Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Recent RIPs

T.S. Eliot may have written that April is the cruelest month, but it looks like May to me: (clockwise from top left) Adam Yauch, aka MCA of the Beastie Boys, Donna Summer, Robin Gibb and Maurice Sendak.

Friday, May 25, 2012

London through its charity shops #24: Balham

Barngain of the day: John Currin hardback exhibition book, £7.50; British Heart Foundation. How can a book costing £7.50 be a barngain (you exclaim)? Well, you may have a point, but it's £184 new on Amazon. Anyway, I've admired Currin's art for some time now, and not just because he paints naked women. After all, his women, though busty, are pretty weird.

Even though it seems as if Balham town centre has designed itself around the mammoth Sainsbury's which sits in the middle of the town, I have a soft spot for the place. It's a bit tatty but has some good places to eat and drink. On my recent trip I was glad to see that My Back Pages – a decent new and secondhand bookshop named after the Bob Dylan song – was still there.

More to the point, it has seven charity shops, most of which are interesting, tastefully laid out and well worth a look. In particular, the British Heart Foundation shop, recommended by Time Out back in 2007, is still good; colourful and spacious, it has decent books, records and DVDs; also plenty of clothes and shoes. The same goes for Cancer Research. Oxfam Books is very pleasant with some records (but no CDs or DVDs). Trinity Hospice has lots of wool and records. FARA is pretty cool; FARA Kids bright, large and spacious. The only old school charity shop, by which I mean smelly, cheap and a bit desperate, was the Salvation Army charity shop, next to their community church (above), a bit out of town. You know what though? I do miss those old-fashioned charity shops.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Putney shed synth

Today's Google Doodle pays tribute to Robert Moog, father of the Moog synthesiser and pioneer of electronic music, whose 76th birthday it would have been (if he hadn't died in 2005).

Less well-known but equally ubiquitous (at the time), the VCS3 synthesiser (above) was created in the late 1960s in a shed in Deodar Road, Putney, southwest London by Russian Peter Zinovieff. The VCS3, nicknamed the Putney, was embraced by many artists and bands at the time including Brian Eno, Hawkwind, Kraftwerk, The Who, Gong, Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre and King Crimson. More recently, Aphex Twin, Autechre and Depeche Mode have used it. It was also the synth used by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to create the title music and sound effects for Dr Who.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Elliott School of Rock
Being Mr Benn

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lookalikes #27: Black Sabbath Vol.4/Sleep Vol.2

Black Sabbath's fourth album, Vol 4 (1972) and Sleep's 1992 EP, Vol 2, which contains a live version of Black Sabbath's Lord of This World.

Sleep's classic Dopesmoker, containing the hour-long song Dopesmoker, has recently been reissued.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Lookalikes #24: Third Albums

Monday, May 14, 2012

See you next Tuesday & Wednesday

See You Next Wednesday, clockwise from top left: The Blues Brothers (1980), An American Werewolf in London (1981); Coming to America (1988) and Trading Places (1983).

There's no beating around the bush for what See You Next Tuesday is slang for. Well, there's slight beating, for apparently the See and the You are homophones, though they're acting more like heterographs. Anyway, when the Next and the Tuesday are used as acronyms, what we get is the word CUNT. It's an apparently handy phrase for insulting people without them realising. See You Next Tuesday are also a deathcore band hailing from Michigan.

See You Next Wednesday was the last line spoken by an astronaut's dad in a videophone conversation with his son in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since his first film as director, Schlock in 1973, John Landis has referenced this line about fifteen times in almost every film he's since directed, including his videos for Michael Jackson's Thriller and Black or White. Usually See You Next Wednesday appears as a film poster: in The Blues Brothers it's a King Kong-type film; in An American Werewolf in London it's a porn film. The phrase also appears as a line of dialogue in several of his films. See you next Wednesday was apparently a screenplay Landis wrote but never made. See you next Wednesday are also a band.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Swearing Bands

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Goodness Gracious Inner Gatefold

Great inner gatefolds are often overlooked, overshadowed as they are by their outer counterparts. The cover of the first album (designed by Barney Bubbles) by prog rock band Gracious! features nothing but an exclamation mark on a white background, which does nothing to prepare you for its glorious pop art inner gatefold (slightly below centre, above). Many inner gatefolds feature saucy designs, perhaps being able to get away with more than their more conventional outer relatives. Some of the best inner (and outer) gatefolds were designed in the 1970s, when prog rock was in full swing and rock was at its most decadent and outrageous, with bands like Yes and Led Zeppelin and artists like Santana (Lotus) and Miles Davis (Bitches Brew) producing beautiful and outrageous music to match their beautiful and outrageous gatefolds.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Book Covers: The Death of Grass

John Christopher's The Death of Grass, retitled with the less snappy No Blade of Grass for American readers, is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story in a similar vein to John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids, and came out just a few years after Wyndham's classic before going out of print for a number of years. A film version of the book did it no favours, apparently being so bad that even the author hasn't seen it. Penguin finally republished the book a few years ago, so hopefully it will get another audience, seeing as post-apocalyptic fiction has undergone a renaissance with a new set of fears – terrorism, environment, financial collapse, pandemics, overpopulation – igniting the public imagination. The first edition of The Death of Grass (top left), published in 1956, is now worth a lot of money. John Christopher, real name Samuel Youd, is alive and living in Rye, as this amusing blog post about the literary connections of the town testifies.

Previously on Barnflakes:
The Day of the Triffids book covers