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Before dick pics and sexting: How men asked for sex a century ago
01.30.2018
09:58 am
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Before our indulgent misuse of technology made us a tad brutish and unsophisticated in our relationships with each other, men and women once had a form of ritual quaintly called “courtship” where a chivalrous young man was expected to woo a demure young woman with subtly, attention, kindness, and flowers. Such actions were supposed to signal his honorable intentions, trustworthiness, and his reliability to furnish his intended with all that she might require. (Oh, how many poor women fell into a life of drudgery because of that? I wonder.) Of course, these young men would also have their needs but they could only hint at these through the saving grace of innuendo and saucy humor, which made it possible to say one thing and mean something entirely different!

Exhibit A: A set of American postcards dating from 1905 which depicts a young man and the woman of his dreams. These cards were supposed to show our earnest young man’s burning desire to pop the question and ask his fair lady to marry him. But wait, there’s more… These seemingly innocent-looking cards were also a means by which a randy young git could ask his lady friend for his nazzums, his nookie, his how’s your father, his horizontal refreshment, his whoopie, his you know what, you know, get his end away. Of course, women were far too high-minded, civilized, and ever so polite to even know about such things… But...if ever they did, then they’d know only too damn well what his nibs was on about. Indeed, one of these cards does look like it was specifically meant for use by the ladies to send to their beaus in which our eager young heroine suggests that if her reluctant young man would only ask her to marry him, well, then he’ll get it alright.

Though their intention for sex maybe similar, these little cards certainly make a refreshing change from dick pics and unwanted sexting, but plus ca change...
 
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The unsubtle: ‘How about it Kiddo?’
 
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The subtle: Ask me to marry you and you’ll get what you desire.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.30.2018
09:58 am
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Strange Illustrations of Robots, Devils, Fire-Breathing Witches, and Weapons of War from 1420
01.25.2018
10:00 am
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The Devil and all his internal works.
 
There’s an episode of South Park where Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny try out different routines only to find “The Simpson’s Already Did It.” Looking at the illustrations of technological inventions by fifteenth-century Venetian physician, engineer, and alleged “magus,” Johannes de Fontana, (ca. 1395-1455), aka Giovanni Fontana, it’s more than apparent that whatever invention we think is new someone (probably not The Simpsons...) has already imagined it.

In his technological or mechanical treatise, Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris (ca. 1420), Fontana imagined or rather devised a whole series of machines for use in war, traveling, entertaining children, flying, robots, rocket-powered craft, timepieces, fountains, and even a means of projecting images like a magic lantern. Unlike most other inventors at this time, Fontana showed the workings of his inventions—the pulleys and weights (sand, water) by which his mechanical devices worked. Most inventors illustrated their proposals “in action” as if functioning in real time, therefore, keeping internal mechanisms of cogs and wheels and what-have-yous hidden, thus to ensure they might be paid for developing such contraptions. Fontana presented his work with see-thru interiors, allowing the viewer to witness or rather imagine just exactly how this devil could fly or that vehicle move. This all well-and-good until one realizes many of these wonderful designs are utterly unworkable as they “do not conform to the principles of mechanics.”

Many of the ideas contained in Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris focus on weapons of war like exploding missiles, mechanical battering rams and alike. However, Fontana did also include a number of designs for children’s toys and several drawings that scorched myths about the supernatural and the occult by explaining how devils and witches were most probably just robotic automata used to terrorize his fellow citizens.

A copy of Johannes de Fontana’s Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris can be viewed here.
 
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A mechanical toy.
 
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More toy/entertainment for kids.
 
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A robot witch showing how it would move on rails, have wings that flapped and arms that moved, and an ability to blow fire or air.
 
More mechanical illustrations, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.25.2018
10:00 am
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Ladykillers: Murder ballads and the country women who sang them
01.15.2018
02:58 pm
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Country music is my favorite genre to listen to if I want to hear really dark shit. My favorite tunes should probably come with warning labels. These amazing songs sound ridiculously upbeat to the point where they are disturbing as hell. If you can’t stomach true crime podcasts, serial killer interviews or horror films, perhaps relaxing with a drink and a Porter Wagoner album isn’t for you.

Thus we come to my favorite socially unacceptable subgenre: the murder ballad. Being a badass feminist, it IS weird that I love an entire collection of music where the majority of tunes are about men killing women or visiting horrific violence upon them. I can’t help it though. I can’t get enough of these songs.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The country music world has always been male-centric. For every forgotten woman like Rose Maddox, Wilma Lee Cooper or Moonshine Kate, there are ten famous male stars like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, or Merle Haggard. So when I come across my murder ballad-singin’ women, I rejoice!  Bring that gore to the floor, ladies! Country women who sing about murder and violence are extra subversive, especially if they are making that narrative gender-flip of and sing those stories usually sung by men with murder on their minds… 
 

The Coon Creek Girls

The Coon Creek Girls formed in the 1930s and were the first all-women string-band. Their manager, an exploitative jerk named John Lair, went so far as to change the band name from their self-chosen Red River Ramblers to Coon Creek Girls because he “thought it sounded more country.” Apparently he thought the low/working class exoticism of that band name would sell these Appalachian-raised women better at shows. It didn’t. These gals sold themselves!
 

Lily May Ledford of the Coon Creek Girls and her banjo

Banjo player Lily May Ledford recalls:

“What a good time we had on stage… jumping up and down, sometimes ruining some of our songs by laughing at each other. Sis, when carried away by a fast fiddle tune, would let out a yell so high pitched that it sounded like a whistle. Sometimes, when playing at an outdoor event, fair or picnic, we would go barefooted. We were so happy back then. Daisy and Sis, being good fighters, would make short work of anybody in the more polished groups who would tease or torment us. We all made short work of the “wolves” as they were called, who tried to follow us home or get us in their cars.”

Tons of “I drowned my girlfriend/lover/wife” songs exist in the murder ballad canon but “Pretty Polly,” is easily one of the nastiest and most violent. That’s what makes the Coon Creek Girls’ version is especially good. While I quite enjoy the song as sung by The Byrds, it’s not as unique as the all-female arrangement. Great band, great tune. 
 

 
Plenty more after the jump…

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Posted by Ariel Schudson
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01.15.2018
02:58 pm
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‘The Defector’: The disappearance of an Australian Prime Minister
01.12.2018
11:12 am
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In December 1967, during the height of the Cold War, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared while swimming off Cheviot Beach, near Point Nepean, Victoria. Holt was a strong swimmer, enjoyed scuba-diving and spear-fishing and was in robust health. His disappearance led to one of “the largest search operations in Australian history.” Holt visited the beach with four friends, but only one of the group, Alan Stewart, went into the water with the Prime Minister. While Stewart kept close to the shoreline, Holt swam out into deeper waters. Eyewitnesses recalled seeing Holt swim then drift like “a leaf being taken out” as he was caught by the riptide and pulled towards the dangerous waters of the Heads. Despite the police search, Holt’s body has never been found.

In 1968, the police released a report which made no definitive findings on Holt’s “disappearance.” This led to various conspiracy theories filling the column inches like the suggestion Holt had committed suicide or that he had been assassinated by the CIA as dirty commie-sympathizer or that he was collected by a commie submarine and had defected to China. This last one led to the book The Prime Minister Was A Spy which claimed Holt had been a “sleeper” working for the Chinese since 1929. When Australian Intelligence Services discovered the (alleged) truth about Holt, the Chinese quickly arranged to have the PM taken out of the country.

Eventually, 2005, a coroner’s court returned a verdict of accidental death—but the rumors and theories about Holt’s disappearance did not stop.
 
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So now comes filmmaker Scott Mannion‘s fictional take The Defector which owes a small bit to some of the theories already mentioned and a big bit of imagination. It’s a well-conceived and beautifully crafted short film which is most likely a calling card to a larger feature. According to Mannion, The Defcetor has already caused quite a storm and has apparently been “banned” in China—read into that what you will.
 
Watch after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.12.2018
11:12 am
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‘Undercover,’ John Ford’s instructional film gives tips for WWII spies behind enemy lines
01.11.2018
09:39 am
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During World War II, John Ford worked as chief of the Field Photographic Branch of the OSS, the intelligence agency that preceded the CIA. When he went on active duty, Ford had already directed 1941’s Sex Hygiene, an Army training film with tips for avoiding the clap and the syph on R&R leave (“I looked at it and threw up,” was the review Ford later gave Peter Bogdanovich). To this, Lt. Commander John Ford added the Oscar-winning documentaries The Battle of Midway and December 7th. Bogdanovich writes that, after the war, Ford’s group began work on a seven- or eight-hour film that was to have been used as evidence at the Nuremberg Trials; in the end, the task fell to Budd Schulberg, also a member of the Field Photographic Branch, whose The Nazi Plan was entered into evidence at Nuremberg.

Some of Ford’s wartime movies were exclusively for OSS consumption, such as 1943’s How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines, a/k/a Undercover, an instructional film about how to be a spy. Like most movies of its kind, it teaches by illustrating dos and don’ts—Ford appears in the only speaking role of his career as the pipe-smoking case officer assigned to the “don’t” agent—and lays heavy emphasis on a single lesson, here the supreme importance of maintaining a believable cover story. Agonizing sequences depict spies blowing their cover through inattention to detail: anything from paying the bar tab with bills no longer in circulation to using “hair grease” they can’t get in Enemytown since hostilities began.
 

John Ford in ‘Undercover’ (via National Archives)
 
Undercover is available on Netflix, but the dialogue sounds like it was recorded with a Kleenex stretched over one end of an empty cookie dough tube, as if all the Allies’ microphones had been melted down for the war effort. The YouTube version embedded below is much easier to follow. If I owned a movie house, I’d program this with the short Don’t Kill Your Friends, a contemporary U.S. Navy training film starring my own grandfather as an inept pilot who offs civilians during aerial gunnery practice.
 
Watch it, after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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01.11.2018
09:39 am
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Hairy moments: The deep roots of women’s hair history
01.10.2018
12:09 pm
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I want what they're having
 
This is one of my all-time favorite photographs. I have no idea who took it, where it was taken, dunno who the hell these ladies are. But goddamn. I adore them all.

I’ve seen tons of people look at this photo and mock these women for unconventional hairstyles, awkward facial expressions, and what is likely a highly Texan aesthetic (my geographic guess). Fine, laugh. But there’s something so charming, so uniquely pleasurable about the way these women (probably family) are enjoying each other’s company, standing out in that ratty backyard. That yard of dead grass laid out in front of a patio overhang that seems to be one short storm away from crashing to the ground. And our youngest girl—the one with the flowing hippie hair and glasses—she’s wearing pink slippers! There’s this weird strength reflected here in this cadre of creatively-coiffed chicks. I bet they made great cocktails and killer cookies.

Women’s hair and beauty dynamics are intensely personal. Since the beginning of time women have invested spaces like beauty parlors/salons with the power of the personal in order to have a location to freely access aesthetic self-care practices. Generally, we do this for our own benefit, to impress someone else, or both. These spaces have also traditionally served another equally important function: they are community social zones and “safe spaces” for women to gossip, exchange intimacies that they would never do around male friends/family. Beauty parlors have always served a critical function for women.
 

 

 

 

 
The cosmetology world made huge advances in the 1920s. Thanks to the invention of the hair salon (and hair salon franchise) by Canadian-American business woman Martha Matilda Harper, women’s beauty centers shifted from “home visits” to the communal environment we are now familiar with. Harper sold many of the franchise models to lower income women and ended up profiting greatly as a result. With Harper’s floor-length Rapunzel-like tresses, it was hard not to take hair advice from this marketing genius. 
 
Martha Matilda Harper - Wouldn't YOU take hair advice from this woman??
 
With these advances, there are some unfortunate facts. These sacred communal spaces were structured for Straight White Women and they have never quite lost that flavor, even today. What’s unfortunate (but not surprising) is that there are women of color who helped establish this space and who should be far more famous than they are. Women like Sarah Breedlove Walker aka Madame CJ Walker was born to freed slaves and was an extraordinary businessperson. Employing some of the highest numbers of black women in the United States, Walker developed her own line of beauty products and became one of the first self-made millionaires in the United States.
 
Sarah Breedlove Walker
 

 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ariel Schudson
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01.10.2018
12:09 pm
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‘All I eat is raw meat’: REALLY weird letters to Santa from 1920s rural kids
12.22.2017
06:55 am
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Some believe that today’s generation is perhaps the most spoiled and entitled in history,  which is certainly debatable, but if you want anecdotal evidence that kids were perhaps much less spoiled a few generations back, I humbly offer these unbelievably weird “letters to Santa” which were printed in South Carolina’s Abbeville Press and Banner in 1922.

These rural kids didn’t seem to have a whole lot of use for Santa and his promise of gifts—some, going so far as to call ole St. Nick a fraud and threatening him with violence. The few kids that don’t straight up call Santa out, ask him to leave presents for other kids who are worse off than them. Times were definitely different.

“I have a big dog in my yard to bite you if you come around this Christmas.”
 

 
Robert Jackson, the “Fighter of Church Street,” only eats raw meat. Abbeville, your kids are fuckin’ weird.
 

 
Maybe this kid was going for some kind of reverse psychology on Santa, or had some kind of martyr complex?
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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12.22.2017
06:55 am
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Erotic illustrations for Baudelaire’s ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’
12.21.2017
01:54 pm
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An illustration from 1935 by Italian-born artist Carlo Farneti for a posthumous edition of Charles Baudelaire’s book of poetry ‘Les Fleurs du Mal.’
 

“That heart which flutters like a fledgling bird,
I shall tear, bleeding, from his breast, to pitch
It blandly in the dust without a word
To slake the hunger of my favorite bitch.”

—a passage from Charles Baudelaire’s poetry book, Les Fleurs du Mal.

When French poet Charles Baudelaire first published his poetry book Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) in 1857 it caused quite the scandal. Baudelaire, his publisher Poulet Malassis and the book’s printer were all prosecuted for creating “an insult to public decency.” Baudelaire would eventually be convicted on two charges—obscenity and blasphemy. He was also forced to remove several poems from the book when it was republished in 1861. Below is a portion from Les Fleurs du Mal “Une Charogne” (“A Carcass”) in which Baudelaire beautifully romanticizes a decomposing corpse:

“The blow-flies were buzzing round that putrid belly,
From which came forth black battalions
Of maggots, which oozed out like a heavy liquid
All along those living tatters.

Then tell the vermin as it takes its pleasance
And feasts with kisses on that face of yours,
I’ve kept intact in form and godlike essence
Our decomposed amours!”

 
The controversy over Les Fleurs du Mal would eventually lead to the demise of Baudelaire’s career as a poet. Heartbreakingly, Baudelaire would pass away in 1867—ten years after the publication of Les Fleurs du Mal, addicted to opium, penniless and in a state of perpetual paralysis. Les Fleurs de Mal was published yet again in 1868 to include previously unpublished poems written by the poet. This publication would reignite interest in his work which would continue to grow in the years following his death. In 1935 Italian artist Carlo Farneti created a series of evocative illustrations for Les Fleurs du Mal for Parisian bookstore Gibert Jeune. Farneti had relocated to France in 1926 and quickly became a sought-after artist creating illustrations for books by renowned French novelist Émile Zola and Edgar Allen Poe (who Baudelaire referred to as his “twin soul.”) Twelve of Farneti’s exquisite illustrations for Les Fleurs du Mal follow—some are gorgeously NSFW.
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.21.2017
01:54 pm
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Chilling images of Hitler celebrating Christmas & decorations inspired by the Nazis
12.15.2017
08:50 am
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Christmas ornaments produced in Germany during the rise and rule of Adolf Hitler.
 
In the 1930s as Hitler and his Nazis were coming to power in Germany, they began a war on Christmas, a quest to dismantle age-old Christmas traditions and replace them with Nordic/pagan practices and folklore. The Nazis wanted everyone to follow their lead when it came to their image of the holiday—which at some point included displaying swastikas on Christmas trees. In Germany, Christmas is called “Weihnachten” which the Nazis also took it upon themselves to rename Rauhnacht, which translates in English to “the rough night.”

The Nazis’ changes to Christmas included anti-Semitic activities such as actively avoiding doing business at Jewish-owned establishments during the holiday so that their celebrations would be “free of Jews.” Christmas carols were modified to reflect socialist Nazi beliefs and ideology including replacing references to the “Savior” with a nod to Hitler himself, “Savior Führer.” While many of the Reich’s changes to Christmas took hold, there was one aspect of the holiday that they could not do away with—the image the jolly old fat man, Santa Claus—even in Hitler’s Germany, Santa remained a fixture of the newly Nazified celebration.

Other changes inflicted by the Nazis during the period before their eventual fall in the mid-1940s was the use of Christmas decorations. If you were not already aware, the tradition of decorating a tree at Christmas time got its start in Germany in the 16th century. The most problematic issue for the Nazis was the gleaming star on the top of the tree—a six-pointed star signified Judaism and the Jewish community. A five-pointed star was associated with communism which was less than appealing to the Nazis as well. Instead, Germans were encouraged to replace tree-topping stars with, you guessed it, a swastika or the symbol for the SS (the “Schutzstaffel” or “Protection Squadron” formed under Hitler). Ornaments were transformed to contain Nazi images, slogans like “Sieg Heil!,” and glass-blown baubles in the image of their beloved leader Adolf Hitler. The metamorphosis took approximately six years to complete, though it would all come to an end in 1944 which marked the very last Nazified Christmas. Hitler would meet his maker four months later on April 30th, 1945.

The images that follow are haunting historical documents of how the Nazis tried to change Christmas (and the world) and failed. 
 

 

 

 
More chilling Nazi Christmas images after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.15.2017
08:50 am
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Listen to Paul McCartney’s ‘lost’ experimental Christmas disc for his fellow Beatles from 1965
12.04.2017
10:27 am
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Christmas 1965, Paul McCartney secretly recorded an “album” at his home in London as a present for his fellow bandmates John, George, and Ringo. There were only three discs ever made of this special festive recording, which have since either worn out or disappeared. This is how author Richie Unterberger described Paul’s Christmas album in his mammoth book The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film:

Unforgettable

For years, it had been reported that Paul McCartney recorded an album at home around Christmas 1965 specifically for the other Beatles. Supposedly, it included singing, acting, and sketches, and only three copies were pressed, one each for John, George, and Ringo. In a 1995 interview with Mark Lewisohn, Paul confirmed this in some detail, explaining, “Yes, it’s true. I had two Brenell tape recorders set up at home, on which I made experimental recordings and tape loops, like the ones in ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’ And once I put together something crazy, something left field, just for the other Beatles, a fun thing which they could play late in the evening. It was just something for the mates, basically.”

Continued McCartney, “It was called Unforgettable and it started with Nat ‘King’ Cole singing ‘Unforgettable,’ then I came in over the top as the announcer” ‘Yes, unforgettable, that’s what you are! And today in Unforgettable...’ It was like a magazine program: full of weird interviews, experimental music, tape loops, some tracks I knew the others hadn’t heard, it was just a compilation of odd things. I took the tape to Dick James’s studio and they cut me three acetate discs. Unfortunately, the quality of these discs was such that they wore out as you played them for a couple of weeks, but then they must have worn out. There’s probably a tape somewhere, though.”

If it ever turns up, it might be the earliest evidence of the Beatles using home recording equipment for specifically experimental/avant-garde purposes—something that John and Paul did in the last half of the 1960s, though John’s ventures in this field are more widely known than Paul’s.

Barry Miles in his biography of McCartney Many Years From Now notes the former Beatle had been regularly making experimental tapes for his then grilfriend Jane Asher which pips Lennon to the post as far as pioneering the avant-garde. As McCartney told Miles:

I would sit around all day, creating little tapes. I did one once called Unforgettable and used the Unforgettable Nat King Cole “Is what you are ...” as the intro. Then did a sort of “Hello, hello ...” like a radio show. I had a demo done by Dick James of that, just for the other guys because it was really a kind of stoned thing. That was really the truth of it.

This stoner recording has popped up on bootlegs but thanks to DM pal author, biographer, musician, and all-around good guy, Simon Wells we can share with you the whole of McCartney’s Unforgettable Christmas recording from 1965.
 

 
Thank you Simon Wells!
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.04.2017
10:27 am
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