Friday, 2 December 2016

Attic Foray No.2

Somewhere around six weeks ago I published the first in an occasional series about stuff from my attic. I knew from that first adventure up through the Trapdoor of Wonderment (thank Heavens it didn't turn out to be the half-feared Trapdoor of Wasps' Nest...) that there was enough rubbish - whoops, sorry - enough memorabilia up there to warrant many more articles and much more excitement. So here is the long (well... six weeks...) anticipated second foray! This time I came back down the loft ladder with a couple of folders of ephemera and scrap books and many magazine pages torn from the likes of TV magazines, photography magazines and other assorted geeky stuff...

These days we all have digital cameras - either lumped in with a phone (why do we still call them that because it seems to be the least thing we use them for...?) or a digital SLR or anything in-between. It costs absolutely nothing, once the camera is in our possession, to take photos and the resulting lack of discipline or selective photography has flooded the world with images. My first item in this article is a film envelope from York Photo Labs. Dating only from around 1996-1998 it's purpose was for mailing your exposed film (i.e. one that you had already run through your camera) to the laboratory that would process the film and then print the photos from it. You would eventually receive back 24 or 36 photos which probably would take a couple of weeks.

The cost of standard prints which were six inches by four inches in size was £2.55 for a 24 exposure film or £3.55 for a 36 exposure film. So roughly 10 pence per photo subject to 20 years of inflation. It doesn't sound an awful lot, but I know at least one person who takes a couple of thousand during a week's holiday and a few others who take lots of photos every single day. If your photography was to add a cost of an extra £200 to your holiday (should we double that for 20 years' inflation?) I bet you would start to think a bit harder about shooting everything you saw!

During the 1980s I was a regular contributor to The Lancashire Magazine and during research for one article had visited the factory of TVR the sports car manufacturers whose factory was a mere ten minutes walk from my home. In 1994 they sent me a brochure of their cars, presumably coming across my name in a random sort through of their contacts lists. This is the 1994 TVR Chimaera.

This rather spiffing form of transport came with a choice of three different engines from four to five litres, but I feel it would be stingy to go for anything less that the top of the range so the 5.0 litre version rolled out of the factory with your name on it for just £32,995.00. Given the price of cars these days it sounds a bargain... It's the details of the specifications that remind us how car manufacturing has advanced since those days. Although they came as standard equipment, the company thought these sufficiently drool-worthy to mention specifically: alloy wheels, electric windows (!! when did you last have to wind down a car window with a little lever winder on the door?), removeable radio cassette, central locking and alarm system. Both power assisted steering and air conditioning were optional extras for extra cost at this point. I'd still have liked one though...

Theatre programs, flyers and souvenirs rarely include the year and this is no exception. Trevor Payne's wonderful show That'll Be The Day had started out in 1987 and had been going for over ten years by the time of this programme which I guess dates from 1998 or 1999. We started going to see this show every opportunity we got from the early days in the late 1980s and it was refreshed with new songs and every now and then some new personnel so that it was never too predictable or familiar. With comedy routines and lots of costume changes it was an absolute joy to watch.

Well, look at that! An issue of Film Review from outside my main buying period of 1977 to 1980. I had a bit of a crush on Barbara Carrera if truth be known and this could be why I bought this particular issue. One of only two issues outside the four years collection. The other earlier one features Ingrid Pitt...!

The official 114 page souvenir of Episode 1 of Star Wars, The Phantom Menace. It has photos galore, interviews with the stars, adverts for enough promotional tie-in toys, garments and gizmos to fill your entire mansion (a mere house would not be big enough...) On the downside of course is Jar Jar Binks...

The Complete James Bond Poster Collection. Well... it's complete up to and including Tomorrow Never Dies. So dating from 1997/98 at a guess - as does pretty much most of the things in the folder. It's probably been almost that long since they saw the light of day to be honest... Measuring a generous 12 x 9 inches this presumably came free with a magazine, possibly Empire but I stand ready to be corrected. Each poster has an inset photo of the relevant film's main Bond Girl.

A souvenir booklet for Manchester Museum. This particular establishment was just up the road from my college, the John Dalton College in Manchester, then part of Manchester Polytechnic. I'd tell you all about my course, but I dropped out, like... man...

The Borgias. This was a BBC production from 1981 and is the first of a whole heap of cuttings from TV magazines. It dates from 1981 - the series starred Adolfo Celi in the lead role of Rodrigo Borgia and his heavy accent caused the BBC to be inundated with complaints. The series was never repeated hence, this was chopped from the Radio Times in 1981, 35 years ago! Adolfo Celi is perhaps more fondly remembered as the villain in the fourth James Bond outing: Thunderball.

Mary Stavin was crowned Miss World in 1977. Later linked with the irrepressible George Best and appeared in a few films too.

Lastly for this time, I'm not sure when this dates from, but it probably came from a TV magazine again and as far as I remember it's a long time since Cliff Richard with Richard O'Sullivan and Melvyn Hayes were on TV in the film Wonderful Life.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Trip To Bury Market

Yesterday we had a day out to Bury Market. It's a long, long (very long) time since we last went to Bury and the size of the market there takes the occasional or new visitor a bit by surprise. It is huge! There are rows and rows of market stalls selling everything from sweets to food of every kind and from material and sewing thread to gowns and evening wear. If you are looking for cheap entertainment items there are stalls with both new and second hand books and DVDs. Hidden amongst all these rows of delights are small, sometimes tiny cafes with a few tables where people sit cheerfully (or sometimes a little bit morosely...) nursing a mug of coffee or something to eat.

There's a meat and fish market hall that has to be seen to be believed. I had no camera with me of course - I refuse to treat my phone as a camera, it takes bloody awful photos and I hold a camera more steadily if it's jammed against my eye... So I waited until I got home and then looked for a photo on t'internet and got the coloured pencils out.

The meat and fish stalls looked wonderful and there was little smell which tells me that the fish was very fresh and had been properly looked after on stands that were well maintained and cleaned. There were other foodstuffs too that made me think of school days and had my mouth watering.

Manchester tart. Not the sort with high heels and caked-on make-up masking advancing years ("Fancy an 'orrible time, dearie?")... I put this photo on my FaceBook page last night and immediately people were drooling all over their keyboards in the rush to comment. Moya Gleave in New Zealand was the first to describe it for those southerners who had hitherto doubted its very existence. "It's a pie....Almond shortbread with raspberry jam, custard, coconut & cherries."

The cherry should be a little more prominent... We went to do the weekly shop once back in Blackpool and Miss Franny placed it in a bag under what she thought was a bag containing two iced buns. It was actually a cauliflower... Not an iced one...

And - joy of my childhood - a wimberry pie! Wimberries are like bilberries but with a much more concentrated taste. They seemed to disappear from shop shelves in the 1970s and then we had to make do with bilberries which came from Poland or Ukraine or somewhere else that was affected by the clouds bearing gifts from Chernobyl. So they disappeared too. I haven't tasted a wimberry pie for four decades, but a few minutes ago I cut into it and...

oh. my. god....... So that's the first of our weekly visits to Bury then...

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Film Review, February 1979 Issue

Come back with me now to the final year of the Seventies, decade of disco, punk and flares. It's time to get to the cinema, unfortunately just as the lights go down so we have to shuffle along a row in the dark, tripping over feet and handbags and [CRUNCH!] whoops, was that your umbrella...?

February 1979's issue of Film Review magazine is described on the cover as "a really super issue". It has Superman, supersonic spoofers, supernatural shocks, superstar Clint Eastwood and a sachet of Super Soft shampoo... er... Fran have you seen a sachet of shampoo? It seems to have become detached and lost...

On the inside front cover are a few photos of a reader who has won a Ford Mustang car in a competition. That will look good parked near the high-rise flats - well, for a good five minutes until the locals get jealous... Sadly there are no adverts at all in this issue that we have not already seen in previous articles, but the good news is that the Contents page features the gorgeous Jenny Agutter and this is just a preview for a three-page article with more pics further inside the magazine!

Christopher Reeve stars in the forthcoming Superman - The Movie and is interviewed over three pages by Dave Badger. Dave then goes on to dominate another three pages with an interview of Superman producer Ilya Salkind.

The Superman film was shot back-to-back with what would later be released as Superman II and already the article confirms there will be a Superman III. It also speculates about a Supergirl film (later to be realised with Helen Slater in the role) and (thankfully never to be seen) Krypto the Superdog...

I just do not remember ever there having been a film called A Wedding, but here it gets a two-page article. Desi Arnaz Jr and Amy Stryker play the main participants and Geraldine Chaplin, Lauren Hutton, Mia Farrow, Lillian Gish and Nina Van Pallandt (but not Frederick her one-time singing partner) all have supporting roles in both film and wedding. It was a comedy apparently, the article doesn't actually make it all that clear, but I suspect it couldn't have been all that hilarious as it managed to miss my conciousness both then and now...

A short piece in Barbra Paskin's gossip column, Hollywood, tells us that Hollywood stars are going mad for a new pure silk jogging outfit, that unfortunately has a knack of disintegrating after cleaning a couple of times. Cher is amongst those who have bought one, but the photo's caption helpfully points out that she is not shown dressed for jogging...

Two pages are devoted to the new Clint Eastwood film, Every Which Way But Loose in which he stars with Clyde the orang-utan.

Whilst Clyde may be an agreeable mate, he's no substitute for a girlfriend and Philo, as Clint's character is called, woos the elusive but lovely country singer Lynn Halsey-Taylor (Sondra Locke).

A nice behind-the-scenes photo of the cast of the 1979 remake of The Lady Vanishes. I recently watched the original Hitchcock version starring Margaret Lockwood and I confess I love both versions. Cybill Shepherd is both decorous and feisty in the starring role and Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael enjoy themselves immensely as the cricket-loving English pair, appalled that a "mad American girl" should cause them to be delayed when they need to get back to England to watch a test match.

There's a generous helping of late seventies glamorous film stars in this issue and here is Goldie Hawn in a scene from her new film Foul Play. The film teams her with Chevy Chase, Dudley Moore and Burgess Meredith as they battle or hinder each other to prevent the assassination of the Pope at an opera performance.

More glamour on the centre pages with Anika Pavel and June Chadwick (below) both of whom appear in spy spoof The Golden Lady.

Regular columnist Barbra Paskin takes us on a visit to the Hollywood home of Jenny Agutter who, luckily for us, manages to get in the way as Barbra is taking photos of the house...

The Railway Children was her ninth film and came after acting additionally in four TV series (including a BBC 7-part series also based on The Railway Children). She has 111 entries on the Internet Movie Database and appeared on TV most recently in Call The Midwife and in cinemas in Tin after appearing in both Captain America - The Winter Soldier and the 2012 Avengers film as a member of the World Security Council.

Bringing my collection of glamour shots to an end for this issue is Farrah Fawcett-Majors in her first film Somebody Killed Her Husband. Like A Wedding, this is another comedy that I've never come across...

Will the March issue of Film Review re-balance the sexes with a collection of hunks (I wouldn't bet on it...) Will it provide any new 1970s-style adverts for groovy ointments to zap pimples? Should I spin-off into a separate series all about glamorous actresses of the past? I'm sure there's already a glut of those elsewhere, but you never know...

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Fade To Black And White

A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to move my files of film negatives and, to my dismay, as soon as I picked up a file half of the pages slipped to the floor.

The "pages" were plastic sheets, each holding seven strips of negatives. Whilst these do not get used all that much, they are still the definitive version of my early photographs and for any publication work a fresh scan is needed at high resolution.

The problem was time. Isn't it always...? But in this case it was the effects of time on thin plastic sheets bought around 35 years ago. They had degraded to the point where the punched holes for the file's ring binders just ripped out. Indeed huge chunks of plastic were breaking free at every single touch. So I've had to buy a new supply of sleeves, choosing Kenro paper sleeves this time. Whilst I had the negatives out I thought I might run a few through the scanner again.

Each time I do this I'm amazed at the leap in the quality of reproduction. When I first scanned them onto a computer it was at the size of 320x240 pixels when the entire VDU screen could squeeze no more than 800x600 pixels altogether. Photo screen savers were as yet unknown so I didn't think at the time to try scanning any larger. These days I can scan a 35mm negative up to tens of thousands of pixels. My current screen size is 1680x1050 and for reproduction a scan of over 5000 pixels is required for a sharp image. I'm amazed at people who think they can take a small image off the web and resize it, thinking that the "hidden details" will adjust the sharpness as they go along. Nooooooo!

This image was taken in 1971 from the interior of a cave on the beach outside the harbour wall at Polperro in Cornwall. Not an easy topic for a light meter to cope with...

Moving north into Devon in the same year, here is a shot taken from the top of Clovelly's main street which descends down to the beach at a gradient that taxes the back coming up and the knees going down! This was not a sunny day...!

1972 and that's me on the right on stage with the band Spiral somewhere in Oldham. At the time I was working in a photographic studio and was necessarily in trendy mode...

The year after I was working for myself and the hair had grown a bit again, before it all fell out a few years after... I'd never fit into those dark green velvet trousers these days either...

Also from 1973. Spiral it's fair to say, was not a top-earning band... When we didn't have a gig we would go out for last orders at a pub in Failsworth (between Oldham and Manchester) and as it was on a cul-de-sac, we would park near this house. It was always in darkness, unless the inhabitants only occupied the rear of the place, and we always used to joke it was haunted. We called it Terror Towers or something similarly ridiculous that would appeal to a teenage mind after a pint of Watneys Red...

In 1974 my parents moved to Blackpool to take over a small hotel on Trafalgar Road, which runs between the Promenade and Lytham Road, close to The Manchester pub. I stayed on in Rochdale for a while and came over to Blackpool for free food at weekends... This was the view of the Pleasure Beach from the South Pier in 1974. Not only is this pre-Big One roller coaster and Ocean Boulevard, it's before the Space Tower was built or the Avalanche. The old Aztec frontage to the River Caves can be seen extreme left. In front of the Big Dipper with its old spherical finial is a simple roundabout ride, dating back to the late 50s or early 60s, of space rockets that could be raised or lowered by means of a joystick in each rocket.

Circa 1976-78 this shot from the Central Pier shows Blackpool's previous sea wall and the slade used for vehicle access to the beach. The pedestrian footbridge is very new and Lewis's and Woolworth's stores bookend the Tower. Visitors are enjoying a lively sea and the beach food carts and caravans sit waiting for the tide to go out.

From the pedestrian footbridge we can look along the Promenade roadway, looking north. This was taken on August Bank Holiday Monday, 1978. The Vauxhall car in front of the bus is brand new as the T-registration only came out on the first of that month. The bus is single-decker 571 and on it's way to Manchester Square. There's a healthy crowd of visitors on the Promenade and the roadway has two lanes of traffic in each direction with room for a central refuge for crossing pedestrians.

1976 and Brush tramcar 638 turns off the Promenade to return to the Rigby Road depot along Lytham Road. A car driver is hoping the tram will let him scoot in front once the pedestrians have cleared the way. At this time no other town in England had had street trams for over twenty years and many visiting drivers had sudden panic moments as they realised that Blackpool's trams were not going to swerve away from their antics...

In 1977 riding the Grand National roller coaster meant bouncing out of your seats and holding a handrail on the back of the seat in front of you. Restraints of any kind were not thought necessary. Just to make sure however, as the coaster trains neared the top of the lift hill a recorded voice politely said: "Please... do not stand up..."

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Music I Love - 'G'

We reach the letter 'G' in this occasional series of sounds that have made it through my speakers on several occasions. 'G' was not the easiest of letters of the alphabet, I have to say. In a musical sense anyway - both my daughter and granddaughter's names begin with 'G' so I don't have any aversion to the letter itself. But most of the music here is about singles more than albums.

We kick off with Gallagher and Lyle. Mainly for their laid-back performance on their hit single Heart On My Sleeve. They came together in 1959 and played in a number of bands. Then came a period of writing songs for other artists under contract to Apple Records. In 1970 they were founding members of McGuinness Flint whose hits When I'm Dead And Gone and Malt and Barley Blues are also worthy of a mention. The duo Gallagher and Lyle graced stages and studios from 1972 and Heart On My Sleeve came from their fifth album as a duo. They split in 1980. Graham Lyle went on to form a music publishing company and wrote songs for a veritable who's who of artists. He wrote both What's Love Got To Do With It and We Don't Need Another Hero for Tina Turner. Benny Gallagher also kept busy as founding director and first chairman of PAMRA, the Performing Artists Media Rights Association and with a long associaltion with Paul McCartney's School of Performing Arts in Liverpool. He also had a seven year stint with The Manfreds, touring much of the world with five original members of Manfred Mann and including both Paul Jones and Mike D'Abo as singers.

Art Garfunkel merits a solo spot - even though I'm fairly sure he will crop up again as part of a relatively successful duo when we get to the letter 'S'... Most people who are old enough will remember the theme song from the animated film Watership Down which he recorded. Bright Eyes hit the No.1 spot in 1979, four years after his first solo No.1, I Only Have Eyes For You.

At one point in my teenage years I was an avid Motown fan and Marvin Gaye was one of my most-listened to performers, particularly for his duets with the likes of Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell. By the Seventies I had moved on to more progressive music, but I can still get lost in the rhythm and the sheer craft of songs like It Takes Two, You're All I Need To Get By, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Too Busy Thinking 'Bout My Baby and The Onion Song.

Crystal Gayle - my God, the hair... here for just three songs: Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue and Talking In Your Sleep which both charted and the non-charting River Road, which she sang as guest on The Muppet Show and I just loved it!

From one Gayle to another. Michelle Gayle started off in Grange Hill then Eastenders and moved from there to creating records. I have to admit that Sweetness was the only one that I bought, but it was one of those that I used to play a lot.

The Diva, Gloria Gaynor. Ok so I Will Survive became an anthem for defiant women everywhere, but it was the first single Never Can Say Goodbye five years earlier that stood out amongst lots of insipid female voices of the time. It reached No.2 and was followed by another three - a cover of The Four Tops hit Reach Out I'll Be There, All I Need Is Your Sweet Lovin' and a cover of Les Paul and Mary Ford's How High The Moon. Then nothing for just over three years from 1976 to 1979 when the afore mentioned First I was afraid... hit the No.1 spot.

The J Geils Band are included for their No.3 smash Centrefold which tells the sweet tale of a young man who had been in love with an innocent girl at school and carried this image until he saw her in the centre spread of a soft porn mag. Upon which his dreams of her innocence turn to thoughts of lechery - (huh?) He is dismayed everyone can see her without clothes but now suggests going to a motel room where he can take them off in private... Tsk! Oh ok it's not a sweet song at all - but it did have a stunning video didn't it lads...? And in the midst of a load of emerging dreary songs with synthesizer backings it was a bit of a breath of fresh air.

Ok, I wasn't too much of a fan of the Peter Gabriel era Genesis, though me and my mate Alex Dyson went to Manchester Free Trade Hall to see them play live in the early Seventies. They were middle of the bill with Bell and Arc (by far the best act of the night) on first and with the truly excruciating Van der Graaf Generator as top of the bill despite half emptying the place within five minutes... We had met someone we knew and promised them a lift home so had to stay. They meanwhile, sitting somewhere else in the theatre, long before mobile phones, were also hating every moment but stayed because they didn't want to leave us waiting for them in vain... Tickets for the concert had been a massive...30p !!!

Genesis I remember particularly for an electric organ with a gizmo that allowed a chord to be played and then dropped through the scale like a slide guitar and (highlight of their act) Peter Gabriel smashing his maracas (could have been nasty!) on his mic stand during a bit where the stage was lit by flashing strobe lighting. All the little bits that made them rattle could be seen flying out in jerks. But I had a few later singles like I Know What I Like (the B side has the electric organ effect mentioned above) and Follow You Follow Me and the excellent Land Of Confusion that I felt deserved far better than the No.14 it stalled at.

I thought I'd include Gerry Marsden here instead of under the letter 'M' because Gerry and The Pacemakers was the name of the group. They were one of the Liverpool Beat groups, all three of their first three singles How Do You Do It, I Like It and You'll Never Walk Alone shooting straight into the charts at No.1. It had never been done before. Quite apart from the massive impact of You'll Never Walk Alone there were many lovely songs that he released such as Ferry Cross The Mersey, I'm The One and my particular favourite Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying. I remember playing You'll Never Walk Alone with Creeping Bentgrass in Croxteth Park one summer's day in either 2004 or 2005 when we had a full field of people all waving their arms overhead. It was magical. There was even an Everton fan asking for it twice. Well... that was the number of fingers he had up...

Gerry kept coming back too, re-recording his old hits as charity records following the 1985 Bradford stadium fire and the 1989 Hillsborough disasters. We saw him with one of many Sixties Revival shows in 2002, seen here with the rest of the cast. L-R: Dave Berry, Mike D'Abo, Gerry Marsden, Mike Pender and Brian Poole with (out of shot) Anne and Maureen Nolan from The Nolans on backing vocals. A terrific night!

Debbie Gibson was an ear-worm from my daughter during the 1980s when all she played for a while was Electric Youth and We Should Be Together. Many years after my boss mentioned her as having been in a film on TV (some ridiculous creature thing Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus - Whatever...) "My God, I remember her!" I said. "Well don't look her up at work," he said with a laugh, "there's some rather dubious photos..." Dear me...

Girls Aloud. Look, I'm nothing if not eclectic, ok? Whilst totally failing to understand why anyone would want to cover their buttocks with a massive tattoo, somehow I still managed to get quite into singles such as Sound of the Underground, Love Machine, No Good Advice, I'll Stand by You, The Show, See the Day, and Something Kinda Ooooh. (Shakes head... illogical...)

Not so this, of course...

...recorded Almost Live at the Cricklewood Rainbow...

And of course I mustn't forget the early 1960s Easy Listening genre. Ron Goodwin was master of the film soundtrack and two of my earliest CD purchases were his. Each contained two of his Studio 2 albums for Columbia. They were Adventure and Excitement and Fire and Romance. I also have several singles and even a few 78 rpm records of his.

His themes for films 633 Squadron and Where Eagles Dare are amongst my favourites and I recall with great affection going to see him conduct a large orchestra at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, where he treated us to a full night of film music.

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