Archive for the ‘1970s’ Category

Stephen Hawking waged Penthouse against Private Eye in black hole bet

June 8, 2020
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A copy of the satirical bimonthly Private Eye in 1972

Who would have thought it? A wager that a celestial object was not a black hole was made by Stephen Hawking, the mathematician, cosmologist and author of A Brief History of Time, with the stakes being a year’s subscription to Penthouse against four years of Private Eye magazines.

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Penthouse in 1968

The story is described in chapter six of Hawking’s 1988 book, Brief History of Time. I came across it in Inside Einstein’s Mind, a recently-shown BBC documentary about Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Kip Thorne, a US cosmologist, was on the other side of the 1975 bet, which was based on whether X-1, a source of X-rays in the Cygnus constellation, was a black hole. It took 15 years for Hawking to accept he had lost the bet and fork out for the Penthouse subscription to Thorne.

The programme says that both Thorne and Hawking believed Cygnus X-1 was a black hole all along, but Hawking took on the wager because four years of the satirical twice-monthly Private Eye would have been a form of compensation had he been wrong.

In the documentary, Thorne mentions how the British version of Penthouse magazine was much more explicit, compared with the US editions. Bob Guccione, an American, had launched Penthouse in Britain in 1965, and in the US four years later. It traded on being more sexually explicit than other men’s magazines sold openly in newsagents and was the first of these to show female pubic hair, in its April 1970 issue.

In 2018, Hawking died and was buried between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin at Westminster Abbey in London. Hawking had been Lucasian professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post that dates back to 1663 and has been previously held both by Newton and Charles Babbage.

Magazine cover tricks: upside-down faces

January 15, 2020
Punch magazine front cover

Punch horror special from 1973: turn your screen upside-down!

Faces that can be turned upside-down to make another face have long been an illustrated  postcard gimmick, such as a Kaiser Bill card from World War I. They’re rarer on magazine covers, but here’s a Punch effort from 1973 for a horror special issue of the satirical weekly.

>>More cover design secrets

Brexit threatens Spare Rib archive

July 24, 2019
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The British Library has digitised all the issues of feminist monthly Spare Rib

Back in April, the British Library warned that the digital archive of the iconic 1970s feminist magazine Spare Rib might have to close down. Nothing has changed, because the problem is Brexit. If there’s no deal on Halloween, the site has to come down – and might never come back up again.

I’m sure Boris is working on it with his new cabinet as we speak, but as with everything to do with Brexit, on-one knows anything for sure. Two other possibilities are:

  • The Spare Rib Jisc resource would stay until the end of any transition period. But it is not clear whether or when it would be possible to make the resource available again after that.
  • In the case of the UK remaining in the EU or reaching some form of agreement with Brussels to align the copyright regimes, the archive will remain available.

The complete run of the feminist spearhead in print was digitised by the British Library and is hosted at Jisc Journal Archives.

For now, Spare Rib is freely available, but if you’re interested in it, I’d get in quick. The Jisc archive also has hundreds of academic journals, but you can only download articles if you’re at a college or university that has a subscription.

 

£149 for an Argos catalogue

February 14, 2018
Argos catalogue No 6 from autumn 1976 sold on eBay for £149

Argos catalogue No 6 from 1976 sold on eBay for £149

How did I miss this? An Argos catalogue from 1976. And it sold for a whacking £149 before Christmas.

As the eBay seller, Halcyontoys, noted:

From the mists of time comes this original and highly collectable Argos catalogue. Released for the autumn/winter 1976/77 season, it runs to 200 pages and is a fascinating ‘window’ into the lifestyles and technologies prevalent at the time.

From record decks to teas-maids and Evel Knievel toys – they’re all here in garish 1970s colour!

The catalogue has some age-related signs of wear, mainly handling/stress marks to the cover and some discolourisation to the back page. However, it remains in good condition and all 198 internal pages are present and correct with no annotations or creasing.

A very enjoyable, rare and historic publication.

Read and weep all ye who missed it.

The cameras spread from Argos catalogue No 6 from 1976 sold on eBay for £149

The cameras spread from Argos catalogue No 6

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 

 


 

 

On this day in magazines: Punch and Thatcher in 1977

February 24, 2017
How Trog portrayed Thatcher for Punch in 1977 (February 23)

How Trog portrayed Thatcher for Punch in 1977 (February 23)

‘Trog’ – Willy Fawkes – was a prolific cartoonist and did several Margaret Thatcher caricatures for Punch. This 1977 cover illustrated an article entitled, ‘What to do about the baby shortage’. The Conservative Party leader would not became prime minister for another two years. Here, she is portrayed as pregnant in the pose made famous by Alfred Leete in the ‘Your Country Needs You’ image of Lord Kitchener.

Thatcher had been a member of parliament since 1959 and became Edward Heath’s education secretary in 1970, a post she held for four years until the Tories lost power. She replaced Heath to become leader of the opposition and in 1979 won the first of her three premierships, losing the party leadership to John Major in 1990. Next are two more Thatcher depictions by Trog, all also before she became PM.

Trog turns to Dickens for inspiration in this Thatcher caricature from 1971 for Punch magazine cover

Trog turns to Dickens for inspiration in this Thatcher caricature from 20 July 1971 for Punch

In 1971, Trog had turned to Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist for inspiration, a serial first published in Bentley’s Miscellany magazine in 1837, with a George Cruikshank engraving of the above scene. The Punch cartoon has Thatcher in the role of Mr Bumble, the workhouse beadle, taking umbrage at Oliver asking for more gruel. She was education secretary at this time and cut spending. In 1974, and caused a furore and was nicknamed ‘Thatcher the milk snatcher‘ for ending the practice of primary schoolchildren being given a small bottle of milk each day.

Thatcher as a hippy! Trog for Punch in 1975

Thatcher finds the grass is greener as a hippy! Trog for Punch in 1975

The idea of Thatcher as a spliff-smoking, guitar-strumming hippy is the sort of thing that would have to come from a cartoonist like Trog. The Punch cover is from October 8, 1975, a year after she had replaced Edward Heath as  leader of the Conservative Party.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


This month in magazines: 1950s glamour magazines

February 18, 2017

Beautiful Britons brought girl-next-door glamour to readers (February 1956)

Beautiful Britons  (February 1956)

Spick glamour magazine cover from February 1956, issue 27

Spick magazine from February 1956

Last issue of Span in 1976 Toco number 266

Last issue of Span in 1976, issue  266

Town and Country Publishing (Toco) exploited the demand for men’s magazines in the mid-1950s by launching pocket-format titles that brought girl-next-door glamour to their readers.

Spick, Span and Beautiful Britons were three of the company’s titles. Spick was the first to come out, in December 1953, and was followed by Span the next September. Spick used professional models at first, but encouraged readers to send in photographs of wives and girlfriends. It soon introduced Beautiful Britons pages, which obviously inspired the third magazine of the trio.

However, they slowly lost sales in the second half of the Sixties in the face of competition from more aggressive launches, such as ParadeMayfair and Penthouse.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


This month in magazines: She’s sunny Februarys

February 15, 2017

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1977

Bikini days for She in February 1977

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1977

… and again in February 1978

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1979

…and in February 1979

In Britain, February is not a time of year normally associated with bikinis, so I was surprised to find these February covers for the monthly She from 1977-79. There was even a January 1975 cover of a bikini-clad model on a ski slope! Why are the models all in bikinis? To attract holiday advertising? No, after a bit of research, it emerged that women in bikinis were the most popular covers for She right through the Seventies. In 1978, no less than eight of the 10 covers I could track down were bikini shots. That’s a feel-good strategy: bringing a ray of sunshine into women’s lives every month!

Punch cartoonist Fougasse regarded magazine covers as repetitive

Punch cartoonist Fougasse regarded magazine covers as repetitive

But this is unusual, or perhaps typical. As long ago as 1920, Punch was jesting about the predictability of women’s magazine covers. Yet, editorially, She was not a typical magazine. For a start, two people shared the editor’s post in the 1970s: Pamela Carmichael and Michael Griffiths. It was more like a weekly in a monthly format, with a particular strength in witty picture captions (Tim Rostron, whom I worked with on weekly trade papers, got himself a job as a sub-editor at She on the strength of his captioning skills). Its cover motto in the late 1970s was ‘There’s nothing quite like She.’

The first issue was March 1955 with Joan Werner Laurie as editor. Its motto then was: ‘young, gay elegant’. She was fond of repeating its logo several times on the cover, either reduced in size as part of its motto (as in two of the February issues above) or full size (there were three down the left side of the launch issue cover design).

Three logos on the cover of the first issue of She in March 1955

Three logos on the cover of the first issue of She in March 1955

Laurie’s partner was Nancy Spain, who was a household name thanks to her appearances on radio and TV shows such as Woman’s HourWhat’s My Line and Juke Box Jury, and her weekly column in the Daily Express. They were a real go-getting pair – but came to a tragic end in a light aeroplane crash on the way to the 1964 Grand National at Aintree in Liverpool. Laurie was learning to fly at the time. The biography, A Trouser-Wearing Character – The Life and Times of Nancy Spain, was written by Rose Collis.

She magazine bit the dust in 2011 after more relaunches than you could shake a stick at from its owner, The National Magazine Company, then known as ‘NatMags’ and now Hearst UK (it is owned by the US-based Hearst Corp).


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


This month in magazines: Vogue’s 1977 green jelly

February 9, 2017
Vogue's February 1977 green jelly cover was by Terry Jones

Vogue’s February 1977 green jelly cover was by Terry Jones

I always get something out of interviews with Terry Jones because he always wants to spill the beans about something. The details make life at Vogue come alive behind the oh-so-made-up corporate face of Condé Nast, with stories of cover transparencies being lost in bins, rows with all the ‘suits’ who want to push in and change things, and his attempt to get a nipple onto his last cover as art director.

I wrote a piece last year for the sold-out last issue of Gym Class about cover design rules, and Jones epitomises the final rule – break them all!:

For every rule, there’s a cover that broke it yet was a tearaway success. Black for the cover didn’t work for Talk in the US – yet it was the signature colour for Willy Fleckhaus on Twen. He produced a classic, but who’s done it since? … One day the rules here will be built into InDesign and Photoshop. For now, and probably even then, it’s up to you to test the rules, make mistakes and learn what works for your magazine.

Jones – who was made an MBE in the 2017 honours list for services to fashion and popular culture – founded the punkish, dot-matrixy i-D magazine after he left Vogue, with later help from Tony Elliott to turn it into a  mainstream title.

Jones has identified his favourite Vogue covers in interviews with Ludovic Hunter-Tilney (FT, ‘Happy birthday i-D magazine’, 19 November 2010) and for i-D/Vice. Among his three favourites is the green jelly cover from February 1977 shot by Willie Christie:

The image was originally for an inside editorial that Grace [Coddington, fashion editor, who was previously a model] and I convinced Beatrix [Miller, then editor] to run with. We got approval from Bernie Lazer, the managing director at British Vogue, who had to defend the decision when Daniel Salem, the European company director, demanded to have it stopped on press.

Vogue itself described the issue so:

The cover is entitled ‘first taste of spring’ and features ‘Rowntree’s jelly… full of gelatine, a valuable source of protein and good for strengthening nails.’ Green is the colour of the fashion moment inside, modelled by Jerry Hall, while Maria Schiaparelli Berenson’s wedding to James H Randal is featured, wth Anjelica Huston, Jack Nicholson, Liza Minelli, Halston and Andy Warhol all there to see it. ‘If there was ever such a thing as a groovy wedding, that was it,’ said Nicholson.

So un-Vogue: the full-length January 1974 cover shot by David Bailey for Terry Jones

So un-Vogue: January 1974 cover shot by David Bailey for Terry Jones

Jones was given space to experiment on covers, but he was also aware that ‘there were rules you were meant to abide by’.

Another cover he’s amazed that he and Coddington managed to ‘smuggle’ through was a full-length portrait by David Bailey of Anjelica Huston and Manolo Blahnik drinking champagne on a beach at sunset (Jan 1974).

As he says, ‘It was so un-Vogue. I don’t think Vogue have done a full-length since.’ Sometimes, it’s by breaking the rules that you set them.

 

So grainy: Vogue 1974 cover of Bianca Jagger blown up from a 35mm transparency

So grainy: Vogue 1974 cover of Bianca Jagger blown up from 35mm

The third cover he rejoices in is ‘the accidental cover’ of Bianca Jagger photographed by Eric Boman (March 1974). Boman took a 35mm shot of Jagger at the Paris Opera that Jones liked, but the model was very small in the photo.

So Jones had a 10×8 transparency made up that was cropped to the head and then blown up to the cover area. This blow-up made the image very grainy, a feature that Jones wanted but that would have been regarded as unusable by the normal production standards at Condé Nast.

‘The print production manager still complained,’ said Jones, ‘but it remains one of my favourite covers alongside the the green jelly cover from February 1977.’

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 

 


Smash Hits first issue is an eBay hit

June 6, 2016
Debbie Harry and Blondie on the first issue cover of Smash Hits from November 1978

Debbie Harry and Blondie on the first issue cover of Smash Hits from November 1978

Blondie was ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ all the way to the top 5 of the charts back in 1978 and that success was helped by Debbie Harry and the band being  on the front cover of the first issue of Emap’s Smash Hits in November that year. The back cover was a poster of Abba and the centre spread was of Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats.

When the magazine closed its doors 10 years ago, copies went up on eBay and one fetched £30. Now, a copy of Smash Hits has beaten that figure, going for £31.80 plus £1.50 postage after 14 bids from four people.

That makes four copies of the nigh-on 40-year-old issue that have sold in the past month, the other three selling for £5.99, £11.61 and £31. The cover had come apart on the cheapest of the three, but the other two looked to be in similar condition – the £20 difference showing how much of an eBay selling figure is down to luck.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

Naked Katy and her Dalek tempt Dr Who fans

May 28, 2016
Girl Illustrated front cover with Dr Who girl Katy Manning naked with a Dalek

Girl Illustrated cover with nude Dr Who girl Katy Manning cuddling a Dalek for a photo shoot

A whopping £275 is the asking price on eBay for a copy of a 1977 issue of Australian magazine Girl Illustrated with Dr Who girl Katy Manning naked on the cover with a Dalek – ‘Exclusive TV’s Katy strips’.

That’s quite a jump from the £120 a copy of the same issue of Girl Illustrated fetched in 2008.

Funnily enough, the boots Katy Manning’s wearing – she was Jo Grant, Doctor Who’s companion, in the 1970s – were a present from Derek Nimmo! The photo shoot created a stink at the BBC but the broadcaster did later use the same idea and issued publicity photos of Kylie Minogue in a cheeky pose with a Dalek (though not nude).

But will a copy of Girl Illustrated sell at that price? With 10 watchers, who knows?

Finally, a question for Dr Who experts – is the Dalek in the photo shoot naked? Or is the Dalek the name of the alien encased in the robot shell?

Men’s magazines at Magforum


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design