Kitchener, Ernest Noble and the Nignog Club

April 25, 2016
First issue of Kitchener's Army & the Territorial Forces from 1915 written by Edgar Wallace

First issue of Kitchener’s Army & the Territorial Forces from 1915 written by Edgar Wallace

Pick up a magazine and you never know where you’ll end up next. A copy of the first issue of the 6-part Kitchener’s Army & the Territorial Forces arrives in the post. This was a part work published by George Newnes, probably starting in January 1915, though it does not carry a date.  It was written by Fleet Street legend Edgar Wallace.

Magazine's back page advert for Fry's Cocoa by Ernest Noble

Magazine’s back page advert for Fry’s Cocoa drawn by Ernest Noble, which carried the acknowledgement ‘by kind permission of the Northern Echo’

On the back cover is an advert for Fry’s Cocoa drawn by Ernest Noble, which carried the acknowledgement ‘by kind permission of the Northern Echo‘. A search on Noble and the Echo took me to a website about the comedians Morecambe and Wise – and a page dedicated to Ernie Wise and the Nignog Club! As it says:

It is a well recorded fact that Ernie Wise was part of a variety concert party in his youth. Its name has gone into Morecambe and Wise folk law, and is often spoken in hushed tones. It was known as the Nig Nog club, and in these days of political correctness and over-eager internet filters, it’s not a phrase you type into Google with carefree abandon.

The site explains on a page based on material from reporter Chris Lloyd that the club originated in County Durham and was launched by the Darlington-based Northern Echo in 1929 as the Nig-Nog Ring, a children’s club. The ‘Chief Ringers’ were Uncle Mac, BBC broadcaster Derek McCulloch who hosted Children’s Hour, and Uncle Ernest, the Noble of my query who it turns out was from Darlington.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Beale Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang suggesting that the word was found in army contexts in the sense ‘fool’ from the late 19th century (a ‘nigmenog’) and as a ‘raw recruit’ from c1925. It also notes a possible connection with the Nig-Nog children’s clubs run by local newspapers, ‘following the model of the children’s page of a Birmingham newspaper’, the Evening Dispatch of 1 November 1929:

My Dear Children, I am sure you must be getting awfully excited … about becoming members of the Children’s Ring … The girls will be called ‘Nigs’ and the boys will be called ‘Nogs’ — and if any of you are twins there will be a special name for you. You will be called ‘Nig-Nogs’!

But this policy was changed a few days later:

After Uncle Ernest and I … talked yesterday … we made up our minds that you should all be called Nignogs, so that there will not be any distinction at all between girls and boys.

I leave the Northern Echo and the Evening Dispatch to argue over who came up with the idea. However, ‘uncles’ running children’s cartoons were a traditional form in newspapers – the Daily Mirror‘s ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ were incredibly popular from their founding in the early 1920s, for example.

The Northern Echo is a legendary paper, the place where Sunday Times and Times editor Harry Evans made his name, and before him Ted Pickering, a 1950s editor of the Daily Express, and WT Stead, who as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette was one of the great Victorian crusading journalists and who died on the Titanic. Unfortunately, the Evening Dispatch is no more.

The Lord Kitchener poster

Britain’s national newspapers

A scary number of magazine covers

April 14, 2016
Cosmo Stylist Blast Trace Men's Vogue - just a few of the magazine covers

Cosmopolitan, Stylist, Blast, Trace, Men’s Vogue – just a few of the 29,000 magazine images sitting on my hard drive 

Doing a backup of my picture files has just informed me my machine is copying over 29,754 images! And they are all magazine covers and spreads. That’s really scary. 10MB of memory for that lot.

A fresh look at Darby and Joan

April 8, 2016
Kate Greenaway painting called 'Darby and Joan' on Illustrated London News in 1878

Kate Greenaway painting called ‘Darby and Joan’ on cover of an 1878 Illustrated London News – or is this a pair of radical printers?

This is one of the magazine covers I’ve used in my History of British Magazine Design. It’s an engraving from a Kate Greenaway painting called ‘Darby and Joan’ on Illustrated London News in 1878. ‘Darby and Joan’ is generally taken to refer to an established elderly couple, and that’s the sense seemingly portrayed here in an ironic way. So it’s a surprise to find that the first Darby and Joan were husband-and-wife radical printers in the mid-1600s!

It appears Mr and Mrs Darby were in and out of prison for printing anti-government propaganda and protesting against the return of the monarchy. According to Prof Ted Vallance of Roehampton university, their pamphlets were like a ‘greatest hits’ of radical martyrs in the late 17the century.

There were several husband-and-wife teams of printers and the wife could carry on the work while the husband was imprisoned. So the Darbys were a ‘celebrated power couple’ whose names became a common phrase that was later separated from their activities.

Anyone printing such material risked imprisonment until 1695. A lot of radical material was printed in Holland and imported as a way of avoiding censorship.

The Darby & Joan item is part of a Making History episode on BBC Radio 4 and is available online.

In the programme, Tom Charlton presents the evidence on the radical pamphleteers and visits the first Darby and Joan club, which was opened in 1942 in South London.

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Alfred Leete’s advertising characters

March 29, 2016
Alfred Leete's Father William character in London Opinion advertising (1927) for Younger's Scotch Ale

Alfred Leete’s Father William character in London Opinion advertising (1927) for Younger’s Scotch Ale

Alfred Leete was a regular on London Opinion magazine and drew the most famous image of the 20th century – the Lord Kitchener ‘Your Country Needs You’ cover that became the famous poster. No doubt that image will soon be all over the media again as the centenary of Kitchener’s death approaches in June (and I’ve written a book on the Kitchener poster coming out next month from Uniform Press).

Leete was an artist on the George Newnes title from at least 1910. He also did a lot of advertising work and, aside from Kitchener, this led to probably his most famous character – Father William – for William Younger’s Scotch Ale.

Younger’s illustrated adverts in the early 1920s focused on characters who might drink the ale, as several examples from the Shut Up About Barclay Perkins blog show:

William Younger advertising for its Scotch Ale in 1923 from the Nottingham Evening Post

William Younger advertising for its Scotch Ale in 1923

Newspaper cuttings from the Nottingham Evening Post on the same blog suggest Leete’s Father William being used in 1924:

Nottingham Evening Post cutting shows Alfred Leete's Father William character for William Younger Scotch Ale in December 1924

This Nottingham Evening Post cutting shows Leete’s Father William character in December 1924

In 1927, this Lever advert appeared on the back page of All Sports magazine.

Alfred Leete 1927 Lever advert on the back page of All Sports magazine

Alfred Leete 1927 Lever advert on the back page of All Sports magazine

So, Leete was clearly an expert in creating character in print.

Alfred Leete's 1924 Father William character is still used for William Younger's Best beer from Charles Wells today

Alfred Leete’s Father William used today

In the 1930s, Younger’s merged with McEwan’s as Scottish Brewers, which ended up as Scottish & Newcastle in the 1960s. That fell into the hands of  Heineken and the brand is today part of Bedford-based Wells & Young’s.

Incredibly, Leete’s Father William character has retained its appeal since 1924 and graces the pumps for William Younger’s Best to this day.

>> Kitchener, the man and the poster, from Uniform Press in June

 

Burtynsky’s photographs deserve a closer look

March 21, 2016
Edward Burtynsky's photographs

At first glance, it’s a line of alien robots, but Edward Burtynsky’s photographs merit a much closer look – this is actually looking down an open cast mine in India

It’s nine years since I mentioned the Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, whose astounding images focus on massive landscapes and objects. The post was prompted by seeing one of his photographs on the front cover of Canadian magazine Walrus. Now, art collecting website Artsy has set up a page devoted to Burtynsky, with 75 of his images.

Walrus put a Burtynsky landscape on its 10th anniversary cover in 2013:

Walrus, October 2013: water by Edward Burtynsky

Walrus, October 2013: water by Edward Burtynsky

Here is the Walrus cover that first attracted my attention:

July 2007 cover of Canadian magazine Walrus with Edward Burtynsky

July 2007 cover of Walrus magazine with Edward Burtynsky warning of development destroying Canada’s wilderness

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An evening with Andy Strange and the Seafoxes (and George Martin)

March 9, 2016

Beatles producer George Martin on his Desert Island Discs page from 1982 Beatles producer George Martin on his Desert Island Discs page from 1982

I was with record producer Andy Strange yesterday evening to listen to some tracks he is laying down for the up-and-coming Seafoxes. Andy learnt the ropes from working with George Martin for 15 years at AIR Studios. We talked a bit about Martin over a few cans of Polish lager, so it was eerie to be woken up by a clock radio this morning telling me that the legendary Beatles producer had died.

Andy had just listened to a George Martin tribute on the Robert Elms show and commented this afternoon:

Working with George was always a special experience. He was a true recording legend who everyone had the utmost respect for. He created a friendly family environment at AIR Studios that clients and staff all enjoyed. A real gentleman who always had a good laugh making records. His role was to help the artists realise their musical dreams and, more often than not, make their music far better than they could have ever dreamt of. He did not make records that sounded like George Martin records, he simply made many great records with many great artists. His musical sensibilities and influence on popular music will be with us forever.

Martin was brilliant on TV and radio – today he would become a David Attenborough of music. I remember him on Desert Island Discs and a documentary where he talked about the importance of the silence between notes in music. I checked out his Desert Island record choices from 1996 and it’s a eclectic mix, including Ravel, the Liverpool mopheads (of course, with ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’), Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Beyond The Fringe, a Mozart Oboe Quartet, Britten and Gershwin (‘Bess, you is my woman now’, his overall favourite). His luxury was an electric piano.

But I also saw he’d also been on Desert Island Discs in 1982. The record choices then included Debussy, Flanders and Swann, a Cimarosa concerto for oboe and strings, two Beatles tracks (‘Here, There and Everywhere’ and ‘In My Life’), Peter Sellers, Bach (St Matthew Passion, his overall favourite) and Britten. His luxury was a clavichord.

Although no track appears in both lists, there are strong themes (besides the Beatles): French romantic composers (Ravel and Debussy); humour (Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Beyond The Fringe, Flanders and Swann); oboe pieces; LSO recordings; keyboards. In both cases his book choice was very practical: how to build a boat and a manual on practical engineering (I always thought such useful choices weren’t allowed – wasn’t someone refused a cat as a luxury because they might eat it!)

Among a list of credits that’s as long as your arm, taking in Elton John, Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Celine Dion and building a recording studio for Robbie Williams, Andy was one of the engineers on In My Life – a CD Martin did to mark his retirement. It’s mainly cover versions of Beatles songs that he produced originally – Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin on ‘Come Together’, Goldie Hawn signing ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, Jeff Beck playing on ‘A Day in the Life’ and Sean Connery’s singing ‘In My Life’.

Andy was telling me last night how revolutionary it was when Martin left EMI in the late 1960s to set up AIR (Associated Independent Recording), unleashing a movement towards independence in music that is still happening today. The first studio was in London’s Oxford Street, high up in a building that was the headquarters for the Burton tailoring chain. Andy has a couple of framed letters from the 1970s, both from the building manager complaining about the noise and nuisance from the studios. One is about the Sex Pistols (the building manager had obviously just seen their TV interview with Bill Grundy!) and the other about projectiles coming from the rooftop studios – tomatoes! I wonder what Martin replied?

Madonna – a scarce face on Cosmopolitan covers

March 7, 2016
Madonna on the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US for May 1990

Madonna on the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US for May 1990

Madonna has appeared quite a few times on Vogue covers, but just twice on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. In May 1990 she fronted the magazine and the designers made an unusual use of the title to promote its 25th anniversary:

That COSMOPOLITAN girl is twenty-five … and the future is hers

The pop singer was well established as a cover choice by this time, with the first Madonna magazine cover dating back to 1994. But Cosmopolitan seems to have keen to make up for a quarter century without Madonna with its May 2015 issue – when both Madonna and Cosmopolitan celebrated their 50th birthdays (though neither seems to have wanted to be associated with that age!). The publishers, Hearst, ran the cover below and three other Madonna covers. The thing all three covers had in common, as well as Madonna, was ‘Sex! Sex! Sex!’, Cosmo‘s favourite cover line.

Madonna rides again on the cover of Cosmopolitan with its May 2015 issue

Madonna rides again on the cover of Cosmopolitan with a mask and pearls  for the May 2015 issue

But celebrity covers have been rare for most of Cosmo‘s history. Originally, the cover girl was chosen as a ‘Cosmopolitan girl’ who espoused the philosophy of the magazine.

Of course, it wasn’t a silver anniversary for the British edition of the magazine (that only appeared in 1972), so Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel and now Suffolk resident, was the choice for May. Note the cover plug for the Zest insert, Cosmo‘s health and beauty spin-off, which was launched as a standalone magazine in the autumn of 1994.

Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel, on the cover of the UK edition of Cosmopolitan for May 1990

Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel, on the front cover of the UK edition of Cosmopolitan magazine for May 1990

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>Cosmopolitan magazine profile

 

David Puttnam and Boxer’s London Life

March 3, 2016
The weekly London LIfe in October 1965 under Mark Boxer

The weekly London Life in October 1965 under Mark Boxer

Perusing the biography David Puttnam: The Story So Far by Andrew Yule, I came across a section about his work on the weekly listings magazine London Life, which was developed to replace Tatler, in the 1960s.

The book describes how Puttnam, who as a film-maker would go on to have hits with Midnight Express and The Killing Fields, was temporarily loaned out to the Thompson Organisation by his employers, the advertising agency Collett Dickenson Pearce (CDP), as managing editor on the magazine.

It should have been a dream team – David Hillman on design, Duffy, Donovan and Bailey as photographic advisers, and Jean Shrimpton as a guest fashion editor, all under editor Mark Boxer, who had launched the Sunday Times Colour Supplement in 1962. Unfortunately, the assignment turned into a ‘nightmare’ as the launch of London Life ‘ran aground’ because of corporate politics.

The situation turned farcical as the weekly editorial budget of £1200 was cut three weeks before the magazine started functioning to £750. [Puttnam] became convinced that the whole assignment was a political set-up to ‘get’ Mark Boxer, then a great friend and confidant of Denis Hamilton, editor of the Sunday Times and managing director of the Thompson Group, to whom Boxer was seen by many as a threatening heir-apparent. [Puttnam] at one point was even asked to go in and give evidence that Boxer, of whom he was very fond, ‘was showing signs of clinical paranoia’. It was back to CDP, sadder and wiser…

London Life – ‘a comprehensive guide to the entertainment scene: films, theatre, restaurants, night life, music, sport’ – did come out but was hellishly expensive to run and by autumn 1966 Boxer had been replaced by Ian Howard with Tony Page as art editor. After several redesigns it folded in 1967. Boxer would go on to become editorial director at Condé Nast – and for a rejuvenated Tatler as a monthly.

London Life was printed by Sun Printers, Watford, with the covers produced by East Midland Litho in Peterborough. It was published every Thursday from Elm House, 10-16 Elm St, London WC1.

London Life profile at Magforum

Newspapers in the digital Khyber pass

February 23, 2016

Back in 2009, I wrote ‘Newspapers in a digital Khyber Pass‘ that set out the challenge for Fleet’ Street’s newspapers in moving to digital. Two weeks ago, I wrote about newspapers closing down. I get back from Cuba to find that the Lebedevs have sold off the cheapsheet daily i to Johnston Press and are about to close the print Independent, make most of the staff redundant and go online only.  So, the paper that led the magazinisation of the press is the first to cut its print base and take the jump into the digital maelstrom.

Russian KGB-man turned banker, Alexander Lebedev, and his son, Evgeny, bought up Britain’s youngest national along with London’s Evening Standard. They’ve turned the latter into a celeb-focused cheerysheet.

But what’s this? Trinity Mirror, the regional group that also owns the Daily Mirror, is about to launch a weekday newspaper called New Day. So, next week Britain’s biggest regional newspaper group will by taking on rival regional group Johnston Press and the 40p i with its 50p New Day. What is it that regional groups think they know? Is it just about cutting costs?

>>UK national papers

>>Regional newspaper groups

The Hitler Diaries – the farce of the century

February 6, 2016
The Observer Magazine cover shows Alexei Sayle as the Hitler diaries forger in the 1991 TV series Selling Hitler

The Observer Magazine cover shows Alexei Sayle as the Hitler diaries forger in the 1991 TV series Selling Hitler

I mentioned the farce of the Hitler diaries the other day, and how in 1983 the German news magazine Stern, Newsweek in the US and the Sunday Times were duped into paying a fortune for the rights to publish what was supposed to be the find of the century – Adolf Hitler’s personal diaries. The Observer, a rival Sunday paper, must have great fun running this cover on its supplement about the 1991 TV series – Selling Hitler – made about the fiasco.

The cover shows Alexei Sayle as Hitler fanatic Konrad Kujau, the forger who called himself Peter Fischer; Alan Bennett as Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre), who authenticated the diaries for the Sunday Times, and Barry Humphries (best known as Dame Edna Everadge) as Rupert Murdoch. The choice of such comic-leaning actors shows how the programme took a mocking line.

The series was based on Robert Harris’s book Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries. This is a brilliant exposé of how Kujau touted the diaries to veteran Stern reporter Gert Heideman (played by Jonathan Pryce), who believes he has stumbled on the literary find of the century. The managers at Stern try to pull off a scoop – paying $5 million in secret over months for the 60 volumes of diaries, which Kujau can hardly make up fast enough. However, they ignore tell-tale pointers that the diaries are crude forgeries because they are blinded by greed.

The scandal has become a Fleet Street legend and made the Sunday Times and Times the butt of many a joke in the 1980s and since. It is often referred to – as in the example below. During the bitter battle between Robert Maxwell and Private Eye magazine in 1986, the thieving newspaper owner bought out a spoof satirical magazine showing Hitler with Eye editor Richard Ingrams as Göring.  Note the strapline: ‘Definitely authentic’ – Lord Dacre.

Maxwell's Not Private Eye: note the strap 'Definitely authentic' - Lord Dacre'

Maxwell’s Not Private Eye. Note the strap: ‘Definitely authentic – Lord Dacre’

See more on: UK newspapers

Not Private Eye


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