Sunday, 21 August 2011

Poetry From The Projects: The Watts Prophets

The Watts Prophets were a group of poets and musicians based in Watts, Los Angeles in the late 1960s. Much like their beatnik contemporaries they combined poetry and jazz music to create the incredible soundtrack to a cultural revolution,  the main thing that separated the Watts Prophets from the Greenwich Village and Venice West beats was that they were heavily political and their strong militant beliefs were never held back, remaining at the forefront of their work much like their often-compared contemporaries The Lost Poets. Combine this lyrical content, staggering razor tongued and rapid-fire spoken word with their musical ability.. it provided the perfect soundtrack to the burgeoning civil rights movement and is still relevant and revelatory to this day.

The Watts Prophets were created in the wake of the Watts Riots in 1965 and have sporadically performed since then, sadly due to their heavy political content they've never secured much commercial success and there isn't a wealth of information available on them here in the UK. However if you're based in the US it may be worthwhile accessing a local library archive! Either way, there's a wealth of their incredible lyricism and poetry available in book form and on CD. I've salvaged a couple of my favourite clips luckily from YouTube for your listening pleasure! 

Further Listening... I would highly recommend -
The Black Voices: On The Streets in Watts
Rappin' Black in A White World

"Without fine arts, there are no fine minds" -Anthony Hamilton (Watts Prophets


Samira x

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Happy Birthday Mae West! ...

Today is a very special day.. it would have been Mae West's birthday and seeing as she's one of my favourite silver screen actresses it's only right that I pay homage to her! For those of you not in the know, Mae West was an incredibly controversial actress in her day, dealing with numerous censorship issues due to her outright sexual prowess and crass sexual innuendos. West is as famed for her classic one liners  as she is for her powerful swagger projected in each and every movie she appears in, hand on hip, eyes half closed.. she practically purrs out classic lines such as "Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?". She's the embodiment of classic Hollywood sophistication, charm and charisma... not to mention comedy. There's such an abundance of information on Mae readily available online, so I'll leave you with a compilation of my favourite Mae West quotes through the years.

"A hard man is good to find "

"Love thy neighbor - and if he happens to be tall, debonair and devastating, it will be that much easier"
"An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises "

"Any time you've got nothing to do and lots of time to do it come on up "

"Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly"

"Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before"

"Don't keep a man guessing too long - he's sure to find the answer somewhere else"

"Give a man a free hand and he'll run it all over you"

"He who hesitates is a damned fool"

"I believe that it's better to be looked over than it is to be overlooked"

"I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it"

"I never loved another person the way I loved myself"

"I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond"

"I speak two languages, Body and English"

"I'll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure"

"I'm a woman of very few words, but lots of action"

"I've been in more laps than a napkin"

"I've been things and seen places"

"It isn't what I do, but how I do it. It isn't what I say, but how I say it, and how I look when I do it and say it"

"Look your best - who said love is blind?"

"Sex is emotion in motion"

"Ten men waiting for me at the door? Send one of them home, I'm tired"

"To err is human, but it feels divine"

"When I'm good, I'm very good. But when I'm bad I'm better"

"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough"


Samira x

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Edie Sedgwick: In Her Own Words...

Synonymous with the heavy hedonism of the factory days, Andy Warhol's muse and the epitome of the term 'poor little rich girl' ; Edie Sedgwick. Edie conjures up varied standpoints, whilst the photography and short films by Andy Warhol project her party persona, Vogue depicted her as the 60s pin up and style icon... there's rarely if ever, anything heard from the woman herself, despite her cameo appearances in Poor Little Rich Girl, Beauty, Kitchen etc. There's so much controversy that surrounds her demise into the doldrums of drug addiction that I'm hesitant to go into them as that can be left for speculation! What I'd like to bring to light though are a couple of intimate interviews with her during her time in an unnamed psychiatric ward in California. Edie had an energy and lust for life that can only be applauded although eventually this would lead to her untimely death and psychological breakdown. For a few moments, have a listen to Edie speaking on her own terms, it's really something else... beneath the exterior of vulnerability, it takes a strong person to expose themselves in such a way.



Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Top 10 Soul Tearjerkers...

I've recently been sorting through my records, having some sort of 'summer clear out'. With 3 Dansettes broken.. that's right THREE broken, It's given me time to dust off records, alphabetise them and generally have a sort out. In doing this I begun to think about how I never seem to create many playlists for the blog and how I should start doing this... so.. you guessed it.. I am going to start now!

Now, the thing that has always made me passionate about music is that profound effect it can have on me, how a certain song can completely crush you, unwillingly bring back memories, emotions and thoughts that you'd always thought you'd buried. Of course I'm not alone in this, I recall many situations with dear friends and family where they've reacted in a very bizarre way just upon hearing the opening harmonies to a song... a certain someone I know can't listen to a certain Joy Division song without running out of a club, another certain someone is painfully reminded of a lost love anytime she hears a certain Four Tops song and breaks down into frenzied hysterics. We've all been there, when a song comes on and suddenly you're transported back into a nostalgic bubble you thought had burst a long time ago. With this in mind I begun to think about the songs that have that incredible hold on me, a sort of hold that renders me into a sudden state of awe and crushing melancholy, so with this in mind I present to you my musical kryptonite... My Top 10 Tearjerkers.

(A couple of tracks require you to click onto YouTube to watch them due to Copyright.. sorry too long to soundcloud all the tracks!)

The sheer power of Etta James' vocals in this song, the pleas of desperation transform into a sort of coming-to-terms melancholy towards the end of the song.. Amazing.

Even the opening to this song sends chills down my spine, the fragility in LWJ's voice with the dream-like melody leave this song with a lingering eerie-ness. Absolute heartfelt lyricism doesn't happen like this anymore!

The haunting piano intro gives me goosebumps, this song epitomises the madness of love.. desperation and longing.

Lyrically this song is easily one of the finest 'amicable break up' songs, a daunting prospect for most, one that Maxine Brown manages to brush off in this chill-enducing track.

I heard this song for the first time when I was about 10 or 11 and it's effected me deeply ever since, the haunting gospel style and deep soul sound has tearjerker written all over it. Not to mention that organ. So beautiful.

An all round beautiful song, with classic heartbroken 60s girl group lyricism, every girl should be able to relate.

Another classic 60s girl group sound from The Crystals, the harmonies in this are spine chilling! I became obsessed with this track at 16 years old, to this day it still has a profound effect on me.

This track was introduced to me by a dear friend, it's always blown my mind. The dreamy melody and desperation in the lyrics.. "..Insane... your kisses drives me mad.. Oh I need your love so bad". This track could reduce a grown man to tears.

Sam Cooke's stunning vocals combined with such gorgeous lyrics, this song brings me back insanely vivid memories... very haunting!

And finally, the ultimate tearjerker... this song can reduce me to tears in the most public of situations! Ironically this once came on 'shuffle' whilst I was driving with a dear friend of mine and simultaneously we both reached for the skip button for fear of the effect of this beauty. Otis' vocals never fail and I think everyone shares this song with someone somewhere in the world.

Enjoy & Be Well


PS. I'm intrigued to know your Tearjerkers!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Hip Swingin' Reggae Sisters...

When we think of Reggae and Rocksteady, it's all too easy to oversee the women that shaped the sound and evocative lyricism of the mid to late 60s. Of course, as I've posted before, I do have a soft spot for the distinctive and stunning sounds of many male vocalists.. Alton Ellis.. Delroy Wilson .. Charlie Ace to name but a few, but there's definitely something about female vocalists of this generation, from the crude lyricism of Faye Bennett to the sweet desperation of Phyllis Dillon, there's something cheeky about their delivery and their prowess is carried off with a delicious smile and the subtlety of a sledgehammer. 

So with this in mind and a miserable rainy weekend ahead of me.. I've compiled my favourite 45s into one wonderful playlist for your listening pleasure.. Hope you all dig it!



Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Vintage Smoking Ads.. A Visual Feast

Hollywood star Marlene Dietrich, who added to the perceived glamour of smoking.

As a smoker, a proud one at that, I often muse over people's disgust at such an enjoyable habit. Obviously we are all aware of the health implications that come with smoking, otherwise why would someone take up such a risky habit? Well, historically speaking smoking has always been socially acceptable up until the last 20 years, I often become nostalgic of a time when smoking added allure and mystique to a person.. a time when smoking had become such a stylised habit that gorgeous pearl cigarette cases, ivory lighters and a pack of Luckies was the accessory du jour. So, in light of all the negative spill we're constantly bombarded with, I've decided to showcase some of my favourite vintage smoking advertisements in print and TV for your viewing pleasure!



Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

Your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.

be on the watch.
there are ways out.

there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.

be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.

you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.


Saturday, 25 June 2011

Salvador Dali : A Self Portrait

A man that certainly doesn't need an introduction; Dali was as famed for his eccentric pencil-tash as he was for his incredible surrealist masterpieces. A self made 'celebrity' in his own right, Dali along with Warhol paved a new way for artists during the mid-century. His works have been recreated, criticised and praodied to no end, his most famous work The Persistence of Memory has even been parodied on The Simpsons.. Now you may be thinking, with such a wealth of information readily available of Dali, what could I possibly tell or show you all that you haven't seen on him already, well firstly, I feel I owe it to him as his work has in effect changed and shaped my life. At the tender age of 11, I had already begun delving into fellow surrealist/symbolist Gustav Klimt's work, stealing any of my sister's books I could I became increasingly fascinated with this alternate universe that was depicted within these paintings, with no knowledge of meaning to them, it was the sheer spontaneity of them which drew me in. One day I stumbled across a book entitled 'Dali' with the most magnificent cover; a terracotta landscape with azure blue sky, huge defined beige clouds lined the sky, then  out of nowhere these out-of-scale butterflies the size of the cliff came flying off the page- I was trapped. I couldn't help but read on, as I turned page by page, I was astonished, the photos resembled photographs and at a time before computers I was gobsmacked at the accuracy of the works. One picture in particular which stood out to me and to this day is one of my favourite pieces by Dali is Giraffe (Pictured below). 

The most wonderful thing about this painting for me was firstly how everything was out of scale, from the amazonian sex-less figures in shades of turquoise and black with long lithe bodies against a melancholic yet temperamental sky, then if you look closely you notice the mountain-scape with the burning giraffe in the foreground, this is what got me the most; A burning giraffe?! Something I had never once imagined, with a lonesome looking person just wondering in front of it. This is what made Dali. Bringing an element of surprise, anguish and raw imagination to the canvas.

As mentioned, I could write for days about his artwork, but in all honesty there is an abundance of information available online. The one thing I wanted to show you all was in fact his work with experimental movies, making surrealist shorts since the 20s. It's with thanks to Dali that we have surrealist movies in the mainstream by people like Tarantino and most notably David Lynch. I've attached a fantastic experimental movie which was made in 1970, which begun as a sort of documentary and turned into typical Dali-esque dreamscape with his eccentricity pouring off the screen for your viewing pleasure.

I also have attached his first surrealist short 'Un Chien Andalou' An Andalusian Dog. Made in 1929. It's a beautifully short film, which seems to leave viewers split on whether or not the guy is completely insane or a genius.. I'll leave that for you to decide.



Sunday, 19 June 2011

Clark Gable : The King of Hollywood

A photo could say a thousand words with regards to Clark Gable.. Beneath those dark eyes and chiselled good looks is a brooding vault of masculinity just bursting to get out. Named 'The King of Hollywood', Gable starred alongside some of Hollywood's finest leading ladies.. from Joan Crawford, Lana Turner to Jean Harlow. His most famous role was in 'Gone With The Wind' which won him his third Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor.. If you've seen that movie then it's not hard to work out why. Mr Gable is all man... and then some.


Gable to me embodies masculinity in a timeless way.. not to mention he oozes charisma, intellect and best of all humour! My favourite movie of his is 'It  Happened One Night' (1934) where he stars alongside Claudette Colbert in a fantastic tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy, back when romantic comedies were ridden with innuendos and insatiable wardrobes. Claudette plays a rebellious socialite who decides to run away from her father in an attempt to forge her own life and decisions, along the way whilst taking the Night Bus she encounters Clark Gable who plays a hilariously vindictive charmer.. I shant spoil the plot but it's worth a watch! Here's my favourite scene... Gable smoking in bed whilst it's raining outside.. what a dream!

It's said that the happiest in Gable's life was during his marriage to Carole Lombard, together they were a force to be reckoned with.. he provided her with the stability she needed ad he thrived from being around her frank, youthful and energetic persona. After 3 years of happily married life, Lombard was killed in an aeroplane accident, leaving Gable in a state of shock and isolation, he retreated to their shared home to mourn. Although at home he had broken down, he managed to maintain professionalism on set and kept his unruly drinking habits and breakdowns for away from the spotlight. After the war Gable started a production company with Jane Russell and her husband and slowly became frustrated by the lack of decent roles presented to him by MGM... several years later he sadly passed away from a heart attack.

There's a wealth of information on Gable online, so instead I will leave you all with some beautiful images of the most handsome man to reign in Hollywood...