Lockdown elevation

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The post this week included a poster print by Toby Melville-Brown, an artistic response to the lockdown of April and May. Toby has a colourful graphic style that favours architectural views in the mode of Archigram and other futurists, past and present; at the end of February I featured one of his invented book covers (below) in a weekend post. The title of the cover—Notes from a Troubled Rock—seemed darkly humorous at a time of political turmoil and a growing pandemic. Four months on it reads like a summary of 2020.

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The lockdown poster, Life Indoors: A Cross-Section, is more positive, a cutaway elevation of a high-rise block, with each apartment showing the response of a real person or group of people to the viral situation. To fill out the rooms Toby sent an email to 175 households asking for a photographic reflection of lockdown life. I’m in one of the rooms but if you want to know where you’ll have to buy a copy of the poster which is available here. All profits go to Refuge, a charity supporting those at risk from domestic violence. When I first moved to Manchester I spent four years in a Brutalist flatblock that would have had JG Ballard’s wealthy high-rise denizens fleeing for the suburbs. Toby’s elevation looks like a better place to be.

(And I’ve just been informed that the poster sale will end at midnight [UK time] on Friday 12th June.)

Weekend links 395

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Love is a Martyrdom (1965) by Stephanie Godwin. See Joscelyn Godwin’s Flickr pages for more.

David Shire’s synthesizer score for Apocalypse Now was the first music recorded for the film but was abandoned when Shire was fired due to other commitments. 39 years later, his score has been released by La-La Land Records.

Moon Safari by “French band” Air was released in the UK on January 16th, 1998. Jeremy Allen looks back at an album that was more successful here than elsewhere.

• On the occasion of the US publication of Iain Sinclair’s The Last London, Geoff Nicholson presents an A to Z of the author and his works.

This is the story of how two artists fell in love with each other, with Kelmscott Manor, and with William Morris, the poet, craftsman, and socialist who had made it his home. As Kelmscott’s first tenants afer the Morris family, Edward and Stephani Scott-Snell rented the historic Oxfordshire house throughout the Second World War. There they created an aesthetic and erotic paradise based on a fantasy land called ‘Thessyros’, and produced a body of figurative painting unique for its time. Much of this was done under the influence of a legally-obtained drug they called ‘Starlight’, making many of their paintings  early examples of psychedelic art.

The Starlight Years is a book by Joscelyn Godwin about his artist-parents and their strange relationship

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 634 by Minor Science, Secret Thirteen Mix 243 by Moa Pillar, and XLR8R Podcast 524 by Burnt Friedman.

• At The Smart Set: Marian Calabro pays a visit to the Brussels apartment where René and Georgette Magritte lived from 1930 to 1954.

Hormone Lemonade, a new album by Cavern Of Anti-Matter, will be released in March. The Quietus has a preview.

• At the Internet Archive: QZAP, the Queer Zine Archive Project; 551 downloadable publications from 1974 to 2015.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Briefly recounting Tim Buckley‘s short, inconvenient stylistic trajectory.

• Musician and bookseller Richard Bishop recommends a handful of rare occult volumes.

• At Kickstarter: Arsgang, a short psychological horror film by Harry Edmundson-Cornell.

• “A Sloppy Machine, Like Me”: Michael Grasso on the history of video synthesizers.

• At Flashbak: 27 Snapshots of Manchester in the 1960s.

• At Strange Flowers: 18 books for 2018.

Love Is Strange (1956) by Mickey & Sylvia | Love Is Peace (1970) by Amon Düül | Love Is The Drug (1980) by Grace Jones

Psychotronic Video

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I was going to wait until the weekend to mention this but it’s too good to be lodged in a collection of links. Michael J. Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (1983) has long been one of my favourite film books, a collection of reviews by Weldon and friends written for Weldon’s NYC fanzine, Psychotronic TV. “Psychotronic” was Weldon’s umbrella label for the low-budget fare that would usually be avoided by other reviewers: “horror, exploitation, action, science fiction, and movies that used to play in drive-ins or inner city grindhouses.” A small handful of actors were considered psychotronic enough (on account of their appearing in many psychotronic films) that Weldon claimed their presence in any film made it psychotronic even if it contained no overt genre or exploitation content. So the Encyclopedia lists Fellini’s 8 1/2, for example, simply because Barbara Steele appears in it. Likewise, Casablanca is psychotronic because of Peter Lorre. As I recall, the other psychotronic actors were John Carradine (“the greatest PSYCHOTRONIC star of all time”), Vincent Price and Boris Karloff.

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The trouble with books of film reviews is that the passage of time makes them increasingly subject to omissions, so I was delighted when Weldon launched Psychotronic Video magazine in 1989. Not only was this a continuation of the encyclopedia’s film listings it was also filled with related features: interviews with character actors, cult figures and interesting stars; a regular music column which mostly covered the kinds of bands who would watch psychotronic films; a regular obituary feature; and pages crammed with bizarre and curious graphics: film ephemera, ads from old magazines, headers by comic artist Drew Friedman, and mermaid drawings by Weldon’s girlfriend, Mia. One of my favourite features, which ran from the first issue, concerned Weldon’s obsession with The Rivingtons’ Papa Oom Mow Mow and The Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird, an ideé fixe which had Weldon cataloguing as many cover versions or film inclusions of the songs as he could find.

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Psychotronic Video ran for 41 issues until folding in 2006. I bought the first 23 or so then lapsed after the one comic shop selling it in Manchester was closed down by the IRA bombing of the city centre in 1996. Back issues are increasingly scarce (and not always cheap) so it’s good to find all 41 issues at the Internet Archive together with 10 issues of the even more scarce Psychotronic TV. The quality isn’t perfect—some of the scanned pages are subject to blurring—but I can now see what was in the rest of the magazines, and finally get to read the Timothy Carey interview in the one issue I missed, no. 6. Many of the actors interviewed with enthusiasm by Psychotronic Video have since died so the magazine is even more valuable for its insights into careers ignored by other publications.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bikers and witches: Psychomania
The Cramps at the Haçienda

Weekend links 374

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Le Chasseur by Lupe Vasconcelos who was profiled this week at Unquiet Things, and whose work may also be seen at the Ars Necronomica art show in Providence, RI, until the end of the month.

• “After a morning’s writing, Stevenson would entertain himself with music, particularly the flageolet, which he played so badly ‘people fled from the sound’.” Peter Moore reviewing Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa by Joseph Farrell.

• Jon Hassell’s 1981 album, Dream Theory in Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two, will be reissued next month.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 228 by Arma Agharta, FACT Mix 614 by Do Make Say Think.

Yet, entertaining as all this is, in a macabre key, the dead are hard to think about—and, in many ways, to read about. Unlike animals, which Lévi-Strauss declared were not only good to eat but bon à penser, too, I found that I averted my eyes, so to speak, several times as I was reading this book. Not because of the infinite and irreversible sadness of mortality, or because of the grue, the fetor, the decay, the pervasive morbidity—though Laqueur’s gallows humour about scientific successes in the calcination of corpses can be a bit strong—but because the dead present an enigma that can’t be grasped: they are always there in mind, they come back in dreams, live in memory, and if they don’t, if they’re forgotten as so many millions of them must be, that is even more disturbing, somehow reprehensible. The disappeared are the unquietest ghosts. Simone Weil writes that the Iliad is a poem that shows how “force…turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse out of him.” But Laqueur is surely right to inquire why that thing, the “disenchanted corpse…bereft, vulnerable, abject”, is a very different kind of thing from the cushion I am sitting on or even my iPad (which keeps giving signs of a mind of its own). I have always liked Mme du Deffand’s comment, when asked if she believed in ghosts. A philosopher and a free thinker, she even so replied: “Non, mais j’en ai peur.” (“No, but I am frightened of them.”)

Marina Warner reviewing The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains by Thomas Laqueur

New Worlds magazine at the Internet Archive. Not a complete run but it’s a start.

Brigit Katz on breakthroughs in the scientific search to replicate psilocybin.

• The relaunched (and slightly renamed) Manchester Digital Music Archive.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Robert Altman Day (restored/expanded).

• RM Rhodes presents the art of Philippe Druillet.

Fragile Self

Dream Lover (1964) by The Paris Sisters | Dream Street (1966) by Henry Mancini | Dream Letter (1969) by Tim Buckley

Jeremy, The Magazine for Modern Young Men, 1969

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Jeremy, vol. 1, no. 1.

To note the 50th anniversary this month of the (partial) decriminalisation of homosexual acts in England and Wales I thought I’d write something about Jeremy magazine, a short-lived publication launched in the UK in 1969. The magazine is notable not for the quality of its contents, which seem slight considering the high cover price of six shillings, but for being the first British magazine aimed at an audience of gay men that wasn’t either porn, a dating mag or a political tract. I had planned to write something about Jeremy at least two years ago when the blog was still a daily thing but detailed information about the magazine’s history is hard to find. This is frustrating but not too surprising. The anniversary of the change in the law has prompted a number of exhibitions and events devoted to Britain’s gay history but little of that history ever seems to travel beyond academic circles unless a notable life story—Quentin Crisp or Alan Turing, say—is involved. As with so many aspects of British culture, the conversation is dominated by America: the main campaigning organisation in the UK, Stonewall, is named after an American riot; the LGBT initialism is an American invention, as is the rainbow flag (the latter, as I’ve said before, being fine as a flag but—with its multiple colours—hopeless as a symbol). More Britons will know the name Harvey Milk than they do Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) or Allan Horsfall (1927–2012) even though Carpenter and Horsfall devoted years of their lives campaigning for gay men to be treated equally under the law in the Britain. Horsfall’s Campaign for Homosexual Equality pioneered the push for gay rights in Britain, the first official meeting taking place in Manchester in 1964. The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 seemed in later years like a poor compromise but when the alternative being offered was celibacy or the risk of a prison sentence it was a start. (Scotland, however, had to wait until 1980 for the same change in the law while in Northern Ireland sex between men was illegal until 1982.) Two years after decriminalisation, not only was Jeremy being launched but OZ magazine devoted a portion of its 23rd issue (September, 1969) to gay material. Jeremy advertised its early issues in OZ and IT (see below).

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Jeremy, vol. 1, no. 2.

Jeremy‘s status as the first gay magazine in Britain might be more acknowledged if its origins weren’t so obscure. The magazine is mentioned in books such as British Queer History (edited by Brian Lewis) and The Culture of Queers by Richard Dyer but never in any detail. Dyer refers to the title as a bisexual magazine which it may have appeared to be from the covers but this is contradicted by the ads. Peter Burton, editor of the later issues, claimed that everyone involved knew that gay men were the primary audience. Using bisexuality as a kind of fig leaf was less a case of cold feet than a means by which the magazine might be smuggled under the radar of those who would otherwise object to its existence. Britain may have been slightly ahead of the US in its tolerance of gay men but the lack of a written constitution meant that publishers, especially those regarded as subversive or disreputable, needed to tread carefully in the 1960s and 70s as OZ and Nasty Tales discovered.

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Jeremy, vol. 1, no. 3.

The precarious legal position means that Jeremy‘s visuals are relatively innocuous, with sporadic nudity but nothing that might be regarded as pornography. The magazine’s features were also relatively innocuous although the novelty of publishing anything overtly gay meant that a piece about entertaining at home would carry a frisson that would be absent in other magazines. Later issues included encounters with minor celebrities including an early interview with David Bowie which has at least preserved the magazine’s name in Bowie histories. Bowie had the opportunity to be open about his sexuality but wisely waited until his profile had risen and he could make a declaration to a larger audience.

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Jeremy, vol. 1, no. 5.

A few more covers and some interior pages follow. As usual, if anyone has further information to contribute then please leave a comment. My thanks to Rex for sending the information about Peter Burton’s editorship of the magazine.

Continue reading “Jeremy, The Magazine for Modern Young Men, 1969”