A Moment of Inspiration, 1983


Marc Almond (1983) by John Coulthart.

This, girls and boys, is how we occupied ourselves in the long nights before the advent of 24-hour television: we sat up drawing portraits of Marc Almond. A conversation on Twitter reminded me of this, a drawing that’s never before appeared in public but which is now added to the web collection. For a quick piece of art it’s actually a lot more successful than many of the more laboured things of mine that were printed far and wide at this time. The portrait was copied from a magazine photo, I forget which one, possibly Flexipop if it was still going, an increasingly wayward title that had a soft spot (so to speak) for Soft Cell. The Spanish hat identifies it as being from the Torment and Toreros period while the lettering was taken from Val Denham and Huw Feather’s cover design for the first Marc and The Mambas album, Untitled (1982). The padded-cell background refers, of course, to Marc’s former group, and was copied from the back of the Bedsitter 12″. Most of the drawing is done in black Biro pen with the hat and shirt in gouache. On the back I happened to make a note of the date, something I seldom bother with.


The Twitter conversation was prompted by the appearance of Soft Cell’s notorious Sex Dwarf video at Dangerous Minds; Flexipop enjoyed the scurrilous side of Soft Cell so much they printed a still from this Bacchanal as a centre-spread in one of their issues. Meanwhile Marc himself was writing in the Guardian this week about Bowie manqué Jobriath, one of the real-life inspirations for the Brian Slade character in Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine, and the subject of a feature-length documentary, Jobriath A.D., by Kieran Turner, currently showing at the BFI’s London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Derek Jarman’s music videos

8 thoughts on “A Moment of Inspiration, 1983”

  1. The drawing is excellent, what a great find. I had an epiphany listening to Tainted Love on a Walkman waiting on a subway platform around 1983….

    But oh dear, the old Jobriath canard, two actually – that he was the inspiration for Brian Slade in Velvet Goldmine and that he was a huge under appreciated talent. Perhaps he could pull off a sort of cabaret act but his on stage persona lacked the charisma necessary for a rock star. His manager, Jerry Brandt, doomed him as well, trying to create a mystique about him while overhyping him. I recall the hype, the ads on the buses, the billboards, watching him on the Midnight Special (months after the Marquee Club swan song of Ziggy) and listening to the big bore of his album debut. He wasn’t original (who else was a gay alien mime?) and he looked silly rather than sexy. Glam was about sex appeal – bi, gay and even straight, but Jobriath sorely lacked it.

  2. Thanks, Lux, glad you like the picture.

    I’m not very keen on Jobriath myself, I think a lot of the enthusiasm from Marc Almond, Morrissey and co. is simple teen nostalgia. The music doesn’t hold up at all well compared to even minor hits of the same period. Jon Savage put I’m A Man on his Queer Noises compilation as an example of pioneering gay rock but seeing him in the vanguard of something that got a lot better later on is about as good as it gets for me.

    As for Velvet Goldmine (one of my cult films), Brian Slade is 99% Bowie but he’s also part Slade in name at least, and the cover of the Maxwell Demon album that Christian Bale buys looks a lot more like Jobriath’s nude gatefold cover than anything Bowie produced.

  3. I do love that Velvet Goldmine is one of your cult films, as it is an obsession for me. It wasn’t well received on your side of the pond, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out you liked it when I discovered your site a few months ago. (such a tie in with Wilde and other wonders you have written about.)

    Well, I see your gatefold sleeve and I raise you one,

    However, my take is that while Jobriath is on a red background, it’s not velvet and he is a cold broken stone statue rather than the come hither pin-up look that Brian is clearly aiming for. For me, Brian has more in common with Marilyn Monroe’s iconic red velvet poses:

    Also, Todd Haynes has never mentioned Jobriath in the many interviews he’s done on the film.

    But of course one of the points of Velvet Goldmine is that we each create our own versions of rock & roll history, so as Cecil Drake says, every story needs a contrary opinion – why not have an excess of both.

  4. I have a vague memory of seeing Haynes mention Jobriath and being surprised by it but since I can’t find the reference anywhere I may well have dreamed it.

    Haynes has said that Glam was more of an exotic thing to Americans which may account for the differing reception. I was 11 in 1973 and Glam was never off the TV or radio from 1972-74. It was also all over the shops and magazines in cheap cash-in form; even I–never much of a pop kid–had a Slade-derived T-shirt. Consequently it has less of an exotic allure. It’s an odd period that the general culture here never concentrates on very much: you get a lot to do with the 1960s then things usually jump to the punk era. If the early 70s are portrayed it’s usually in terms of the bad fashion, industrial strikes and so on. That’s why Haynes’ film was so refreshing, he went straight to the music with pitch-perfect attention.

  5. “That’s why Haynes’ film was so refreshing, he went straight to the music with pitch-perfect attention.” Indeed! The opening credits with Needle in the Camels Eye was an apt introduction to the merging of music and image to come.
    Certainly some of America wasn’t very aware of or actually derided Glam but those of us who followed British bands were quite devoted to it. We read Melody Maker and the NME. Creem magazine had wonderful coverage of Bowie, Bolan, Roxy, Mott the Hoople, etc. There was the Things From England radio show and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert which had Bolan and Mott the Hoople and The Midnight Special which aired Bowie’s previously mentioned Marquee Club gig, aka The 1980 Floor Show, which I don’t believe has ever aired in Britain. We knew who Queen was long before they were a fixture of stadium rock as well as Gary Glitter’s songs before Rock n Roll Part II became something played at football games. The exoticism was welcome because it was a break from the domination of the hippie era – that was the previous generation’s music – Glam was the future.
    I think Haynes was ahead of the curve in re-exploring this era, since its release Q and Mojo, for example, have devoted lots of coverage to Ziggy et al. Bowie is no longer embarrased about Ziggy, which he appeared to be for quite a few years, even mocking him on David Letterman. In a way we are like Arthur Stuart, slightly embarrassed at our adolescent exuberance for this time in history, but on reflection recalling that it was quite thrilling.

  6. from Marc Almond official at FB: Marc is proud to announce a special one off performance of the Marc And The Mambas classic album Torment And Toreros at London’s Festival Hall on 9 August 2012. Marc has been specially invited by Anthony Hegarty to perform the album as one of the main events at his Meltdown Festival at the London Southbank. Anthony is the curator of the 2012 Meltdown Festival and he has always cited Torment And Toreros as one of his favourite and most inspiring records. Marc will be presenting the album in its entirety, including some of the extra tracks, with an ensemble of musicians that will include one or two of the original musicians that featured on the album and also Anthony himself.

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