Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull, above, ultra-stylish in 60s mod clothes .
Like a Rainbow
Married and then separated to an artist, mother to a young son,  a hit single, a rock star boyfriend and a heroin addiction, all before the age of 21 - in the rich cultural history of hip 60s London scene, there were few figures as notoriously colourful as Marianne Faithful. From the beginning, she seemed to tumble effortlessly into fame, a singing career and a world famous relationship.

Physically, as well as stylistically,  the singer had all the right ingredients for the times: wild blonde hair, a  slender body, a sensuous mouth, whispery voice, incandescent blue eyes and the whole enhanced by a  Carnaby Street cool that reflected the cutting edge fashions of the era. (though Faithfull describes Carnaby Street as a media construction)

Clothes aside, her convent background and sweet, angelic facial features belied a daring, hedonistic personality that sought out sensual experience but the clash only made her seem more interesting. Looking at very early footage of her, she seems exceptionally effervescent, dreamy, articulate and almost childishly naive, as though she lived in rarefied air.

Hitler's Filmmaker: Leni Riefenstahl

Photographer and film-maker, Leni Reifenstahl
Triumph of the Will and Olympia
In 1936, under the auspices of German dictator Adolf Hitler, Berlin played host to the Summer Olympic games. It was a grand event and the Germans went all out to impress. A new 100,000 seat track and field stadium, six gymnasiums and a host of smaller arenas were created, along with state of the art high-tech equipment, closed circuit TV and a radio network that broadcast internationally.

Hitler saw the games as an opportunity to showcase the 'glory' of Germany and in a world first, decided to produce a documentary film to mark the event.  He wanted an inspired work that  both elevated the German sense of pride and awed the rest of the world and he hired young German photographer and film-maker Leni Riefenstahl to make it. 

Where do you go to my Lovely?


 Image by Alain Elorza

You talk like Marlene Dietrich and you dance like Zizi Zeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain and there's diamonds and pearls in your hair...yes there are

Nice to be some
Singer/composer Peter Sarstedt's 1969 magically evocative ode to an  unknown and probably imaginary jet setting beauty, translated into a huge hit for him in England and I have to confess, it's always been a favourite of mine, romantic fool that I am. The song does tend to be more favoured by women than men, perhaps because it's a story song and provides a kind of romanticised female escapist fantasy. Those of us not in a position to steal a painting from Picasso (apart from the fact that he's dead) can listen to the song and imagine for a brief moment what it must be like for the Aga Khan to give one a racehorse for Christmas or more precisely, to be fabulously rich, glitteringly gorgeous and utterly adored...never forgetting of course, at night, alone in bed, that one came from the back streets of Naples. Yes, oh yes, I still bear the scar deep inside...

France Gall: Les Sucettes

Yé-Yé
France Gall in her naive days
Great Britain had the Beatles and yeah, yeah but across the channel, France had ye ye, it's own version of popular youth music.  Thus, while swinging London was rocking the world with innovate bands, mod culture and Mary Quant,  the  French had it's own groovy 60s scene going.

One famous exponent of French 60s pop was actor, director and musical individualist, Serge Gainsbourg. Notable for his unique lyrics and varied styles (as well as his affair with 60s icon Jane Birkin), Gainsborough had dabbled in jazz in the 1950s but moved on to sexy bubble pop in the 60s.

John: Cynthia Lennon


cynthia lennon's book about john lennonWhen someone gave me a box of discarded books recently, I pulled out one that caught my eye and began to read. The book was Cynthia Lennon's John, her 2005 personal expose of her ten year relationship with a legend.

I knew nothing about John Lennon's first wife...only that she existed. So much has been written about the Beatles and their relationships that to write more feels like adding a droplet of water to an already overflowing glass, not to mention the parasitic element of publicly raking over people's private lives. Yet Cynthia's book is interesting for its first-hand insights into the effects of  fame, adulation, wealth and the problematic nature of creating cultural legends, alive or dead.

The Mothers-in-Law

Cast of the TV show, The Mothers-in-Law
The cliche of the mother-in-law joke was taken a step further in 1967, with the creation of the TV sit-com, The Mothers-in-Law. What could be funnier than one-annoying mother-in-law? Why, two of course! Add some newly-weds and a couple of diametrically opposed husbands and you have the skeleton of a story-line, fleshed out each week by a series of meddling mishaps, disagreements and conflicts.

Bob Downe and Barry Morgan

The irrepressibly upbeat Bob Downe
In Praise of the Sickly Seventies
If immovable hair, carbon nitrate teeth and polyester safari suits appeal to you, you might like Antipodean entertainer Bob Downe, who lives, worships and dangerously inhales all things '70s.

Bob has been quipping, singing and what could be loosely called dancing, around clubs, cabarets and TV stations since 1984, an ominous year in more ways than George Orwell could predict.

Everything Bob Downe does, he does with gusto - disturbing gusto, so keep a kidney tray handy if you decide to sit through an entire song. Call me cowardly but somehow Bob and the Gilligan's Island theme together seems just too much 70s to take in in one gulp...

Mrs Simpson


 

Profile of a seductress - Wallis Simpson
When the freshly crowned King Edward VIII announced to the world in December, 1936 that he had decided to abandon the throne of England in favour of marriage to "the woman I love" there were in essence, two reactions - outrage or a kind of romantic empathy and intertwined with both was a sense of shock.

As most of us know, the woman Edward loved was forty year old American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. To the romantics, Edward was making  a supreme and noble sacrifice for love, while to the outraged he was spurning respectability, his duty, the people of England and the Church for an absurd, puppy-like passion that was nothing short of embarrassing.  

What mysterious qualities did Mrs. Simpson posses that would make her so powerfully alluring that a man would toss aside one of the greatest glories that could be bestowed upon him? Could it really be the force of her personal charms or was it a case of Edward looking for the excuse he needed to shirk the cumbersome responsibilities of monarchy?

1950s Melbourne



Flinders St Station and trams  in the 1950s- Melbourne icons

Stability and Sedation
When glamorous US film star Ava Gardner visited Melbourne in 1959 to film Neville Shute's nuclear-disaster novel On the Beach, she was allegedly unimpressed by our isolated corner of the world and famously described it as "the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world". US evangelist Billy Graham however, while visiting in 1950, had called it "the most moral city in the world". Perhaps in between those two descriptions, almost a decade apart, lay an unavoidable correlation...were we morally upright but dreadfully dull? More recently, journalist Neil Jillet has claimed Gardner  never made the remark at all but rather it was a colourful invention of his own, yet this scarcely seems to matter, as the remark, now etched into Melbourne folklore, had touched a raw nerve.

Liberace Fashion

Fun Times with the King of Kitsch
Strangely, I've never thought of Liberace as a fashion consultant or even remotely fashionable for that matter but perhaps there are those out there who do and if you're one of them (please, seek help!), this book purports to "swing open the closet door" on Liberace's extensive wardrobe in order to give us some sartorial guidance on the "fine art of extraordinary dressing for ordinary occasions". Tempted?

Katy Perry's Retro Style

Retro Queen
How many of us could wear this and get away with it? 
Ever since luminous pop queen Katy Perry has been pumping out hits and strutting her considerable assets in public view, she has been a showcase for the kind of  showy, eye-popping modern-retro style that makes contemporary gear look drab by comparison.

Perry's vivid retro style has been integral to her image and phenomenal success and in turn, the singer has elevated vintage allure to new heights of creative wow.

True, Perry's particular brand of retro carries more than a hint of trashy sexiness and is a rarefied look that few of us could carry off with the same confident aplomb - it helps to be tall, well-built and strikingly attractive. Nevertheless, the great thing about vintage is that the wearer can out it together in their own unique way - whatever suits.

Of Men and Monocles

Actor Sam Bernard in costume. 1909. Source
Not surprisingly, you don't see many monocles around these days..and why would you? They are cumbersome, fiddly objects, only cover one eye and are apt to pop put at inconvenient moments. And yet...by Jove they're eye-catching and offer the wearer an instant transformation into eccentric gentleman - an interesting accessory perhaps, for fans of chappism.

Contrary to appearances, monocles are evidently perfectly comfortable to wear and are handy as a reading glass that can be tucked discreetly into a pocket when not in use. When they first appeared in the early half of the 19th century, they were a simple affair - an unpretentious circle of metal-rimmed glass which slotted into the eye orbit. The second wave of monocles in the late 1800s however, were more elaborate and featured a gallery, which was a kind of of  wire extension on the underside of the rim, designed to increase comfort and prevent the eyelashes from getting in the way of the glass. 

History of the Chrysler Building

A New York Icon

An American Icon: The Fabulous Chrysler Building
The magnificent Chrysler building. Source
There is something both mesmerising and unique about the gleaming Chrysler building, thrusting upwards in its art deco glory - a monument to modernism, industry and early 20th century optimism. One of the great skyscrapers of New York, it still dominates the Manhattan skyline, if not in height, then in style and certainly, fame.

Designs for the building on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street were originally commissioned by a land-developer, William Reynolds, before being passed on to automobile magnate and industry-grandising visionary, Walter P Chrysler, who worked with architect William Van Alen to create one of the most significant buildings of the modern age.

Apeface and Crumplezone

Interplanetary Rap
It's the sparkle in your eyes
Knocking me out with those Martian thighs...

Never heard of Apeface and Crumplezone...? Well if you're reading this you have now. Their latest musical vision, Escape to Mizar 5, has the distinction of being a 'full length space rap concept record' about the criminal goings-on on Mizar 5, a prison colony/red light district somewhere in a galaxy far away. With the help of a 12 page accompanying comic book, the listener is invited to be beamed up into a 'part Star Wars, part Star Trek' experience. Sounds ambitious, which is good.

Apeface and Crumple-Z, (aka Kyle Cornett and Brad White), hail from the USA, Planet Earth. Escape to Mizar 5 is their second space-rap record and you can check out the first single from it below. A full 16 track album, featuring guest appearances from the Rock, Rap and R&B talent tank,  is planned for late summer, 2012. The album promises some diverse sounds, from thumping to easy listening.The track below is definitely of the easy listening variety. You can also check out the single at itunes.