Tag Archives: publishing

1978–87 ➤ British nightlife snapped by Ridgers as it came out of the closet

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Underground publicity: Derek Ridgers with lavish poster treatment for his photo-book published jointly by Damiani and Transport for London. (Pic by Shapersofthe80s)

❚ THIS FRIDAY AT THE V&A MUSEUM, London photographer Derek Ridgers will try to explain the power of his touching yet confrontational images of London youth taken in the transformational decade of the 1980s. His newly published book 78–87 London Youth can be viewed online. He is best known for these documentary portraits taken on the streets and in the clubs by night, though he has also snapped celebs from James Brown to The Spice Girls, Clint Eastwood to Johnny Depp, as well as Tony Blair, gangster ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser, artist Julian Schnabel, writer Martin Amis, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and more.

The recessionary 70s had precipitated a drone age of rocketing unemployment in the UK, threatening no jobs for school-leavers, ever. Yet from this black hole burst a passionately tribal youth culture that was to create the Swinging 80s, an era of optimism, marked by hedonistic good times and a flair for exhibitionism that played up to Derek’s camera. Ambition and self-improvement were the ultimate goals of the young then, in sharp contrast to the cynical narcissism of today’s lost children.

➢ Derek Ridgers talks on photographing the 80s at the V&A’s late evening, 6.30pm Friday July 18, with yours truly in the chair. Derek will be signing his book afterwards

London,Sacrosanct,  Billie Madley , Twinkle Bunty, Derek Ridgers, publishing, photography, V&A, talks, youth culture, nightlife, fashion style,

Twinkle Bunty comments on this Sacrosanct club pic by Ridgers posted at Facebook: “Just trotted over to Foyles and bought Derek Ridgers’ fab new book. Thrilled to find this pic from 1985 of me and Billie Madley proving that the 80s were ALL about the eyebrows. Mine were jet black Rimmel and Billie’s were red BIRO.” Another from ‪Laura Whitcomb: “When you shaved that eyebrow it was epic… That Westwood shirt and suit and of course those ear muffs your obsession – and the inimitable final touch of a Fosters with a baby blue straw.” Plastic bath cap: Billie’s own.

❚ IN OCTOBER 1982, I INTERVIEWED DEREK RIDGERS while writing the massive survey of London’s newly exploding nightlife phenomenon which became The Face’s cover story, The making of UK club culture in February 1983. Direct from my original notes, here is Derek’s perceptive analysis which helped inform my thinking about the turmoil that was transforming British youth culture…

Derek talking: “The depression of the late 70s made the future oh so inevitable. But from the Blitz club period onward [1979], the feeling has been different. A reaction of ambisexual kitsch. It’s an honesty with the way you look and what you want to do. There’s an enthusiasm to investigate the possibilities. There’s no sense of inevitability.

“As a photographer, I go as the casual observer and stand in the shadows. When I first went to those Tuesday nights at Billy’s [1978] it was like walking into a Hieronymous Bosch painting – furtive but lively, very decadent reflecting what they were into, and yet with a sense of oneness, a dedication that’s never been equalled since.”

In 1980 the Blitz leaders had moved on to another Covent Garden club called Hell which Derek said “was similar but more decadent because they tried to keep it to themselves. In its final weeks, only out-of-towners were going to the Blitz, because by then the media had blown away the furtiveness”.

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In 1982 Steve Strange and Rusty Egan began fronting the 1,600-capacity Camden Palace and the Pose Age went public. Ridgers said then: “At the Palace poses are adopted, yet it’s probably more interesting than the Blitz or Billy’s because it’s more honest… 90% are regulars, 9% out-of-towners, and 1% could be any type of person who’ll choose to go clubbing there, but go nowhere else except their own pub. Sometimes they’re out of their depth and try to dress as they think is expected – they bring with them an unconsidered primitiveness.

“Men are wearing dresses now but not pretending to be women. They are proud to be men – that’s fairly modern.” In autumn 1982 Boy George was in the charts with Culture Club’s first single. “George wants to look pretty, rather than handsome. He asks me whether I find him attractive and I have to pretend he’s a girl and give him an appraisal – which I don’t mind. I don’t feel threatened.”

“What’s important at the Palace is feeling special, being noticed – in a sea of other people. A good club has become a place to go for the right social reasons, rather than just to hang out.”

➢ View more Ridgers portfolio at his website

ESSENTIAL READS

➢ Blitz kids and the birth of the New Romantics – my overview for the Observer Music Magazine

➢ 69 Dean Street and the making of UK club culture
– for The Face magazine, here at Shapersofthe80s

Derek Ridgers, publishing, photography, V&A, talks, youth culture, nightlife, fashion style,

Cover star Tuinol Barry photographed by Derek Ridgers in 1983. Sadly, Barry was to die young.

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➤ How black British music brought a nation to its dancing feet

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Sound of new London: the influential grime collective Roll Deep in 2009. Photograph by Simon Wheatley

❚ HERE’S AN INSPIRATIONAL BOOK that rocks you on your heels by making a mighty claim that in your guts you know is right. With quiet assurance the author Lloyd Bradbury traces a century of black music in his chunky 430-page Sounds Like London to arrive at this conclusion: that UK black music has dramatically reshaped British culture and mainstream pop. He said last week: “It’s astonishing that we’ve come from Lord Kitchener at the gangplank of the Windrush to Dizzee Rascal at Glastonbury in less than three generations. Today’s music-makers do not think of it as anything to do with black musicians. It is basically London pop music. It is an astonishing evolution.”

Lloyd Bradley , black music, U.K.,Sounds Like London , books, publishing,pop music,If the music’s substantially hidden pre-WW2 history is an eye-opener, the postwar lineage is electrifying. Bradbury draws a continuous arc from the Caribbean immigrant Kitchener singing his calypso “London is the place for me” the moment he disembarked from SS Empire Windrush at Tilbury in 1948, to embrace the jazz bands, blues and clubs and the many hybrid sounds of reggae, highlife, lovers rock and homegrown funk that have led on through peculiar twists to jungle, drum and bass, garage, dubstep and grime and become the soundtracks for British dancefloors today.

The book pays serious tribute to Guyanan-born Eddy Grant whose north London studio brought on a whole generation of musicians (and whose 1979 hit Living on the Front Line lent its name to the Evening Standard’s column about youth culture). The final chapters set out one of the most efficient roadmaps you’ve read to the truly creative UK music-makers of the past 20 years which otherwise saw our charts being despoiled by Cowell’s vacuous talent show victims and tedious bitch-n-gangsta videos from North America.

Bradley, who grew up in Kentish Town, writes: “British black music has never been so prominent. Indeed it’s at the point now where artists such as Labrinth, Tinie Tempah and Dizzee Rascal are bona fide pop stars, with a young mainstream audience that accepts them. The brilliant thing about the current state of British black music is that … our guys have very often succeeded in spite of the UK music business rather than because of it.”

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In similar vein, Jazzie B of Soul II Soul writes in his foreword to the book: “Sounds Like London is a story that needed to be told by somebody who really cares about it, and the most important thing about this book is Lloyd Bradley. The reason this story of London’s black music hasn’t been told before is because up until now he wasn’t ready to write it.”

Former sound-system owner, pirate radio deejay, classically trained chef and adviser to the British Council, Lloyd Bradley has been writing about black music in Britain, the US and the Caribbean for over thirty years.

HERE ARE TWO WONDERFUL REVIEWS

➢ Kevin Pearce, creator of Your Heart Out, shoots the breeze at Caught by the River, Aug 13:

Sounds Like London is a riveting read. It’s one to wolf down in a few sessions, and then savour slowly at a more considered pace… He avoids trotting out the usual suspects who pop up perennially as talking heads as part of the dumbing-down documentary epidemic, so the stories and angles seem fresher than might be anticipated. Quite correctly, Eddy Grant is right at the heart of Lloyd’s history lesson, and it is wonderful to read a book that recognises his role in changing pop music for ever. But some of the other choices of, well, witnesses are also inspired. People like Wookie, Root Jackson, Hazel Miller of Ogun Records, Teddy Osei of Osibisa, and Soul II Soul’s designer Derek Yates come across particularly well and have some great tales to tell… / Continued online

➢ Aug 24: Sukhdev Sandhu reviews Bradley’s book in The Guardian:

Trevor Nelson,DJ, London

Trevor Nelson: talks frankly

Traditionally, black music in this country has been described by historians, as well as its champions in the rock press, as rebel music… Sounds Like London certainly has its darker moments – Trevor Nelson talks about being asked to DJ at clubs to which, as a punter, he was repeatedly refused entry; producers bristle at the memory of clueless major-label representatives craving their demographics but demanding they make stylistic compromises that damaged their reputations… This is an invaluably materialist book that is often at its most enlightening when it recounts the dramas of distribution – label bosses circulating their records via an alternative network of barbers, grocers, hairdressers and travel agents, for example. The much-missed Stern’s record store began life as an electrical supplies shop on Tottenham Court Road that was popular with African students who paid for repairs with new vinyl from their home countries. For Bradley, black music in London is often creative expression and sometimes art, but almost without exception it is work… / Continued at Guardian Online

LAUNCH EVENTS AUG 21 & 22

➢ Aug 21: Lloyd Bradley will be discussing and reading the book at Housmans bookshop, Caledonian Road, on Wednesday… and at Rough Trade West on Aug 22

➢ Sounds Like London: 100 Years of Black Music in the Capital, by Lloyd Bradley, published Aug 15 by Serpent’s Tale, £12.99

➢ All power to Radio 4 for serialising Sounds Like London as its Book of the week – listen online for a few more days

➢ Bradbury interviewed by ITV News, Aug 12

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➤ Dylan’s journey from A Tribe Called Quest to the last word on Zappa

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➢ According to i-D online . . .
“ Former editor at i-D and now editor-in-chief of British GQ, Dylan Jones is an arbiter of taste, instigator of style and in possession of an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music. Uninspired by the lack of subjectivity many music biographies take, Dylan Jones began working on his own dictionary of popular music 30 years ago. Scribbling down scattered thoughts on paper, Dylan collated mountains of unorganised text which have since evolved to fill the 838 pages of his latest book, The Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music… / continued at i-D online, plus video interview above

➢ The Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music by Dylan Jones (download to iPhone, iPad or iPod, iTunes, £6.49)

➢ The Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music (paperback 908 pages, £22.67)

WHAT REVIEWERS HAVE SAID

➢ Helen Brown at The Telegraph:

Dylan Jones, Kindle, Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music ,books,Bedford Square Books, Amiably opinionated, funny and revealing, this is a knowingly subjective A-Z of the artists Jones fancies writing about from Abba (Mamma Mia transported him to “a pink fluffy place called Abbaville. I loved it”) to Frank Zappa (the early Mothers of Invention albums sound “like Tom Lehrer made them on acid”). He explores the emotional appeal of artists he loves and is bothered when others admired by his friends leave him cold. Some subjects get a line, others an essay. Jones’s tastes tend towards old-school cool jazz, easy listening and lounge music. No surprise to learn that the men’s magazine editor has been in thrall to the slickly suited, high-rolling rat pack since hearing them on his mum’s turntable as a kid.

➢ Amazon’s jsquared on the Kindle edition:

As someone quite new to many of these bands, I loved this. Dylan Jones’ writing is funny and pleasantly surprising, helped along by his personal recollections of interviews with a variety of band members and famous folk which brings the stories to light rather than feeling self-involved. It’s a perfect gift for a brother with more records than friends! If my boyfriend hadn’t lent me his Kindle, I wouldn’t have read it. I recommend the Blues Music section, that’s what got me hooked.

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➤ Jarvis Cocker joins Faber: national treasure as literary arbiter

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❚ JUST LISTEN TO THE POPSTAR AS SEER, Pulp’s singer Jarvis calling a grey wall heroic, “It says a lot, that wall, to me”, and calling himself “a workshy fop” who has never done a proper day’s work. This South Bank Show from 2007 [above] is compulsive. Just read the comments people have posted beneath it! Now Britain’s most prestigious publisher has asked pop’s national treasure to become its editor-at-large, a broad commissioning role similar to that filled by the 20th-century poet T S Eliot…

➢ Excerpt from today’s Guardian report:

❏ Home to 12 Nobel laureates and six Booker prize winners, venerable publisher Faber & Faber is now looking to bring a little Britpop magic to its list after hiring Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker as its new editor-at-large. The appointment will see Cocker given an open brief to acquire books for a small list at Faber from January 2012.

Jarvis Cocker, Pulp, pop music, Faber,editor,publishing“Jarvis felt like a natural fit with the Faber sensibility, both as author and editor, and I’m sure the small list of books he will develop will represent his eccentric and yet popular touch,” said publishing director Lee Brackstone. “We now have an excellent portfolio of authors from the pop world and our intention is to develop these relationships and continue to build a reputation as the home for exciting and original writing on music.”

➢ Jarvis sees his book of lyrics published by Faber next week — view another riveting interview when he signed up to Eliot’s publisher in June

➢ And talking of national treasures, here’s Jarvis talking about another one, his own hero Scott Walker:

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➤ Boy George says the 70s were the best time ever to be a teenager — yep, really!

➢ The Guardian is the first paper off the mark to report Graham Smith’s imminent photo-book on 80s clubland, We Can Be Heroes — with an opinion piece today from Boy George

1980: Clare Thom, Philip Sallon and George O’Dowd on a coach trip to Margate. Photograph by Graham Smith/grsmith@mac.com.jpg from his book We Can Be Heroes

➢ Graham Smith’s intimate portraits perfectly evoke a time when the world seemed destined to be taken over by the young with only the help of a spot of eyeliner — slideshow at The Guardian

➢ We Can Be Heroes is a proposed “crowd-funded” book of pictures that won’t get printed until 1,200 people purchase a copy in advance. To contribute, visit Unbound.co.uk

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