death and they suck the life out. He was one of those. I remember the undiluted, black-as-coal bile that used to come out of his mouth.’
As Charles Mullan’s lung cancer worsened, so the abuse strayed from the psychological to the physical. ‘In the later years, when he got drunk on whisky, you didnae wanna know. Eventually our household went completely nuts, because the boys became teenagers and physically strong, and violence became a way of life.’ Mullan and his brothers hit back. ‘We had no choice. I think it’s fair to say that if you walk in from school and he’s got your mother over the table with a knife at her throat, one’s going to get physical.’
Close isn’t for the faint-hearted, so you have been warned.
Mullan’s film Neds opens on the 21st January in the UK, as yet, there is no US release date.
Part 2 of ‘Close’ plus bonus trailer for ‘Neds’, after the jump…
The author Evelyn Waugh once described New Year’s Eve as ‘‘drunk men being sick on a pavement in Glasgow,” which is probably true, for part of the great Scottish tradition of Hogmanay is to get drunk, though being sick is non-obligatory. Amongst the fine selection of alcohol chosen by Scots to celebrate the arrival of 2011 (especially for Glaswegians, or Weedgees), is a tipple made by Benedictine monks at Buckfast Abbey in Devon.
Buckfast is a fortified wine first produced by the monks in 1890 from a French recipe. It was first sold in small quantities as a medicinal tonic under the advertising slogan:
“Three small glasses a day, for good health and lively blood.”
In 1927, the monks lost their license to sell this medicinal plonk, so the Abbot negotiated a deal with a wine merchant to distribute their booze the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. Its recipe was changed to make it more palatable, and Buckfast, or Buckie as it is known colloquially, became the drink of choice amongst the working class, low-rent bohemians, NEDs (non-educated delinquents) and soccer fans.
Buckie is cheap, potent and effective for inebriation. It is also sweet-tasting and is highly caffeinated - one bottle contains the equivalent to eight cups of instant coffee. Recently, various politicians have called for a ban on Buckfast in Scotland, as it was claimed the “Commotion Lotion” has been responsible for anti-social behavior, as the New York Times reported:
..a survey last year of 172 prisoners at a young offenders’ institution, 43 percent of the 117 people who drank alcohol before committing their crimes said they had drunk Buckfast. In a study of litter in a typical housing project, 35 percent of the items identified were Buckfast bottles.
...the drink was mentioned in 5,638 crime reports in Strathclyde from 2006-2009, equating to three a day on average.
One in 10 of those offences were violent and the bottle was used as a weapon 114 times in that period.
Against this goes the argument from the wine merchants, who say Buckfast is but one of many alcoholic drinks available, of which Buckie represents only 0.58% of total alcohol sales - which is, to be fair, but a piss in the Ocean.
Back in the early 1990s, writer and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove produced an excellent arts magazine series for Channel 4, called Halfway to Paradise. It was launching pad for many talents including Hollywood director, Jim Gillespie and producer, Nicola Black. In this short clip, Cosgrove examines the history of the famed drink and its culture. Since then, and with the advent of YouTube and camera ‘phones, fans of Buckfast have developed a new trend - the Buckfast Challenge, where devotees to the “Coatbridge Table Wine” down a bottle in seconds. The record, for those interested, is seven seconds. Happy Hogmanay.
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