Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Gracie Fields sings for Woman’s World

April 20, 2017
Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and included stills from her films

‘Songs “Our Gracie” Sings’ from Woman’s World in 1933

Sally in Our Alley was a film by Radio Pictures in 1931, and it turned Gracie Fields from a music hall star into a film star, singing her signature song, Sally. ‘Our Gracie’ was also one of the biggest radio stars of the era. Woman’s World, a weekly magazine from Amalgamated Press, recognised this popularity and published at least three Gracie song books from 1933 to 1938 as giveaways with the magazine.

Portrait of Grace Fields form Radio Pictures in the song book

Portrait of Grace Fields from Radio Pictures in the song book

The booklet here, Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and stills from her films, Sally in Our Alley and Looking on the Bright Side. The cover photograph was by Eric Gray. Fields was famed for her Northern accent, and the song book included two songs, ‘Ee-By-Gum’ and ‘Stop and Shop at the Co-op Shop’, that reflected her heritage.

Fields was born above her grandmother’s fish-and-chip shop in Rochdale, but lost her British citizenship when she married the Italian director Monty Banks in 1940. The British authorities then refused to give her a passport at the end of the war, even though she had entertained the troops as a volunteer. No such problems for Vera Lynn.

A First World War Woman's World bases its cover on on 'Sally in Our Alley'

A First World War Woman’s World with a ‘Sally in Our Alley’ cover

The film, Sally in Our Alley, took its title from an 18th century poem that became a popular song during the First World War. And Woman’s World magazine was part of the spread of that song’s fame – a year before a British silent film of the same name was released.

The 27 February 1915 issue of ‘The favourite paper of a million homes’ carried the music and lyrics and featured a cover devoted to the song. ‘Sally in Our Alley’ by H. Gregory Hill took its first stanza from a poem by Henry Carey (1687–1743).

The poem was set to music on p177:

Of all the girls that are so smart
There’s none like little Sally,
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

Oh, when I’m dressed in all my best
To walk abroad with Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she dwells in our alley.

Stills from Gracie Fields' films in the song book

Stills from Gracie Fields’ films in the Woman’s World song book

Mods live on in magazines

March 7, 2017

 

The article about Mods in this Sunday Times Magazine from 1964 makes it valuable to collectors

The article about Mods in this Sunday Times Magazine from 1964 makes it valuable to collectors

‘We are the Mods! We are the Mods! We are, we are, we are the Mods.’ That was a chant of the fashion-focused, scooter-riding, parka-coated Mods in the 1960s. You hear it in the film Quadrophenia – in between The Who numbers that litter the sound track. The actors are a roll-call of Londoners and Essex boys such as Phil Daniels, Ray Winstone and Phil Davis – though with the ultra stylish ‘Ace Face’ played by Tynesider Sting, just before he found even greater fame with The Police. Birmingham-born Toyah Wilcox also has a part.

The film was shot in London, and in Brighton for the climactic clash with the letter-clad bikers.

However, the film was not made until 1979. To get a contemporary feel for what real Mods looked like, fans of the cult group and the era can turn to magazines that printed colour photographs alongside their articles and covers. One of the most valuable articles about Mods is in the Sunday Times Magazine above from 22 August 1964. One copy has sold on eBay for £110. As well as the cover, over eight pages, the article ‘Changing Faces’ by Kathleen Halton with photographs by Robert Freeman document the cult. The standfirst sets out the Mods’ attitude:

They have been called the ‘anti-hoorays’.
‘You can tell us by the way we walk – flat out,’ said one Mod.
‘Rockers are hunched. We hope to stay smart for ever, not shoddy like our parents.’

Two years later, the Observer Magazine ran The Who on its cover with the long-faced Keith Moon fronting the group in a Union flag jacket.

The Who were pop's front men for the Mod scene, as in this 1966 Observer Magazine cover

The Who were pop’s front men for the Mod scene, as in this 1966 Observer Magazine cover

The Who were pop’s front men for the Mods scene, as in this 1966 Observer Magazine cover. A copy of this issue sold for £40 in December.

And such powerful trends never go away. Later Mods include Janet Street-Porter (‘a sullen mod who lived largely in her head‘), Steve Marriott (‘The term ‘Face’ was a top mod, a face about town, a respected chap!’) and Paul Weller (‘I’m still a mod, I’ll always be a mod, you can bury me a mod’).

 

Gerry Dammers, a founder member of punk band The Specials was a Mod and it is in Mod gear that he fronts the first issue cover of The Face. Paul Weller was on the cover of the second issue. Bryan Ferry is on issue 3 – was he ever a Mod?

‘First’ Madonna magazine cover sells for £180

March 5, 2017
Madonna cover from i-D dated March/April 1984

Madonna on the cover of i-D dated March/April 1984

A copy of the March/April issue of i-D from 1984 has sold on eBay for £179.99. It was marketed as ‘MADONNA’s 1st magazine cover’ and the listing went on:

This is the super collectable and rare Madonna issue. It was her VERY FIRST magazine cover. Spotted in a club in Paris, and photographed by Mark Lebon when she arrived in London. There’s no interview as such, a couple of quotes, including these snippets: ‘I moved to New York because my father wouldn’t let me date boys… I was 17 when I saw my first…’

But this ‘first cover’ claim seems dubious when No 1 magazine had her on its cover dated February 4.

The first Madonna magazine cover - No 1 from 4 February 1984

Madonna magazine cover – No 1 from 4 February 1984

And Smash Hits followed 12 days later. This magazine also sells well across the world, fetching £28 in the UK and $49 recently in Australia. In addition, a collection of 31 Madonna magazines described as ‘all mint’ and ‘some very rare’ from 1984 to 2017 sold in Oz for $407, attracting 13 bids. The lot included the 1984 i-D., as well as Playboy, Face and Tatler Madonna issues.

A different look for the cover of Smash Hits, also in February 1984

Smash Hits, dated 16 February 1984

The March/April issue of i-D may well have been on sale in February, because monthlies usually come out towards the end of the month preceding the cover date, but as early as  the 4th, No 1‘s cover date, seems unlikely.

Even so, the Madonna i-D magazine seller, Vintage Magazines, has listed another copy on eBay – but upped the price to £250!

Despite Madonna’s popularity in the music press, the first reference I can find to her in newspapers is in ‘Eurythmics singer brings his studio’, a feature by Todd Webb in the
16 August 1984 Daily Oklahoman, an American paper. The profile of Dave Stewart mentions that:

his travelling notebooks – cassettes containing miles of taped songs, song fragments and melody lines – have yielded three songs for the new Tom Petty album, a new song in the making for Madonna, and plans to ‘experiment in the studio’ with [Lou] Reed

No doubt, Madonna experts will be able to identify the track – and this press cutting is undoubtedly one many fans aspire to as well. Just a few months later, The New York Times of 6 January was talking of how:

No phenomenon illustrates more pointedly how pop music history seems to run in cycles than the overnight success of the 24-year-old pop siren known as Madonna. The month before Christmas, Madonna’s second album, Like a Virgin sold more than two million copies (‘Madonna’s siren song’ by Stephen Holden)

It takes another six months before Britain’s mainstream press picks up on a phenomenon that swept its pop magazines before anywhere else. Surprisingly, it was The Times that leapt in, though with a highbrow angle about women’s liberation:

The United Nations decade for women reached its climax here with Playboy and Penthouse rushing to beat each other to the newsstands with nude pictures of pop star Madonna. For those who do not follow the pop scene closely, I should explain that Madonna is not a successor to the Singing Nun but the very latest sex symbol. Her stage costume consists of lacy underwear, bare navel, micro-skirt and crucifix. (‘Liberated – with frills attached’ by John O’Sullivan, 13 July 1985)

(I should explain that the Singing Nun was Jeanine Deckers, a Belgian nun – with the stage name Sister Smile – who beat the Beatles to No 1 in 1963 with Domenique, but became addicted to drink and drugs and died in 1985.)

A month after its decade for women article, The Times was quoting Madonna’s press team in a piece about pop and film soundtracks, saying ‘she’s the hottest crossover dream to burn up the charts since Elvis’. From nowhere to Elvis in a year, not bad going – and then she hitched up with actor Sean Penn and the anti-Madonna ‘flirt rock’ reaction kicked in.


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

 

 


 

Marriner’s parrot in the New Yorker

October 9, 2016
Neville Marriner obituary  on The Times website in October 2016

Neville Marriner obituary on The Times website in October 2016

The Times had a nice reference to The New Yorker in its obituary for the conductor Neville Marriner on Monday:

If ever a pocket cartoon summed up a man’s achievements it was the celebrated drawing carried by The New Yorker magazine that showed a parrot listening to the radio. Out of the airwaves came the announcer’s voice: ‘That was the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields …’ Quick as a flash, the parrot chirps in: ‘… conducted by Sir Neville Marriner.’

Shame the cartoonist isn’t credited.

Tremulous author frustrated in finding Poyner’s verdict

July 22, 2016
Seafoxes band

The Seafoxes playing at Jamboree tonight – musical distraction from my worries

Aaaarrrggghhh. As I wrote last night, I went out to find a copy of August’s Creative Review to read Rick Poyner’s view on A History of British Magazine Design after a restless night. But the world is against me. No copies in yet at the newsagents in Borough High Street or WH Smith and around London Bridge.

So on I go past Tower Bridge to the Design Museum. Oh Woe. The museum has finally moved. You’d think Kensington needed another museum like a hole in the head. It’ll be sorely missed by me.

History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

First heavyweight criticism of A History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

So, on to Tate Modern. Guaranteed to find Creative Review there. But no. All the July copies are sold out too – as they were every else (you get the impression that Creative Review might have pulled back on its newsstand distribution too far).

But is wasn’t all bad, I ended up signing copies of British Magazine Design on sale at the Tate Modern bookshop with Amy and Richard, who were very helpful in trying to track down a copy of Creative Review. Rush down there now!

So my panic over Prof Poyner’s criticism continues … but a night at Jamboree to see the Seafoxes launch their new EP should at least take my mind off things!

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

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?

The first Madonna magazine cover

December 17, 2015
The first Madonna magazine cover - No 1 from 4 February 1984

The first Madonna magazine cover – No 1 from 4 February 1984

A question comes in: when did Madonna first appear on a magazine cover? I can’t claim to have a definitive answer, but the first British example I can find is the above No 1 cover from 4 February 1984. The fortnightly IPC magazine beats the better-remembered Smash Hits published by Emap by 12 days.

A different look for the cover of Smash Hits, also in February 1984

A different look for the cover of Smash Hits, two weeks later in February 1984

i-D then followed with its March/April issue (which may well have also been in the shops in February).

Madonna cover from i-D dated March/April 1984

Madonna proves she can wink for the cover of i-D dated March/April 1984

It was another five years before Madonna began to appear on Vogue covers in the UK and US, but Tatler had given her its front in 1987.

Madonna fronts Tatler with a sophisticated look in September 1987

Madonna fronts Tatler with a sophisticated look in September 1987

And Playboy got in pretty early on Madonna’s act too with this September 1985 cover. Note the headline: ‘Madonna nude: unlike a virgin  … for the very first time.’

Madonna was pretty quick in getting her kit off for Playboy in September 1985

Madonna was pretty quick in getting her kit off for Playboy in September 1985

Looking at these covers, it’s noticeable how quickly she changes her style to give a different look for each audience – the teens in No 1, the rich sophisticates for the upmarket Tatler, and the goggling male readership of Playboy.

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

‘Fabulous’ pays off for the ‘Sun on Sunday’

November 12, 2015
The front page of the Sun on Sunday promoted the One Direction Fabulous magazine heavily (8 November 2015)

The front page of the Sun on Sunday promoted the One Direction Fabulous magazine heavily (8 November 2015)

Most of today’s tabloid newspapers were founded by magazine barons – the Mail, Express and Mirror. The exception is the Sun, but it is well aware of the selling power of its supplements, so much so that when parent company News UK closed down the News of the World in 2011, its Fabulous magazine was moved across to the new Sun on Sunday when the daily started coming out on Sundays six months later.

Last Sunday’s edition plastered images of the supplement across the front page to promote five covers devoted to the members of boy band One Direction: Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, with a fifth cover of the boy band members together. There was similar marketing online and the special 1D magazine was also pushed in the Sun on the previous four days. The aim is to attract younger readers – and hopefully get people to buy more than one copy of the paper. It’s a strategy that appears to pay off – sets of the five One Direction magazines have sold on eBay for up to £49.99! A classic piece of brand marketing using popular celebrities.

The promos in the paper read:

With Zayn Malik’s departure and the decision to take a break in 2016, it’s been a tumultuous year for One Direction. In this week’s Fabulous, Harry, Niall, Louis and Liam reveal how they reacted when Zayn quit the band, what they plan to do with their time off and why this is definitely not the end for 1D.

There are also five covers to collect – share yours with us using the hashtag #Fabulous1D!

Don’t miss Fabulous, free with The Sun on Sunday. For more, go to Fabulousmag.co.uk

Magazines like this also allow the paper to focus on a specific part of the readership – presumably teenage girls in this case. It’s a strategy that the Mail on Sunday has played really well over the years with its women-focused You supplement and the Financial Times with its How to Spend It monthly for millionaires. Yet, when Fabulous was launched, former Guardian editor Peter Preston argued in a column that it was too far removed from the paper’s main readership.

Here’s one of the covers – but don’t ask me who it is!

One of the five One Direction covers for Fabulous

One of the five One Direction covers for Fabulous

>>>Britain’s national newspapers profiled

Madonna’s belly button – the ‘world’s most exploited’

October 19, 2015
Madonna feature in the first issue of Celebrity Magazine in 1986

Madonna feature in the first issue of Celebrity Magazine in 1986

The 1980s marked a decade of change in the way that celebrities were treated. Magazines, particularly the weeklies, became either more fawning – as in Hello! – or adopted the techniques of tabloid journalism, as in this new magazine, Celebrity.

The language of this profile is sensationalist, with words like ‘raunchiest’ and the aggressive, red-boxed quote:

I’ve been called a tramp, a harlot, a slut, and the kind of girl that always ends up in the back of a car

Of course, Madonna played up to this raunchy image as a singer and actress as a way of generating massive publicity. And many magaziness and newspapers were keen to play along. The strapline is a pun on Desperately Seeking Susan, the film with Rosanna Arquette that made her name in 1985.