Thursday, 28 February 2013

Our Favourite Record Sleeves



Top-drawer BBC seaside sleuthing entertainment from everyone's favourite grouchy alcoholic detective. No guilt, just pleasure. Theme by 'Big' George Fenton.

The Rear Of The Year



The Rear Of The Year competition is a typically British institution: fun, cheeky, anal. The current holders are Shobna Gulati from ‘Coronation Street’ and John ‘tonight’s going to be a good night’ Barrowman, see below. Worthy winners who, in an amazing coincidence, are wearing the same brand of trousers.


The competition actually dates back to 1902, and was created by a civil servant called Lionel Crane. Crane wanted to ‘make the Empire smile once more’ after the death of Queen Victoria, and thought looking at people’s arses and judging them would help to do this.

Initially, the competition was open to the public, and the response was overwhelming, particularly from the working classes. Scores of inspectors were dispatched around the country to mills and factories to check out hopeful applicants in a process not dissimilar to today’s mass talent show auditions, marking their physical attributes using a simple but thorough checklist of Crane’s devising (over a hundred years later, the Crane Scale is still used in beauty contests to grade bottoms).      

After much publicity and speculation, the first ever winner was Lady Christabel Flinders, a controversial choice in that the decision was most likely based on social class rather than physical form (in society circles, Lady Christabel was nicknamed ‘The Flinders Mare’).  Stung by criticism, Crane restricted subsequent competitions to those ‘who lead the headlines or are on the lips of the nation’. The next winner was a jubilant H.G Wells, who described the accolade as ‘perhaps my greatest achievement in the public sphere to date’, although he may have been taking the piss.

In this new series, we’ll look back on some of the previous recipients of this illustrious award, a long list which provides a fascinating insight into social trends, past tastes and the ever-changing ideal of what constitutes the British idea of ‘beauty’. Right, let's begin --

REAR OF THE YEAR, 1946 

For obvious reasons, the competition was suspended from 1939 to 1944, but in August 1945, with the war in Europe over and the war in Japan drawing to a close, the powers that be thought it would be a boost to morale to reinstate the event, with the winner eventually being named as economist John Maynard Keynes.

'Right, who wants to see it? Do you, Sir? Supply must equal demand, you know'
It is telling that Keynes beat Field Marshall Montgomery in a closely contested final, with contemporary commentators recognising that the people of Britain were already beginning to make the transition from war to peace: indeed, Keynes’ economic theories would prove to play an integral role in the creation of the welfare state, the most far-reaching social innovation of post-war Britain.

Sadly, Keynes died only a few months later, in April 1946. His last request was to be buried face down.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Black Out




Larry the Actor, Othello


Peter Sellers, The Party


David Niven, Vampira



Obi-wan Kenobi, Lawrence of Arabia



Oh, Lordy!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Classy


'Howard's Way'
Theme From The BBC TV Series
The Simon May Orchestra
UK 45, BBC RECORDS, 1985

A Font of Endless Love


Look at this:



It's beautiful isn't it?

I adore it. I dream about it. I worship it. I love it.

It's called Johnston and it is a typeface. A genius called Edward Johnston created it (with a little help from Eric Gill) and it is used for the signs on the London Underground.

it is not just any old font - oh no. it is perhaps one of the greatest fonts of all time.

No, DAMN IT! It IS the greatest font of all time.

I think I may have my gravestone epitaph carved in it. It's the font I see in my head when I close my eyes and dream of informational signage. I once bought a Travelcard and rode on every tube the length and breath of the underground just so I could see the joy that is Johnston Sans - my heart skipping a beat with anticipation before every new stop. The slight glimpse of the perfect circle of the 'O' was enough to make me swoon with happiness. The diamond dot above the 'i' filled me with endless frissons of excitement. Oh joy!



Despite it being over a hundred years old, it still looks slick and as modern as if it were only designed yesterday. 

It is - in my, considered, extremely well informed and correct under all circumstances opinion one of the most important creations in the history of the human race. It beats the invention of the wheel hands down, knocks the printing press into a cocked hat and frankly pisses over the internal combustion engine, telly and the fucking internet.

A-hem.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Balls Deep


I've arrived a bit late to the party with Jerry 'The Shout' Skolimowski's Deep End, but then the film itself disappeared not long after it's release and was only rediscovered and repackaged on dvd in 2010.

I was a little nervous that Macca's ex Jane Asher and pretty boy John 'Vampire Circus' Moulder-Brown were offering yet another re-hash of Swinging London, well past it's sell-by date in 1970, but director Skolimowski gave me hope; a graduate of the Lodz film school he shares with his fellow alumnus Roman Polanski an ability to invest seemingly ordinary scenes with detail and meaning that reward repeated viewing.


Posing with THE poster
 There is much of interest for Mounds & Circles readers, so we're going to break our ramblings into several parts. The central characters are Mike and Susan (above) and we will return to them in due course. To begin (or cut to the chase, depending on your taste) let's get down and dirty with M&C old lag Diana Dors. We said lag - not slag - right, though anyone denounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury as a "wayward hussey" is okay with us.

Dors (born Diana Fluck - we don't fluck with facts) was a complex character whose nubile charms as a young woman were ruthlessly exploited by the seedy British entertainment industry and a number of unpleasant husbands and boyfriends. In an era that enjoyed suppressing women with backstreet abortions and limited career prospects, Dors refused to conform and suffered as her fame and figure grew. As she advanced in age and size, so her work prospects dwindled and she had to adapt to middle age roles. She was 39 when she appeared in Deep End, having descended from starring roles to supporting parts, no longer in the main feature. But the acting skills she had developed in the previous decades enabled her to take on more adventurous parts when they were offered, few more exciting than Mike's No.1 lady client in Deep End. (Her turn as the harridan Mabel Lowe in the 'Act of Kindness' segment of Amicus' portmanteau classic From Beyond the Grave is another great example; I can't help feeling sex and spite were always close to her lips, on and off screen).

A stimulating study in middle age female sexual frustration, Dors' character visits the bathhouse section of the public baths where the film is set. She instantly takes a shine to young Mike and lures him into her changing cubicle to unzip her dress.


The new Number 2?



Where's the shampoo?



The trap is set

 


No way out

 

Sensing the boy's naivety, his discomfort only acting as a further turn-on, Dors sets her trap. She sends Mike out to fetch some shampoo and upon his return feigns dizziness, before grabbing the lad and thrusting his unwilling head against her ample chest, forcefully pulling his hair and rubbing the terrified boy against her barely concealed bosom until she reaches a climax, all the time fantasizing about manly (unlike Mike) footballers. Spent, she throws him out the door and collapses in a sweaty heap against the tiled wall. She's had her fun and the boy is no longer of any use to her.











Spent
 Are these the actions of a liberated woman or child abuse, a middle age film director's fantasy or a young man's dream? All of these perhaps, though as the film continues so these themes change and develop further.

I think we all need a little 'comfort break' after such grinding passion, so let's pause matters here, lingering on the glorious form of an inflamed Diana Dors, and return to Deep End after a cold shower when our blood pressure has eased back down again.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Flexi



Denis Norden: 'Meet The New Liberator Fully Automatic'
Special English Electric Recording Flexidisc, 1966  

Friday, 22 February 2013

Cosh Boy



'Cosh Boy' is a short, slightly manic film from 1953. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, it tackles the social issue of teenage delinquency and was one of the first ever recipients of an X-certificate. It seems rather tame these days, and the crimes pretty petty, but you can perhaps imagine fifties punters fainting in the aisles and writing to their MPs about the violence, pre-marital sex and over acting contained within.






Roy Walsh is a little shit. His father died in the war, so his mother treats him like a tiny tin God. His grandmother, who also lives in the house, despises and fears him. In a hugely significant moment, Roy flops on the sofa of their little house, lights a cigarette and simply throws the spent match over his shoulder.  Mum will pick it up, stupid cow.


The relationship between Roy and his Mum is an obviously sick one, and Roy shows genuine and slightly disturbing distress when he finds out she has been going out with Bob, a local dance hall manager.  Roy is twitchy and neurotic about the whole thing, which is why, eventually, his Mum and Bob get married in secret, a move that will have big consequences for Roy and his arse.
It’s hard to know how old Roy is supposed to be, but I think he’s supposed to be 15 or 16 (star James Kenney was 23). He doesn’t work, or go to school, he simply combs his hair incessantly and hangs around on bombsites with his crappy gang of mildly retarded urchins and balding thirty year olds trying to act like adolescents.




Roy runs the gang like a crime syndicate, but their modus operandi is extraordinarily pathetic: they mug women on their way home from the pub. Hard men that they are, they use coshes to assault their drunken female victims, although Roy doesn’t like to get his own hands dirty. They use the cover of a youth club to carry out these attacks, and bikes to make their getaway. The Corleone Family, they’re not.

In between planning a ‘big job’ at Bob’s dance hall, Roy has time to pinch his Gran’s savings from under her mattress and to force his attentions on a young Joan Collins. Joanie is less than keen at first, but Roy is very insistent and uncomfortably aggressive and, in an unlikely twist, she seems to rather like it. As soon as he gets his end away, of course, he loses interest and, when she tells him she’s pregnant, he simply walks away, so she throws herself in the river.





On the evening of the heist, Roy packs a gun and, inevitably, ends up using it. Secret stepfather Bob saw the whole thing, so there’s no question of Roy getting away with it. The master criminal runs home, of course, crying to his unimpressed Mum, the swaggering bully reduced to a snivelling baby. Before the Police take him away for a long stretch, they allow Bob a few minutes to teach his new step-son an important lesson that he should have learned years ago. As Bob whips the cowering Roy with a belt, the camera cuts out into the street and the action fades out on the little shits anguished, childish screams of pain.    




  
The chief message of ‘Cosh Boy’ seems to be ‘beat your children into submission’, which, I suppose would still have its advocates today. What the film does tap into is public concern about a generation of teenagers who had their childhoods disrupted by the anarchy of the Second World War and subsequently grew up to be hyperactive and troubled, violent and amoral, obsessed with money and crime and sex. The war had seen a huge increase in criminality on the home front, and a corresponding rise in youth offences, with gangs of teens taking advantage of the blackout to assault and rob, and numerous cases of guns and ammunition being stolen from Home Guard stores.
The headmaster of Ashurst Wood Council School later said: "There were many explanations for the growth of juvenile delinquency such as poverty, bad housing, absence of facilities for recreation, insufficient clubs, greater temptations which beset the modern child, decay in the standards of conduct and of parental control, a weakening of religious influence, a lack of opportunity for amusement, new housing estates and the cinema... The desire for adventure and war stories of deeds at sea, the field, and in the air, led to stealing and destructive behaviour. Gangster films and the 'tough' gangster idea also had their influence... A lack of discipline applied to boys owing to the father's absence in the forces was another factor."
The Welfare State and a new post-war focus on social issues sought to address many of these concerns, but it was a slow process, and, just as Britain’s bomb scarred cities took decades to rebuild, teenage delinquents apparently moulded by the conflict kept coming well into the fifties, and public fear and condemnation of these young tearaways was exploited in films about out of control kids like Roy Walsh.   
Interestingly, despite us not having a proper war for nearly seventy years, juvenile delinquency in the UK has not gone away, and neither has the public fear of it. I wonder what they blame it on now?