Saturday, 1 June 2013


File:Spearhead from Space.jpg
Autons 1970

Like so many youngsters watching the legendary 1970 Dr Who episode 'Spearhead from Space', I was terrified by those creepy life-sized plastic dummies known as 'the Autons'.

These nightmarish rampaging mannequins even had a killer-weapon which was fired when their right hand dropped open. 'Autons' were in fact animated by an alien disembodied intelligent life-form called 'the Nestine Consciousness' which had arrived on Earth in hollow plastic meteorites.

Seven years on, with the Autons still very much etched into my consciousness, came the iconic Kraftwerk LP 'Trans Europe Express'. Side One ended with their classic track 'Showroom Dummies', with the lyrics:

"We start to move, And we break the glass, We are showroom dummies, We are showroom dummies"

Oh yes, the Autons and the Showroom Dummies were so very connected in spirit (of the imagination). But next up came yet another component of this dummy automata in human form, and this time they were for real. 'Auton-like' shop dummies had suddenly appeared at the most unexpected of places - and they were somewhere near you. Almost overnight, they'd all taken up an almost identical position at the entrances to petrol station forecourts. And there were dozens and dozens of them...

This 'Auton' (below), was wearing a trim yellow anorak-like jacket and a branded-hat to match, with the distinctive 'Renault' logo. I took this photograph in the early 1980's. North West London I believe.  Note that even its eyes had the function to light up - glowing, and then guiding (or more likely beckoning) the unexpecting, and creeped-out, driver into the petrol station with its left arm - which also had the ability to move up and down at a consistently spooky pace.

Fast-forward several decades, and I expect that this 'Auton' has since sold the petrol station to property developers, and a block of expensive flats has now been built on the site.

"we step out, and take a walk through the city..."

(I bet that even it couldn't get tickets for those recent Kraftwerk concerts at the Tate Modern...)

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