Category Archives: History

2018 ➤ Judy Blame dies: cherry-picker of cultural detritus

Judy Blame ,Nicola Tyson,fashion, stylist, photography,

Judy Blame in 1983, photographed by Nicola Tyson

THE VERY DAY THIS WEEK WHEN HM THE QUEEN put a smile on the face of the British fashion industry, by attending London Fashion Week for the first time, also brought the sad news of Judy Blame’s death, aged 58. He (yes, he) was one of those self-taught iconoclasts who was acquiring a luminescent reputation in the electric 1980s when Fashion Week came into being, driven in part by the streetwise youth culture that Shapers of the 80s celebrates.

Blame shared friends with the charismatic Ray Petri whose flair gave kudos to the word “stylist” by injecting attitude and dash into the role of the humble gofer who gathered props and make-up for a photo shoot. This was the generation of creatives who asserted their urban savviness and shifted the word style itself from meaning a suspect and second-rate lure with which marketeers sold their wares. By the end of the decade, style and fashion had become distinct goals in their own right, the first announcing individuality in consumer choice and mainstream media, while fashion confirmed convention.

Blame’s own talents as an image-maker were celebrated in 2016 at an Institute of Contemporary Arts exhibition titled Never Again which displayed his DIY jewellery, objets trouvés, clothing, photomontages, sketchbooks and T-shirts, and gave insights into working with Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack.

➢ Pictures and fulsome tributes to Judy Blame
on our inside page

Born Chris Barnes in 1960, Blame died on 19 February 2018 and the tributes flowed in. Dylan Jones, editor-in-chief of GQ, wrote: “He was an artist, a genuine one, someone who could cherry-pick cultural detritus and then mix it all together to create something new, something lasting.”

Nick Knight, photographer and director of SHOWstudio, wrote: “Always totally unique, always a champion of the underdog, always fiercely anti-fascist and anti-establishment, always inspiring, always so immensely talented and always one hundred % brilliant.”

Scarlett Cannon, Blame’s dearest friend and partner in fronting the Cha-Cha club-night 1981-82, said: “I’m heartbroken but so happy to have had him in my life all these years. He left such a rich heritage of inspiration and touched so many people.”

Judy Blame,Scarlett Cannon, fashion, nightclubbing

Judy Blame with his long-standing friend Scarlett Cannon, and little Maude

➢ So much purpose. So much talent – Tribute by Paul Flynn at Guardian online, 20 Feb 2018



2018 ➤ Bayeux Tapestry to be displayed in UK for the first time

Bayeux Tapestry, Saxons, Normans, exhibition, London,

Customised version of the Bayeux Tapestry created using the Historic Tale Construction Kit

DURING HIS UK VISIT THIS WEEK, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the loan of the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry which depicts events leading up to the Norman conquest of England in 1066 which ended in King Harold II’s death. This marked the end of the Anglo-Saxons’ reign of more than 600 years. The tapestry is 230ft long and and 50cm deep and some historians say it was created by teams of nuns across England – not France – possibly in Canterbury, Kent. It is on permanent display at a museum in the town of Bayeux, in Normandy.

The first loan of the tapestry outside France for 950 years was revealed by The Times which expected the exhibition venue in 2022 to be the British Museum. Our version here was created online using the Historic Tale Construction Kit. Note how the Saxon peasant at right has already pioneered the idea of kebabbed pigeon.


2017 ➤ “It may be false, It may be true” – The life and times of Christine Keeler

Christine Keeler, John Profumo, politics, sex, scandal, obituary, Lewis Morley, Terry O’Neill, Swinging Sixties,

Immature? Alternative unused shot of 21-year-old Christine Keeler from the famous 1963 photo session in Lewis Morley’s Greek Street studio. . . Right, in 1990, a fully-clad Keeler returned to the pose she made famous for a photograph taken by Terry O’Neill

“THEY NEVER STOPPED CALLING ME A PROSTITUTE.” So said the notorious “showgirl” who helped bring down a Tory government, quoted in today’s impressively well rounded Times obituary of Christine Keeler who has died aged 75. Despite posing naked for a now definitive photograph on a plywood chair in 1963, she fell victim to the mores of those times in the whole sex-and-spying soap opera enacted by a cast of deeply sleazy characters. Found guilty of perjury, she was sentenced to nine months in prison.

“Her only real crime was immaturity,” according to The Times obituarist. The war minister John Profumo lied “again and again” throughout the scandal, also according to The Times, whose own editor back in the day thundered that adultery “is a moral issue”. Well worth reading as a comprehensive slice of social history just as the Sixties began to swing.

Christine Keeler, John Profumo, politics, sex, scandal, obituary, Lewis Morley, Terry O’Neill, Swinging Sixties

Telling her own story – News of the World from June 1963

➢ The Telegraph has a moving tribute from Keeler’s son, Seymour Platt – He says: “I don’t think there is any celebrity or star or interesting person from that era who she didn’t meet.”


❏ One sympathetic reappraisal of Keeler’s reputation came with the powerful 1989 feature film Scandal directed by Michael Caton-Jones who created an even-handed and realistic evocation of the saga, with an immaculate cast. Best of all for pop-culture fans was its title track by the Pet Shop Boys who had the brilliant notion of bringing Sixties icon Dusty Springfield out of retirement and she rendered the vocals beautifully. Among a classic collection of tunes for the soundtrack, Chubby Checker even re-recorded The Twist because his original had been embargoed for rights reasons.

This video compilation intercuts clips from the film Scandal with authentic news footage of the rum cast implicated in the Profumo affair of 1963, all overdubbed with Dusty who sings the film’s soundtrack, Nothing Has Been Proved. And yet, nothing about the story was fake by today’s standards.


2017 ➤ His name is Prince and his London tribute is downright spunky

Prince Rogers Nelson, exhibition, The O2, London, music videos, My Name Is Prince, pop music,costumes, guitars

Prince exhibition: chain-hat to conceal his identity in The New Power Generation and lyrics for We Want 2 Let the Funk Unwind (Getty)

Hold your breath! An exhibition that could so easily have been a lightweight commercial ripoff about the myth of Prince Rogers Nelson proves to be a surprisingly affecting tribute. Scores of artefacts have been loaned out for the first time direct from Paisley Park, Prince’s lush Minnesota estate, in a dazzling rush of bling and sentiment for My Name is Prince, his official exhibition which runs in London for the next ten weeks.

It seems a strange idea to visit seven galleries packed with video screens and to stand clad in earphones watching them play out the most vibrant highlights from the American pop icon’s uniquely anarchic imagination. Yet the very impact of so many screens disseminating so much talent only magnifies the intensity of the moment.

This one-man band’s genius is all too evident in every direction you look. In turns, you’re gasping at the audacity of Dirty Mind, smiling at the ingenuity of Sign ‘o’ the Times and shedding tears of envy for his sheer virtuosity in While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Above all, the entire immersive experience is very, very lovesexy. The attention Prince lavished on his many lubricious costumes is revealing: so many apparently plush brocade garments are woven on light see-through black mesh that reveal the sinewy muscles of his tiny but taut 5ft frame within.

Prince the dandy also took any opportunity to shed his garments and flash his intimate zones, including his bare buttocks in orgiastic videos such as Gett Off, shot amid scantily clad girls and boys (“23 positions in a one-night stand”) at the 1991 MTV awards. Indeed one of the exhibition’s biggest draws is the video for Thieves in the Temple, from the 1990 Graffiti Bridge album, in which cutaway jeans reveal his bum and thighs and bouncing crotch capped with a glittering gold lamé jockstrap, in some of the most frenetic team dancing ever in high heels. The choreography is shamelessly horny.

The sheer range of Prince’s musical gifts during a 40-year career is well recognised – 70 albums, 2,000? songs, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, eight Grammies, 100 million records sold, and a ranking at No 28 among Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. But to assemble in a three-dimensional venue 200 tangible examples of his workaholic creativity as an all-round showman results in an affectionate multi-media tribute. For us to devour the close-up detail in his guitars, his hand-written notes and drawings, and his jewelled accessories becomes a truly moving privilege. And for a fan, the power of his achievements is reaffirmed as you bask in his subversive glow.

➢ The official exhibition My Name Is Prince runs from October 27 until January 7, 2018 at London’s O2

Prince Rogers Nelson, exhibition, The O2, London, music videos, My Name Is Prince, pop music,costumes, guitars

Prince exhibition: stage costumes from his Purple Rain tour (Getty)

Prince Rogers Nelson, exhibition, The O2, London, music videos, My Name Is Prince, pop music,costumes, guitars

Prince exhibition: bass guitar that inspired his trademark Cloud and diamond-studded cane from 2015


London’s Eighties pop star Andy Polaris visits the Prince exhibition to assess the enduring impact of the black performer who in his day challenged the norms of sexuality and race. . .

➢ Visit Andy’s own website Apolarisview for his full review
– here’s a brief taster:

The first time Prince triggered my radar was a review in the music press of his concert at the Lyceum in London 1981, part of his Dirty Mind tour. He was featured in the accompanying review wearing a trench coat covering a lithe brown body and wearing black briefs and leggings, topped by his mop of black hair and pretty face. I was miffed to have missed his only show but before the internet niche events could slip by easily without social media to flag them up.

It was obvious from the start that this was a black artist who, despite the flamboyance of disco/funk stage-wear and album covers, was taking it a little bit extra with some sexual ambiguity. The lyrics of the funky album track Controversy (a bass-driven early dance-floor favourite) set the tone:

I just can’t believe all the things people say
Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?

I was fascinated to see the parade of Prince’s petite outfits complete with matching coloured heeled boots that covered Purple Rain, his purple metallic frock coat through to a crystal-encrusted cane and Balmain waistcoat he wore for W magazine. The materials are colourful, sheer and shimmering and in some cases boldly designed. He wasn’t interested in the toxic masculinity that permeates so many black artistes, one of the reasons he flew the freak flag for those who were not interested in paying £50 to see artists dressed in denim and T-shirts. . . / Continued at Andy’s own website

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s – Prince RIP: ‘A funny cat’ and ‘sole authentic genius’ of the 1980s


➤ Double drama of the 60s pop dream by Ray Connolly

film, Ray Connolly, Swinging Sixties ,Radio 4, drama, That’ll Be the Day, David Essex , Ringo Starr

Now a radio drama: Poster for the 1973 film

HERE ARE TWO RADIO 4 DRAMA TREATS this Saturday 23 Sept and next at 2.30pm – first an adaptation by former Evening Standard pop columnist Ray Connolly of his 1973 film, That’ll Be the Day (which starred David Essex and Ringo Starr with cameos from Billy Fury and Keith Moon). It’s a very British coming-of-age story that keenly captures the vicissitudes of postwar austerity prevailing in the provinces as the Swinging Sixties dawned.

BBC sell: “It’s 1959 and young Jim Maclaine seems to have it all. He’s good looking and destined to go to a good university. But he’s haunted by the father who abandoned him and his mother when he was small. Is he ready for the normal life mapped out for him? Or is he restless like his old man?”

➢ That’ll Be the Day at R4 – catch up online at the iPlayer for a month

Jim’s story is followed through on Saturday 30th with Stardust. Sell: “Show me a boy who never wanted to be a rock star and I’ll show you a liar. In this sequel to That’ll Be the Day, it’s the early 1960s and Jim Maclaine is now an aspiring pop musician. He seeks out his old mate Mike, because every pop star needs a road manager. Performing to bored audiences in seedy clubs, the Stray Cats live on dreams of becoming as famous as the Beatles…” Based on the film of the same name which featured David Essex, Adam Faith, Larry Hagman and Keith Moon.

➢ Stardust at R4 – also online for a month


Ray Connolly, books, films

Ray Connolly’s books as spin-offs from their films

➢ Buy That’ll Be the Day as a Fontana paperback

➢ Buy Stardust as a Fontana paperback