Monday, August 21, 2017

PALEOART: VISIONS OF A PREHISTORIC PAST + NEW DINOSAUR DISCOVERIES




One of the great publishers of the world, known for their extraordinary and outsize publications, Taschen have established new benchmarks in illustrated book publishing. 

This new and remarkable hardbound book from them is, the first ever history of  a new genre. We're not talking about cave paintings here but rather the imaginative depictions of the fauna and flora of our planet's prehistoric past, a visual tradition which began in Britain in 1830. This volume takes the story up to the1990s.

The book was initially conceived by the artist Walton Ford and researched and written by Zoë Lescaze, who has rooted out some wonderful rarely-seen material from major natural history museums, obscure archives and private collections. These include murals and sculptures, drawings and paintings.

A central idea in Ford's introductory essay entitled 'Twofold Time Machine' draws on a quote from SF writer Isaac Asimov who believed that, following on from the steam engine and the first stages of the Industrial Revolution that: "a new kind of curioisity developed, perhaps the first really new kind in recorded history. It was suddenly possible to ask 'what would the future be like'

This idea in turn triggered the question 'what did the prehistoric past look like', chiming in with the new discoveries being made by the rising science of paleontology. This question, writes Ford, 'gives rise to a bizarre and unprecedented pictorial tradition as outrageous and imaginative as the better known vintage visions of the future'. He argues that though many of these paintings and sculptures are now obsolete scientifically because of new knowledge, we should now concentrate on their aesthetic and artistic value. 

What this book demonstrates is that paleoart's exponents range from those whose work is imaginative with little concern about actual factual science and, at the other extreme, artists who aimed for maximum fidelity and used scientific data to underpin their visualisations of prehistoric monsters and landscapes.
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In 'The Art of Raising The Dead', Zoë Lescaze introduces us to the genre's first exponent, an English geologist and clergman, named Henry Thomas De la Beche, whose Duria antiquior (c.1830), she claims as the 'first vivid picture of the prehistoric past based in fossil evidence'. The potency of this marriage of fact and fantasy - a seductive blend of science and art, defined the genre and influenced painting, sculpture, literature and film.

Beche moved to Lyme Regis in Dorset in 1812 where he met Mary Anning, the most successful fossil hunter in Britain who, amongst a menagerie of creatures, discovered remains of the world's first plesiosaur and pterosaur. Lescaze draws from Hugh Torrens' paper on Anning: 'She discovered the ink sacs preserved within fossil belemnites, having recognized the animals’ resemblance to modern cuttlefish, and even enlisted a friend to reconstitute the pigment. The primordial sepia became a coveted medium for painting fossils.' Fascinating.

Despite the importance of her finds, Anning was broke and it was la Beche who saved the day by persuading here to let him visualise her fossils in order to bring them to life for a broader audience. He augmented his portrayals with imaginative elaborations that Anning disproved of but the book made her a lot of money as it gave people, says Lescaze, a 'first fascinating glimpse of a world no humans had ever seen.'

Demand for fossils increased rapidly and some collectors went after them 'like an opium eater and his drug'. They were considered 'tokens of time'. 'For many, the allure of fossils', writes Lescaze, 'in their ability to render the infinite intimate, to condense immeasurable millennia into physical objects one could hold. These tangible pieces of a past too vast to comprehend provided a vital balm in an age of turbulent transformation.

The discovery that the earth was nuch older than previously thought was disturbing but even more so was the concept of extinction and the idea that what happened to the prehistoric animals could happen to us. This unerving suggestion gained traction, says Lescaze and permeated art and literature. 'For some, pondering prehistory became a transcendent exercise in the sublime...Contemplating
the depths of time, wrote the poet and translator Edward FitzGerald, fills “the human Soul, with Wonder and Awe and Sadness!”
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Chapter I: Cataclysm and Conquest traces the progress of paleoart through its significant works. In the nineteenth century no-one knew what the animals really looked like so the artists  projected their own imaginations and art history on the bones. Lescaze suggests the results were akin to the monsters and dragons drawn on antique maps. Leonardo da Vinci once advised those hoping to create convincing chimeras: “take the head of a mastiff, the eyes of a cat, the ears of a porcupine . . . the brows of a lion, the temples of an old cock, and the neck of a sea tortoise.”


In 1833 came Reptiles Restored, a watercolour by artist George Nibbs, which five years later, George Scharf lithographed and entitled 'The Ancient Weald of Sussex' . It was used as the frontispiece for 'Sketches in Prose and Verse' by poet and geologist George Fleming Richardson.

Also in 1833, the fossil collector and doctor Gideon Mantell in Lewes was pondering a strange fossil tooth which would later prove to be from the mighty Iguanodon. He wrote in his journals '...like Frankenstein, I was struck with astonishment at the enormous monster which my investigations has...called into existence.' [Interestingly, Mantell and Mary Shelley, the authir of Frankenstein, later developed an interesting relationship documented here ]

In 1838 Mantell got together with painter John Martin who Lescaze describes as an 'art star' of the day, popular and successful for his large canvases, often representing apocalyptic scenes. He produced a suitably gothic frontispiece for Mantell's popular book 'The Wonders of Georlogy' which, says Lescaze, 'blew open the doors for other artists to give their imagination free rein' What is noticeable from these early works is the assumption that these animals were inherently violent.

Lescaze finishes the chapter with two more artists: Josef Kuwasseg, an Austrian Painter who was the first to produce a chronological suite of prehistoric scenes in 14 watercolour paintings in 1851. By 1885, the first paleoart reached Russia when Mikhailovich Vasnetsov was commissioned to create an immense mural devoted to the Stone Age in the State Historical Museum in Moscow. [The earliest paleoart oil painting known in the US was produced by Archibald Willard c.1872]*

Source: Wikipedia

Chapter 2: Paleoart to the People is devoted to perhaps the best known paleoartists Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins who was driven by the idea that prehistory should not only be accessible to the wealthy and well-educated. After working on the 1851 Great Exhibition, he was commissioned to produce the first life-sized sculptures of prehistoric animals for the Crystal Palace in Sydenham. On New Years Eve 1853, he staged a sumptuous dinner held inside his model of the Iguanadon.
After funds for the Crystal Palace dinosaur project ran out, his contract was terminated in 1855.

He was invited to New York in 1868. He first worked at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphis where he assembled the bones of a Hadrosaurus which had been discovered in 1858.This 14-feet high reconstructed dinosaur skeleton, with missing bones made out of plaster, was shown to the public in November 1868 and attracted 100,000 visitors in the first year. 

Fresh from this success he went to work in his studio in Central Park, New York on plans for a Paleozoic Museum in the park grounds. All that is left of the project is one preparatory drawing that is reproduced in this book. The project was killed in 1870  by a ruthless politician named Tweed. When Hawkins lambasted him in the press, Tweed hired thugs to totally wreck Hawkins' studio and smash up all his work. There are continued rumours that all the pieces may be buried somewhere in the Park. A plan for a Paleontology wing at the Smithsonain also fell through so, in 1874 he returned to England only to find the Crystal Palace dinosuars in ruin. 

In 1875 he went back to  to the US to work on the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia but, out of several commissions, all except one were cancelled. Fortunately Princeton’s first professor of geology and geography, Arnold Guyot saved him with a commission to produce a suite of seventeen large oil paintings for his geology museum in Princeton of which 15 survive. Hawkins returned to England in 1878 and died in 1894 at the age of 86.

Charles R. Knight Source: Wikipedia
Chapter III: The Bone Wars refers to the intense rivalry between two American paleontologists named Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, which bankrupted them both but uncovered a treasure trove of huge dinosaurs that captured the public imagination.

As a result, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, a showman in the mould of Hawkins named Henry Fairfield Osborn, commissioned Charles R. Knight, a then unknown severely near-sighted painter, to produce dinosaur watercolour paintings for the museum's fossil halls.

Osborn first sent Knight to visit Cope who exposed the artist to the radical conviction that dinosaurs were active, agile animals which resulted in one of his most famous paintings 'Laelaps' (1897) showing two sparring dinosaurs. Knight built clay models of his prehistoric subjects and brought them life in believable landscapes.



This work led a bigger commission from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago  for a 28-mural series for Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, a project which chronicled the history of life on earth and took four years to complete.  His work, says Lescaze, redefined the very spirit of paleoart and triggered a boom in dinosaur artworks and displays. In 1933, 'The World a Million Years Ago' at the Chicago World's Fair was staged inside a giant dome featuring animatronic dinosaurs.

In Chapter IVOf Ancient Wings and Art Nouveau, the narrative moves to Germany where artist Heinrich Harder was commissioned to produce paleoart works for a science writer. In the second half of the nineteenth century there were crazes in collectible cards in tea, chocolate and cigarettes packs. In 1916 a German chocolate manufacturer commissioned Herder to produce two 30-card sets for their products.

More important was Herder's commission to produce a mosaic for an aquarium in Berlin. Vivid mosaics were a staple of Art Nouveau at the time and there was also a cult interest in Japonisme. Herder's mosaic had a bold graphic quality and used the same chromatic scale as Hokusai's paintings. In November 1943, the aquarium and zoo were destroyed by allied bombing and the mosaics seemed lost for ever. In time, the aquarium was rebuilt but the walls remained blank until, by chance in 1977, Herder's original plans for the mosaic was discovered in an old desk and, with the help of old photos and postcards, a new version of the mosaic was produced using square majolica tiles.


Chapter V: Innocence and Experience focuses on Rudolph F. Zallinger, a Russian-born American who studied at the School of Fine Arts at Yale at a time when there was the biggest resurgence of fresco painting since the Renaissance. Aged just 23, he was commissioned to produce one of the largest pieces of paleoart, a chronological fresco entitled 'The Age of Reptiles', covering a time period of 300 million years. Zallinger began by producing a 10-foot long drawing (shown in  the book) which took him 18 months, before it was transferred to the 110ft-long plaster wall in The Great Hall of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale. This was kept open to the public while he worked and he finished his giant crowd-pleaser in spring 1947.

In the same decade in France, Mathurin Méheut was commissioned by the director of the Geological Institute of the University of Rennes to produce 25 large canvases of Breton geology and prehistoric animals.

Chapter VI: The Savage Brilliance of Zdenĕk Burian, a Czech peleoartist who, in his lifetime produced a total ouevre of 15,000 works, very little of which has ever been displayed. As a kid he explored ancient caves and imagined their original inhabitants. Graduating from the Prague Academy of Art at the age of 14, by 17 he had already illustrated 100s of books including Czech versions of Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne and  'The Jungle Book'.  For several years he lived in the wilds with a band of nomads and his remarkable paintings of primitive man and primates are stunning as are his dinosaurs and mammoths. Popular science books featuring his wonderful artwork have been published around the world.

Chapter VII 'The return of English Paleoart features the work of Neave Parker and Maurice Wilson who, during the 1950s and 1960s both collaborated with the same scientists at the Natural History Museum in London, namely zoologist Maurice  Burton and Scottish paleontologist W.G. Swinton. Parker's work, most famously for the Illustrated London News, was rendered in black, ink with white gouache highlights, with harsh illumination and sever cropping. He died in a cinema in 1961 at the age of 51. Maurice Wilson, is described by Lescaze as a 'flamboyant bohemian oddball' His watercolours of prehistoric animals have an Eastern feel, she says.

Chapter VIII: Mammoths and Monsters of Moscow is a grand finalé, covering as it does the whole range of paleoart in Russian from the Revolution to the fall of the Soviet Union. Most of this work is hidden away, has been forgotten in Russia and was mainly unknown (until now) in the West.

Tarbosaurus and armored dinosaur by  Flyorov [1955]
First is Konstantin Konstantinovich Flyorov, born in Moscow in 1904, an idiosyncratic scientists and exuberant painter. He produced his first prehistoric reptile painting in the 1910s.

In 1937 the State Darwin Museum invited him to create life-sized plaster sculptures and large-scale paintings of prehistoric animals and scenes. In 1946 he became director of the Orlov Paleontological Museum in Moscow and died four years later. 

Flyorov avoided scientific literalism and disregarded skeletal remains. A tall man with a booming bass voice, he was a sought after consultant for Soviet films featuring prehistoric creatures.

'Inostrancevia, devouring a Pareiasaurus' 
byAlexei Petrovich Bystrow, 1933

This grand book also contains the more realistic work of Alexei Nikanrovich Komarov and the powerful paintings of Alexei Petrovich Bystrov featured on the book's cover. Truly stunning is Alexander Mikhalovia Belashov's 18m-long mosaic 'Tree of Life'.

In Lascaze's closing words she makes it clear that there are a huge number of other works that  did not make it into this volume. A companion volume would valuably pull together all the artworks and models produced for the numerous dinosuar and caveman films in the history of cinema, from The Lost World to Jurassic Park. The rapid development of computer graphics has also generated highly realistic prehistory scenes. Dinomania is rife and collectables of all kinds are no doubt avidly collected.

'Paleoart' is a great addition to the literature and a valuyable image resource. Only experienced by this reviewer a pdf. Few review copies were available in the UK. The book costs £75.

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THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE

Like many readers of this post, fossils and prehistoric creatures were a big part of my childhood times and that fascination has continued to the present day. Here is some material from the library of  THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE.




This is the cover image for an oversize hardback book entitled 'The Age Of Monsters: Prehistoric and Legendary' by Dr Joseph Augusta with illustrations by Zdenĕk Burian, printed in Czechoslovakia and published in London by Paul Hamlyn in 1966. It shows several hornless rhinoceroses  Indticotherium. On the opposite page is this little drawing perhaps showing Dr Augusta touching the creature's skull.






Printed on the book's hard cover is this wonderful visual of a Mastodon (Anancus arvernensis)


'The Dinosaurs' illustrated by William Stout, an international acclaimed fantasy artist who has done work for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, is narrated by William Service with scientific commentary by Dr Peter Dodson. Published by Bantam Books in November 1981. Done in a variety of styles, these beautiful illustrations add drama and life to Stout's vision of the prehistoric world. This detail from one of the illustrations shows Camptosaurus sheltering from a storm behind a giant rock.





This illustration comes from 'Dinosaurs From China' by Dong Zhiming, jointly published by the British Museum (Natural History) and the China Ocean Press in 1988. This painting by Shen Wenlong shows a scene in the  Upper Jurassic of the Sichuan Basin with  Tuojiangosaurus multispinus in the foreground;  in the distance a carnosaur looks down at a herd of Mamenchisaurus.





















Two comic books of many that involve dinosaurs and the prehistoric world.

Left:  Inside back cover from 'Alley Oop: The Sawalla Chonicles' ny V.T. Hamlin. This was originally printed in 1936 as a newspaper comic strip.

Right: 'The Cartoon History of the Universe' was written and drawn by Larry Gonick and originally published in seven issues by Rip Off Press in California in 1978.

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RECENT DINOSAUR DISCOVERIES


The Amazing Dinosaur Found (Accidentally) by Miners in Canada: 
Known as a nodosaur, this 110 million-year-old, armored plant-eater is the best preserved fossil of its kind ever found. [National Geographic/June 2017] Its amazing.




Dinosaur discovery: a cavalcade of new giant dinosaurs is unearthed: ...a good new sauropod skeleton can be very valuable, so to have four new genera named in little over a week is something well worthy of comment. So say hello to the cavalcade of giants that are Galeamopus pabsti,Vouivria damparisensisTengrisaurus starkovi and Moabosaurus utahensis, each of which brings some new insight into the evolution and biology of these animals. [The Guardian/May 2017]

Saturday, August 19, 2017

PAUL OLIVER: WORLD EXPERT ON THE BLUES AND VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE


Woke up this morning to read of the death of Paul Oliver at the age of 90. 
What is the African saying:
When an old person dies a library burns. 

In November 2009, I was privileged to spend one afternoon and early evening with Paul and others at his Oxfordshire house - and at the nearby pub. My mission there on that day could not have been more personally significant or more nerve-wracking. 


I had completed a book on Vernacular Architecture for a book packager who'd made a publishing deal with Thames & Hudson and Rizzoli. Anthony Reid,the Consultant Editor, who guided and corrected my work, was a vernacular architecture teacher who had studied under Paul. He set up this meeting to get Paul's blessing on the project. Also present was the head of the school of vernacular architecture at Oxford Brookes University. The stakes couldn't have been higher.

Paul's stone house was pre-Georgian and suited the man. He  had lived alone since his wife died. They had travelled the world together (many times probably) and I was to get a guided tour of the remarkable and often scary tribal art pieces they had brought back.


Mr Oliver was very gracious. I took him through the proof of the finished book. I am sure he made comments and asked questions but I was in such a state of tension (expecting at any moment for him to say OH DEAR! - major mistake that would scupper the book completely) that I can't remember the details.

Happily all was well and after we'd toasted the occasion with a few glasses of wine, he offered us tea. I went with him into the kitchen and began to talk to him about the blues. 

Its impossible to underestimate Oliver's work on the blues. He was the first white guy (one of the first?) to write in England on the topic and his incredible knowledge and contacts enabled him to define this field of study. One can imagine the huge enthusiasm he brought to his pioneering task.

He told me the story, often retold by many, of first hearing the blues in a field in Norfolk.He said at that time during the War he was too young to enlist so you could either be a forester or work with a farmer. The field in question was next to a US Air Force base, of which there were many in East Anglia at that time, and Paul heard, over the hedge, someone singing in a way he'd never heard before. That was the blues and it was to be his lifelong passion.

As was vernacular architecture, a subject area which he more or less invented, certainly dominated. His many books on the subject were absolutely required reading. He wrote in a remarkable style, expressing ideas and perspectives that only someone with his depth of knowledge could reach. What that man and his wife must have seen in those years before mass tourism and international terrorism, when it was possible to roam Eurasia, Polynesia, the Andean regions, the Balkans and Mid East with impunity.

Is there a link between these two fields of study. I think so. Imagine a song travelling from Scotland to the Appalachians. As its resung and passed on, it acquires local characteristics and embellishments, like musical Chinese whisper. Similarly, an I-House (a very popular plan for a self-build house that spread across America) acquired its own embellishments and local building styles. That's my two-p worth anyway.

Later that same day, he took me upstairs and showed me the almost frightening amount of pictures and tapes from his travels that he had carefully accumulated, most if not all carefully labelled from what I saw.

After we parted, I later spoke to him on the phone and asked whether I could come and interview him about his two passions. He declined and said he was working on his own autobiography. I hope its something he completed. 

I know so little of his mountainous knowledge but look forward to many years of exploration. I will always look back on that afternoon and early evening, in a small Oxfordshire village, when I was welcomed by a great man. Respect.



Monday, August 07, 2017

SPIKE HAWKINS TRIBUTE [1942-2017]




Spike Hawkins by
Philip Jones Griffiths
This is a tribute post to Spike Hawkings, a poet who was and is held in high regard by his peers. His poems are short, surrealistic and funny. A pioneering force in the Liverpool poetry scene in the '60s as we shall see. Yet his name and story are not known to many.

It was message on Facebook from Marc Carey that triggered things off with a link to the 'Up Your Chuff 'Mixcloud site, featuring a just-under two-hour podcast of Mr C's 'Rock Roots Radio' show devoted to Spike and the world he inhabited.

It is composed of three audio interviews with poet Pete Brown (see below), writer Jenny Fabian {Co-author with Johnny Byrne of Groupie fame) and poet Michael Horovitz. These are interspersed with some great music and a kind of episodic, anecdotal history of the poetry/jazz scene from the late '50s through the '60s and beyond.


The show's really well put together, with some slight audio issues in places but hey, it was just like listening to Radio Caroline. Mr C knows his stuff and is enthusiastic and interested which helps make it a warm-hearted piece of work. Dotted throughout is the voice of Spike reading his own work, some great Horowitz stuff from the famous Albert Hall poetry event in 1965 - the great attendance at a poetry reading in history - and later, including recent work with Damon Albarn.

We had the privilege of presenting two great poets on one night at a 'New Beat Experience' event/happening at the Komedia in Brighton in 2003) - Spike Hawkins and Pete Brown (best known for his lyrics for The Cream [including Tales of Brave Ulysses]. As I remember it, both gave short punchy sets that were enthusiastically received. I seem to recall some sort of argy bargy with Spike. I think I just had to reassure him he would get paid. Fair enough.


Spike was blessed with a rich, fruity voice which he used to significant effect when performing his work. He was a great mimic and had a vivid imagination sliced with street humour. No pretentiousness; the real thing.

Having decided to write something about it all, I began with Wikipedia (as you do), which features an entry not quite as brief as his poems but short and to the point.


Spike Hawkins (born 1943) is a British poet, best known for his "Three Pig Poems",[1] included in his one book, the Fulcrum Press  collection The Lost Fire-Brigade (1968). He was part of the poetry scene in Liverpool during the 1960s and much of his output upholds the values of that group; short, modernistic, humorous pieces of free verse. He was published in EncounterInternational Times,[2] The Guardian and in the 1972 anthology The Old Pals' Act, edited by Pete Brown.[3]
He was a friend of Johnny Byrne; together, they formed the surreal act "Poisoned Bellows".[4][5] He was a friend of Syd Barrett, a founder of Pink Floyd.[6][7] Hawkins continues to be active, for example performing in the 2005 Poetry Olympics at the Royal Albert Hall,[8][9] having originally performed there in the International Poetry Incarnation in 1965.[10]
A brilliant mimic, he could imitate Harold Wilson very well.[11]

His Wikipedia entry is missing the fact that he died in March 2017. I found this out, not by googling his name, but by asking it the question 'Is Spike Hawkins dead')


It took me to a site called Ocatillo Audiovisual which carries the online diary of composer  and filmmaker Robert Robinson. The entry dated 3rd March 2017 reads in part: 'Very sad news – earlier this week the poet Spike Hawkins died, aged 74. Always unpredictable, he was known in some areas (like hospitals) as John Hawkins. As a poet, he was known as Spike Hawkins, and taxi drivers called him Frank.'



Robert recounts how he was asked by his boss [at Routledge] to set up an international poetry book series, which would include an audio CD, called Poet's Voices. Spike was third in the series. Robert writes:
The relatively short, pithy and amusing poems in the book are everyday but surreal in character. What could we call this collection of distilled different experiences, word-plays and atmospheres? I suggested the title 250 Grams of Poetry, which Spike liked, as he enjoyed street-markets. Years later I chose sixteen of my favorite poems from this book, and set Spike’s reading of them to film, in I’m Back, the title of the shortest poem in the collection.
 He also filmed him in his home for a second film called Assault on Time  named after one of the poems he performs.
'This reading took place during a brief summer thunderstorm, whose rumbling followed with providential timing a tragic poem about a soldier lying on barbed wire on a battlefield in World War I. At another synchronous moment Spike reads a poem which features the sound of dogs barking – and there they are: the dogs in Breugel’s famous painting of hunters in winter, they bark on the wall behind the poet. Later, Death makes a brief appearance:

​‘Met Death on the market –
                           asked him if he was on the ‘phone                            
He started waving and said he was
an unlisted number.
Why? I asked.
Nobody rings my number (he said),
But I ring everybody once.'
[From Spoonflags by Spike Hawkins (1943-2017). 
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See this lengthy Previous Post

LIVERPOOL POETS ADRIAN HENRI, ROGER MCGOUGH, BRIAN PATTEN + PETE BROWN and SPIKE HAWKINS


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FROM THE ARCHIVE

The original editio of this book was
published by [Rapp & Carroll Ltd.
London.1967]. Its very difficult to find.
Bought this U.S. edition from the U.S.
[Doubleday.1968] It's inscribed on the
inside cover in open: Harry or Larry
(there's a punch hole) & Agate or Agatha
[with the 'a' missing at the end] Krouse.
They come from Whitewater, Wisc. Dated
February 12th 1971.
This is a wonderful book on 'The Liverpool Scene', a Granada TV documentary. The opening essay is by Edward Lucie-Smith and the rest if a great selection of poems and some stunning black and white photography by the late great Welshman Philip Jones Griffiths, whose war photography in Vietnam had a big effect on American public opinion. Henri Cartier-Bresson said of his work: "Not since Goya has anyone portrayed war like Philip Jones Griffiths."

Lucie-Smith writes: The 'Liverpool scene' of this book seems to have been born in the very early sixties. Pete Brown, more usually associated with jazz-and-poetry readings in London and the south of England, gives a lively account of it: '

'Well, this is the poetry thing really: I mean the atmosphere and the people were there already, definitely, and it was very sort of ripe. Late in 1960 Spike Hawkins and I were living in London but we met up with a team of people from Liverpool at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival in 1960 and they said, you know, that things were good up there and that we should come up and sort of enjoy 
ourselves. Well, Spike and I got into conditions of extreme and dire poverty, so one night he hitched up there and accepted the invitation. They had this coffee bar there which was run by a very extraordinary guy—it was named after some Victorian, Liverpool Victorian person, Mr. Somebody Streate, and was called Streate's Coffee Bar because of this painting they had of him there. This guy that used to run it was a very good guy. That was the centre of activity and meetings. Finally, Spike and another guy called Johnny Byrne, who's an Irishman who was living in Liverpool at the time and was a friend of Adrian Henri's—they started these readings up there.
'The readings—well, Adrian, in fact, hadn't written any poetry for about six or maybe more years before that—he knew all about it, of course, you know, the things that were happening in poetry—but he just hadn't written any, and Brian Patten and Roger McGough were completely and absolutely unknown, and the fact of having regular sessions at this place brought them into the light and made Adrian start writing again. This was early '61. That's how the poetry thing in Liverpool began"...'




Here's the accoun from the seminal authentic history of the times [published in 1999] 'A Gallery to Play To': The Story of the Mersey Poets' by Phil Bowen [see full review in Previous Posts above]:

'Byrne was also present at the Art College dance where Hawkins read his poetry, and was later approached by Eddie Mooney who ran Streate's Coffee Bar. Mooney wanted to start some readings there and perhaps get a scene together. Hawkins' reputation at that time was purely word of mouth, but he was able to find some jazz musicians glad of a place to play:  
[Johnny Byrne] 'It was a wonderful joining together of talent: people from Liverpool, the States, a lot of first-timers. There was this connection, a complete network of people, virtually penniless, travelling to and fro as they spread the word, bringing out new literature, new poems, prose and books." 
Pete Brown recalls:

"We were all busy being bums in London. Mal Dean and Johnny Byrne were in Liverpool and they said, 'Come up and steam about: Hawkins had been living in a hedge or a haystack. Anyway something clicked in his head and he left a note pinned to his sleeping girlfriend saying, ---`Brown. Gone to Liverpool. Please follow"

Bowen says: 'The first poetry events consisted mainly of Hawkins, Byrne and Brown reading their work, and poems from the revered Evergreen Review stolen by Hawkins from Better Books in London. 

Two poetry anthologies from back in the day which both contain some of Spike's work
There are a few in this commercial title
'Love. Love, Love: The New Love Poetry'. Edited with an Introduction by Pete Roche.
First published by Corgi Books in 1967, this is the 4th Printing [1970].
The seminal and substantial 'Children of Labion: Poetry of the Underground in Britain',
First published by Penguin Books in 1969. This is the second edition.
Edited by Michael Horowitz, it's a remarkable classic anothology which contains 15 of Spike's poems
 alongside a wonderful collection of work by his peers. MIke has also edited  'The Grandchildren of
Albion' and has plans for a new volume: 'The Great Grandchildren of Albion'.
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BLEEG

we have bought some food
she has put it on the best table
we are not going to feed you
so go and stand outside in our
forest

- Spike Hawkings


Go figure


Syd meets Spike Hawkins
In a YouTube interview Rob Chapman, author of the Syd Barrett biography A Very Irregular Head, recalls how he found out that beatnik and poet Spike Hawkins was an acquaintance of Syd Barrett. He was interviewing Pete Brown for his book and when the interview was over he remarked that some Barrett lyrics had a distinct Spike Hawkins style. At that point Pete Brown remarked: "I think Spike Hawkins knew Syd Barrett." Without that lucky ad hoc comment we would (probably) never have known that the two artists not only knew, but also met, each other at different occasions, although it was probably more a Mandrax haze that tied them rather than the urge to produce some art together.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

MICK FARREN INTERVIEWS KENNETH ANGER


Kenneth Anger
Source: www.phinnweb.org/
links/cinema/underground/anger/

Mick Farren was hard to impress but I have a vivid memory of when he came back from an interview over lunch with Kenneth Anger. He was well chuffed that he had finally met one of his cult heroes. 

 As far as I am aware this article, which was published in the New Musical Express on July 31st 1976, has not been reproduced before. Much of Mick's work has been anthologised and is available in print or on the internet. Mick died on stage in July 2013 at the age of 69. Those who knew him still miss him like hell. Anger is 90 and still active.


'In all probability, Deep Throat will be shown at your local Odeon long before any of the films of Kenneth Anger. Although he's been making films since 1939, has worked with Mick Jagger in the past and is currently finishing a movie project that involves, among others, Jimmy Page and Marianne Faithfull, none of his work has ever been exhibited on a mass scale.

The closest that the films of Kenneth Anger have ever come to reaching a popular audience was probably during the psychedelic '60s' when his movies Fireworks and Scorpio Rising were mainstays of the hippie clubs, underground film fests and arts labs both here and in the U.S.A.

Kenneth Anger as the Stolen Prince: The
Changeling in A Midsummer Night's Dream


There's more, however, to Kenneth Anger than simply being an underground film maker who still makes his own very personal movies when most of his fellows have moved on to porn, sexploitation or TV commercials. He is an almost unique example of a jet age eccentric who manages to live, work and survive even in the depressingly buck-worshipping '70s.

It's hardly surprising that Anger, with his background, should become some kind of grand eccentric. He was born into a hard-core Hollywood family. Almost as soon as he could walk, he was placed in the Maurice Kosloff school of dancing. At three his grandmother hustled him the part of a sprite in Max Reinhardt's film of A Midsummer Night's Dream (that's the one with James Cagney as Bottom). 
He talks about his early life with a kind of camp relish. "My dancing partner in those days was Shirley Temple. I doubt whether she'd speak to me now." He even hands out pictures of himself in the film. 

In 1939, at the age of seven, he made his first film while he was in the Boy Scouts. In 1941 he made another, Who's Been Rocking My Dreamboat. At eleven he completed The Nest, a full-blown exploration of the subject of incest. He was only fifteen when he used a spare 72 hours (while his parents were away at his uncle's funeral) to make Fireworks which still gets shown in art cinemas today. 

Fireworks is a savage homosexual fantasy. Filmed in grainy black and white, it is an account of how a group of archetypal butch/sadist U.S. sailors, straight out of a gay porn mag, rape and mutilate a young teenage boy. There is so much of the director/producer/actor's wish-fulfillment and basic fear projected into the film that it's still numbingly shocking today.

Throughout the '50s he made four more movies including Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome, his first venture in psycho/sexual symbolic mysticism. Anger describes the film as "a full scale ritual to invoke Horus, the Godhead of the Aquarian Age.” He also started work on a movie version of the S&M erotic classic L'Histoire d'O (‘Story of O’ to you), but the money ran out and it was never finished.



1964 saw the completion of Scorpio Rising, a loving examination of the faggot end of bike-gang with a rock and roll soundtrack that includes songs by Dion, Presley, the Chiffons, and the Shirelles.

Scorpio Rising is, to date, Anger's most popular and best remembered movie: It, too, has its mystical undertones. As Anger put it, "Scorpio is the sign of violence and death. It's also the sign that governs machines. It was natural to celebrate it with a film centred around the Hell's Angels and leather boys."

A year later he started work on Kustom Kar Kommandos, a sequel to Scorpio Rising that, again with a rock and roll score, did for an apocalyptic hot rod gang what Scorpio Rising did for the Hell's Angels. It predated Manson’s plans for his dune buggy attack battalion by some four years.

In 1968, Anger started work on the first version of Lucifer Rising, a fast moving collage of Crowleyan magic, and his most ambitious project. There seemed, however, to be a jinx on the film. The majority of the footage was lost and all that remains is an eleven-minute fragment retitled Invocation Of My Demon Brother. A synthesiser track was added to the film by Mick Jagger. According to Anger, it was this work on the film that inspired Jagger to write the first draft of "Sympathy For The Devil."

Today Anger is finishing up the second version of Lucifer, working on the soundtrack with Jimmy Page, promoting the paperback version of his book Hollywood Babylon. He is also a leading disciple of occultist, misunderstood genius and Great Beast Aleister Crowley.

*

Okay, so that's the background. With all this in mind, I went to my lunch date with Kenneth Anger with a great deal of curiosity as to what kind of figure I was going to meet.

Would he be a mincing queen, a total fraud, a poseur or some sinister figure out of a Hammer Films version of a Dennis Wheatley black magic epic?

It was one of the first really warm days of the summer. I had arranged to meet him in the foyer of the British Film Finance Corporation. He was there to negotiate the finishing-up money for Lucifer Rising. At least he followed the same route as other money-starved film producers. He didn't make piles of gold coins appear in the middle of a sinister pentagram.

The person who came down the stairs was pretty normal. He wore a lightweight cafe-au-lait suit and could just as easily have been jiving up the money for Confessions Of A Randy Dustman as a movie based on the philosophy of Crowley The only bizarre touch was a gold pentagram hanging from a chain round his neck. (Later he was to roll up his sleeve and reveal that he had the same symbol tattooed on his arm. "My mark of the Beast.”)

As we walked across Greek Street to a nearby French restaurant, the sun didn’t darken, nobody threw us fearful glances, and dogs didn’t snarl or howl. In fact, Anger, who looked rather like a male beach hero running into the first phase of middle-aged paunch, proved an amiable individual with a sharp, if campy and cutting, wit. 


Original publicity still for Lucifer Rising featuring
a 1940 illustration by Virgil Finley. On
the back is a copyright sticker and a hand-written
sticker that says 'World Premiere. Easter
Sunday '77.' [The Generalist Archive]

After we'd settled down at a table, gone through the ritual of ordering and I was into my first gin and tonic of the day, the conversation kicked off with an obvious question. 

"There's been a lot of weird rumours about what happened to the first version of Lucifer Rising. What actually happened to the film?'

The answer was as weird as any of the rumours. 


"You know that, in that version, Bobby Beausoleil played Lucifer?"

I nodded.

"This is the same Bobby Beausoleil who joined up with Manson, and was jailed for the Gary Hinman murder?"

"That's right. Of course, all this was some time before he got involved with Charles Manson's escapades." 


"Escapade" is a lovely word in the context. There's something quite fascinating about anyone who can deal with a first-hand contact with terminal sleaze in such a lightly urbane manner. 

"Bobby was living with me in San Francisco. It must have been the end of 1967 or the beginning of 1968. It was the time when the hippie scene was turning into a complete fuck-up. The flower children had started shooting up speed. It was all very depressing. Bobby had this fantasy about starting a rock and roll band. I got some money for him and he went down saying he was going to buy amplifiers and equipment.

"Of course, when he came back there wasn't any equipment or any money left. Instead I found several kilos of grass hidden in my cutting room. This was just too much. I told him to get out. A few nights later he broke in and stole most of the unedited film. Later he claimed I tried to turn him into a toad."

"Did you ever find out what happened to the film?"

"I suppose it's buried out in the Mojave somewhere. I thought of getting a guy with a divining rod to look for it."

“And Beausoleil's now doing life?"

"He was twenty-one when he went in. I doubt if he'll ever get out." 



Bobby Beausoleil mug shot. 1969. Source: Wikipedia
*
The conversation moves on to films. After Warhol's posture of seedy decadence and Godard's trendy Marxism, Anger is refreshingly down-to-earth. He has little time for the kind of cineaste who wants to prattle about art and symbolism. He is Hollywood born and bred, and many of the terms of reference in the conversation are unashamed trash; Roger Corman, Night Of The Living Dead, Mae West, Invasion Of Body Snatchers.

He also has a devout love of gossip. One minute he’s talking lofty metaphysics. the next he’s letting go a choice morsel of name-dropping.

“I think I’m getting rather tired of Mick Jagger. It's all getting rather childish and petulant. There was a party at a pub just out of London where he threw a table through a window because some people told him to make less noise. It does seem rather unnecessary”

The next moment he has grasshoppered back to his latest movie.

“Lucifer is the hero. He shouldn't be confused with the Christian devil. Lucifer is another name for the Morning Star, the bringer of light. He is the one who helps man in his search for truth and enlightenment."

Prometheus?"

“A very similar character." He jumps on to a story about the making of the film.

“The next Lucifer after Bobby was Chris Jagger. Unfortunately he started taking himself very seriously. We were shooting in Egypt, in desert, near the pyramids. Marianne was having a bad time, she was strung out on heroin."

Anger pauses.

"I don't think that's an indiscretion, is it? Marianne's always been very open about the problems she's had with drugs. She was also being eaten alive by mosquitoes. We started to believe that the heroin in her bloodstream was attracting them.

"At the same time, Chris Jagger began acting like some kind of Hollywood prima donna. You know? Turning up late, that sort of thing. We were working on a very tight budget and starting to run out of money. It all got so difficult that Chris had to go."

"Marianne plays Lilith, the Jewish demon. She is also the goddess of abortion. It seems kind of appropriate."

From Lucifer (the bringer of light) we move on to Aleister Crowley. "Crowley was a greatly misunderstood genius. After World War I, the British newspapers did their best to destroy him, particularly the Beaverbrook newspapers. They labelled him the wickedest man in the world and presented him as some kind of Satanist. After one of his group died from drinking contaminated water, stories went round about murders. Crowley could have sued but he never tried. I don't think it occurred to him."

Far from being any kind of Satanist, Anger paints a picture of Crowley as a searcher for truth and enlightenment through the essential human sexual energy. For this, he was pilloried by a vicious press and sensation-hungry public. Even when talking about Crowley, however, Kenneth Anger can't resist a gossipy anecdote.

"It got so bad that, when Crowley wanted to conduct certain nude rituals, the only place he could do it was at the Turkish baths in Jermyn Street. All these people would sit round in their towels watching this middle-aged gentleman waving his arms about. They didn't have a clue that it was Crowley conducting one of his most important rituals. They probably thought it was some sort of calisthenics." 



American paperback copy of Hollywood
Babylon
[Dell Publishing 1975], bought at
the Academy Bookshop [7/8 Holland Street
London W8] .I have written my name in the
frontispiece and the date: December 1977.
[The Generalist Archive]
Anger's love for gossip and scandal came to fruition in his book Hollywood Babylon. The book is a virtual directory of suicide, murder, drug addiction and excess in the movie capital of the '20s and '30s. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be published in this country under the current libel laws. Unlikely, that is, until the last of the people mentioned in the book have died. 

"The stumbling block is the section on Chaplin. No British publisher could get that past the lawyers."

The coffee and brandy arrives. It's getting close to wind-up time. We've drifted into discussion of the age of Aquarius. With someone like Kenneth Anger this is very easy. He seems to see Crowley as a kind of John the Baptist for the epoch. Anger is, however, very matter of fact about his mysticism.

"We're probably in for a rough time: The age of Aquarius isn't quite what they sing about in "Hair". The predictions are that there'll be 500 years of utter chaos with hate, conflict and false prophets. It could be tough before we finally achieve enlightenment."

It's hard to sum up Kenneth Anger. He is a very complex personality, part Hedda Hopper and part mystic. He is obviously obsessed with his work.

"I can't tolerate the kind of lazy fuck-offs who talk all the time and don't do nothing. I can't think of anything but work, there's nothing else."

He can even get away with the ponderous statement that is reproduced in a current press handout.

"I have always considered movies evil; the day that cinema was invented was a black day for mankind... Photography is a blatant attempt to steal the soul . . . My films are primarily concerned with sexuality in people. My reason for filming, has nothing to do with 'cinema' at all; it's a transparent excuse for capturing people . . . it's wearing a little thin now. . so I consider myself as working Evil in an evil medium."

When you meet the man, the first impression is that he delivers these kind of statements with his tongue firmly in his cheek. And yet he is also perfectly serious. It's an odd paradox.
*



'Legendary filmmaker and occultist Kenneth Anger has released a limited edition run of Lucifer jackets, inspired by his classic 1972 short film ‘Lucifer Rising.’ Originally worn by actor Leslie Huggins in the film, the iconic multicoloured design has been embroidered onto a limited number of black nylon bomber jackets. Gold satin bomber jackets are also available from Anger’s official online store at collectors’ prices. Each jacket is unique featuring a stitched label of authenticity.'
           Source: Coney's Loft [15th March 2017]

Published by Black Dog Publishing 2004

To my knowledge this is the best single book on Anger's oeuvre, containing as it does detailed essays on all his key films with images + a great deal more besides.. The entry on Lucifer Rising is very interesting and adds more detail to the story. Hutchinson writes:
'The concept of Lucifer Rising began in 1966 while Anger was in San Francisco as a "sequel" or response to Scorpio Rising  from the beginning of "the new age". Much of the original footage shot went missing during one of Anger's ritual performances at the Straight Theatre... with the rest of the footage shot at this time edited by Anger in London. Led Zeppelin's resident Crowley aficionado, Jimmy Page proposed the orginal soundtrack for Lucifer, which was removed in the 1981 re-edited version and replaced by Bobby Beausoleil's composition.'
 To produce the soundtrack, Beausoleil formed the Freedom Orchestra in prison. Hutchison says that the instruments were delivered by mail order and that Anger provided him with a time sheet for the film. A  full and complete remastered version is now available according  to the Beausoleil website.
According to Hutchinson, Anger and Page first met at a Sotheby's auction of Crowley books in 1973. Page at that time had the second largest collection of Crowley's work in the world and was living in Crowley's former house at  Boleskine on the edge of Loch Ness in Scotland. Page worked on the film for three years and produced 28 minutes of music. Anger had been
using the film editing facilities in the basement of Page's Victorian mansion for three months when there was, one night, some kind of altercation with Page's girlfriend which lead to Anger being evicted.


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