Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Backs Against the Wall

Backs Against the Wall was a skinhead fanzine that came out of Cardiff in the mid-80s. It ran to five issues and was put together by Dudley Somers in Roath. The fanzine was notable at the time for taking a strong anti-fascist stance. Somers was very much a fan of reggae and ska as well as the more prevalent Oi music of the era. His fanzine reflected his broad tastes with features on music, books and skinhead fashions. You can read pdfs of Backs Against the Wall here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

David Perry

Of late I have been engaging with the work of artist David Perry. Originally from Swansea Perry now resides in New York and works out of Julian Schnabel's Long Island studio at Montauk. Artist and film-maker Schnabel has been a long-time supporter of the Welsh artist. Another fan is Iggy Pop. Perry doesn't just have famous friends he incorporates mediated images of celebrities into many of his paintings. Christopher Walken, Lindsay Lohan, Gore Vidal, Charles Bukowski and Dylan Thomas are amongst the many celebs (alive and dead) who crop up in his work. The faces of his subjects may be discernible and familiar but his art isn't strictly speaking figurative. A strong abstract expressionist quality can be detected in his application of paint to canvas. He even works outdoors allowing climatic conditions to influence his artworks. He also makes telling use of words and symbols. Not sure how much a David Perry painting costs in the current art market but I daresay his canvasses are more affordable today than they will be in twenty years - so, if you are a collector, now might be a good time to make an investment. You can further investigate David Perry's fine art here.

*The above image is Chris Walken Bathing (2007). ©David Perry

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nico in Cardiff

In October 1978 Siouxsie and the Banshees embarked on a UK tour. Added to the bill as a special guest was former Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico. When they showed up in Cardiff it turned out to be one of the most notorious gigs in Welsh musical history. Over the years I've heard so many conflicting reports about Nico's performance that night that it's hard to separate fact from fiction. What's certain is that she arrived on stage with only a harmonium for accompaniement. Despite the fact that she was an absolute legend she was continuously booed and heckled. The audience wanted punk rock not some fragile relic from the sixties. Sid Vicious had been arrested in New York for the murder of Nancy Spungen just a couple of days before and the Cardiff punks were in no mood to take prisoners. They wanted blood. Nico had to cut short her set after just a few songs when she was struck on the head by a bottle. Her parting words were: "If I had a machine gun, I would shoot you all." Years later in an interview she said of that concert: "John Cale was born just up the road, I expected more from those people."

However, six years later, in 1984 Nico was back in the Welsh capital this time supporting her then partner in heroin addiction John Cooper Clarke. I was in attendance at this gig which took place at St David's Hall. It was an unusual place for the pair to perform, the venue being mostly associated with classical music and acts from the mainstream. We hunkered down in our plush seats and watched as Nico took to the stage. She talked slowly, introducing songs from her repertoire in those familiar low, teutonic tones. The conclusion of each song was marked with warm applause. Nobody booed, heckled or threw missiles. Then John Cooper Clarke did his set and managed not to make too many mistakes or forget his words - when he did falter the crowd filled in the gaps for him. For an encore Nico and John Cooper Clarke performed a couple of numbers together with their backing band. For the life of me I can't remember what songs they actually did - I've even considered undergoing hypnosis to retrieve the buried memory. Whatever, the crowd lapped it up and everybody went home happy. As polite and sedate a gig as I've ever attended.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Anthony Burgess in Cardiff

This picture shows A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess in a Cardiff restaurant in 1989. As you can see he is rocking his trademark combination of tweed jacket, comb-over and cigarillo. He was back in Wales for the first time in twenty years to promote his collection of short stories The Devil's Mode (his only collection of short stories, in fact). As mentioned previously on this blog Burgess had strong associations with Wales. His first wife Llewela came from Bedwellty. In his novel Any Old Iron (1988) Burgess gave Welsh nationalism a mild kicking so it is perhaps surprising that he said the following on his visit to Cardiff: "In principle, I am for an independent Wales. I am for the recovery of the whole of England by Wales. This is a Celtic country and the Anglo-Saxons are invaders."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Marxist Book Centre in Newport

Whatever happened to radical bookshops? Swansea had Revolt Books; Cardiff had One-O-Eight on Salisbury Road. In 1986 M & L Books opened in Newport. I'm assuming it stood for Marx and Lenin. Heaven only knows how long they managed to swim against the Thatcherite tide before sinking but it's strangely comforting to know that they actually existed. Any more information on this overt manifestation of Marxism in Newport would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Trash International

Trash International was Cardiff's premier rubberwear emporium during the mid-80s. Located in the Wyndham Arcade it was frequented mainly by goths and kinky types who were into rubber. Its existence was relatively short-lived. The gear they sold included local fetish design labels 13AMP and WAW. Rubber mini-skirts would set you back £35. They also sold clothes from the Kooky label, which used a cheaper alternative to rubber consisting of a mixture of PVC and Lycra for that much desired shiny effect. Above is an advert for the shop and below is an item of their clothing modelled by Tracy Francis on location down the Docks.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Siân Phillips and Samuel Beckett

This rather cool photograph from 1966 shows Siân Phillips working with Samuel Beckett on his 20 minute monologue, Eh Joe. Although only a very short piece it took Phillips two weeks of painstaking preparation to get it right with Beckett himself overseeing proceedings. He was a notoriously harsh taskmaster issuing instructions on the exact amount of time that each comma and full stop in the text represented. He alarmed Phillips by beating out time with his arm like a human metronome. The monologue was eventually recorded at the BBC.

*The above photograph is © Michael Peto.

Mars Bar

The Mars Bar was a short-lived but interesting alternative music venue with tunes spun by Cardiff’s hippest person of that era Mark Taylor. It opened in 1986 and was, as I recall, a bit of a dive. It was situated above Qui Qui’s on Charles Street. Entrance cost a mere £1 and the beer was also super cheap. Weird videos were shown. You could be forgiven for missing the dance-floor at the rear of the premises obscured as it often was by a liberal application of dry-ice. Unfortunately the people who ran the Mars Bar were forced to change the name when the manufacturers of the chocolate bar threatened to sue them.