Archive for the ‘Liverpool’ Category

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

 

 


The strange ways of Fleet Street: Jack the Ripper expert paid in unused £1 notes

October 12, 2016
Weekend magazine cover in 1959 (jan21). At this time it was published in a tabloid format

Weekend magazine cover in 1959, when Richard Whittington-Egan began working there. At this time it was published in a tabloid format

A recent obituary in the Telegraph for Richard Whittington-Egan, mentioned an interesting tit-bit about Fleet Street practices. Whittington-Egan was known as a ‘towering authority’ on Jack the Ripper, but earned his living as a journalist on Weekend, a popular general interest magazine.

Weekend magazine in 1964, soon after it had taken over Today. Alexandra Bastedo, star of The Champions TV series, is on the cover

Weekend magazine in 1964, soon after it had taken over Today. Alexandra Bastedo, star of The Champions TV series, is on the cover

He worked at Weekend‘s offices at Northcliffe House off Fleet Street  between 1957 and 1986 – in ‘a job he detested’, but it must have paid the bills and gave him the time to indulge his passions. And a condition of his contract was that ‘he was paid weekly, every Friday, in unused £1 notes’!

In that time, Weekend moved from a tabloid newspaper format with a colour cover to an A4 magazine, a strategy also used by rivals John Bull (which became Today in 1960) and Tit-Bits. Weekend took over Today in 1964 and Tit-Bits in 1984, but closed down itself five year later.

The obit makes him out to have been quite a character whose work ‘was as remarkable for its singularly convoluted style as it was for his probing, almost obsessive, research’:

A kinsman of Dick Whittington, the 14th century Lord Mayor of London, Whittington-Egan, with his signature pipe, stiffly starched collar and lined cape, cut an old-world figure of studied manner and speech. To some, however, his rich prose was no less fussy and idiosyncratic: a contemporary marked him out as ‘one of the last surviving and most expert exponents of the broderie anglaise style of writing’…

But despite the stylistic curlicues, Whittington-Egan was a shrewd analyst of the criminal mind. He developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Jack the Ripper killings in the East End of London in the autumn of 1888, and was a dissenting voice when, in 1965, the American author Tom Cullen identified the Ripper as an obscure barrister, Montague John Druitt. ‘It won’t do,’ complained Whittington-Egan, ‘it simply won’t do.’

Weekend magazine in 1985 (nov19) with Felicity Kendall on the cover

Weekend magazine in 1985 (nov 19) with TV actress Felicity Kendal on the cover

His 1975 study, A Casebook on Jack The Ripper, tackled the theories about the Ripper’s identity and dismissed them all: ‘The verdict must remain undisturbed: some person or persons unknown.’

Associated Newspapers – part of the Daily Mail group – owned the magazine. Its offices, Northcliffe House, were in Tudor Street, off Fleet Street and are today occupied by a law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The building name – after the Answers magazine and Daily Mail founder Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe – is also used for the Daily Mail‘s office, in Kensington, today. The name Weekend is now found on the Daily Mail‘s Saturday magazine supplement.

Of course, it’s no wonder Whittington-Egan developed an interest in the macabre, for he worked yards way from Johnson’s Court, the alley that is supposed to be the site of the barber shop of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.

Liverpool-born Whittington-Egan broadcast frequently on BBC Radio Merseyside and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research, investigating ghosts and poltergeists. He was 91 when he died. Read the Telegraph obituary.

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?

John Bull and its famous Bullets prize competitions

October 24, 2015
'Dictionary of Bullets' published by John Bull to mark the 1000th competition in 1935

‘Dictionary of Bullets’ published by John Bull to mark the 1000th competition in 1935

Ian Cowmeadow has started a blog based on his dad’s entries to the Bullets competition that ran for half a century in John Bull magazine. The magazine itself is now remembered for its colour illustrations and covers after the Second World War – a thousand of which can be seen at the Advertising Archives – but the game was one of the magazine’s most popular features in the days before crosswords when John Bull was published by Odhams with the great swindler and MP Horatio Bottomley as editor.

Ian’s ‘Bill the Bullet’ blog explores the notes and memorabilia kept by his dad, who won many prizes and regarded himself as a ‘Bulleteer’. Ian sums up the competitions by quoting Alan Bennett:

The playwright Alan Bennett, whose father was a Bullets obsessive, described the successful attempts as ‘verbal cartoons’. Even so, he still ‘couldn’t see the point or the humour of the entries that won; they seemed like Tommy Handley’s jokes – everybody said they were funny, but they never made you laugh’.

The John Bull Bullets competitions may be largely forgotten now, but I reckon it’s the reason Britain developed cryptic crosswords – the Bullets are really cryptic crossword clues in reverse and must have been fantastic training for composing crosswords.

Another example of the influence of Bullets can be found in Liverpool, where the Mahatma Magic Circle has had cause to be thankful to John Bull for 80 years:

In 1933, Oscar Paulson won the popular Bullets word competition in the John Bull magazine and, with his prize money, he bought and presented to the society the ‘Oscar Paulson Cup’, to be awarded in annual competition for the most entertaining act. We still hold this competition to this day.

John Bull may have closed in 1960, but even so, Long Live John Bull!

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016)

‘L’Inconnue’ – a death mask with many a story to tell

October 22, 2015
John Gwynn's poem 'A Death Mask' in the Strand magazine appears to have been inspired by a drowned woman in Paris

John Gwynn’s poem ‘A Death Mask’ in the Strand magazine appears to have been inspired by a drowned woman in Paris

John Gwynn’s poem ‘A Death Mask’ in the Strand magazine of January 1901 appears to have been inspired by a drowned woman in Paris. But this mask has many other tales to tell.

Although he does not mention Paris in the poem, the story of ‘L’Inconnue‘, ‘the Unknown Woman’ who was picked out of the Seine and whose death mask was a popular exhibit in artists’ homes, undoubtedly  inspired this and many other literary works.

She has been described as the Mona Lisa, Greta Garbo and Brigitte Bardot of her age, a face that launched a thousand ships. However, a more prosaic ‘launch’ can be seen in London’s St John’s Gate, at the Museum of the Order of St John, for, in 1958, the face was used in the prototype ‘Resusci-Annie’ mannequin, made by Peter Safar and Asmund Laerdal and crucial to the First Aid training provided by St John Ambulance ever since.

The St John’s Gate building has been used by the order since about 1890, but it is also of interest to literary and magazine history because 30 of Shakespeare’s plays were licensed there. Also, in the 1700s, it was used as a coffee house, run by Richard Hogarth, father of the artist William Hogarth – and then from 1731 by Edward Cave as the printing house for The Gentleman’s Magazine – the first periodical to use the word ‘magazine’ in the printed context. The museum has a volume of the magazine on display. Doctor Johnson wrote for the Gentleman’s Magazine and used it in his definition of ‘magazine’ in his Dictionary. Later still, it became a pub, The Old Jerusalem Tavern, where artists and writers, including Charles Dickens, used to meet.

Apparently, the first story about a UFO to appear in the press was in a 1762 edition of the Gentleman’s Magazine and the museum it running workshops in commemoration of the event on October 28 and 29.

A 2013 article by Jeremy Grange on the BBC’s website ‘Resusci Anne and L’Inconnue: The Mona Lisa of the Seine‘ is fascinating for the tales it has to tell – including the many stories of people who claim to know who the woman was. The one he heard at Edward Chambre Hardman’s photographic studio in Liverpool is very poignant. I particularly liked it because I used to clean the windows of doctors’ offices in that very street.

Death mask in porcelain of L'Inconnue de la Seine at the museum of the Order of St John in London's Clerkenwell

Death mask in porcelain of L’Inconnue de la Seine at the museum of the Order of St John in London’s Clerkenwell

Needlecraft and the craft of the magazine

September 12, 2015

 

‘Mother Christmas’ cover for Needlewoman magazine from December 1925

‘Mother Christmas’ cover for Needlewoman magazine from December 1925

Needlecraft. Now there’s a topic I know next to nothing about. As children though, we sat around a table every Christmas with a tablecloth that had been decorated with colourful robins and holly by my maternal grandmother. She had been in one of the Dublin orphanages run by nuns where the girls were trained to make and repair linen for the city hotels and later worked as a seamstress for a tailor in Prescot, just outside Liverpool. Her fingers could do magic with a needle.

It was a world of tracing and transfers, often found free in magazines such as Needlewoman. Magazine formats like this were pioneered by Samuel Beeton – husband of cookery’s Mrs Beeton – with the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine from 1852. Beeton’s Book of Needlework was published in 1870 (though Isabella was just a brand name by then, having died five years earlier). The quality of work such magazines encouraged is superb, as I saw when leafing through copies of the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine at the V&A’s National Art Library when researching my forthcoming book on magazine design.

Needlewoman magazine was printed and published by Tillotsons in Mealhouse Lane in Bolton. The company also had an office at 23 Fleet Street in London, where it used an advertising agency, Sells Ltd. The magazine was probably an offshoot of the Bolton News group, certainly the paper was founded by the Tillotsons and based in Mealhouse Lane from 1860.

The illustration for the ‘Mother Christmas’ cover above is reminiscent of the work that would usually be seen on Vogue at the time, but is not credited. One of the projects inside, a fish-shaped bag, seems in contrast to Christmas theme cover, but provides a superb graphic spread with the same-size pattern (one half of the spread is shown here). This was the Art Deco era. How many of these bags were made up I wonder?

Needlewoman fish purse design from 1925

Needlewoman fish purse design from 1925

Needlewoman merged with Needlecraft Practical Journal to become Needlewoman and Needlecraft, which was published into the 1970s. Copies are regularly traded on eBay and at craft fairs. Craftylittlebugger is one of the many people inspired by such magazines, whose contents are finding a new lease of life. Her wartime copy of Needlecraft shows a ‘beautiful bit of bias binding’ that caught her attention. Her issue is just over A5 in size – half the page size of my 1925 issue because of wartime paper rationing – but, as Craftylittlebugger says, it ‘packs quite a punch’.

Magazines from Bolton are rare, but in the 1920s Lancashire was still at the heart of the cotton and spinning industry and there were big advertisers such as Clark’s whose marketing for ‘Anchor’ thread below would have been vital it keeping the magazine profitable. The Anchor thread brand is still going as part of the Coats group, which traces itself back 250 years to the Clark brothers and weavers in Paisley, Scotland. The wealth of Lancashire from the industrial revolution was on display this year at 2 Temple Place in the Cotton to Gold exhibition.

Colour advert for Clark's 'Anchor' thread on the back cover of Needlewoman

Colour advert for Clark’s ‘Anchor’ thread on the back cover of Needlewoman

These crafts have made a huge comeback, and magazine publishers have spotted the trend. Hachette found itself in a ‘crochet part work hell’ a few years ago when it misjudged demand for its Art of Crochet part work. Copies of the Art of Crochet now sell on eBay for up to £5 each and individual patterns for £1. The century-old Woman’s Weekly has produced a Vintage View spin-off carrying past articles and Pretty Nostalgic is now in its fourth year of publication and has built up an industry around itself.

One of the Needlewoman articles carries the quote: ‘The thing of beauty is a joy forever’. How true.

Harry Rodmell’s Queen Elizabeth dreadnought

June 7, 2015
HMS Queen Elizabeth super dreadnought by Harry Hudson Rodmell on the cover of New Illustrated magazine (18 October 1919)

HMS Queen Elizabeth super dreadnought by Harry Hudson Rodmell on the cover of New Illustrated magazine (18 October 1919)

Today, RMS Queen Elizabeth is one the three great Cunard liners – the others being the Queen Mary and Victoria – recently seen performing tricks in the Mersey in front of the Pier Head in Liverpool. And HMS Queen Elizabeth is the title of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier.

The first warship to bear the name HMS Queen Elizabeth was a super dreadnought launched in 1913. When this cover appeared, the Queen Elizabeth had recently become flagship of Britain’s Atlantic Fleet. She had fought in the Gallipoli landings and would have an eventful future ahead of her – badly damaged by Italian frogmen in the Second World War, but repaired, taking part in action against the Japanese and eventually being scrapped in 1948.

The cover here was by Harry Hudson Rodmell, who had served with the Royal Engineers during the war.

Harry Hudson Rodmell signature

Harry Hudson Rodmell signature

Rodmell specialised in maritime paintings and, according to Hull Museums, his first published magazine cover was for the Craven Street School Magazine in 1912 (he would have been 16).

New Illustrated magazine was originally War Illustrated and changed its name at the end of the First World War. It adopted a colourful cover policy, with some excellent illustrators, from the Continent and US, as well as Britain. Initially after the renaming, much of the material was still martial in nature but it evolved to become a general interest weekly.

The publisher was Alfred Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press and the editor, John Alexander Hammerton. From 1905, Hammerton and Arthur Mee produced some the world’s best-selling reference works, such as the Harmsworth Self-Educator, the Children’s Encyclopædia and Harmsworth’s Universal Encyclopædia. These were first published as magazines and later collected into multi-volume reference works.

Read more: New Illustrated – the first photogravure cover by Francisco Sancha

Look out for British Magazine Design – my new highly-illustrated history from the V&A

Ballet’s Cyril W. Beaumont – the original rock ‘n’ roller

January 5, 2015
Billy Fury? James Dean? No - a drawing of a young rebel from 1916

Billy Fury? James Dean?

The quiff, dangling cigarette, the eyebrows, the attitude – at first sight, this is Liverpool rock-and-roller Billy Fury, Hollywood actor James Dean, Elvis Presley, or one of the other idols of rock and cinema in the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, the sketch is of a bookseller, Cyril William Beaumont, from Drawing magazine in 1916. But ‘Mr Beaumont’ – as he was known in the ballet world – was no ordinary bookseller. The article – possibly by George Ellwood, the editor – describes the bookshop and its ‘presiding genius’:

The shop is a refreshing change in the wilderness of antique literature, and its window stamps it as a place to purchase not only books and prints but ideas and inspirations.

It describes Beaumont’s enthusiasm for Russian ballet in particular and how he intended to publish a book about ‘Diaghilev’s ballerina’ Tamara Karsavina, which ‘he is both writing and illustrating himself’. This opens up the possibility that the sketch here is a self-portrait. Although the British Library lists 100 titles with Beaumont as author or translator, I can see no sign of this book, though Beaumont did publish Valerian Svetlov’s Thamar Karsavina in 1922. He was also interested in Japanese art from the Ukiyo-ye school.

Beaumont made a large donation to the V&A of wooden figures of ballerinas that he commissioned for sale in his shop in the 1920s, costume and set designs, prints, sculptures, ballet shoes and his own oil paintings of ballet scenes. The National Art Library has 179 items related to Beaumont.

Beaumont is regarded by none other than Clement Crisp, dance critic of the Financial Times, as one of the most influential people in the history of ballet. The Cecchetti ballet website carries an article Crisp wrote in 1992, 16 years after Beaumont’s death:

And his shop in the Charing Cross Road [number 75] was his shrine. In the 1940s and ’50s, when I used to go there to buy and happily browse, it was like an Aladdin’s cave for a balletomane. Here one sensed something of Beaumont’s range, as a publisher, bookseller, writer and most significantly since this was the theme of all his work, as educator. Ballet has known many great teachers – codifiers of technique, inspirers of dancers, figures to whom performers owed their careers. A list of them will go from Auguste Vestris, Blasis and Bournonville to Cecchetti and Vaganova. Cyril Beaumont’s name must be placed among them, for he it was who educated dancers and choreographers and the general public through his researches, his publications, his commentaries as a critic and observer. Without The Complete Book of Ballets and its appendices, ballet’s past would have remained a closed door to many thousands of writers and critics, so that taste and understanding would have been poorer. Even today, after 55 years, it remains an essential reference work.

So, next time you watch Fury, Cliff Richard, Dean or Presley, remember a Charing Cross bookseller had the look 40 years before them during the First World War!

Hitler in Liverpool

March 13, 2011

The Hitler Mein Kampf partwork post has thrown up a few queries, but I cannot throw any light on Adolf Hitler’s supposed visit to Liverpool. What I can confirm is that Kirklands bakery in Hardman Street did have a sign in the window saying that both Queen Victoria and Hitler’s brother had eaten there.

This makes sense because Hitler’s half brother Alois lived in Upper Stanhope Street, in Toxteth – and the nearby Philharmonic Hotel (opposite the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall) had a chicken curry dish on its menu using a recipe that was claimed to have been invented for Victoria (she visited Liverpool at least twice, in 1851 and 1886).

This was long before Kirklands became a wine bar, with a room above where people such as George Melly sang. It is now the Fly in the Loaf. I occasionally cleaned the windows of several premises in the area, including Kirklands and both the Philharmonic Hall and hotel over a period of about 10 years from the mid 1970s to 1980s.