Weekend links 487

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Art by Joe Mugnaini (1955).

• Mixes of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XIX by David Colohan, and The Ephemeral Man’s Teapot 2—Atmosphere insomniac by The Ephemeral Man.

• Patrick Clarke talks to Morton Subotnick and Lillevan about Subotnick’s pioneering synthesizer composition, Silver Apples Of The Moon (1967).

• A second volume of London’s Lost Rivers, a walker’s guide by Tom Bolton with photography by SF Said, is published by Strange Attractor next month.

“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”

Ray Bradbury quoted by Sam Weller in an examination of Bradbury’s dark tales and autumnal horror stories

Lumberjacks In Heat is 11 minutes of music from Mechanical Fantasy Box by Patrick Cowley, the latest Cowley collection from Dark Entries.

They Poured Out Their Light Until Only Darkness Remained: new eldritch vibrations from The Wyrding Module.

• Carmen Villain on the magic of Jon Hassell’s Aka / Darbari / Java: Magic Realism.

• An Evil Medium: Elizabeth Horkley on the films of Kenneth Anger.

• Cosmic gardens and boulder boulevards by Charles Jencks.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Murray Melvin Day.

Richard Dawson‘s favourite music.

• RIP John Giorno.

My Girlfriend Is A Witch (1968) by October Country | The October Man (1982) by Bill Nelson | Late October (1984) by Harold Budd

Weekend links 407

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Cover art by Alonso for a 1929 Spanish edition of The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde.

• Major music news of the week is the announcement, after a hiatus of nine years, of a new Jon Hassell album. Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) will be released on Hassell’s new label, Ndeya, in June. Meanwhile, Paul Schütze has a new album (also his first in a long while), The Sky Torn Apart, released at the end of this month by Glacial Movements. For those impatient for new sounds, Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing) by Hawthonn is out now, and very good it is too.

Ghost Story (1974): a British film directed by Stephen Weeks, and starring (among others) Marianne Faithfull, Penelope Keith, Murray Melvin and (in a rare appearance) Vivian MacKerrell, the real-life model for Withnail from Bruce Robinson’s Withnail and I. Also from 1974, a TV adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost starring David Niven.

Nandini Ramnath on how an Indian film distributor in London (Mehelli Modi of Second Run DVD) is helping rescue forgotten classics from obscurity.

Simon Reynolds explains why he thinks Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children is the greatest psychedelic album of the ’90s.

• At I Heart Noise: an interview with Dylan Carlson about his forthcoming solo album, Conquistador.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: David Ehrenstein presents…Donald Cammell Day.

• Photos by David Graham of Mexico City’s “gay subway”.

Circuit Des Yeux‘s favourite albums.

The Gospel of Filth: a book list.

Fountain Of Filth (1974) by Devo | The Heart’s Filthy Lesson (1995) by David Bowie | Filthy/Gorgeous (2004) by Scissor Sisters

Smashing Time

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Writing about the late Lynn Redgrave last year I picked out this film as a career highlight despite not having seen it for a very long time. Watching it again recently was an interesting experience, not least for the way it connects to more recent points of obsession, none of them evident the first time round.

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Carnaby Street antics.

Smashing Time was directed by Desmond Davies in 1967, and the direction is as perfunctory as you’d expect from someone whose career before and after was mostly for television. Of more interest is the script by George Melly, a bisexual jazz singer, writer, and lifelong evangelist for Surrealist art. This was his first job as a screenwriter and he seems an odd choice; he was 41 at the time, and his portrayal of Swinging London and its denizens is often typical of the acerbic older generation’s view of the younger groovers. It’s never as cynical as the Private Eye crowd but without Melly’s humour the tone might seem patronising. That said, it was the satire magazine that originated the names of the two lead characters, Brenda (Rita Tushingham) and Yvonne (Lynn Redgrave) being Private Eye‘s names for Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret respectively. The story is a simple one of the pair coming to London from the north of England in search of “a smashing time”, and, in Yvonne’s case, an attempt to make it big somehow. Misadventures ensue.

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Brenda in the Too Much boutique.

Along the way there are digs at avant garde artists, lecherous men, greedy pop promoters and wealthy boutique owners. Melly leavens his barbs with yet another example of the Lewis Carroll influence on late-60s culture. There’s a scene in the Jabberwock Gallery and a host of Jabberwocky-derived character names: Tom Wabe (Michael York), Charlotte Brillig, Mrs Gimble (the always wonderful Irene Handl), Bobby Mome-Rath (Ian Carmichael) and Jeremy Tove. There’s also an Alice Boojum and a band named The Snarks (real-life psych band Tomorrow) who don’t get to play, unfortunately. Tomorrow, who appear in the final party scene, are the sole connection with the genuinely hip London of 1967. Everything else we see is the Sunday supplement view of the city with Carnaby Street, shots of Chelsea and a dishevelled Camden, ending with that bright new landmark of 1960s London, the Post Office Tower.

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Yvonne begins her pop career.

My childhood enthusiasm was obviously taken with the film’s superficial qualities—there are so many songs it’s almost a musical—whereas now I’m impatient with the laboured slapstick but enjoy all the peripheral stuff. Many of the documentary shots of streets away from the centre are a reminder of how shabby and grimy the capital really was at that time, as was the rest of Britain when there was still a century of industrial soot on the walls. I also realise I’d missed the double-meaning of the title: “smashing time” isn’t only a modish phrase for an enjoyable experience but a nod to the way Brenda and Yvonne cause havoc wherever they go. The jabs from an older musician at brainless pop culture would have annoyed some but Yvonne’s hit song, I’m So Young (which is actually very good), has lyrics which resonate today:

I can’t sing but I’m young
I can’t do a thing but I’m young
I’m a fool
But I’m cool
Don’t put me down

Lynne Redgrave is fantastic as Yvonne, completely convincing in a part which requires her to be loud, selfish and petulant without ever being too obnoxious. She also wears a different wig in nearly every scene. Among other moments of note there’s some fleeting gay humour with a pair of waiters camping it up in the Sweeney Todd pie shop (as does Murray Melvin in another scene). And there’s also an incident which, being an Aubrey Beardsley obsessive, I have to draw attention to:

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Was this the first appearance of Beardsley’s work in cinema? The V&A exhibition which began the Beardsley revival had taken place only a year before, and I can’t think of any examples earlier than this. The William Morris wallpaper is a fitting touch as well.

Reservations aside, this is a film I could watch more often than “properly” psychedelic fare like Wonderwall. For a snapshot of the period, it’s still a smash, baby.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lynn Redgrave, 1943–2010
Through the Wonderwall

Lynn Redgrave, 1943–2010

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Lynn Redgrave did a lot more than just Georgy Girl (1966) and Smashing Time (1967), of course, but the latter especially made an indelible impression on me when it turned up on TV in the early 1970s. George Melly’s smart and funny poke at the pretensions of Swinging London has a satirical edge which meant nothing to a nine-year-old, I just loved the exaggerated modishness, the Richard Lester-style wacky direction and especially Lynn and Rita, two girls from “up north” who I’d have loved to have as older sisters. I haven’t seen Smashing Time for years, it was one of those films which was so much of its time that it seemed to vanish from TV schedules and was never available in video form. I see there was a DVD release in the US although that’s now been deleted. Happily YouTube is more reliable, so here’s Rita and the splendidly camp Murray Melvin (both of whom were in A Taste of Honey) in the ‘Too Much’ boutique, and Lynn recording I’m So Young, the song which makes her a pop star. Austin Powers is a fake, baby, this is the real thing.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Through the Wonderwall