Tonight’s feature presentation, ladles and gentlespoons, is Frankenstein, Edison Studios’ 1910 production of Mary Shelley’s novel The Modern Prometheus. Directed by J. Searle Dawley and starring Augustus Phillips, Mary Fuller and Charles Ogle as the monster.
This was the first ever movie production of Frankenstein, filmed over 3 days at the Edison Studios in the Bronx, New York. For many years it was thought this film was lost, only a few lobby cards, stills and posters were thought to exist, that was until the early 1950’s, when a print of the film was purchased by Alois F. Dettlaff, a movie collector from Wisconsin. However, Dettllaff didn’t realize the rarity or value of his latest possession until the 1970s, when he had it preserved on 35mm. Though the film had deteriorated, it was still viewable, and had its original caption cards and beautifully hand-tinted sequences.
This version of Frankenstein differs from Shelley’s novel but does touch on some of the themes implicit in her novel. The one thing that has always struck me about Shelley’s tale is the absence of love. It is pointed to throughout the narrative by negatives, from the very creation of the monster, to its lack of a name, to Frankenstein addressing it as “hideous”, “loathsome”, “deformed”. Though the doctor may feel pity for his handiwork, he cannot look at it without seeing “the filthy mass that walked and talked,” which fills him with “horror and disgust.” Talk about absentee fathers.
The creature having failed to win the love of his creator, seeks it in the outside world, when this fails, he realizes he must he have Frankenstein make him a partner. The doctor reluctantly agrees, and starts his preparations on the isle of Orkney. Unfortunately, for the monster, Frankenstein has a change of heart, fearing a world populated by monstrous off-spring, and destroys his second creation. When this happens, you know it’s going to end in tears, as the monster claims vengeance on his maker.
In this film version, the snaggle-toothed monster with the Russell Brand hair is similarly desperate for love, and behaves as a jealous lover for Frankenstein’s affection. But what is more intriguing is the suggestion the monster is not so much real but an element within Frankenstein’s nature, an idea Mary Shelley may have agreed with, for who is Victor Frankenstein? other than a portrait of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the monster? But a metaphor for their love?
David Bowie was on a roll when he recorded “Suffragette City”, he was writing enough songs for his own catalog and for others to record. He’d already given Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits “Oh! You Pretty Things”, which was quite a move for the toothsome pop star but, as rock writer Charles Shaar Murray noted, Noone’s version was “one of Rock and Roll’s most outstanding examples of a singer failing to achieve any degree of empathy whatsoever with the mood and content of a lyric.” Noone was possibly thinking about dental hygiene and girls rather than Aleister Crowley and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, whose ideas are referenced in the song. Bowie had also tried his hand at punting a teenage dress-designer into pop stardom with “Moonage Daydream” and then offered his services to Mott the Hoople.
Hoople were a superb band who hadn’t broken through to the level of success they deserved. Bowie was a fan and on hearing Mott were about to split, offered their lead singer, Ian Hunter, the song “Suffragette City” to record, if the band would stay together. Hunter felt it wouldn’t be a hit, and knew that after a few chart failures he had to have a winner. He therefore asked Bowie for “All the Young Dudes” which Hunter saw as a definite hit, it was and became an anthem for a generation of British youth. “All the Young Dudes” had originally been a part of Bowie’s plan for a concept album that told the story of an alien saving the Earth from destruction, which would become Ziggy Stardust.
“Suffragette City” was written in 1971 and recorded in January 1972. It gives a big nod towards The Small Faces “Wham Bam Thank You Ma’m”, and references (via the word “droogie”) Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, which was the hit film of that year.
Infamously, when Bowie performed “Suffragette City” at the Oxford Town Hall in June 1972, he was photographed by Mick Rock apparently simulating oral sex on Mick Ronson’s guitar. Bowie was actually playing the guitar with his teeth. However, Rock’s photo was so iconic that Bowie convinced his manager, Tony Defries, into buying a whole page of advertising space in the UK music weekly, Melody Maker.
The line-up for the recording of “Suffragette City” was David Bowie: Vocals, Guitar; Mick Ronson: Guitar, piano and ARP synthesizer (which doubles as the saxophone); Trevor Bolder: Bass; Mick Woodmansey: Drums.
David Bowie - Vocals
Mick Ronson - Guitar
David Bowie and Mick Ronson - Acoustic Guitar, Piano and FX
David Bowie first released “Moonage Daydream” under the project name Arnold Corns, which was one of Bowie’s side interests, a group set up for 19-year-old dress designer Freddie Burrettia to front. The original band had been assembled in Dulwich College, the name inspired by Pink Floyd’s song “Arnold Layne”, and when Bowie agreed to write some songs for Burrettia in 1971, he revived Arnold Corns, with his regular line-up of Mick Ronson (guitar), Trevor Bolder (bass), Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey (drums), with Bowie and Freddie on vocals.
Arnold Corns’ version of “Moonage Daydream” was recorded in April ‘71 and released as a single in May of that year, with “Hang on to Yourself” as its B-side. The song tells the story of an alien messiah, who is born to save the world from impending disaster. Surprisingly, it was a flop, but Bowie recognized he had hit on an idea that was too good to waste, and developed it for the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
Ziggy was a mini-concept album, really a sequence of related songs, as Bowie later explained to William S. Burroughs in Rolling Stone magazine:
The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll. There’s no electricity to play it. Ziggy’s adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, ‘cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. “All the Young Dudes” is a song about this news. It’s no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite…
The end comes when the infinites arrive. They really are a black hole, but I’ve made them people because it would be very hard to explain a black hole on stage…
Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a Starman, so he writes “Starman”, which is the first news of hope that the people have heard. So they latch onto it immediately…
The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers. Ziggy has been talking about this amazing spaceman who will be coming down to save the earth. They arrive somewhere in Greenwich Village. They don’t have a care in the world and are of no possible use to us. They just happened to stumble into our universe by black hole jumping. Their whole life is travelling from universe to universe. In the stage show, one of them resembles Brando, another one is a Black New Yorker. I even have one called Queenie, the Infinite Fox…Now Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starmen. He takes himself up to the incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples. When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make them real because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist in our world. And they tear him to pieces on stage during the song ‘Rock ‘n’ roll suicide’. As soon as Ziggy dies on stage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible.
The album Ziggy Stardust… was mainly recorded over the Fall of 1971, and then finished during a week in January 1972. It was recorded at Trident Studios in Soho, London, the first studio to boast an 8-track recording machine in 1968, and by the early 1970s the first in Europe to have a 16-track recorder. Trident was where The Beatles recorded “Hey Jude” and was a popular studio for the likes of T.Rex, Queen, Supertramp and Bowie.
Recording started in September with “It Ain’t Easy”, then a longer session during the first two weeks of November produced “Hang on to Yourself”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (later shortened to “Star”), “Moonage Daydream”, “Soul Love”, “Lady Stardust”, and “Five Years”. Two covers were also laid down then, Chuck Berry’s “Round and Round” and Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam”. The album was finished in January 1972 with the recording of “Starman”, “Suffragette City”, and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”.
Bowie was producer and had definite ideas for how the record would sound, as co-producer, recording engineer and mixing engineer, Ken Scott recalled in 1999:
“I remember David coming to me, prior to doing the album, and saying, “You’re not going to like this album. Its gonna be much harder.” I don’t know who he compared it to; maybe it was Iggy. He thought I would hate it, but I loved it!
“We recorded quickly, just as we always did. We generally worked Monday through Saturday, 2:00 p.m. until we finished, generally midnightish - not much later, eat when we felt like there was a natural break, and spent 2 to 3 weeks recording and 2 weeks mixing.
“Nothing was recorded 100% live. There were over dubs on every track, some more than others. If memory serves me well, fat chance after 27 years, “Round and Round” had the least. On Ziggy Stardust the basics were virtually the same for all the tracks. It was only the nuances in each song that would vary. The sessions weren’t much different to any of the other Bowie sessions.
The line-up was David Bowie – vocals, acoustic guitar, saxophone, piano, harpsichord; Mick Ronson – guitars, piano, backing vocals, string arrangement; Trevor Bolder – bass; Mick Woodmansey – drums.
Bolder, Woodmansey and Scott have since said “Moonage Daydream” was the best track from Ziggy Stardust, with Bolder saying in 1976:
“...I liked “Moonage Daydream”... I think, [it] had a lot of feel. I think it had more feel on-stage than it did on the album. When we used to do it on-stage it used to be fantastic. It really used to get the kids going. That would start the kids off. When they wanted to go - we would do that number about four before the end. and that would lift the audience up . I think the audience liked to hear it live. Every night you knew that “Moonage Daydream” was going to be the one that really lifted them. Then we’d go and follow on from there to the end.”
While Woodmansey also said in 1976:
“My favourite on that [album] was “Moonage Daydream” as far as like ....feeling goes, you know, as far as actually getting something out of the track when you listen to it back.”
The Ziggy Stardust Companion ran an online poll on this question from 1999-2001 the results of 828 fans polled their favorite track was “Moonage Daydream”. The berakdown was as follows:
The results showed that “Moonage Daydream” was the most popular track with 20% of the vote, followed by “Starman”, “Ziggy Stardust” and “Rock n Roll Suicide” with 14% each. “Lady Stardust” (11%) and “Five Years” (9%) were next most popular. “Soul Love” (6%), “Suffragette City” (5%), “Hang Onto Yourself” (4%) and “Star” (2%) made up the remainder of the total vote.
David Bowie - Vocals
More tracks from ‘Moonage Daydream’ after the jump…
From the decade that fashion forgot, a men’s style catalog that reflects more innocent times with some questionable dress sense and a bizarre advert for “New Adam Scented & Flavored Genital Towelettes.”
The Ah Men Super Summer Catalog 1972 can be viewed here.
It is surprising to think that fifty years ago today, D. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published and sold legally in British bookshops for the very first time.
The initial print run of 200,000 sold out, and within a year a total of 2m copies were sold, outselling the Bible. As was reported by the BBC at the time:
London’s largest bookstore, W&G Foyle Ltd, said its 300 copies had gone in just 15 minutes and it had taken orders for 3,000 more copies. When the shop opened this morning there were 400 people - mostly men - waiting to buy the unexpurgated version of the book.
Hatchards in Piccadilly sold out in 40 minutes and also had hundreds of orders pending.
Selfridges sold 250 copies in minutes. A spokesman told the Times newspaper, “It’s bedlam here. We could have sold 10,000 copies if we had had them.”
Lady C, as it has become known, has also become a bestseller in the Midlands and the North where demand has been described as “terrific”.
Originally published in Italy in 1928, Lady Chatterley’s Lover had been banned in the UK on grounds of obscenity, though a limited, expurgated and heavily censored imported version had been available, where words, such as ‘penis’ were replaced by ‘liver’, and sections of sexually explicit “purple prose” removed.
All this was to change, when in 1959, the Obscene Publications Act stated that any book considered obscene by some but could be shown to have “redeeming social merit” might still published. This encouraged Penguin Books to prepare 200,000 unexpurgated copies of Lady C for release in 1960 (to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of Lawrence’s death), in a bid to test the novel’s merit against the Act. This led to a now infamous trial in October 1960, where a host of established authors lined-up to give evidence in defense of the Lawrence’s novel, including T. S. Eliot, Doris Lessing, Aldous Huxley, Dame Rebecca West. Defense lawyer, Michael Rubinstein had cleverly contacted over 300 potential witnesses, ranging from writers, journalists, teachers, politicians, academics, TV celebrities and theologians. Many writers wrote letters in support to Rubinstein including:
E. M. Forster wrote:
‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a literary work of importance, written by a leading 20th-century novelist. It is surprising that such a work should be prosecuted here, and if it is condemned, our country will certainly make itself look ridiculous in America and elsewhere.
I do not think that it could be held obscene, but am in a difficulty here, for the reason that I have never been able to follow the legal definition of obscenity. The law tells me that obscenity may deprave and corrupt, but as far as I know, it offers no definition of depravity or corruption.
I am certain that it is neither erotic nor pornographic, nor, from what I knew of the author, would there have been any erotic or pornographic intention in his mind.’
Graham Greene, August 22 1960:
‘It seems to me to be absurd that this book should ever have been classed as obscene and I should say that its tendency as Lawrence intended is to treat the sexual side of a love affair in an adult fashion. I can’t Imagine that even a minor could draw any other conclusion from the book than that sexual activity was at least enjoyable.
I am myself dubious how far Lawrence was successful in his intention. I find some parts of the book rather absurd and for that reason I would prefer not to be called as a witness in case I was forced into any admission harmful to the Penguin case.
Aldous Huxley, October 9 1960:
‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover is an essentially wholesome book. Its treatment of sex is at once matter-of-fact and lyrical. There is no prurience in it and no trace of that sadistic perversion which is such an odious feature of many popular novels and short stories that, because their authors prudently avoid the use of certain four-letter words, are permitted to circulate freely.
That a beautiful and serious work of art should run the risk of being banned because its creator (for aesthetic and psychological reasons into which I need not enter) chose to make use of certain words that it is conventional to regard as shocking – this surely is the height of absurdity.
Evelyn Waugh, August 21 1960:
‘Your MBR/VS of 18th. I have not read Lady Chatterley’s Lover since it first came out. My memory of it is that it was dull, absurd in places and pretentious. I am sure that most of its readers would be attracted by its eroticism. Whether it can “corrupt” them, I can’t tell, but I am quite certain that no public or private “good” would be served by its publication. Lawrence had very meagre literary gifts.
Not everyone was happy about supporting the book, Doris Lessing wrote: “I don’t think this novel is one of Lawrence’s best, or a great work of art, I’m sorry, if there is to be a test case, that it will be fought over this particular book.” Likewise, Iris Murdoch tempered her support with “Lady Chatterley’s Lover certainly may strike one as an eminently silly book by a great man.”
Surprisingly, support came from unlikely sources, the Bishop of Woolwich supplied a written deposition, which stated:
‘Archbishop William Temple once said that Christians do not make jokes about sex for the same reason that they do not make jokes about Holy Communion – not because it is dirty, but because it is sacred.
‘Lawrence did not share the Christian valuation of sex, but he was always straining to portray it as something sacred, in a real sense as an act of Holy Communion. I believe that Christians in particular should read this book, if only because Lawrence believed passionately, and with much justification, that they have killed and denied the natural goodness of creation at this point.’
The trial lasted 6 days and marked the demise of one generation, and the arrival of another. This was most notable when the Prosecuting Counsel Mervyn Griffith-Jones asked:
“Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”
If there was a line that negatively affected the Prosecution’s case then this was it. For it revealed Griffith-Jones lived in an archaic and class-divided world where everyone apparently had servants; a world separate from that of wives and servants, and this the majority of Britons. It was the clearest picture of the two worlds that existed back then - the world of “class, rank and privilege, ranged against ordinary people.”
Griffith-Jones’ comment highlighted this divide, and re-enforced the notion Penguin was on the side of “the common man.” In his closing speech, defense lawyer, Gerald Gardiner said:
“I do not want to upset the prosecution by suggesting that there are a certain number of people nowadays who as a matter of fact don’t have servants. But of course that whole attitude is one which Penguin Books was formed to fight against, which they have always fought against…
“Isn’t everybody, whether earning £10 a week or £20 a week, equally interested in the society in which we live, in the problems of human relationships including sexual relationships? In view of the reference made to wives, aren’t women equally interested in human relations, including sexual relations?”
Penguin’s success was a victory for all publishers, and the release of the Lady Chatterley’s Lover, on November 10 1960, marked the start of the cultural and political change that defined the decade.
In London this week, the Wellcome Trust opens an exhibition called High Society exploring “the role of mind-altering drugs in history and culture,” which challenges “the perception that drugs are a disease of modern life.”
From ancient Egyptian poppy tinctures to Victorian cocaine eye drops, Native American peyote rites to the salons of the French Romantics, mind-altering drugs have a rich history. ‘High Society’ will explore the paths by which these drugs were first discovered - from apothecaries’ workshops to state-of-the-art laboratories - and how they came to be simultaneously fetishised and demonised in today’s culture.
Mind-altering drugs have been used in many ways throughout history - as medicines, sacraments and status symbols, to investigate the brain, inspire works of art or encounter the divine, or simply as an escape from the experience.
Exhibits will include: Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’ manuscript, said to have been written after an opium dream; a hand-written manuscript by Captain Thomas Bowrey describing his crew’s experiments with Bhang - a cannabis drink - in 17th-century Bengal; a bottle of cocaine eye drops; and a hallucinogenic snuff set collected in the Amazon by the Victorian explorer Richard Spruce. The exhibition will also feature contemporary art pieces exploring drug use and culture, including Tracy Moffat’s Laudanum portrait series and a recreation of the Joshua Light Show by Joshua White and Seth Kirby.
Last week, the news took on a decidedly trippy tinge. First, Professor David Nutt, sacked as an adviser to the Labour government for criticising its policy on drugs, sparked controversy when he published research suggesting that heroin was less damaging than alcohol. The following day, Californians went to the polls to vote on a proposal to legalise cannabis. In a dramatic move, President Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, threatened to intervene if the outcome was a “yes” (it wasn’t).
It is timely, then, that this Thursday, the Wellcome Trust will open the doors on High Society, an exhibition exploring the history of mind-altering drugs. In keeping with the Wellcome ethos, the exhibition blends a scientific and cultural approach, with curiosities such as a 20 metre opium pipe – an installation by the Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping – sitting alongside more scientific (if no less bizarre) exhibits, such as a Nasa experiment that studied the strange webs spiders spin after they are given different types of drugs.
Amid the debate about drugs, one thing is often ignored: their surprising potential in medicine. Most people are familiar with the idea that cannabis can be used therapeutically, chiefly in relieving pain or the nausea caused by chemotherapy, but also to moderate autoimmune and neurological disorders. But according to Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss and director of the Beckley Foundation – a charity that promotes research into drugs and consciousness – we have not fully harnessed its potential. “The prohibition of the past 50 years has dramatically slowed the advancement of knowledge in the area,” she says. “In combating the recreational use of cannabis, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water.”
More surprising is the fact that harder drugs may also have therapeutic potential. Class A substances such as LSD and ecstasy, Feilding claims, may have a wealth of health benefits. “We need to wash these substances of their taboo by using the best science,” she says. “Opium and heroin are already widely used in hospitals. Hallucinogenic drugs, however, are victims of a prohibition that came into place in the Sixties.”
“The potential of Class A hallucinogens for clinical use is tantalising,” says Mike Jay, curator of the exhibition. “Psychedelic drugs have been subjected to the most stringent legislation. Yet when administered clinically, they are non-addictive, non-toxic and effective in the smallest quantities.”...
...“Every society is a high society,” he says. “The question is, what are we going to do about it? If illegal drugs can be used as effective medical treatments, it would be wrong not to research that rigorously.”
High Society runs from11 November 2010 - 27 February 2011 at the Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, Admission Free
Derek Jarman died too soon, and his loss has been immeasurable to world cinema.
I first met Derek in 1989, when he was interviewed about his work, by Richard Jobson, on a BBC lunchtime magazine program. It was a coup to get him, more so as he openly discussed AIDs, and his own HIV status, at a time when large sections of the media were spouting hatred and bigotry against the gay community. At the time, Jarman was in Glasgow for an exhibition he was presenting at the Third Eye Center, the show consisted of homophobic front pages culled from tabloid newspapers, plastered on the walls around a tarred and feathered, barbed-wire cage, inside which, two young men lay naked on a bed. The effect was powerful and moving.
Steve Carr, a film-maker and on-line content editor, has made this excellent new short film about Jarman, and as he exclusively tells Dangerous Minds:
The film was part of a work related project. We were asked to produce something that has or had a huge influence in our own life/lives. Derek Jarman’s work influenced my interest in queer art in the late 80s at a time when Britain was dominated by anti-AIDS rhetoric and a Thatcherite run government. My short film is composed of clips from many of Derek’s films and documentaries, compressed into a 10 minute short about his life and the difficulties people had from finding funds to show their work. Derek, being a film maker and being HIV positive was an example of the prejudice he faced in this right-wing Britain of the time.
Bonus clip of Jarman’s Super 8 footage after the jump…
Celebrations are underway marking the 200th anniversary of the start of Mexico’s War of Independence.
On 16th September 1810, a priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declared Mexico’s freedom from the Spanish colonial government, in the small town of Dolores. Hidalgo’s call to arms became known as the Grito de Dolores (the Cry of Dolores), and led to the first of many rebellions against the forces of the Spanish Crown, which resulted in Mexico’s independence in 1821.
They don’t make priests like Hidalgo anymore - an intellectual revolutionary, who spoke out against Church and Crown, lived openly with his lover, fathered several children, smoked, drank, and gambled. More importantly, he was an egalitarian, who believed in the sharing of wealth. Hidalgo was eventually caught, excommunicated, tried for treason, and executed in 1811. However, his clear-sighted actions inspired a nation to reclaim its liberty.
These incredible photographs show some of the events taking place for Mexico’s bicentennial celebrations.