Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Seventies Graphic Design

The following are some little title headers and pieces of artwork from one of my favourite publications, mid-seventies era Practical Wireless ...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Fire and Flame

This is from another of the Evans Brothers series of integrated studies books. More chapter title pages, and some useful information on famous british beacons (definitely a band name).

Monday, 27 September 2010

Olde Shop Fronts of Berwick-on-Tweed

At the weekend I braved the gales and fine mist of sea-rain to head to the borders, spending Saturday afternoon in Berwick-on-Tweed. As well as possessing some fine old fortifications, it also possesses some of the oldest-looking shop signs and frontages in the Kingdom. By 'old' I don't mean Victorian pawn-brokers balls and the sort of antique carpentry you see in that James Mason exploitumentary about London, I mean 'old' as in seventies plastic lettering, timber-fronts and coloured glass. The sort of thing you saw on every high street about twenty years ago but rarely do now. Here is a very fine camera shop illustrating my point:

Everything about the shop is modern apart from the sign. Why? I don't know actually. Berwick town centre has a homogeneity about its architecture, with lots of imposing, steep-fronted stone buildings and very little sixties / seventies Arndale-type intrusion. Across the road from the Three Barrels pub (recommended) there is this venerable institution:

It was still up and running when I last visited two months ago but seems to have closed for good now. It was unheated, and run by two old gentlemen wearing various scarves and layers of damp tweed. Stock consisted of a few sweets, cigarettes and a few pots of cockles. Unheated, dark and fitted out with wonderful old wall-to-wall shelving, it wasn't like a time warp, more like a scene entirely out of time. The owners also ran a newsagent across the road, which was even more spartan than their main shop. This too has closed;

Check out the waffle-type wall cladding, where the shopkeeper could attach hooks and hang things at whim. I would love to know what all that parapehanlia on the shelves at the back is; old account books? Unsold copies of The Eagle? I never went into the newsagents while it was open for business, but was able to get that last glimpse of the past through the window. A visit to Berwick-on-Tweed for its old shop fronts (including a spectacularly eighties cafe) is highly recommended.

Townlook 2

The rest of the selection from 1969 junior school geography book 'Townlook';

French Actors With One Name! #2


Thursday, 23 September 2010

Townlook 1

From a secondary school textbook of the very early seventies. Note the absolute bleakness of some of these photographs.

To be continued.

French Actors With One Name! #1


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Secret Ceremony (1968)

We're into our obscure films this week - this is one of Joseph Losey's more obscure works, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Mitchum and Mia Farrow. Ostensibly a psychological thriller about a prostitute (Taylor) who becomes embroiled in a series of mind games when she 'adopts' Farrow's character, the film has a darker, sicker feel to it. This is partly down to Mitchum's character, who is absolutely vile, and partly because of the theme of assumed identities; Farrow latches onto Taylor because she reminds her of her dead mother and Taylor accepts her because Farrow resembles her dead daughter. My copy (on VHS) has long given up the ghost but there are a couple of clips on the elektroweb. Check out this fragment, complete with a bit of Richard Rodney Bennett's eerie soundtrack:

It's on DVD but only Region 2. I'd class this one as 'Acquired Taste Psychodrama'.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Tam Lin (1969)

Title song by Pentangle. Starring Ava Gardner, Ian McShane, Cyril Cusack, er, Richard Wattis, Stephanie Beacham, Madeline Smith, Jenny Hanley AND Joanna Lumley. Plus Withnail's Bruce Robinson. Miss Gardner's gowns are executed by Belmain apparently, which sounds like a Celtic sacrifice. More here:

Roddy McDowall's only stab at directing - from the glimpses here maybe it should be filed under 'dated but intriguing'?

Folklore-wise, Tam Lin was kidnapped by the Queen of the Fairies and can only be rescued by a virgin. Roses are plucked in forests, transmogrification occurs and I would love to see how this is applied to the screenplay (Gardner = Fair Queen, McShane = Tam Lin I'd imagine). It's also filmed in Edinburgh. Anyone seen it?

That's probably the Queen of the Fairies and Tam Lin right there.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Time and Change

Time and Change was written by Oliver Aston in 1973 as part of Evans Brothers series of 'integrated theme' books for junior schools. The 'integrated' part makes them discursive and they have beautifully designed chapter title pages.

The idea of not merely dealing with time as a mathematical or scientific subject is interesting, and the book's gentle explanation of the nature of passing time and how it affects the child is both intelligent and sensitive.

Although older does not necessarily mean better (especially when dealing with education), 'Time and Change' has a gentle, ruminative quality that is almost entirely absent from culture and media aimed at modern children. The muted browns, ambers and sepias remind me of childhood autumns and murky instamatic photographs. It isn't all backward-looking though; the range of 'integrated' references in here make Time and Change look like a lost work by Dr. John Dee or Robert Burton in comparison to the things I had to work with when I was a teacher. We have Aristotle on dreams, circadian rhythms, derelict land, family trees, homes of the future and a photo of John P'twee in full velvets and ruff stepping out of the Tardis. Pretty esoteric for junior school children.

Some of the imagery is quite melancholy. The one below could be a still from the shop in Bagpuss:

The last page contains this quote which I'm pretty damn sure wouldn't crop up in a modern text book:

'Benjamin Franklin once said: Remember, that time is money.
Could this be the reason it has become so important?'

Saturday, 18 September 2010

J.G. Ballard and the JAE

The covers of the Journal of Automotive Engineering were meant to be perfunctory - broadly illustrating the thrust of the main story. Here we are though, nearly forty years later, and they have acquired a whole new potency and meaning, creating a new series of associations that transcend their original utilitarian intentions. I look at the first three and think J.G. Ballard;

Cars scream into view and crash: no doubt there's an injured doctor involved somewhere. The next one shows us what could be a strange landscape, teleprinted out and ready to be examined. Not by machines though, by a man using one of those folding portable magnifiers, the old and new rubbing along together:

The last one, shown below, could be the cover of a cheap Sci-Fi magazine - 'Weird Tales of Finchley'? - and looks inexplicable. Maybe it's a screenshot from a long-wiped ATV telefantasy series.

Numbers floating in an open road - a compass reference? A hallucination caused by road vibrations (that could be Ballard again)? When an image loses its context it loses its meaning - the numbers are meant to be a new kind of speedometer that is projected by laser onto the windscreen, but it's impossible to tell just by looking. As an aside, I'm glad it didn't catch on. You can imagine all those pre-crumple zone Ford Corsairs and Farinas slewing all over the road as their drivers squint at the revolving numbers in front of them.

The covers of the JAE were meant to have a small amount of decorative value by way of introducing the text within. Now I think they have gained something over time as their original purpose has become obsolescent and the technology they were promoting long gone.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Demon Seed

Whatever you do, do not allow this computer to look out for itself. Next thing you know, that optical digitizer will pan across the room as your girlfriend makes her breakfast wrapped only in a towel. Then you won't be able to open the door when you come home from work...

Practical Wireless

Not just any tank battle game - this is the official tank museum-endorsed version. Please note - the instructions are for creating the game, wiring it up and MAKING THE BOX THE CIRCUITRY GOES IN.

Make your own music system ... physically make it. It has a Reader's Wives-y feel, somewhat diluted by the promise of an 'electronic fish feeder' within. For readers born between 1970 and 1980, look at the carpet and armchair and slowly start to regress.