The Song of the White Horse by David Bedford

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Many of the old TV documentaries I link to are ones I saw when first broadcast and wanted to see again, but this edition of the BBC’s Omnibus from 1978 is one I missed. The late David Bedford is a familiar name in British music: in the 1970s he was as much known for his orchestral arrangements for Kevin Ayers, Roy Harper, Mike Oldfield, et al as for his own album-length compositions. The Omnibus film concentrates on the composition and performance of a new Bedford piece inspired by the ancient earthwork known as the White Horse of Uffington.

The first half of the film has Bedford visiting the White Horse and nearby Wayland’s Smithy before returning to his studio where he shows the film crew some of his electronic gear. Later we get to see Mike Ratledge of Soft Machine helping create an electronic equivalent of the sound made by the Blowing Stone. The second half of the film has a complete performance of Bedford’s piece which takes its libretto from The Ballad of the White Horse by GK Chesterton. The sound quality doesn’t do the composition any favours at all but Bedford did record the piece in 1983 for Mike Oldfield’s label.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Hill figures

Hipgnosis turkeys

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Here in Britain there’s no Thanksgiving so turkey as a seasonal meal is a Christmas dish. Turkey also has another meaning which the OED can supply:

6.6 U.S. slang. a.6.a An inferior or unsuccessful cinematographic or theatrical production, a flop; hence, anything disappointing or of little value.

This post concerns the latter—turkeys for the turkey season—being a series of bad or merely lacklustre album covers produced by the Hipgnosis design partnership throughout the 1970s. If the label seems unfair it should be emphasised that “turkey” is the designation applied by Storm Thorgerson himself in the appendix to the third Hipgnosis book, For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis (2008). The following are all covers that he says Hipgnosis disliked, although not necessarily because they were bad designs:

There are some designs we would rather like to forget altogether and have been awarded turkeys to denote — no disrespect is intended for the blame lies mostly with us, save for the twin spectres of release schedules and rock egoism — “That’s a jolly interesting idea chaps but… hmm… actually we’d rather have a picture of our good selves.”

A consistent feature of the Hipgnosis books is a refusal to adopt the Olympian attitude that radiates from many design monographs. Thorgerson has always been happy to describe the history of Hipgnosis, and the practice of album cover design, in warts-and-all anecdotal detail, so it’s no surprise if he also admits to failings. You’d be hard-pressed to find other designers who would draw attention to poor work in this manner, especially in a book dedicated to the highlights of a lauded career. Most designers are self-conscious types who can be relied upon to bury their mistakes as thoroughly as possible.

I wrote a brief post years ago about bad cover design but I usually try to avoid such things, there’s already enough junk in the world without compiling lists of it. But this post is instructive for showing that not everyone gets things right however good they might be, and also that everyone has to start somewhere. Most of my early album covers are various degrees of terrible so I try to spare others the accusatory finger. That said, you have to wonder what on earth Thorgerson and partner Aubrey Powell were thinking of with some of these designs.

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Genesis (1968) by The Gods.

Thorgerson’s introduction to For the Love of Vinyl explains the haphazard beginnings of Hipgnosis, pretty much two guys and a couple of cameras. They had no design training but a lot of luck (not least having Pink Floyd as friends), and were learning on the fly, something you can see happening with these early covers. It’s unfair to compare a design like the Gods sleeve to work they were producing a few years later when they had access to a range of professional illustrators, retouchers and models, and also budgets from record companies that paid for flights to exotic locations.

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Gun Sight (1969) by Gun.

This was Gun’s second album. The cover for the first happened to feature the first album cover art by Roger Dean whose career in the music business would run parallel with that of Hipgnosis. Most of the early Hipgnosis covers are simple photos that are occasionally processed in some way. This one didn’t really work out, however, the Roger Dean cover is better.

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Parachute (1970) by The Pretty Things.

But at least the Gun cover doesn’t look like this bizarre attempt at Surrealist collage. Hipgnosis often tried to illustrate the album title but I can’t see how you get “parachute” from this one. The collage approach worked a lot better on the Quatermass album produced the same year.

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Till There Was You (1970) by Pepe Jaramillo.

This was the only cover singled out in the first Hipgnosis book, Walk Away René (1978), as something they didn’t like:

…straight down the line and utterly tasteless as a result — it doesn’t even work as a genteel piece of middle class tweeness.

Continue reading “Hipgnosis turkeys”

Weekend links 80

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Niels Klim’s descent to the planet Nazar from the 1845 edition of Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum (Niels Klim’s Underground Travels) (1741) by Ludvig Holberg.

BibliOdyssey posts illustrations from different editions of Ludvig Holberg’s satirical fantasy, appends the usual informative links and draws our attention Stories of a Hollow Earth at The Public Domain Review. I’d not come across the latter site before but it’s now bookmarked.

• While the economy of Europe continues to circle the toilet bowl it’s good to know that our Prime Minister is focusing on the important issues such as…limiting access to internet pornography. “Look at the implementation, and no matter where you stand on porn, I think you’ll see this plan is going to cause a lot of problems on its way to the eventual fail bin,” says Violet Blue. I was wondering how the four targeted ISPs would feel about a filtering plan that would drive many new customers elsewhere. The Register reports their response which comes down to offering guidelines rather than attempting the difficult and contentious task of filtering millions of websites.

• Related: Won’t you fuck off, Reg Bailey, in which the report by the small Christian pressure group that started all the fuss is eviscerated. | Elsewhere: Porn is good for society says Anna Arrowsmith, while Tristan Taormino asserts that “writing and publishing erotica, especially for minorities, is a political act.” Then there’s Pornsaints, “an artistic approach to porn, a pornographic approach to art, a pornartistic approach to religion.”

• In the music world: Richard H Kirk and Peter Care discuss Cabaret Voltaire and Johnny YesNo, Roy Harper talks to Alex Petridis, and soundtrack composer Cliff Martinez is interviewed (and pictured playing a Cristal).

Witch’s Cradle at Strange Flowers (Maya Deren, Marcel Duchamp and Peggy Guggenheim), The Ghosts of Senate House, London, and Aleister Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema as it is today.

• RIP Frank Kameny, co-founder of the Mattachine Society, and a tireless gay rights advocate from the early 1960s on.

Bruce Weber photographs some of the dancers from Matthew Bourne’s Dance Company.

Terry Gilliam says “I used to think I could will things into existence. Not any more.”

• Charts at Business Insider: What the Wall Street protesters are so angry about.

Five From…: assorted wit and wisdom in the Tumblr labyrinth.

• Glass art by Jasmine Targett.

Ballard Geocoded.

Porno Base (1982) by 23 Skidoo | Kylie Minogue (2003) by Satanicpornocultshop | Tantric Porno (live) (2009) by Bardo Pond.

Weekend links 69

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Peacock Apocalypse (detail) by Julie Evans in collaboration with Ajay Sharma.

Here at { feuilleton }, home of the curly bracket affectation, your correspondent is still surprised to find his postings the subject of a critique by Rick Poynor in the latest edition of Eye magazine, the international review of graphic design. I haven’t seen a print copy yet but you can read Mr Poynor’s appraisal here. Meanwhile, over at Design Observer this week there’s another Poynor piece about the collage illustrations of Andrzej Klimowski.

Alan Moore (yes, him again) discusses the moment when the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen gets all swinging and psychedelic. And Iain Sinclair (yes, him again) is still doing the interview rounds promoting his current book, Ghost Milk.

Ayin Acla, a short film by Anna Thew with a soundtrack by Cyclobe. The most recent Cyclobe album, Wounded Galaxies Tap at the Window, was previously vinyl-only but is now available on CD.

• Bones and beads and other things in Wren Britton’s Pure Vile clothing and accessories. Related: Patrick Veillet’s wearable bone sculptures.

Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities Q&A: Ann & Jeff VanderMeer answer questions about their latest anthology at Fangoria.

• Being a lifelong introvert, I’m sympathetic to Four Ways Technology Can Enable Your Inner Introvert by Philip Bump.

• In an all-too-rare meeting of minds and talents, Roy Harper talks to Joanna Newsom.

Jon Macy’s Teleny and Camille is reviewed at Lambda Literary.

• Author Carol Birch tells us how best to read Finnegans Wake.

Joel Pirela’s Design Classics posters.

Each And Every Word Must Die (1999) by Cyclobe | Brightness Falls From The Air (2001) by Cyclobe | Indulge Yourselves With Our Delicious Monster (2006) by Cyclobe

Weekend links 45

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That essential journal of esoteric culture, Strange Attractor, announced a fourth number this week sporting a psychedelic cover which may be the work of Julian House (no credit is given on the SA site). As to the contents:

From Haiti and Hong Kong to the fourth dimension and beyond: discover the secrets of madness in animals; voodoo soul and dub music; ancient peacock deities; Chinese poisoning cults; the history of spider silk weaving; heathen mugwort magic; sentient lightning; Jesuit conspiracy theories; junkie explorers; Dali’s Atlantis; the resurgence of Pan (in London’s Crouch End); anarchist pirates on Madagascar; an ancient Greek Rip Van Winkle; French anatomical waxworks; Arthur Machen’s forgotten tales and Alan Moore’s unpublished John Dee opera.

Further details and the means to order a copy can be found here.

• Resonance FM’s Weird Tales For Winter has returned beginning with a presentation of The Gateway of the Monster, one of the better Carnaki tales by William Hope Hodgson. The story is read by Moon Wiring Club‘s Ian Hodgson (no relation) and the musical atmospheres are provided by The Advisory Circle. I ought to have posted this news yesterday since you’ll have missed the broadcasting of the first half but the second half will go out at midnight (UK time) on Monday. Details here, and the next release on the Café Kaput label in February will be the soundtrack, Music for Thomas Carnaki (Radiophonic Themes & Abstracts).

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• The Keep Calm and Carry On Image Generator lets you work your own variations on the ubiquitous poster. It wouldn’t work for me, however, so I rolled up my sleeves and made my own. This may be good as a CafePress design, yes?

Interplay is an album by John Foxx and The Maths due to be released on March 21st. As with last year’s collection of Foxx instrumental pieces, DNA, the package design is by Jonathan Barnbrook. John Foxx first came to prominence as the lead singer in Ultravox (do I need to say “of course”? Okay…“of course”) and Ultravox’s debut album was part-produced by Brian Eno. It’s been painfully obvious recently (and it pains me to say it) that Foxx’s DNA was a far more accomplished and engaging work than Eno’s recent collection of over-hyped instrumentals. Related: Barnbrook Design’s albums of 2010.

Word Horde 2.0, “a substantial archive of manuscript material, correspondence, and books and printed matter, mostly signed” from the William Burroughs archives can be yours for $260,000. Related: William Burroughs’ Wild Boys photos. Also: Rudy Rucker on David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch.

• “Nabokov described how ‘a modern taxonomist straddling a Wellsian time machine with the purpose of exploring the Cenozoic era’ would encounter the following series of events in the evolution of these butterflies…” The Royal Society confirms that a contentious theory of Vladimir Nabokov’s concerning the descent of butterfly populations was accurate.

• The work of Gérald Bertot aka Thomas Owen, a Belgian author of weird fiction, is explored at A Journey Round My Skull.

The Other Side of the Wind, Orson Welles’ unfinished film from 1972, may finally be given a release.

• Jon Savage celebrates Roy Harper and his extraordinary Stormcock album.

Philip Pullman wants the Tory philistines to leave our libraries alone.

• Rick Poynor takes a dérive through the arcades of Paris.

Space music new and old.

Young Savage (1977) by Ultravox | Clicktrack (2010) by John Foxx & Jonathan Barnbrook.