Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Third Reich 'n' Roll

Marcel Duchamp once said, when talking about his art, contemporary art in general, and criticism of it: "Everybody hates it today but in forty years everyone will love it." Or, at least, something like that. Unlike Warhol's more celebrated quote: "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" -though Warhol wasn't too off target- Duchamp's quote seems more accurate. Well, to me anyway. This more so with anything attached to the various music scenes of the past 40 or so years. Of course, you could put it all this current flurry of interest down to the nostalgia of an ageing generation with a desire to return to its own past.

Last year we had the the British Library’s punk exhibition in 2016; "celebrating the 40th anniversary of this unique and exciting musical phenomenon." Then, again last year, another celebration of the 40th Anniversary of punk with a major exhibition at the Museum of London. An exhibition which focused more on the ordinary punks on the street with their handmade mixtape artwork, their roneoed DIY fanzines, and the radical punk-chic clothes available in shops along the King's Road in London. Not forgetting the numerous other events, concerts, films, talks, exhibits and more celebrating 40 years of punk heritage. All of this visited and swallowed whole by many who probably thought, back then, that punk was a load of dreadful bollocks. Which, to be honest, like a good few cultural movements, a lot of it was.

Otherwise, we've also had several minor and major exhibitions celebrating Manchester's finest label, Factory Records; notably graphic designer Peter Saville's work for the label. For any fan of Factory who can get the chance the True Faith exhibition (ending September 3rd) is one not to miss. It was the label for many fans and a lot of its product is highly collectable if only, in some cases, for the artwork alone.

From a personal point of view, punk was something I never got into at all; it would be the post-punk scene and bands that would capture my attention. Bands like Wire, Joy Division, This Heat, The Pop Group, Cabaret Voltaire, etc. and then whole new sound coming out of Scotland from Postcard Records and Fast Product and later the newer generation with The Pastels, The Vaselines, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream, etc. etc.

Like "Punk" the Scottish music scene from the early 80s to mid-90s has also recently been enjoying a healthy revival of interest thanks to people like the Grant McPhee directed and Erik Sandberg co-produced documentaries: 'Big Gold Dream' -telling the story of the Scottish indie labels Fast Product and Postcard Records- and 'Teenage Superstars' -which looks at the bands from the alternative pop music scene in Glasgow from the mid 80's to early 90's. Of course, there was also the wee exhibition a few weeks back tracing the history of Scottish pop music from the 60s to the present day organized by Kevin Buckle of Avalanche Records at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. Not exactly the MoMA, the Guggenheim or the Whitney but we're getting there.

Which brings me back to this week's post; before I lose the plot and wonder off on another digression. Today it's a couple of items from his personal collection which world-renowned, contemporary visual artist; and one-time member of pre-Teenage Fanclub band The Boy Hairdressers, Jim Lambie has allowed me to use to illustrate this selfsame post.

Jim apparently is one of the few (?) people to have collected many of these now rare and indeed museum-piece artefacts from the alternative pop music scene in Glasgow from the mid 80's to early 90's. A time when so many of the bands and people featured in the 'Teenage Superstars' film first came on the music scene. Looked on as worthless, throwaway bits of paper by many back then these artefacts of a prime musical era in Scottish indie are documents of great cultural and historical interest today.

One day, I'm sure, a lot of them will find their way into some worthy exhibition or maybe even a coffee-table art book. Something like Sonic Youth's 'Sensational Fix' book would be fabulous. After all, there has been a whole spate of recent publications tracing that era, but a well-documented and illustrated book is sadly missing from any future publications list. *sigh*

Anyhow, at the top of the page we have the Jim Lambie designed poster for one of The Vaselines' very early gigs. Their second ever show if I'm correct (circa '86). Now, I've no idea what 'Pink Swastika' was all about but have the notion that it was somehow connected to or in support of the LGBT community. Then again, it might not at all have been. Someone who knows otherwise would have to fill me in on it.

Just had an update (Monday 28th August, 11.05 am) on this from TeenageSuperstars on Twitter. Apparently the poster was made for the club 'Pink Swastika' which Jim Lambie and Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) used to run back in the day in Glasgow. According to Blake, and Duglas T. Stewart (BMX Bandits), about 10 people attended this early Vaselines gig. "Really, there was no one there." (Norman Blake) See and hear more here in an extract from the forthcoming 'Teenage Superstars' film.

The name 'Pink Swastika' derives, I would imagine, from a book by Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams entitled 'The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party' first published in 1995. A book in which the authors argue that homosexuality in the Nazi Party contributed to the extreme militarism of Nazi Germany. It has drawn much criticism from historians. Indeed, the whole theory appears to be doubtful to say the least given the punishment meted out to homosexuals under the Nazi regime. Then again, leading Nazi Brownshirt leader, Ernst Röhm and many members of the S.A. were homosexuals so there might be some truth in it. Will have to get a copy of the book and see for myself.

Also, there might be more to it than meets the eye. If you care to have a keek at psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich's 'Mass Psychology of Fascism'. A book written in 1933 (the year Hitler became Reichskanzler ) and in which the Reich explores how fascists come into power. Explaining their rise as a symptom of sexual repression Reich eventually had to flee to New York in 1939.

Following on on the homosexual theme; the chap featured on the poster is the  famous English playwright and author Joe Orton. Orton, at the height of his fame in 1967 was murdered in a fit of jealousy by his lover Kenneth Halliwell. Spread over a brief period (1964-1967) "he shocked, outraged, and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies." Most will know of him or have heard of him through John Lahr's biography of Orton, entitled Prick Up Your Ears or probably more through Stephen Frears 1987 cinema adaptation of the book with Gary Oldman as Orton and Alfred Molina as Halliwell.

The second artefact is a flyer for an early Primal Scream gig in Glasgow (date anyone?). Artwork features a still from Lindsay Anderson's 1968 British drama and satire of English public school life, 'if...' starring Malcolm McDowell in his first screen role. The girl is the late Christine Noonan who starred alongside McDowell in what was once an X-Rated film. *gulp!* Must have been too shocking for the Establishment, dearie!

Hope to see and post some images of likewise documents soon.

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Documents courtesy of and ©Jim Lambie

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Trivia: The title for today's post is borrowed from The Residents album of the same name.

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