Art For Art’s Sake

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From a very young age, I have loved Art in all its forms. Whether it was my own early creations, which relatives dutifully received on every occasion I could deem special (basically any day ending in a Y!), or my attempts to “improve” my environment, which included a full-length painting on my bedroom door of my then favourite group, Immaculate Fools, when I was 14 (my parents were very encouraging and tolerant), I have painted and created. However, in more recent years the creativity has been inched out in favour of appreciation, which is why I could not resist the opportunity of viewing a Banksy creation in situ.

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So, last Sunday I made my way to Payers Park in Folkestone to view Banksy’s “Art Buff”. The photo shows me beside the artwork, which less than 24 hours later would have an unwarranted addition to its empty plinth:

http://www.kentonline.co.uk/folkestone/news/vandals-make-obscene-addition-to-25142/

Banksy aside, there are a number of urban artists producing some fantastic pieces, but who do not receive the media hype of the elusive artist. One such artist is Terry Sue-Patt (TSP Hoodie). If the name sounds familiar, you were probably a Grange Hill fan when the programme first launched. Terry played the part of Benny Green, 58680_10201586065125056_37009664_nthe sidekick of Peter “Tucker” Jenkins, and the first Grange Hill pupil to ever appear on our TV screens. Some of Terry’s work is inspired by, and features, his Grange Hill character. Exhibiting alongside the talents of artists such as Norwich-based David “Gnasher” Nash, and Lisa Richer (LisArt) in Brick Lane’s “Monty’s Bar”, Terry’s work is both accessible and affordable. Last year, I bought one of Terry’s “Benny Green” pieces, during his Grange Hill Exhibition at the bar, and it has hung proudly in my hallway ever since. I never tire of looking at it – surely a sign of enduring art.

I love to discuss Art almost as much as viewing and having a go at creating it, and was in my element when I happened to encounter an Art lecturer, whilst working in a book shop. What began as a discussion about a local Eric Gill sculpture, ended almost as a confessional of our own artistic shortcomings. He admitted that he hates people looking over his shoulder at what he is sketching, when he works outdoors. I revealed that for about the last ten years, I have not finished any of the paintings I have started. Some may only have an square inch piece missing, but they rePunkmain unfinished. The lecturer’s theory was that in not finishing my paintings, I was preventing them from being judged. When a painting is finished, the artist is saying they are happy with the piece (or at least happy for it to be viewed), and therefore open to criticism. In keeping my work incomplete, it stopped it being criticized. Heavy stuff, but it made sense.

In an attempt to get me past this fear of criticism, and to actually finish a painting for once, I thought I would publish some of my teenage artwork, which I did during the 80s. The punk was a school project, with the right half being cut from a magazine, and the left half painted by me when I was about 14.  I painted the (lopsided) Marlon Brando shortly afterwards, during some time off school, when I had happened to watch “On The Waterfront”.

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I had injured my arm, and had to have it in a sling, which meant I painted Marlon right-handed (I’m a leftie). That’s my excuse why he’s wonky anyway, and I’m sticking to it!

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I hope that anyone who owned a copy of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”  album will recognise my efforts on the right. Again, this would have been drawn during my mid-teens. It was one of the many, many music based pictures I drew or painted, and now it, and my other work, is out there for the world to see…Don’t judge me too harshly!

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Back To Boomtown With A Bang

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As I write this, I am listening to The Boomtown Rats’ self-titled first, and in my opinion their best, album. Although it was released in 1977, I bought my copy in 1982 (aged 11) around the time that Mr. Geldof and a certain presenter of The Tube moved to my home town. As Bob and Paula became familiar faces around town, The Rats’ music became a firm favourite in my vinyl collection, with “A Tonic For The Troops” (released in 1978) soon coming a very close second to my favourite Rats’ album.

Despite living within swearing distance of the Irish punk rocker, I had never seen him perform live. Until this weekend. I had booked my tickets for Rewind South before the line up had been announced. With more than twenty acts from the Eighties performing, I knew I would have a great time regardless of who would be appearing. You have no idea of the sheer delight I felt when I discovered The Rats would be playing. I had waited over thirty years for this!

I made my way through the crowds in plenty of time to secure a place a couple of rows back from the stage, where, in spite of my lack of height (I’m 5′ 1″) I had a great view. As Bob and the rest of the band (Pete Briquette on bass, Garry Roberts on guitar, and Simon Crowe on drums) took to the stage, I had a moment of doubt as to what they would play. Their best music, and indeed their hits, had all been in the Seventies. There was no brass section, so it was unlikely they would play the rather brilliant “Drag Me Down”, from their 1984 album “In The Long Grass”. I needn’t have worried.

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Alongside crowd-pleasers like “Someone’s Looking At You” and “Rat Trap”, early Rats’ tracks such as “Lookin’ After No. 1”, “She’s So Modern” and “Like Clockwork” were performed with an energy and fervour evocative of the band’s punk roots. When Bob sang “Mary Of The 4th Form”, he was again the angry young front man, not somebody’s granddad. However, no one was in any doubt of his status as a family man, during his performance of “I Don’t Like Mondays”. His pensive pause, following his delivery of the line “And the lesson today is how to die” was heartbreakingly emotional. Shouts of “We love you, Bob” soon erupted from the crowd, a display of support en masse. I wasn’t the only one to shed a tear then.

As proceedings were brought to a close with the recently penned “The Boomtown Rats”, I was both elated, that the performance had by far exceeded my expectations, but sad too that it was coming to an end. It had been wishful thinking that my favourite track, “I Can Make It If You Can”, would be performed. Admittedly, it is better suited to being played in some dark, smoky bar than on a sunny stage in Henley-on-Thames, but I would have still been swaying with my arms in the air! Similarly, I had hoped they would play “I Never Loved Eva Braun” – in fact The Rats’ first two albums in their entirety would have been great. As it was, I loved every single minute of the performance, and will be booking tickets to another of their gigs soon. I can’t wait to go back to Boomtown again.

 

 

 

 

Well, I’ll Be Damned!

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As a huge fan of the Eighties, it is fair to say that my familiarity with music from that decade can sometimes border on the obsessive. From stellar writers and performers such as Elvis Costello and Paul Weller, to the cheesey tracks that drove us all crazy (St. Winifred’s School Choir’s “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma” immediately springs to mind!), if it relates to the 1980s, chances are I know some weird and wonderful fact about it. My brain is crammed full of 80’s trivia I’m often not even aware I possess, until it sneaks out in the guise of “interesting fact” or a quoted lyric I feel to be pertinent to the conversation (some, nay most, friends may disagree with my interpretation of pertinent!). If the discussion happens to actually be about music, rather than one I am attempting to steer that way, as is my habit, then so much the better.

It was during one such chat about music, that I recently discovered a gaping hole in my knowledge of the era’s sounds. When a friend stated that his favourite band of all time was The Damned, I was at a bit of a loss how to respond. Of course, I remembered their 1986 hit “Eloise”, and then managed to dredge “Grimly Fiendish” and “Is It A Dream?” (both single releases from the 1985 album, “Phantasmagoria”) from the recesses of my mind, but that was all I had. So, when he offered to educate me in the melodies of Mr. Vanian and Co., I jumped at the chance.

As the CD I had been given began to play in my car stereo, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My recollections of The Damned were of a band that was almost a parody of Gothic culture. I needn’t have worried, as any preconceptions I may have had quickly evaporated, shortly after the first track had begun. What I should have been worried about, was the fact that a band like The Damned had previously bypassed me! As the hauntingly exquisite “Sanctum Sanctorum” resounded throughout my little Suzuki, I found myself on an emotional rollercoaster of angst and elation, the intensity of which I had not experienced since my teenage years. Seeing as I went on to play the song on repeat for half a dozen times, and have been loath to stop playing it since, it also appears to have made me revert to teenage behaviour (let’s hope the acne and door-slamming tantrums don’t return too!).

My reaction to “Sanctum Sanctorum” is similar to the first time I heard Ultravox’s “Visions In Blue”, on their “Quartet” album, thirty years ago. I will always be able to recall exactly where I was the first time I heard both songs, so profound has their effect on me been. The whole of “Quartet” was played excessively during my youth, but “Visions In Blue” was played so much, the vinyl on that track eventually became unplayable. That one song led me to become a big fan of Ultravox, and resulted in me owning every album and single they released. I can feel myself going the same way with The Damned, and have already begun to negotiate my way around their wonderfully diverse back catalogue.

Whether it is the theatrical drama, comparable to a contemporary Rachmaninov composition, of “Beauty of The Beast” (from the 2001 “Grave Disorder” album) or the student band charm of the lyrically questionable  “Shallow Diamonds” (from the 2008 “So, Who’s Paranoid?” album), with lines such as “compressed carbon is what they are, no more use than a candy bar”, I am having a lot of fun discovering this “new” band. The excitement I feel when listening to some of The Damned’s tracks is something I thought had deserted me at the end of the Eighties, and with more material for me still to uncover, there is plenty to look forward to. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that, as is often the case with the first exposure to any band, nothing will be able to surpass “Phantasmagoria” for me.

So, it is only right that I should end this piece by saying a huge “Thank You” to my friend, for bringing The Damned into my life. Not only have you led me to discover a new musical passion, you have made me feel like a teenager again, and that is no mean feat!