Looking at life through rose-tinted, non prescription, glasses. Things that make us laugh or cry, remind us of how things used to be, or rather, how we remember them being. Coupled with song lyrics and explanations which tell you what is going on and what the devil we think we are doing making all this racket.
Hopefully we will twinge your nostalgia glands and push your smiley button to make life a bit more fun.
If you are not old enough to remember what we are talking about then rejoice in being initiated into the curious and unfathomable world of ‘when it was better’ because your dad says so.
how much is that in old money?
So, we get yet another new coin, a £1 coin which resembles something last seen in the 70s. It’s nice to know that the government has a taste for the vintage as well as the modern. Of course the coin in question is basically being changed because there are 6 million or so forgeries rattling around and chances are you have one in your pocket or purse. So the total cost of forgery is in the region of £6 million pounds or just about the cost of changing all the coin operated vending machines to accept a new one. Never mind another small enterprise bashing Pound coin blanks in a shed somewhere is swept aside in the process.
Still we get a nice vintage style coin which resembles an old three pence piece. Now the other thing is nobody ever called it a three pence piece. It was a ‘thrupenny bit’. Every coin of the realm had a proper nomenclature and also a snazzy monicker that was passed down from father to son, mother to daughter, father to dau…..well you get the idea. Herewith a vintage currency lesson for the under 40s of you.
The monetary system was Pounds, Shillings, and Pence. Or LSD. This was a venerable and ancient system stretching back to Roman times and was what made Britain Great. You have to be clever to work out that 12 of something equalled one of something else and everyone knew how to do it. Even if they didn’t know their times table they knew when they were being diddled.
The coinage was made up thus – Starting at the top we have the Crown. These were worth more than a week’s wages for most people so were only ever used as special gifts at christenings and the like. Come to think of it they were so big they would rent holes in the trouser pockets of anyone who was lavish enough to carry one around. It was a bit pointless anyway because no shopkeeper would have enough in the till to give you change for a crown when you could get a packet of Woodbines, a box of matches and a daily paper for a shilling.
Next we had a Half Crown or half a dollar. This came about because before the 2nd World War Britain followed the gold standard which means we actually had a Pound’s worth of gold in the Bank of England for every Pound note issued. When this proved to be embarrassingly impossible because we owed the Americans squillions for the Second World War we abandoned the gold standard and your money became worthless, in effect just a vague promise that some fat banker would give you a pound’s worth of promises in exchange for your bit of paper.
Next on down we have the 2 shilling piece or Florin, (I don’t know why it’s called that either) the beloved coin of the middle class boy’s pocket money. The Florin was comprised of 2 shillings which were in turn divided into two sixpences which were made up of two three pence pieces which weren’t made up of anything because being based on 12 we couldn’t divide by two so they were divided by three which were each one Penny. Now when I was a lad the smallest denomination still in circulation was the Half Penny but there was a mysterious coin that occasionally turned up with a little bird on its face, this was the Farthing and was a relic from when Britain has a Royal Navy with more than one ship and never was so much owed to so few in America by so many as it is now.
You must be getting the hang of this now but to refresh your memory here’s a quick run down of the coinage of the realm and its common name and how to write it.
So one Pound – written £1 – was made up of 20 shillings (written – 20/-) . It was also made up of 4 Crowns (written – 5/-) or 8 Half Crowns (written 2/6d) 10 two shillings – Florin (written 2/-) or 20 one shillings -Bob – (written 1/-) come on, you must have got the hang of it by now.
And all this without the benefit of a calculator. God save the Queen.
How now brown cow, the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog
It becomes increasingly obvious that as life moves on and we all end up speaking in ‘Street American’ that the true beauty of the English language will be diluted by a multi-national culture that communicates in grunts and gestures. Those of us who appreciate the vintage lifestyle (and even that definition depends on how old you are) will be castigated as out of date and yesterday’s people by the new generation of hoodie-toting street kids who worship at the shrine of Rihanna and X Box
Of course, it’s nothing new. Language has always progressed and absorbed new words to keep up with the change in technology however old it was. Try this and see how it feels.
Forsooth, do not resist good Sir, for I am a Footpad and require you to surrender your chattels unto me on pain of death.
Stand and deliver, your money or your life.
OK blue eyes this is a stick-up
Nah mothaf*cker hand over de doh ahm not sh*tting you innit
See how the long description in the first assault is slowly over time whittled down to the minimum before strangely getting longer again as if to justify the actions of the miscreant. So I thought it would be useful to give a short guide to authentic Vintage speak as one wouldn’t want to be caught using the wrong patois would one? For the purposes of these we will assume that mid 20th Century is this most people’s idea of vintage.
Vintage speak Modern equivalent
Good morning, how are you today? Yoh dude – how it hangin?
Could you telephone me on your return please? Yoose hit me up when is back
I’ve never heard of texting, what is it? u is a dum ass cu ltr
Have you seen the newspaper dear? yo bitch it on Facebook
I’m just nipping to the shops truckin down the offy
Mr Smith is unavailable at the moment da man owt u wont sumfin?
So it goes on. You can see the definite change in the style of how people used to speak and how one speaks now. There are also a few key phrases which point you out as a true ‘vintage’ lover. Use these and you will be see as authentic as a brown paper parcel neatly wrapped with number 8 twine. Number 1 in the vintage hit parade of sayings is ‘During the war.’ Many people who lived in the middle of the 20th Century experienced the war and the saying accompanied their reminiscences of how things were always better ‘during the war’. Those of us who had parents of this vintage were brought up with this staple.
There are some recent words and phrases which have come into general usage that have completely demolished good middle-class words that have stood the test of time. This is no doubt due to the Americanisation of the World and the spread of movie culture. Here’s a couple of examples :
24/7 – has replaced the phrase ‘frightfully busy all week darling’
Like – has infiltrated its way into everyday speech displacing such staples as ‘the thing is’ and ‘good heavens’.
Absolutely – all invading one word reply for word lazy people who have lost the knack of exclaiming ‘too right’ and the outright style of ‘rather old boy’.
Whatever – a sort of disdainful resignation statement to replace ‘how nice’ or ‘how interesting’
So don’t forget – to be a vintage style person one has to know the language.
Vintage Motors : When Britannia ruled the roads
Ask anyone over 50 to describe a sports car and pretty much the same description will be had from all. People that age and over remember when cars were made in Britain by British companies. There were very few johnny foreigners on road and actually very few roads to be on. Unlike the continent and the USA our roads were basically cart tracks that had been turnpiked in the first privatisation of the Country’s assets in the 18th Century. Instead of the lovely straight roads beloved of our Roman predecesssors we wandered aimlessly from pillar to post making similar progress to a drunken man struggling from the ale house on his way home. The roads were bendy with little straight bits then bendy again where farmer Biggins or Lord Whatnot would refuse permission to cut across their land. Hence our fledging motor industry put more emphasis on going around bends than our Continental and Yankee cousins.
The sports car boom started, like most things in the 20th Century, just after the Second World War. Britain had been invaded, not by the dreaded Boche but by our very own allies, the Americans. Coming over here with their chewing gum, nylons and cigarettes, they not only stole the girls but also snapped our our beloved MG Midget. This little car that was ‘kinda cute’ pushed all the buttons on the GIs testosterone control panel. It was open topped, it had spindly cart wheels and an enormous steering wheel that not only forced one to drive will the elbow out over the door but provided a generous target for the unwitting chest in the unfortunate occurrence of an accident. The windscreen folded flat, the spare tyre was strapped on the almost vertical boot and it was made of wood and paper. It was cold, noisy, slow, and offered absolutely no opportunity for amorous adventures on board. But the Yanks loved it and after the war shipped them home in thousands. MG quickly expanded their production to meet the demand until most were destined for the land of the free and you couldn’t buy one in England without personally knowing Winston Churchill. Other manufacturers jumped on the band wagon and in the early 50s Britain boasted the biggest export drive and the most sports cars from any Country imported to the USA.
Now these are not sports cars in the same way that we would know them today. They were sporty rather than sports although the manufacturers saw great potential in racing and rallying to the extent that laughable saloon cars were seen with the extra spotlights and whitewall tyres. MG were followed by Triumph, Sunbeam and Austin-Healey all of whom used pretty standard saloon mechanicals dressed in a party frock body to tease the boys. It was all going really well and Britain sold more sports cars than ever in the 60s with the MGB and Triumph Spitfire being the best sellers. There was a couple of token efforts from the Americans to compete but like everything American they just bludgeoned their way through with monster V8s. It took Carroll Shelby an American racing driver to show them the way. He shoved V8 in an ageing British chassis from the AC company to produce the icon of the decade which is still is available today and has spawned more copies than a Louis Vuitton suitcase. The Shelby AC Cobra.
Sadly the party started to wind down as the gun happy Americans got safety conscious. They started to introduce crash testing and 5mph impact tests which proved that anything that wasn’t a Sherman tank or made of jelly would be jolly uncomfortable if you happened to rear end some unsuspecting suburban family on the pizza run. Because we were broke from paying them back our war loans we had no money to invest in new models and had to make do and mend. It meant the end for many including the Spitfire. MG soldiered on with the ridiculous ‘Black Bumper’ MGB which spookily foresaw the American obsession with dental work as MG strapped a massive 5 mph impact-resistant bumper on the front. It wasn’t even disguised it was like a huge rubber dental brace and did nothing for the cars image or sales.
Triumph tried to respond with the TR7 but uncertainty over whether the Yanks would in fact ban all open cars on safety grounds meant that it was released as a hardtop only and its cutting edge ‘wedge’ look, which must have looked fabulous on the drawing board, was watered down until it looked pathetically like one of its fat American customers had sat on the bonnet.
And that was that. Even the late addition of a drop-top TR7 didn’t help. Nor did the fabled V8 version where we took a lesson from them and dropped a big V8 in to create the TR8. Too little, too late, too bad. The party was over and the gooky little nerdy kid with the slim body and nimble footwork stole the show from under our very noses. The Japs had sneaked in and cleaned up with the Mazda MX5 which was more Lotus Elan than the Lotus Elan. Cheap, simple, based on cheap to maintain saloon cars mechanicals dressed in a party frock.
Now the only sports car we make in any quantity has spindly wheels, a spare tyre on the boot, a fold flat windscreen and is made of wood and paper. It’s made here in Worcestershire and just like the nostalgia, it gets better with age.
Warning – Smoking seriously damages your spelling
I was listening to the wireless today and some smarter than me person was discussing the pros and cons of the electric cigarette, commonly known as the eciggy. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing trying to decide if it was actually smoking or not, and should consequently be banned from public spaces like proper coffin nails, it was decided that it was a nicotine delivery system and the jury is still out on whether it can make the grade as a proper fag. Being weaned on my mother’s knee symbolically knee-deep in fag ash and being bombarded by adverts for Malboro Man and his big hat I was a bit perplexed by the argument. Remember the 1960s Lotus Gold Leaf F1 car followed by the 1970s John Player Lotus F1 car. Along with the likes of Malboro and Camel they promoted cigarettes and poured millions into the sport.
The ‘golden age’ of smoking was the 30s when screen stars such as Humphrey Bogart personified ‘cool’ with their obligatory ciggy shoved between their lips as they leaned forward to deliver some crushing one liner to the villain or the helpless dame. Smoking was the mark of a man, and not just any man, but a movie icon. It was accepted that everyone would smoke and because everyone smelled of smoke nobody minded. In today’s super medicated bacteria free world you can smell a smoker faster than a fart in a spacesuit as soon as they walk within 100 yards of you.
Nowadays our whiter than white film stars advertise shampoo or humanitarian causes to prove their credentials but in the vintage tradition actors flogged cigarettes because there was so much profit in them for the manufacturers and no regulation so the mantra was ‘ get ‘em hooked’ at any cost. So lucrative was the tobacco advertising market that everyone could be seen smiling from a full colour magazine advert including doctors and dentists extolling the scientific evidence of smoking.
But smoking was an art in the films. It was an easy introduction to the opposite sex. ‘Do you have a light?’ was an accepted way for a lady to approach a man without causing offence. Sometimes she didn’t even have to ask, the mere hint of a silver cigarette holder being drawn from a bag would result in men scurrying to light the ensuing love stick. Their starry eyes meeting in a longing glance as he offers his Zippo. Flicking back the cap, a quick zzzzz on the thumbwheel and hey presto, the next thing you know they are deep in conversation and discretely leaving for a romantic adventure. If only it was so easy today.
Television and cinema has now discovered that there is a longing for vintage and a nostalgia for some of the things that we have sanitized from the screen. It’s unacceptable to promote smoking or racism or casual sex in today’s screen images but fine to blow up hundreds of people in a second or destroy entire cities in an orgy of car chase mania that would at the very least earn 3 points and a 12 month driving ban. So now film makers are finding that by setting their offerings in the vintage style they can re-introduce some of these lost screen moments. People smoked and had casual sex in the 60s so if we set the film in the 60s it’s acceptable to portray society as it was and we can smoke and drink without worrying and the film feels a little better for it.
To enjoy the lunacy that was cigarette advertising just ‘Google’ it and prepare to be amazed. The younger vintage enthusiasts will be staggered by the bare faced lies that the industry put out and how nobody batted an eyelid or even choked on their Camel. Fans of Mad Men will be familiar with the brand Lucky Strike as it featured so prominently in the series being the mainstay of the agency but just check out the competition between brands and you will see why they prospered.
Somehow the slogan – ‘eCiggy the nicotine delivery system of a New Person’ doesn’t quite cut it alongside ‘Malboro – the mark of a Man’.
Why couldn’t they learn to spell it properly? Marlboro sounds like a Mexican wheelbarrow. It’s impossible to say if you have less than perfect teeth and nobody knows how it should sound without hearing it first. Imagine queueing at the friendly tobacco counter and stumbling over the name of your preferred choker.
And another thing – why was he always a Cowboy looking like a refugee from Brokeback Mountain and what happened to his horse?
All you need to know about Rock ‘n’ Roll to be cool and impress girls
So there you are, dressed to thrill, leather jacket, blue jeans, winkle picker boots, set fair to impress the girl of your dreams. You drift over in her direction, lean casually against the booth and try your opening line. But what do you say? There she is waiting for you to make a move, all bobby socks and kiss curls, hanging on your very essence of rebellion, waiting for you to say something cool. So what do you open with? What phrase is guaranteed to make her swoon into the very creases of your battered biker jacket and be yours forever?
‘That Justin Bieber’s a bit of a hotty isn’t he’ you stammer and suddenly the moment is lost. The girl looks away and giggles to her friend and then rubs you out. You walk away like a kicked dog and hide away in the corner, your leather jacket creaking above the music as everyone stares at you in disbelief. How un-cool is this guy? Doesn’t he know about girls and Rock ‘n’ Roll? What a nobody, a 24 carat loser.
Well never fear, you will not make that mistake if you concentrate hard and study these few facts. So here we go, first a few facts about music.
Interesting fact number 1 – Girls like sad songs
But they only sing them to themselves or at the very best when they are thinking of someone other than the boy they are dancing with at the time. So don’t go for sad songs they’re a waste of time.
Interesting fact number 2 – Girls like rebels.
Dad’s hate them, mums fear them, little sisters love them and big sisters are jealous of the little sister who bags one. Everyone likes to think that they are individuals and know their own mind, have their own style and are unique. Forget it, everyone likes to know exactly where they fit in and how they are supposed to look, feel, think and talk, it makes everyone feel comfortable. Ok so where do we go from here? Rock ‘n’ Roll baby that’s where we go. If you know nothing of Rock ‘n’ Roll then fear not here is the definite one minute guide to ultimate cooldom for the up and coming bad boy.
I’ve said before that Rock ‘n’ Roll starts with Elvis. Not the fat white-suited bloke you see everyone impersonating but the slim, exciting, super hot and wiggly country boy that stepped into the studio to cut a few tracks for his mom and stepped out a star. If you want to know about Rock ‘n’ Roll check out early Elvis. Here is your first enigmatic statement of fact to knock them dead. ‘Before Elvis there was nothing.’ That’s all you have to say. They can’t resist it and you will have them hanging on to your every word. It’s pretty much true because until Elvis burst on to the scene there were no teenagers. You heard right there, no teenagers, they hadn’t been invented. Everyone was like a younger version of their mums and dads. Imagine that if you can, dressing like your dad, now your dad probably dresses like you and thinks it’s cool.
Interesting fact number 3 – Rock ‘n’ Roll makes you hot and sweaty
Nothing is better than dancing with a girl, well almost nothing, and Rock ‘n’ Roll is the way to turn them on. Best of all you get to stand almost motionless while they spin around you and the more athletic ones go up and over or down and under you. All you have to do is be there to catch them while staying ultra cool. At the end of the dance just lead her back to the booth, order up a frothy coffee and a knickerbocker glory ice cream and you are just so cool.
Interesting fact number 4 – Rock n Roll is not old man’s music it’s still alive and kicking so learn the moves
Because of it’s simplistic beat, its relentless rhythm and repetitive nature Rock ‘n’ Roll is still going strong. Along with its elder brothers Lindy Hop and Jitterbug, Rock ‘n’ Roll still lights up the dance floor. It’s the ultimate statement in dance cool. As soon as the first beats crash out over the sound system people leap up and start performing the ritual of twists and twirls. OK so there will be a few original old rockers out there but you can see them off no hassle. Just grab your date and get with the groove. A few discrete lessons or even a careful study of the period films will get you on the right tracks.
If you are looking for more pointers on how to be Rock ‘n’ Roll then you need a little guidance and that’s where films and film stars come in. Check out these for the Bad Boys cool guide.
If Elvis is the face of Rock ‘n’ Roll music then James Dean is the face of Rock ‘n’ Roll cinema. He made 3 films, didn’t say much, had looks to die for and did before he was 25, killed in a car crash, driving an open-top Porsche. You don’t get a better Rock ‘n’ Roll rebel pedigree than that.
A short lived period as the bad boy of film before he became a great method actor his Rock ‘n’ Roll rebel qualifications come in the film ‘The Wild One’ where he played the leader of a motorcycle gang who when asked ‘what are you rebelling against Johnny?’ replied, ‘What have you got’. Just how cool is that.
If it’s general ‘coolness’ you are struggling with then look no further I have the very thing. His name was Steve McQueen and he was known as the king of cool. Not strictly anything to do with Rock ‘n’ Roll but worth a look if you want to practice. A daily dose of Mr McQueen will soon have you on the straight and narrow.
A sort of tongue in cheek tribute to cool was the Fonz who starred in the TV series Happy Days along with Ron Howard the now famous film director. This was an over the top pastiche of 50s America but it was massively popular and spawned a Rock ‘n’ Roll revival with the likes of Shakin Stevens, The Flying Pickets and Mud in the 70s.
Just one last point. Don’t go and spoil it by slipping up with the basic terminology. In England Rock ‘n’ Roll means the original 50s style and later efforts remaining true to the formula. Over the pond in the land of its birth the Americans call anything with a rock music basis Rock ‘n’ Roll. Well they would wouldn’t they. So don’t get caught out with a genuine US babe, if she says I like Rock ‘n’ Roll it could mean anything from Chuck Berry to Ozzie Osbourne. You have been warned.
‘Yeah now that’s cool’
Vintage Screen Classics : Brief Encounter
Well, here I am, watching it again. It’s in black and white and has no explosions, no swearing, no sex, no violence and a really annoying piano score that keeps butting in whenever anyone walks away from camera. It’s biggest stars are a train station and a platform clock. It also has a monologue running through it from the heroine explaining what is going through her mind. All in all you wouldn’t think it has anything going for it. The accents are terribly BBC middle class as are the very essence of Hanrry Enfield’s MR Cholmondley Warner. But it is a cracking love story.
It revolves around a straight-laced middle class lady, Celia Johnson, who is married to a boring middle class man who probably works in an office and commutes to the city. She travels up to town regularly under the guise of ‘shopping’ which is lady speak for dressing up and strolling around town annoying shop assistants. They do lunch, have tea in the afternoon and come home on the evening train to scold the housemaid. But they are really awfully nice. She meets a Doctor, played by Trevor Howard, and they embark on a platonic affair which involves, walking in the park, going to the cinema, boating on the lake, you get the picture.
It is all done in the best possible taste as Kenny would say until the affair becomes all consuming and they finally decide to go the whole hog and stay together in a flat belong to a friend of the Doctor. The friend returns unexpectedly, catches them in-flagranti, and asks for his key back. How damning is that, the shame of it, will they never live it down? They decide to give it all up and go back to their previous existence of hum drummery. How very British don’t you think.
The story is beautifully told with all manner of emotions and moral dilemmas explored. The lying, cheating, embarrassing moments, the joy of true love are all there, exposed in all their naked consequence. The photography, directed by David Lean, is perfectly suited to the story and the acting, costumes, settings and dialogue are all top notch. It will no surprise to many that the story is adapted from his stage play by Noel Coward who actually did talk like that.
I won’t spoil the end but if you don’t have a tear in your eye somewhere along the way get your pulse checked.
Live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse
Bitter sweet feelings creep over me as I watch Glastonbury. Old mixed with new and a fantastic show of the best way to enjoy music when you are young. Festivals are for youngsters, let’s face it. Those of us of a certain age would suffer excruciating agonies as we struggled through the crowds to get to the loos, or remember where we camped, or woke in the night in a disorientated state as we tried to find the bathroom. Yes, festivals are for youngsters. So it is with mixed emotions that I watch some great artistes who have had tremendous success doing their best to live up to the image of their own youth. Some have not moved on at all, overweight torsos squeezed into ill-fitting costumes and still dishing out songs of teenage angst and anger. Others have moved on and developed into fine upstanding persons from their scrawny punk trousered debuts. They have grown old gracefully and command the respect of those of us who appreciate genuine talent.
It’s sad to see your teenage idols in middle and later age as it reminds you that time moves on and nobody stays young forever. Even sadder is the fact that many of the younger people at Glastonbury may dismiss these ‘old blokes’ as sad has beens without bothering to check what they did in the past and so miss out on wonderful music and songs that, for some reason, you just seem to know the words to.
Then you get the Rolling Stones. With a combined age that would take you back to the Jacobite rebellion they just break all the rules. Ok, so they don’t jump about and smash up hotel rooms anymore but Sir Mick is 70 years old. How many 70 year olds do you know who can still run around and sing for two hours. If that’s what a misspent youth does for you I wish I’d been half as bad.
But for those of us who do remember these people at their best sometimes it seems it would be better that they didn’t keep going. Like every idol it perhaps should remain a teenage dream. Do you realise that President Kennedy would be 96. Elvis Presley would be 88. Buddy Holly would be 77. John Lennon would be 73. Every one of them bus pass eligible. Even Princess Diana would be 52. But they will never grow old. They remain handsome and glamourous because we remember them that way. And that’s the way you become an icon and a legend.
Classic Albums : Elvis Presley
Now before you start moaning on about “Elvis Presley! He just made soppy films, wore a big daft white suit and died on the lavvy’ let me put you straight. As John Lennon very ably put it, ‘Before Elvis there was nothing’. A truer statement about Britain in the 1950s from a teenage point of view would be harder to find. Britain was a bankrupt Country after the war. Although we ‘won’, the devastation to the fabric and infrastructure of the nation was catastrophic. The drive was on to export as much as we could to provide desperately needed foreign currency to pay back the Yanks for all the war material they had sold us before they joined in. So, no new things for us then. We still had rationing until 1954. This meant that everything you bought was strictly controlled so no nipping down to the shops for a new 3 -piece suite or snazzy coat. If you didn’t have a coupon you couldn’t buy it.
If one word could describe life in the early 50s it was drab. All the films were in black and white because even if they were shot in colour they would still come out grey. The clothes were grey, the skies were grey, people led grey lives. Teenagers hadn’t been invented yet. I know, crazy isn’t it. Young people were just that, younger versions of their parents. They wore the same clothes and did the same things. They watched the same TV, which closed down every night with a cheery announcement such as ‘Goodnight from the BBC and don’t forget to switch off your set’. This would be followed by a rapidly disappearing white dot and an ear piercing tone just to make sure you hadn’t fallen asleep.
Anyway Elvis changed all that. Suddenly young people had their own music and weren’t afraid to play it. Rock n Roll smashed the conventions and sparked outrage and revolution. Teenagers had their own hero and boy could he wobble and warble. Watching this programme emphasises how primitive everything was. From microphone control to everyone playing ‘live’ putting down the track and keeping on until they were happy with the take. No overdubs, no pitch changing, just sheer talent and an awful big dose of charisma.
Watch the programme and see how they did it. Watch history in the making and a outrage from the old guard without even a swear word.
Why do Elvis impersonators always do the old ‘white suit’ Elvis? Because no-one has the looks, charisma, star quality and raw sex appeal that young Elvis had. That’s why they called him the King.
Now go and buy some real rock n roll
Vintage Screen Idols : Marilyn Monroe
I have just finished reading the book ‘My week with Marilyn’ by Colin Clark which has been recently filmed by Simon Curtis. Based on the contemporary diaries of Colin Clark who was 3rd Assistant Director on the film ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ it gives a fascinating look behind the mask of the most famous female of the 20th Century cinema.
Now that is a sweeping statement as a lot of people alive today will probably of heard of Marilyn but would contest that she is the most famous face of her time. Well let me convince you. Who is the most famous woman film star of today? Julia Roberts? Gwyneth Paltrow? Nicole Kidman? Angelina Jolie? Granted these are all fabulously famous and still producing terrific films. How about the ones who went before, Marilyn’s predecessors and contemporaries? Betty Grable, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, the list is endless. How do you tell who is the most enduring, the most luminescent, the most famous?
I’ll tell you how. Put a picture in front of a variety of people and ask them who it is, that’s how. I guarantee that the majority of people of any age would be able to identify Marilyn. That’s how you know. A woman who rose form nothing to become the icon of a generation and the very symbol of what it is to be a ‘Movie Star’. Marilyn probably wasn’t the best actress, she probably wasn’t the cleverest, probably not even the most beautiful however you can judge that. But Marilyn was a star. Like a supernova bursting out across the sky she captured the essence of stardom and blazed through the whole stratosphere leaving a trail of glitter, broken hearts and dreams.
Even as today people strive to be ‘famous’ for the sake of being famous by littering the media with their squalid lives and petty tantrums they cannot come near to achieving the status of a genuine star because there is nothing to back it up. Nothing of consequence, no body of work to document it, no actual proof of any talent, no everlasting place in the firmament of superstardom that they crave so much. They don’t seem to realise that it’s more than just an image, a persona, some people actually have something which reaches inside your very being and touches the tiny part of you that responds uncontrollably so you are drawn to them without knowing why. That’s stardom.
Marilyn seems to have had something which drew people in. Some wanted to sleep with her, some wanted to exploit her, others just wanted to be around but a lot of people just wanted to protect this fragile creature. Like a tiny child Marilyn seemed to crave protection and friendship. Like a doting parent many were drawn to try and protect her. From the bad guys, from exploitation, from drugs but mostly, probably from herself. The star that was MM consumed Norma Jeane Baker as it would consume those around her. Drawing them in and beguiling them before leaving them scarred and battered in her wake.
The book gives a fascinating insight into the making of the film the Prince and the Showgirl and Colin Clark’s very intimate, though non sexual, relationship with MM and Norma Jeane. If you don’t read books watch the film. Then you will realise why she is the most famous woman of the 20th century.
You may just fall in love with her as well. I did.
Vintage Screen Classics
Prepare to be amazed. In the time before mega screen TVs and HD Blu ray, before computer graphics and pretend stunts. Before even Twitter and Facebook and instant fame for the sake of fame just by doing something stupid, there was a time when people lived little grey lives. The World was a scary place. Millions were displaced and many would never see their homes or relatives again. Life was cheap and saying the wrong thing or backing the losing side often meant it was your last mistake.
People fled tyranny and sought a new life in the still neutral USA. The land of promise and the hope of a new start. Everybody wanted to be in America.
Well no actually. Our hero was a guy who had left all the milk and honey and found Paris. Fleeing the German advance he ended up in the melting pot that was the last staging post on the road to America and a new life. Here life was even cheaper. Here people killed, stole, cheated, lied and did whatever they could to get that elusive passage to the New World and freedom. You could either get lucky or get dead, even money.
Well that sounds promising for a love story. Make no mistake this is the greatest love story ever written. Forget Romeo and Juliet, Pah. Never mind Ryan O’Neal blubbing at the bedside, Yuk. You can even give It’s a Wonderful Life a back seat for this one. This film has everything. Dirty rotten Nazis, corrupt French officials, big fat sleazy club owners, a comedy double act of barman and waiter, murder, intrigue, double dealing and hard-nosed tough guying. This is the film that sets the standard.
Bogey, the coolest guy around since ever, portrays Rick, an American saloon keeper and all round tough guy. When his old flame, the stunningly beautiful Ingrid Bergman, rolls into town with her Nazi hating freedom fighter husband we see the other side of both of them. The beautiful dame becomes the determined would be killer and Rick crashes into despair as the memories of their affair come back to taunt him.
In case you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil the end but take it from me, even if the special effects are a little ‘limited’ by today’s standards, the story is gripping and the acting superb. They were still writing and re-writing the script as the film was being shot. So good was the chemistry that they couldn’t decide on the end until – well the end. This should be on your must see before the lights go out film. Book a night in, preferably with someone else, wife, lover, someone else’s wife or lover and switch off your phone. Turn the lights down, pour the drinks and marvel in cinema at its best.
If you decide to buy the DVD get the special edition with the trailers and the documentary on the making of the film.
Try not to laugh at the toy aeroplane (it was 1942 after all) just drink in the atmosphere.
Oh yes, useless fact about the film. Bogey never says ‘Play it again Sam’, that was the title of the Woody Allen spoof based around the film which is also highly recommended.
It’s a Record Breaker!
So Saturday is Record Store day. A day when independent record stores come together to celebrate their unique culture. Well that’s what it says on the website. A day when we all rush into the stores and seek out the goodies stacked on the shelves – then go home and order it on the internet. Even special vinyl records are being pressed just for the day.
As a ‘vintage’ record buyer myself I can remember when they were called record shops. Store is an Americanism that has drifted into common usage in Great Britain like ‘movie’. Vintage filmgoers never went to the movies or shopped in a store. Anyway, record shops, that’s the subject and so what constitutes a vintage record shop? Very early records were made of shellac, or pressed beetle innards, and not the ones with the mop haircuts and the funny accents. This material was highly likely to disintegrate if not handled carefully as it was a brittle as a brandy snap and very often ended up looking like one. They were usually 10″ diameter (I’m not even going near the Eurobabble measurement, if you are that keen on metric work it out) leading to the happy go lucky song by Bull Moose Jackson, ‘Big 10 inch’.
As an aside a couple more dodgy song titles appearing around the same period were ‘baby please warm my wiener’ by Bo Carter (blues guitar legend), or ‘What’s that smells like fish?’ by Blind Boy Fuller or even ‘Banana in your fruitbasket’ also by Bo Carter who seems to have made a specialty of these double entendres.
Yes, record shops, the best ones were usually tucked away in a back alley (whoops sorry) or a shopping arcade in the less frequented part of town. In the early sixties records would be played in a booth and you could all crowd in and wiggle a long to Cliff and the Shadows but as time moved on so did the technology and headphones replaced the booth so you could now lean against the wall or share a set with your chum and jiggle along to Hendrix or some other drug fuelled infusion of sound.
In the Seventies we became all liberal and record shops just blasted T Rex and David Bowie over the loudspeaker so that buying anything in the shop required intimate knowledge of semaphore or a very dextrous digit to indicate the object of your desire. The Eighties and Nineties became the decades of the Superstore, notice the nomenclature, we had lost the work shop and become a store. Chains opened shops faster than bankers selling PPI and every town had its HMV or Our Price never mind Woolworths (younger readers ask your Mum and Dad about them), all of whom competed with the truly independent shops. Chart music and anything remotely popular was carved up so that you could by it cheaper at the ‘store’ than the record shop could by it from the wholesaler.
So independents had to go underground and specialise with merchandise that you couldn’t get on the high street. Much like in the Sixties with the blues boom and the influx of American black blues artists, record shops stocked what their customers couldn’t get in the mainstream. They also pioneered second hand sales and specialised in old vinyl albums that were starting to be deleted and replaced by CD.
Of course, the internet came along and buggered it up for everyone. Now you could buy and sell CDs to a limitless market. No more forays into the dusty racks of a back street record shop to search out that elusive album. Now it was at your grubby fingertips and just a click away. The price of second hand CDs started to tumble as people ripped them to iTunes and then sold them on. Don’t even mention illegal downloads, I said don’t even mention them.
So we should all celebrate Record ‘Store’ Day as a triumph over many adversities. The fact that anyone wants to trek out from the comfort of their home and fight to park only to be charged for the privilege, before running the gauntlet of beggars, sad eyed dogs and their deposits must be a cause to admire.
What next? How about ‘VHS Video Shop’ day now that would be a Blockbuster………
Vintage ‘Chaps’ No. 2 – Terry Thomas
I say, see here, this the thing. It’s a jolly fine thing you popped in don’t you know. This TT chappie is the the do dos. Not a chap in the regular sense of the word, he was THE chap. Born Thomas Terry Hoar Stephens he decided that only way to improve his lot in life was to be posh. Posh people had people to do things for them and he didn’t want to work as a clerk for the rest of his life. Starting by dropping the Hoar Stephens, doing an about face on the TT and slipping in a hyphen he came up with Terry-Thomas. He took to dressing up and developing his upper crust accent, and you have to admit he was jolly good at it. Think of Cad, Bounder, Scoundrel or Rotter and he fits the bill pretty well. The famous trademark gap in the teeth, just right for lascivious grins at the camera or at a pretty face, the trademark cigarette holder and the catchphrase ‘you absolute shower’ (pronounced Sharr!) marked him out as different from your normal leading man. Consequently he usually played the role of the dodgy character inevitably ending up on the losing side and getting his come-uppance. Never mind, that never stops a chap.
TT played a succession of roles consisting of the same character in different situations probably the most caddish being in ’School for scoundrels’ the film of Stephen Potter’s Lifemanship books. Here he played the Top Rotter Raymond Delauney, a despoiler of young gals and a frightful cad. But more than this TT actually lived out his on screen persona. He had developed it to the point of perfection and lived up to it at every opportunity.
TT was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and in the last years of his life was dependent on charity to survive. His medical care dissolved his capital and he was living in poverty when a charity benefit was organised by the actor Jack Douglas and other friends. He died in a Surrey nursing home in 1990. Without a doubt the Chap’s Chap.
By the way perhaps TT is still with us in a strange sort of way. Perhpas not the TT we all know and definitely not the Cad, Bounder, Rotter and Scoundrel he portrayed but has anyone else noticed the uncanny resemblance which that other splendid chap, Tim Wonnacott of BBC Bargain Hunt fame, bears to our very own TT.
Dashed spooky that don’t you think
Vintage ‘Chaps’ – No.1 Donald Campbell
First in a series of vintage ‘chaps’ to come under scrutiny is a jolly fine fellow who set himself against all the odds and achieved fame and some notoriety as a speed king, loner and fine all-round chap.
Donald Campbell lived and eventually died chasing speed records. He epitomised the very British trait of a bloke in a shed bashing and hammering in the small hours before retiring to the drawing room or bar for a bout of heavy refreshment then starting again. He lived fast and hard, exactly like he died.
Born into a family dominated by the achievements of his father, Sir Malcolm Campbell, who had been record breaking for many years he was definitely a ‘Chap’, you could tell by his pipe. Donald was in the shadow of this great man until he took on his father’s role when the old man died.
Donald was an Englishman, but one of the rare breed who was proud to be British. He didn’t wear a badge saying ‘I am English’ but the way he conducted himself in public, the manner and style of his voice, the Union flag painted on his car and boat proudly proclaimed ‘I am as English as roast beef and a pint of bitter, now let’s have none of that Eurobabble nonsense and Johnny Foreigner stuff.’
If you want personal details read his biography as in the best traditions of ‘Chap’ stuff I’m not going into any tittle-tattle about the man. Just celebrate the fact that he was what perhaps we all should aspire to be – a British Englishman – doing what Chaps do and jolly well stiff-upper-lipping it.
There is a wizzo documentary on the old BBC thingyplayer here
Another ‘Vintage’ band is getting out and about, well half of it. The Who, pioneers of rock star excess and stage histrionics, destruction and general naughtiness, are firing up the (motobility) scooters and sallying forth. And good luck to them. Once again vintage is proving its worth as the tickets are rarer than the bands’ real teeth. There is something satisfying about real musicians playing in front of real audiences who have likely brought their children and even grandchildren to see them. Just like it used to be in the old days. truth is, the only way to make money for these bands is to sell concert tickets. CDs are slipping the way of cassette tape, vinyl and 78s (ask your granddad or Google it if you’re hip and groovy). The iconic Nipper the dog, star of old HMV Record labels, can probably now be found eyes closed with earphones rather than the big horn of the gramophone player.
Vintage is big again in television with the new series by Stephen Poliakoff, Dancing on the Edge, is the story of a black jazz band in 30s London. It promises to be a ripping yarn and the bonus is that the music is all original and written (rather well by Adrian Johnston) for the series. Now that is original.
Not to be outdone the film world has it’s latest offering ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’ starring Bill Murray as Roosevelt hob-nobbing with Bertie and Elizabeth Windsor. However factually and inaccurately American it may be the period settings and trappings are bound to please all vintage fans as they get another shot of the power of nostalgia.
It’s all jolly good stuff and evidence of the popularity of Vintage
No business like Snow business
What is it with snow? Being old enough to remember quite a few winters it seems that we aren’t able to cope with a few inches of snow. I don’t recall my school ever closing because of the snow, and I lived 3 miles from it along a farm track and across the moors. Maybe I’ve just forgotten, like you do with bad experiences where you only remember the good times on that holiday where the flight was delayed for 12 hours. Or the taxi didn’t turn up so there was a mad race across town to get to the airport. But of course, we didn’t have to get there hours in advance of the departure time so we could disrobe and be scanned whilst security staff watched us struggle with laptops, belts, cameras and anything that resembled a bottle of liquid.
Snow used to be fluffy white stuff that you could stack up and make a snowman out of. He’d last for days until the slow thaw made his carrot droop and his coat buttons pop. Laughing children would make a slide down the playground and everyone would take turns to run and launch themselves down it. Teachers would tip-toe daintily across footpaths with arms full of books whilst the whole school would be willing them to slip and send their arms skyward landing in a heap of homework.
On the way to and from school you would wrapped in your regulation coat, hat and scarf with the wooly gloves that Grandma knitted to keep out Jack Frost. You would scratch your name, your girlfriends name or your football team in the frosted windscreens or cars along the roadside. Sometimes someone might draw a willy or write a defamatory statement about someone’s sexual orientation (that’s a term we never heard) to be hastily scrubbed out by the object before anyone could see it.
Very rarely did the school bus not turn up as old Bill the driver owned it, so if he didn’t show he didn’t earn and would probably get a rocket from the Council. The bus would clank and grind its way across the moor squeezing between what seemed like 20 foot drifts but would actually just be piles of snow shoved to the side by the snowplough. Kids would be screaming and breathing on the windows to write some more naughty words. Couples would be snogging in the back and boys would be endlessly trying to flick up girls skirts to feigned indignation and rebuke.
Maybe we just didn’t hear about the problems of the rest of the Country. Now with 24 hour news, instant mobile uploads and everyone carrying a small hand-held computer that sometimes is even used to talk to people you can hardly escape the snow’s goings on. The slightest slip of the teachers is instantly uploaded for the enjoyment of everyone in the World.
Funny thing snow is. You think you have mastered it and suddenly it’s back with a vengeance twice as deep. You just get used to having it around and then it’s gone. Sometimes overnight, suddenly what was a clean white ordered World turns around and is gone. Better make the most of it then. Before it’s gone.
Before we’re gone.
Remember the good times
Today in 1976 the greatest mystery writer of the 20th Century died. Agatha Christie created some the the greatest characters and story lines of the genre and was not without mystery in her own life. The writer famously disappeared in 1926 after a spat with her husband and was missing for 10 days until she was found in Harrogate. She never let on why she disappeared or what she got up to, a true enigma.
Her greatest creation, Hercule Poirot, has become a household name for the current generation through the long running television series starring David Suchet. The producers take great pains to seek out the best sets and houses to stage the stories and the acting and costumes lifts it above the general TV fare. The attention to detail outstanding and the period details litter the screen giving the viewer a rare glimpse of the glamour of the 30s.
Of course the 30s was the decade of unrest, hunger, depression and eventually war so Poirot shows only one side of the coin. Many people were on the verge of starvation, extreme politics raged around them and no-one could predict the carnage and turmoil that total global war would wreak by the middle of the next decade.
So why do we only remember the good times. It must be a defence mechanism in the human character that blots out the bad times. Like the dreadful holiday where you were delayed at check in, the flight was cramped and you sat next to a fat bloke who took half your seat and smelled even worse. What about the day your bag was stolen with your phone, passport, money, credit cards and holiday insurance documents. But what about the beach, the views, the fantastic local nightlife and the holiday romance. Doesn’t seem so bad now does it?
That’s why nostalgia in all it’s guises makes us feel good. We remember the good times and blot out the bad. That’s got to be a winner hasn’t it? At the moment we are in the worst recession that a lot of the younger folks have ever known. A lot of have grown up with the culture of ’Can’t wait, won’t wait’ which has led them to believe it’s the norm to consume whatever we fancy and there will be no consequences. Anyway, when you are young who gives a monkey’s.
What would Agatha think of it?
Have yourself vintage little Christmas
If you can remember when, if you dropped a Christmas tree bauble it shattered into a billion barefoot piercing shards of glass, you can remember a proper vintage Christmas. It wasn’t safe to go anywhere in the same room and mother would rush of to the cupboard and get out the Bex-Bissel and drag it over the offending disaster area until she declared it all clear. Plugging in the tree lights would be accompanied by groans and tantrums as dad painstakingly checked each little bulb (which usually broke as he twisted it) until he found the broken one. ‘They were working when we put them away last year weren’t they dear?’ he’d query as his still smouldering pipe or dangling ciggy wafted precariously next to the highly flammable paper streamers. ‘Yes dear, I think so’ she would reply still spotting tiny chips glistening in the light of the open fire. Standing too close to which just to warm the cockles of your heart would end in tears as your Lady Penelope cotton nightdress or Sooty and Sweep pyjamas would be engulfed in sheets of third degree level flame. After a while the lights would be thrown to the side by a defeated dad who had discovered that the spare tree light bulbs were the wrong type and anyway we’d used the last one.
Mother would return with mince pies so hot that they scalded your tongue and made you run for the nearest cold quencher and dad would try hammering wedges into the bucket holding the rooted tree, lazily leaning against the wall as though waiting for the final blow to make it stand to attention. Holly and ivy tacked to every picture and little red berries rolling over the floor trying to find a hiding place only to be squashed between bare toes with accompanying squeals of anguish.
Mistletoe strategically placed over the front door to catch unsuspecting visitors and a tray laden with spirits and tumblers, little sticks and corkscrews. This was for the benefit of the neighbours as most of the gentlemen callers drank beer and the ladies gin and tonic. Non drinkers may have a dry sherry just to be sociable and a brandy snap or perhaps a date, which for some reason only seemed to appear at Christmas, a bit like Egg Nog, shepherds and angels and those dry, wafer thin biscuits for cheese that go even dryer before disintegrating into dust about March.
A seemingly endless troupe of relations and friends would turn up bringing more booze and sweet things to consume all talking at once, shouting across the room to serve drinks and ham or turkey sandwiches followed by lashings of sherry trifle and more mince pies.
These were the days before drinking and driving was a sin and people would happily stagger legless to the car, struggling manfully in the dark to find a keyhole before hauling themselves in to start the engine. Climbing out again with engine running to scrape the frost from the windscreen and then departing with a cheery shout, or a peep peep of the horn, peering through a two inch square gap in the misted up windscreen.
These were the days before Christmas was a marathon sponsored by furniture retailer or a fast food restaurant. When the weather forecast was given by strict schoolteacherish men with moustaches who stuck clouds of different colours onto a magnetic board and didn’t take all day about it.
The days when people would stand for the Queen’s anthem and gather around to listen to the broadcast, when it was unusual to see and hear what she said rather than knowing in October what she had been advised would be best not mentioned.
These were the days when you had yourself a merry little Christmas – vintage style – with a drink and a fag
Now that’s what I call X(Factor)Mas
Ding Dong merrily on Sky in shops the tills are ringing
The weirdest thing about the modern season of cheapthrill is the amount of junk you can buy from the comfort of your own pc, tablet, iPhone, iPad, Android or simple everyday ordinary TV. The day of the slothful shopper has arrived with a flourish of finger on mouse. Just click and go and Auntie Ethel gets a realistic plastic turd complete with Santa Hat and Uncle Harry gets an mp3 download of 100 Christmas Classics (Explicit lyrics). Just what they need.
Christmas loses its appeal for most people when they realise that the jolly fat Santa is in fact a rather over jolly Dad, who may or may not dress the part, stumbling in the dark over parcels and bikes trying not to wake the first born who took three hours to get into bed and will be up 20 seconds after the last gift is placed. The appeal further wanes when you start to have to pay for presents for other people instead of just receiving them. Then the commercial reality of it all hits you and you hear words like list, budget, savings and what shall we get….
It becomes almost unbearably tiresome once you have given up the freedom of the singular gad-about to become half a pair with another set of relations to drearily trudge around making suitable yuletide felicitations to and wishing you were home in front of the telly with your favourite tipple and a pile of cardiac arresting, salt laden, high fat party food.
The music is not much better. Every radio and shop has Christmas songs belting out driving the staff mental and causing the shoppers to shout through gritted teeth to make themselves heard. And talking of music everyone seems to be doing a Christmas album. We all know that the Christmas number one was rightfully Cliff’s until that bounder Simon Scowell took to brainwashing everyone with a nine month sojourn of weeding out hopeful pop stars before turning them into Karajokies. Look at the list of the lastest Xmas offerings
Dionne Warwick – My favourite time of year
Phil Spector – A christmas gift for you
Paul Carrack – Winter Wonderland
Catherine Jenkins – This is Christmas (with free Xmas Card)
Olivia Newton John and John Travolta – This Christmas
Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas baby
Twisted Sister – Twisted Xmas
Michael Bublé, Barry Manilow, Il Devo, Luther Vandros, the list is endless. In fact, anyone can do a Christmas album and unfortunately they do.
All these albums basically contain the same songs. You can have a Heavy Metal Xmas, an Operatic Xmas, a cosy snuggly Xmas any style you like. The weirdest of them all has to be Kuljit Bhamra – A Jolly Bolly Christmas (Bollywood and Bangra)
I bring you tidings of great joy for, Hark, the Herald Angels sing – now what style would you like?
The Bloke from Stoke – a bright young thing
Sitting through the Royal variety performance waiting for a vintage moment (not counting Brucey) suddenly it was there. Robbie Williams – The Bloke from Stoke – complete with a vintage ensemble of suit, tie waistcoat and watch chain. A very fine outfit it was too. It could be just because I’m a bloke too that I find him more attractive (in the blokey sense of course) when he is dressed up and looking super smooth than when he is half naked showing off his cartoon skin. In fact, to be honest, I find most blokes more attractive with their clothes on especially if it entails quality tailoring.
The same goes for the girls too. The ladies in the band recently treated themselves to a vintage photo shoot. Being the female of the species it was a major undertaking involving makeup and a lot of oohing and aahing and probably a few tantrums but the results were sensational. They got to dress up in various vintage style outfits and pout in front of the camera and then we retired to The Daffodil for a meal in the fantastic 30s style surroundings.
The Daffodil was built at the height of the style conscious decade when appearance was paramount. Many buildings were ‘made over’ (a bit like DIY SOS without the beards and boobs) in the new style of the Art Deco. Everything was available in the new style from the cheap and tacky to the most magnificent. Cars, buildings, radios, clothes, steam engines, you name it you could have the deco version. And so it was with movie stars and Cinemas as we used to call them. Odeon, Regent, Roxy, Essoldo are like so many things, now gone, although the buildings themselves can still be seen housing anything from bingo halls to warehouses. Their slightly sad facades often covered with day-glo posters and win win win banners or, even worse, boarded up and left blinded by neglect and left to die.
But all is not lost. One such Picture Palace has been restored to its original use by a dedicated team of volunteers and is now a fully functioning cinema once again The Regal in Evesham is taking us on a ride back in time with beautiful decor, smart attentive staff and the latest films and shows. I played there a couple of times in benefit evenings to raise the money towards the restoration costs and the place was almost falling down. There were holes in the roof and running water everywhere but in the taps. It is a credit to all those involved that it has turned out so well.
All hail the bright young things – and the bloke from Stoke
Cometh The Hour
Vintage is taking over telly. Just look how many series are based in the near past i.e. living memory (for readers of a non vintage disposition i.e. used to be used when writing with quill pens on bits of calf skin to denote an example). It has now been evicted from the dictionary and replaced by the ubiquitous ‘Like” as in, for example, ’these dudes can like – remember this shit’.
The latest show to cross my path is the excellent “The Hour’ on BBC1.
As a late comer to this (it’s the second series) I have no idea what it’s about but it has all the essentials of ‘vintage ‘ telly so I don’t care. The sets are dark and almost monochrome whilst the lipstick is redder than a monkey’s bum and infinitely more inviting. The costumes are pure pre- liberation with pencil skirts, twin sets and girls with glasses who still take them off to be photographed.
The attitudes and dirty-dog husbands are the same but strangely this is a series dominated (sic) by well dressed women just getting on with doing the job in spite of the men. This make a pleasant change from the modern trend of making women try to be men. Modern women have to be stronger, faster, smarter, harder, more unpleasant biggest ball-breaker bitches on the block.
Vintage women were all of these things and more just by being women. Now before you modern girls drop on me from a great height and tear me to shreds with accusations of male stereotyping I offer the following chocolate fireguard of defence. Most men don’t want stick thin ice maidens in combat trousers and body armour. There is an old saying ‘it’s better to lead than to push’ and most men can be led easily enough without having to push because you just have to push the right buttons.
This series seems to have slipped under lots of people’s radar and if so it’s a big shame. It ranks with the best of ‘vintage’ telly along with Inspector Gently, Heartbeat, All Creatures Great and Small, Life on Mars and other such nostalgic big hitters.
So, why is setting TV series in the past such a growth industry. Part of it is fashion, in that most people with half a brain cell like to dress up and swan about in the uber cool style of their choice. If your wardrobe contains mostly trackies and trainers topped with a backwards baseball cap then you probably don’t understand this. Part of it is genuine nostalgia as people can remember their youth or their Mums and Dad’s youth and have photos, cine films and other damning evidence of the like. But most of all it might be because the current climate of political correctness and social awareness does not allow dramas set in the present to have the same sense of style and glamour coupled with prejudice and sexual attitudes that were prevalent at that time.
The fact that it is based in the past allows people to smoke all the time, sleep around, pass racist and sexist comments and generally be naughty.
Now go to your room and don’t come down until you have watched it.
It’s only cRock ‘n’ Roll
Well they did it.
All this talk of vintage revival pales like a teacup full of bathwater thrown into the flood plains of Worcestershire. The World’s greatest rock band The Rolling Stones with a combined age of a Tyrannosaurus Rex showed all those young guns what makes vintage so good. 50 years is a long time and some poor souls don’t ever live that long never mind play in a rock band. The proof that the grey pound is a force to be reckoned with can be judged from the scale of demand for the tickets. No doubt there will be the accompanying DVD, mp3 album, CD, T shirts, key fobs, Mick the D*ck nodding doll and Keith Richards motability guitar scooter.
Scoff ye may but The Stones are all pensioners and fully functioning, vertical and bashing away like a steam train. How many people do you know over 60 that can work for 180 minutes and still be standing. If you don’t believe me you young guns just ask your Mum and Dad to go 2 hours plus without a lie down. Or better still do it yourself and see what it feels like.
Top songs for an ageing rock band
Hey, You – get off my shroud – It’s all over now – I can’t get no satisfaction (viagara edit) – Not fade away – Time is on my side
Well just may be it is
and All that Jazz
The upsurge in vintage music and fashion is slightly disconcerting for some of us as we can remember when some of it was new and brash and in yer face grandad. Those ‘pop stars’ who haven’t yet died or been arrested are digging about in the rubble of past civilisations such as ‘swing’, ‘jazz’, ‘blues’ and ‘vintage pop’.
Just look at recent releases by these one time hell raisers and naughty boys and girls.
Tom Jones – Praise and Blame, Robbie Williams – Swing when you’re winning, Rod Stewart – Great American Songbook, Joe Jackson – Jumpin’ Jive and Duke, Cyndi Lauper – Memphis Blues etc etc.
A few of these are genuine attempts to pay tribute to the original composer by interpreting the songs in a new style but most are just a re-hash. The exception being the one and only Jools Holland who has championed the music since he could reach the keys.
Some of these do strike me as being less of a tribute (hate that word) and more of a ‘can’t think of anything new so let’s have a look at what my dad used to listen to’. Not always so I agree, but it’s so much easier to rattle off a few old songs in the old style with modern recording techniques making it so much cheaper and quicker than hiring a dance band. Liken the process to comparing a hand built car such as a Morgan to a factory built offering from one of the big multi globanationals.
Then we have the ‘We’re authentic vintage through and through’ such as The Puppini Sisters.
Another genre biting at the heels of popular culture is ‘Electro Swing’. Mostly using original swing tracks from the 30s and 40s blended and mashed with lashings of electro drums and bass, the infectious rhythms and snappy tunes hit to the heart of swing jazz. Try Waldeck’s – Ballroom Stories for a taster.
But the real interest for me has been the rise of ‘vintage pop’ with proper songs back in fashion along with dressing up, speaking properly, being polite and singing lyrics you can understand. Artists such as Paloma Faith, Caro Emerald, Imelda May and yours truly The Indigo Kings.
The latest and most interesting for me is Brian Ferry’s ‘The Jazz Age’ which is a definite new twist on the idea as he has covered his own songs in a traditional 1920s jazz style.
What’s next then?