Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alan, the Welsh Sailor

Back in the 1940s/50s the practice of bodybuilding really took off. Muscle magazines such as Male Model Monthly and Physique Pictorial gradually emerged to cater for this new cult of the physical. Obviously such publications were hugely popular with a homosexual audience but most of the models who appeared in the bodybuilding press were actually heterosexual. Some were enthusiasts looking to boost their bodybuilding profile, others were guys down on their luck, hoping to earn a few quid modelling. Pin-ups soon developed their own following amongst fans. These included Tibor Noszaky, a Hungarian refugee, and Alan, a tattooed sailor from Wales. If readers liked the model on view they could send off for uncensored studio shots of their idols. Two photographers in the UK who pioneered this kind of homo-erotic material were John S Barrington and Basil Clavering – both of whom used Alan, the matelot from Wales, as a model. The above photograph of Alan was taken circa 1959 by John S Barrington.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Irascibles in Newport

Wales’s most underrated band The Irascibles will be performing at the Meze Lounge in downtown Newport, Gwent, on June 25 at 7.30 pm. It will be an evening of bluesabilly, rock’n’roll and burlesque. So if you’re going don’t forget your basque.

Shoulder to Shoulder

I’m not jazzed on male voice choirs. It’s all a bit naff, isn’t it? A kitsch cliché: arteriosclerotic men in matching blazers hymning their way through Cwm Rhondda, or some other chestnut from the exhausted repertoire of Wales’s moribund industrial and Nonconformist past. The musical equivalent of one of those traditional Welsh ladies made out of coal that you find in gift shops.

The recent success of Only Men Aloud in a UK-networked televised choir competition has been an unmitigated disaster. It has given BBC Wales (Only Men Aloud TV) carte blanche to foist yet more choral tripe on an already long-suffering Welsh public. To the cultural powers that be I guess OMA are viewed as giving a noble Welsh tradition a youthful injection of blood, but to many of us it’s just the same old stereotypical dross dressed up in Armani.

There’s no need either to go into the servile implications of requiring an English TV show (Last Choir Standing) to validate your own (supposed) culture. I remember a similar grovelling response when the London music press became briefly enamoured with Welsh bands in the ‘90s. It was the same also when Rhys Ifans landed the supporting role of stinking Celt to Hugh Grant’s hygienic Englishman in the egregious Notting Hill. Instead of crying Uncle Tom as they should have done large sections of the Welsh media practically came in their own mephitic pants.

For Welsh male voice choirs to have any real relevance they need new songs that reflect the concerns of contemporary Welsh life. They really ought to be singing about heroin addiction and unemployment in the Valleys; wind farms; the Welsh Assembly; and the media tribulations of Ryan Giggs, rather than churning out lame versions of Men of Harlech and Bridge Over Troubled Water.

The great missed opportunity for Welsh male voice choirs occurred during the miners’ strike of 1984. Here was the perfect moment to marry the collective vocal unit with the collective dissent of striking Welsh mineworkers. What was required was a fresh repertoire of radical political songs to articulate the struggle but unfortunately there was no modern day secular equivalent of Joseph Parry to write them.

One band who saw the potential in a politicised choir were London-based industrial noiseniks Test Dept. Their collaboration with the hastily assembled South Wales Striking Miners Choir, Shoulder to Shoulder, provides a tantalising glimpse of what might have been. Clearly besotted with industrial iconography (as you can see from the LP cover) Test Dept characteristically Sovietised their material with songs such as Comrades in Arms, Comrades, Fuel to Fight and Gdansk. Other tunes included Roman War Song and Myfanwy! The recording has long-since been deleted but it’s well worth tracking down a copy. After a few listens I promise you’ll be scribbling down 5 year plans and setting about your ironing with Stakhanovite zeal.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Data Kill and Hoax! Magazine

Data Kill (or is it Datakill?) was a fanzine that came out of Brecon in the late ‘80s. As you can see from the cover of Issue 1 it heavily, but not exclusively, featured Welsh bands such as the mighty Datblygu and Colwyn Bay punksters 4Q. It was approximately 20 pages in length and A5 in size. The editor of this impressively produced mag with its chopped up graphics and tiny print went by the moniker Johnny Datakill.

In the early ‘90s the mysterious Johnny Datakill changed his editorial name to John C S Quel and began producing another Brecon-based magazine, Hoax!. Hoax! was more subversive in outlook than its predecessor covering stuff like KLF, Robert Anton Wilson and Church of the Subgenius. I’m told that it was militantly anti-work and advocated office-based sabotage. It became something of a pranksters’ bible.

According to a snippet on the internet Quel was once implicated by a Sunday newspaper as a prime suspect in the Mardi Gra bombing campaign. He sounds like an interesting chap – any more info on Hoax! would be much appreciated.

*Data Kill has also been causing a fanzine-related frisson over at Y Twll.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Sophie Dee Skateboard

About a year ago LA-based Welsh porn star Sophie Dee (originally from Llanelli) had her image immortalised on some customised skateboards (see pic). Fans could purchase them from her online HQ, Club Sophie Dee. I notice there is just one skateboard left for sale. Surely the Welsh National History Museum at St Fagans ought to be snapping up this kind of cultural artefact?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Stanley Baker and Wonder Woman

This picture shows Welsh actor Stanley Baker with a couple of Miss World contestants in London back in 1972. They appear to be doing the hokey cokey. On the left is Miss Portugal and on the right is Miss USA, an unknown Lynda Carter. Lynda was eliminated at the semi-final stage of the competition. Soon afterwards she ditched the whole outdated beauty pageant thing and in 1976 transmogrified into kick-ass feminist pop-cultural TV icon, Wonder Woman.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Roxy Music's Anglesey Album Cover

A while back on this blog I wondered aloud about the Welsh location used for the cover of Roxy Music's 1975 album Siren. Where exactly was it? I had three separate email responses all naming a different place. The above video provides the definitive answer: South Stack, Ynys Môn (Anglesey).

*Thanks to Dyl Mei for the YouTube tip.

TV Licence Oversight

It may be an unpleasant task but we all have to shell out for a TV licence… even iconic supermodels. Back in 1972 Jean Shrimpton was up before Builth Wells magistrates for having "forgotten" to stump up for one. A few months previously The Shrimp had moved into her new Welsh home (Golf House, Llangammarch Wells) with her then boyfriend, writer Malcolm Richey. In all of the confusion she had totally blanked on a television licence. Well, that was her excuse anyway. She pleaded guilty and despite having once been 'the face of the Sixties' was forced to cough-up a £7 fine. After two years in Wales she moved back to London.