Tag Archives: 1983

MALCOLM ’83

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I’ve seen shots of a Malcolm McLaren in 1983 wearing his long-sleeve tee with PUNK IT UP on the chest and DUCK ROCK on the arms in that familiar but still-unnamed iron-on font for a few years now, but I hadn’t seen the footage before until this Spanish TV chat appeared on YouTube via masterhitsi84. As ever, Malcolm doesn’t project modesty and some of the same punk tales are told, but there’s a few good soundbites beneath that translated voiceover. My friends who are still working on the Heated Words project have tapped into something that seems to link a lot of pivotal popular culture, and clips like this just reinforce that.

COLUMBIA

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Bar the feather filled jackets I used to gawp at, Tom Penny’s fabled boots and the occasional temptation by Vibe ads for Body Jar outerwear, Columbia has never grabbed me like North Face, Patagonia and Arc’teryx did, but that late 1980s collection of ultra tech, interchangeable ski jackets in the insane colour combinations like the Vamoose Parka and the Powder Keg always grabbed my attention. I always assumed that Columbia embraced the fashion crowd a little earlier than most and made the decision to be built overseas long before the majority too, but the story of the brand, from the late 1930s start by fleeing Nazi Germany and purchasing the Rosenfeld Hat Company to make it the Columbia Hat Company to the 1960 switch to the Columbia Sportswear Company, is an interesting one.

The matriarchal nature of the company after Gert Boyle took over after her husband passed in 1970 (the ad above is from 1968) gave it a point-of-difference over other outdoor brands of the era, with Gert and her sons’ battles over the colours and modernity of the 1980s creations (the campaign started around 1984) being a key part of the marketing strategy. Given that an 80-something Gert fought off some wannabe kidnappers a couple of years ago, the ads weren’t too far from the truth. Gert Boyle is also credited as creating the brand’s first fishing vest in 1960 and, while the brand is currently taking on the might of GORE-TEX with Omni-Dry, they were putting the iconic household name membrane into a parka back in 1975, which makes them one of the first to use it on a coat.

Boyle helping steer the brand from near-bankruptcy to a publicly traded one by 1998, and taking in Sorel and Mountain Hardwear along the way, is near miraculous. The copywriting on the ski jacket ads stays classic and 1983’s GORE-TEX and Thinsulate Delta Marsh Parka is no joke.

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Mr Leo Sandino-Taylor a upped an interesting image on his Instagram from the Stanley Kubrick exhibition during its Los Angeles residency of the mystery man posing for a photograph in some Nike Air Mad Maxes. It was so good, I had to borrow it for here, so go follow him to make up for my theft. If the Footscape is the Cassavetes of the Nike line and the AM1 is Spielberg, the recycled rubber and reinforced precision and mild eccentricity of the Mad Max is kind of appropriate for Stanley, even though I’d say the Huarache was a better shoe representation of him. Like the excellent Air Max Racer from around the same time, you don’t see many pictures of the Mad Max and to see them on the feet of a rarely seen man is even better. This one trumps the Jordan Vs on David Fincher and might be the greatest sportswear on a non-athlete moment since Bob Marley wore Marathon TRs. Especially since Saville in Air Max became less of a cause for celebration, given recent revelations. Seriously, if any one image sums up what this blog is about, it’s STANLEY KUBRICK WEARING A PAIR OF NIKE AIR MAD MAX.

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First of all, fuck you if you didn’t like Devin the Dude and, while I can understand you not hearing the cult classic that is the Odd Squad album where his career commenced (though its been ZIP and RAR filed heavily since people used YouSendIt links), you should track it down. There’s not too many albums you can pitch to the next generations, because the younger heads won’t care for the sameness of Hard Knocks’ long player regardless of how wide-eyed you are about it, but there’s too much going on with 1994’s ‘Fadanuf Fa Erybody’ to ignore.

It’s so creative and funky (yeah, I said it and I make a point of never using “funky” in vain), that it’s the perfect accompaniment to Outkast’s debut from the same year. In fact, this Rap-A-Lot classic is so good that Rob Quest from the group being blind was largely rendered irrelevant by the strength of the music (check out this excellent Noz interview with Rob from earlier this summer). The mooted follow-up that ‘Rap Pages’ discussed back in 1999 never happened, but it’s worth noting that what constituted a serious brick in 1994 is different from 2012’s failures — ‘Fadanuf…’ shifted just under 70k and the group despaired, but Nicki Minaj’s ‘Roman Reloaded: the Re-Up’ shifted 34,501 last week and still landed at 28 on the Billboard 200. Tokyo’s DJ Muro is shifting some of his own gear on his DIGOT site and he’s selling this promo Odd Squad t-shirt that’s awesome enough to get married or buried in.

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BURROUGHS

“I’m not anticipating any trouble, because I don’t like violence.”
William H. Burroughs

Something I’m working on led me back to Burroughs. You’re pretty much obliged to bow down to the beats and it’s understandable, but I’ve picked up plenty of tat in my quest for enlightenment. To be honest, ‘On the Road’ didn’t ignite an epiphany in me — I was more impressed by Kerouac’s ‘Doctor Sax,’ (written while Jack was living with William Burroughs), and Ginsberg’s NAMBLA support to prove a point left me perplexed. Maybe I need to reinvestigate Allen’s intent there. But Burroughs is the one whose work felt — and still feels — truly dangerous. Nearly every piece of the man’s work has a clinical oddness that’s somehow at odds with the sometimes squalid imagery in his head. He put impurity down with his own opiate-bred brand of twisting narrative that never felt contrived despite his celebrity status — in-demand from those seeking the seated figure with the memorably nightmarish voice and embalmed appearance. Even when he was being photographed for GAP and promoting Nike’s Max2 line, that creepiness remained. It was a perfectly tailored breed of hardcore, with a sedateness that betrayed what those eyes had seen, with no skull rings or posturing necessary. I’ve had to retreat from certain texts like, ‘The Ticket That Exploded’ (my mind wasn’t ready for that cut-up technique), but his love letter to the feline race, ‘The Cat Inside,’ was a revelation, exposing another aspect of a complex soul, evolving until the very end. Was he always so deadpan, or was it the drugs? Did that experimentation create the face that’s as hard to read as the prose?

When I’m watching footage of Burroughs or reading his work, as well as pondering just how high drinking nutmeg and water will make you, I’m looking for those glimmers of humanity, rather than the UFOs, viruses, governmental weirdness, extreme shape shifts and poisoned blood perversities, all the while bearing in mind that he shot his wife in the head once. In between all the dispatches from the dark side, there’s a joy in trying to decipher where his mind is at. With ‘Rub Out the Words’ — a compilation of his written letters during his ‘golden era’ — recently published (and worth your time, his near-constant financial issues explain that willingness to participate in so much during the 1980’s and 1990’s), and Burroughs’ shotgun art of 1986/87 going on display at Uruguay’s Bohemian Gallery & Museum of Contemporary Art, there’s always room for a retrospective. Blasting cans of spray paint in front of canvases with a firearm feels irresponsible, given the man’s relationship with bullets, but it’s an authentic representation of where his head was probably at. Had Burroughs had a knack for illustration, his canvases and sketchbooks might have been an even clearer depiction of his dreams. From recollections from fellow Harvard students that William was fond of firearms, to that day in 1951, to the end, where he’d entertain/scare visitors by producing a sword from his cane (as recollected in ‘Last Words’), weaponry was a significant accessory in the Burroughs mythos. That fetish gets a memorable outing towards the end of ‘Burroughs.’

Howard Brookner’s ‘Burroughs,’ filmed between 1980 and 1983, is a superior documentary that — like the Omnibus ‘Cracked Actor’ documentary — was a BBC production for the Arena strand with Alan Yentob heavily arrived that deserves a DVD release, quietly capturing the complicated subject at a significant point in their career. It’s one of my favourite documentaries, making good use of his readings (and I recommend the UbuWeb sound archives for a thorough collection of Burroughs audio, from him reading ‘Junky’ in its entirety to dubs of cassettes made with Genesis P-Orridge) and including some memorable moments — rare footage of William and his tortured, tragic son Billy at the table (Billy died in 1981, during filming) that’s interspersed with some unflattering remarks from James Grauerholz, William visiting the home of his old gardener and leaving him visibly moved with his surprisingly lucid recollections of the man’s deceased son, a visit to see Lucian Freud, a moment of mirth around his improvised ‘Danny Boy’ lyrics and quite a few weapons — on showing off a telescopic baton, he animatedly describes a telescopic blade to slash somebody’s throat “…right in the middle of a sentence” and shows off a massive knife and fires off a blow dart too. Then there’s his terrifying looking ‘Bunker’ that’s a disused YMCA locker room, where he discusses a paranormal visitor as if it’s simply a matter-of-fact. It’s a compelling watch and Jim Jarmusch was recruited for sound duties (Howard Brookner was gaffer on ‘Permanent Vacation’). Brookner’s passing at age 34 robbed the world of plenty more equally strong portraits.

Somebody has kindly upped the whole documentary on YouTube, but there’s also a full upload of 1984’s ‘Decoder’ there too. ‘Decoder’ couldn’t feel much more 1980’s, but with the real Christianne F (Christiane Felscherinow) as a love interest and Burroughs in some unsettling dream sequences, it’s worth 88 minutes of your existence if you’re my way inclined.