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Showing posts from November, 2021

Andy Mackinnon - Waterwheel

When visitors to the Heart of Hawick arts centre in the Scottish Borders view the fourteen-foot wide Victorian waterwheel spin into life below the glass floor in the former mill’s café, local history will be brought to life several times over.   Waterwheel (2021) is a new permanent installation by filmmaker Andy Mackinnon, which projects archive film footage of Hawick’s annual week-long Common Riding festival onto the wheel. More archive footage of Hawick’s recent past is beamed by three projector onto a series of nine panels on the café floor.   The wheel based part of the installation will see images from the late 1960s depicting the festival’s lead rider, or Cornet, animated in the gold and blue of Hawick’s Common Riding flag. The event and flag were introduced to commemorate the victory of the town’s unmarried men over English raiders in 1514, when the English flag was captured after most of the men of the town had been killed in the Battle of Flodden the previous year.   It was He

Mick Rock - An Obituary

Mick Rock – P hotographer Born November 22, 1948; died November 18, 2021   Mick Rock, who has died aged 72, was a photographer who held court at the centre of 1970s rock music culture. His pictures of David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy  Pop immortalised what Rock called his ‘unholy trinity’, who defined their era of post hippy, pre punk glam.    Rock photographed Bowie through his Ziggy Stardust phase, with his famous shot of Bowie simulating fellatio on Mick Ronson’s guitar attracting attention for both parties. Rock also took the cover image of Reed’s album, Transformer (1972), and Raw Power (1973) by Pop and The Stooges. The pictures were taken when Reed and Pop played London on consecutive nights. As Bowie’s official photographer, Rock took the cover image for Pin Ups (1973), and also directed promo films for The Jean Genie (1972), Space Oddity (1972), and Life on Mars (1973).    Rock had already photographed Syd Barrett for the cover of the former Pink Floyd founder’s debut solo album

Astro - An Obituary

Astro – Toaster and MC Born June 24, 1957; died November 6, 2021    Terence Wilson, better known as Astro, who has died aged 64 after a short illness, was a founder member of UB40, the multi-racial group at the forefront of taking British reggae music into the global mainstream. As toaster and MC with the band, Astro was central to the band’s attitude as much as its sound on hits that included Red Red Wine (1983) and I Got You Babe (1985).    On record, Astro gave UB40 its political consciousness, as he rhymed about the everyday racism experienced by his generation. In the live arena, he came to the fore even more, with his charismatic stage presence and garrulous personality holding court over huge audiences as he encouraged them to party.       UB40 formed in 1978, with the group named after the era’s unemployment benefit card, which all eight original members of the band and several million others besides had experienced first hand. Fronted by Ali Campbell, with brother Robin on gui

Maureen Cleave - An Obituary

Maureen Cleave – journalist Born October 20, 1934; died November 6, 2021    Maureen Cleave, who has died aged 87, was a writer and journalist who will forever be remembered for a 1966 interview with John Lennon for the London Evening Standard, in which Lennon declared his band “more popular than Jesus”. With The Beatles at the height of their international fame, this off the cuff remark was typical of Lennon in terms of irreverent bravado, yet was fired with a thoughtfulness that questioned the entire construct of pop superstardom.    “Christianity will go,” Lennon said. “It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and  will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock’n’roll or Christianity”.   Lennon’s words went unremarked on when originally published, but later caused uproar when headlined by an American teen magazine as The Beatles toured the country with Cleave in tow. Some Christian groups called Lennon’s words b

Lionel Blair - An Obituary

Lionel Blair – dancer, choreographer, actor, entertainer Born December 12, 1928; died November 4, 2021     Lionel Blair, who has died aged 92 was a virtuoso entertainer, whose talent for tap dancing saw him share a stage with Sammy Davis Jr. in a 1961 Royal Variety Performance. The routine became a defining moment of a career that saw Blair become a household name. Prior to TV fame, Blair had played juvenile lead in The Five Past Eight Show at Glasgow’s Alhambra Theatre, where, as he told the Herald in 2009, he played straight man to every comic turn in Scotland, from Jimmy Logan to Rikki Fulton.   "They were very funny, " Blair told the Herald in 2009, "but they were also brilliant actors, and I learnt everything I needed to from them."   Blair tap danced his way through a career that saw him appear alongside the Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night (1964), or else choreographing the dance routines performed by his own troupe on prime time TV shows throughout the 1960s an

Mort Sahl - An Obituary

Mort Sahl – Comedian Born May 11, 1927; died October 26, 2021   Mort Sahl, who has died aged 94, was a mould-breaking stand-up comedian, who brought political satire and spontaneity to a 1950s circuit then dominated by mother in law gags and cheap smut. His topical based routines drew from the newspapers he brought with him on stage, and tapped into a sense of opposition that was building among a younger generation in America’s post World War Two climate. One early commentator referred to Sahl as a ‘Rebel Without a Pause’.   Sahl’s casual, dressed down approach was a million miles both sartorially and ideologically from the tuxedo-clad wise-crackers who dominated mainstream comedy. Sahl’s freewheeling monologues influenced a new generation of stand-ups, including his peer, Lenny Bruce, while TV talk show host Steve Allen called Sahl “the only real political philosopher we have in modern comedy.” Sahl became something of a cause celebre among hip intellectuals, and his shows became a ho

Liverpool Calling – Phony Torymania Has(n’t) Bitten the Dust

I Read the News Today. Oh, Boy!   When The Clash released London Calling at the end of 1979, the politically charged title track of the first generation punk band’s third album sounded like one more much needed call to arms. Coming at the end of a year in which Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party was elected to government for what turned out to be eighteen years of misrule, the lyrics to Joe Strummer and Mick Jones’ composition were a lot to take in.    Police brutality, the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island earlier that year, and the potentially apocalyptic consequences of the River Thames flooding were all in the mix. The song’s line ‘Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust’ also pointed up what was probably a first hand observation of the impotence of a rock band to be able to change things in the face of those who put faith in them.    Coming less than a decade after Liverpool’s 1960s pop saviours split up, the line was in keeping with punk’s willingness