Posts written during 'October 2012'
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Tuesday, 30th Oct 2012
This month celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first single, Love Me Do. To coincide with the event, writer and music journalist Paolo Hewitt has taken the opportunity to create a brand new biography of the band, taking the reader from the group's beginnings in the late 50s to the existing member's reformation in 1996, when Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr recorded and released two of John Lennon's songs.
Love Me Do takes a new approach to the band's story, with Hewitt including little-known moments including the Beatles' audition to be Billy Fury's backing band and George Harrison being deported from Hamburg; to more famous moments such as the band's stint at The Cavern and their 1969 rooftop show. Paolo Hewitt's previous work includes the A-Z of Mod, a comprehensive guide co-written by Mark Baxter with sections from 'Absolute beginners' to 'Zoot Money'.
Love Me Do by Paolo Hewitt is available now, published by Quercus.
Friday, 26th Oct 2012
Clash City Rockers - Part 2
In 1981 the Clash left for New York to do seven shows, and took me along to document the event on film—which became ‘Clash on Broadway’—and that’s how this London-based Dread got to meet the B-Boys in downtown NYC. All seven shows were oversold, and the Clash ended up playing seventeen shows back-to-back to satisfy demand. The venue was smack bang in the middle of Manhattan, in a place called Bond’s, Times Square. Before the Clash had got to New York, their “Magnificent Dance”, a remix of “Magnificent Seven” was being played on the black radio station WBLS. Frankie Crocker from WBLS had mixed a version of “Magnificent Dance”, and over-dubbed bits of dialogue from the movie Dirty Harry with bits of Bugs Bunny samples. For the whole summer it seemed like WBLS rocked that tune and the B-Boys loved it. Mick Jones was responsible for bringing the whole New York hip-hop scene to the Clash. It was a genre The Clash took on board in the same way they had embraced reggae.
In the beginning of the eighties there was a new sound breaking out of the badlands of the Bronx and Harlem, moving downtown via the New York trendies—and, it has to be said, with a little help from the Clash. They invited Grandmaster Flash, the Treacherous Three and the Sugarhill Gang to support them, aiming to turn downtown New York onto something that was going on in their own backyard. Initial reactions were not always favourable though; on one occasion the predominantly white audience threw bottles at Grandmaster Flash whilst they were on stage, little realising they were witnessing an embryonic scene that would soon dominate the world. There had been the “punky reggae” thing in London and now there was that “punky hip-hop” thing going on in NYC. I was particularly bemused as once again the hip-hop scene had roots in Jamaica, inspired by the rapping style of Jamaican toasters, which was ironic in itself, as the Jamaican DJs had been inspired by American jocks broadcasting out of Miami in the late fifties.
Like punk, hip-hop would become a complete sub-culture with its own dress code, film-makers, artists and photographers. The notoriety and popularity of the graff writers like Haze, Futura 2000, Dhondi, Zephyr and Fab 5 Freddy grew with the music. It was Fab Five Freddy that took Debbie Harry to hip-hop events, and Blondie’s “Rapture” was probably the first ‘rap’ the masses got to hear, whilst Malcolm McLaren’s “Buffalo Gals” video introduced the world to the look and moves of the scene. Africa Bambaataa had a vision of bridging punk and hip-hop, and the black youth thought he was crazy, which was a similar reaction I had from my Rasta brethren before going off to play reggae and dub at the Roxy a few years earlier. For most, funds were tight so they had no choice to do anything but mix-and-match to create their own unique style of dress. As with any burgeoning scene, the DIY ethic was evident right across hip-hop.
For the time that the Clash were in New York, it seemed to me that they basically ran the gaff. I mean people like Scorsese and De Niro were showing up at the gigs. Not surprisingly, as the Clash were grabbing the headlines, people were falling themselves to show you what the city had to offer. And back then there was a lot on offer—why do you think they named it twice? It was like a real hip-hop-punk rock n ‘roll circus. As for the film, the bands manager Bernard Rhodes put it into a lab in NYC, didn’t pay the bill, and after a few years the lab destroyed the negatives. Luckily years later I managed to salvage sections of the film to create a DVD extra for my ‘Westway to the World’ documentary.
From NYC we moved on to Texas. I went there with the band to shoot the “Rock the Casbah” video and we came up with this half-baked idea of Jews and Arabs getting along, which I thought was a brave move for the Clash considering what could and couldn’t be shown on MTV back then. The plan was for the band to be filmed playing in front of an oil derry, and I was amazed when Mick walked onto the set wearing these red long johns and black DM boots apparently he was pissed off about something and it was his way of throwing a strop. I pulled him to one side and said, “Look Mick, you look like a matchstick, and don’t forget film lasts forever, so if you look stupid today, you’ll look stupid forever.” Mick got changed.
The Clash were like four sticks of dynamite. On the cue of “ACTION” these guys just went off. The armadillo was the mascot of Texas and was added for a bit of humour. Most people there had never seen a live one; only dead as ashtrays or handbags. The whole video was quite humorous; there is a scene where the Arab is driving the Cadillac and making the Jew pay for the oil. The video is a juxtaposition of ideas and thought-provoking scenes. The song itself was later used by the US military in the first Gulf War as a rallying cry. A prime example of left wing political statements being hijacked distorted and completely misunderstood.
In the summer of 1982, the Clash played Shea Stadium supporting The Who, which is where I filmed the video for “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. We were backstage and Andy Warhol was there. I remember jokingly telling Warhol that there was acid in the cake, and the poor guy completely flipped out. I felt really bad about that. The “Radio Clash” video was cut out of the Clash on Broadway footage and a few years later I got the chance to show it to Federico Fellini at a film festival. After the screening Fellini said that I “have the vision of a terrorist”. He was smiling at the time, so I guess it was a compliment. Sounded great in Italian!
Click HERE for all posts by Don Letts.
As part of our 60 Year Anniversary Celebrations, Don Letts has created six short films exploring British music and street style. The Don Letts Subculture Films are now avilable to watch on Fred Perry Subculture HERE.
Tuesday, 23rd Oct 2012
Following a phenomenal summer of successes, we caught up with Tour de France winner and multi-gold medallist Bradley Wiggins to chat heroes, sport and why he'd be more at home playing bass guitar than fronting the band.
I remember my first Fred Perry shirt. I got it in 1989 I think it was. It was the standard polo shirt in blue, I bought it myself. At the time, in the late eighties, Fred Perry wasn’t a common thing to wear. I remember when I was about ten everything was Fila. Everyone went through this Fila thing. It was Fila and Kickers boots. I’d just started getting into the mod look, I’d seen Quadrophenia and that’s where the Fred Perry top came from. That’s where it all started for me really. So I was kind of a bit unique at the time - Fred Perry in the late eighties was going through a bit of a dip in recognition of its heritage and what it was selling, so I guess I was a bit out there for going for a Fred Perry.
I was a bit nervous about whether people would take to the collaboration or not. But the timing I don’t think could have been better, with what happened in summer with the Tour and the Olympics. It’s been brilliant really; everything’s just come together both on and off the bike. It’s nice for me that people like Paul Weller have thanked me for the shirt, and seeing people like Steve Craddock and Andy Croft wearing theirs, it’s just really nice. And then Johnny Marr Tweeting about it and going to the store - it’s a bit like, bloody hell!
I’ve got to meet many of my heroes the past few months. And some of them being slightly in awe to meet me is very strange, and that’s through sports. I got to watch the Stone Roses, and they were brilliant and Miles Kane. It’s bizarre but that’s what really nice about the crossover between sports and music. Everybody wants to celebrate cycling and the successes of the summer by wearing this heritage crossover piece. As I said, the timing couldn’t have been better for everybody.
For me, looking back, the mod look will always be about the Small Faces. I met Kenney Jones a while back after the Olympics, and he’s one of the original forefathers. But then after that obviously Weller and The Jam, the revival thing, and then again in modern day, him being able to be a trendsetter as well as evolving it and not being a cliché in that look; he has taken his own stamp on it. But then also for me, it’s weird for me to try and take my own style into all this. Because people look at me like that now, which is nice, it’s nice to have that. And I’ve seen a lot of stuff in the Press like ‘Mod’ on the cover of The Sun, or the Mirror and that and I guess it has given it a revival in a way really.
When I was on the Tour, I was there with my photographer Scott who’s also a photographer for The Moons. He’d always hang around at the finish because I would always go back to the hotel in a separate car from the team, and we were listening to the promo of The Moons new album a lot. Songs like English Summer and Jennifer. That became a bit of a soundtrack for the third week of the Tour for us, and the Olympics. And then we were hanging out with Andy Croft a bit after the Olympics, and he was really surprised we were listening to that. So The Moons’ new album really sums up this summer for me.
There are many tracks that I listen to often, but for me, again, it’s all about the Small Faces. I never tire of listening to Ogden’s, forty years on from when it was made. I was talking to Kenney Jones about that - he was 15 years old when he wrote Ogden’s. They were all teenagers when they wrote that album, but the sound of it; it could be a band today. It’s just brilliant. That proves how good they were as musicians and songwriters. That whole album has still stood the test of time. For me, it’s a benchmark that everyone followed.
When you’re a teenager you’re at your most easily influenced. I was 15 when Paul Weller’s Stanley Road came out, so a lot of the songs on that have meaning. Definitely Maybe by Oasis came out I was fourteen. When you’re a teenager you always sway towards the rebellious - I grew up with Oasis. It’s still stands as much today as it did then. When I was a teenager I was attracted by that rebellious character - that was definitely the case for me.
I’m coming up to the point where I’ve spent more time in the North of England than the South. I moved to Manchester when I was eighteen because that’s where the national cycling centre was and I’ve been up there ever since. I got really into the heritage of the music – Northern Soul I really got into big - so I started collecting a lot of vinyl; the Wigan Casino stuff and the Twisted Wheel. And I really got into the whole Manchester band thing that happened; with The Smiths and everything, it’s a whole different scene up there. It’s a much more untapped scene, whereas the London music scene has the whole history with Carnaby Street and that area, and it’s become a bit too commercialised and touristy. In comparison to that, the Northern scene’s stayed much more underground.
I’ve always struggled being at the forefront of something, whether it’s as a team leader or whatever, I don’t like being the front man. I like to be in a position where I can be in the background a bit. I don’t like being the voice of something. I suppose I've always swayed towards bass players- people like John Entwistle, who’s my hero, musically. I always liked that even though he’s probably one of the best musicians in the world for what he did, but you might not ever recognise him in the street. And he was just very humble and modest about what he did. I would have loved to have been as good a bass player as him.
I think Miles Kane has the potential to go on and be the next Weller. Definitely, over the next few years. There’s other bands too – Gun Club Cemetery have started to get a little following together on Twitter, The Moons again, and Little Barry, they’ve got some good singles. They’re the bands I’m backing.
Rugby’s the hardest sport in the world. I have real admiration for the Wigan Warriors. They’re just so modest and normal blokes. They probably don’t get paid half as much as they should, in comparison to footballers. It’s a working man’s sport.