Monday, 22 December 2014

Swan Pens for Christmas

During one of my daily strolls up and down Commercial Road, E1 in the late 1980s, I spotted several layers of torn advertising posters tucked away in the recessed area by the front doors of a closed-down building. The top poster promoted Swan Pens for Christmas, and beneath it there was an ad showing the letter V on a pencil with a cracked-green design (the other letters would have been ENUS, spelling the word VENUS.

At this time it was not uncommon to find these kinds of remnants of then decades old signage and street ephemera peppered into the landscape of the area. In fact over a couple of years I built up a photographic record of this material, some of which I have shared in After You've Gone since I started the blog back in April 2013.

So again, just like this time last year, here's a post with a seasonal twist:

Swan Pe s   r Christmas

Swan Pens for Christmas, Commerical Road, London E1. 1988

Swan fountain pens were created in the USA by Mabie, Todd and Bard in 1884, and their first showroom arrived in Cheapside, London the very same year. During their heyday, the Swan Pens were manufactured in a factory in Harlesden, with their stylish head office in Mayfair. Both buildings were destroyed during the Blitz, but what eventually caused the Swan to die was the swift rise in popularity of the ball point pen after WW2. Indeed - it was the famous Biro brand that actually bought out, and then killed off the Swan at the end of the 1950s.

So this advert still stuck to a wall in Commerical Road in the 1980s was for a fountain pen that had already been obsolete for some 30 years! As for Venus - the history of this pencil goes back even further than Swan's having been founded in the Hoboken, US in 1861. The first sales office for Venus pencils in the UK opened up on London's Farringdon Road in 1906, and just over a century on, after several moves and mergers, the Venus brand is still with us today...

Needless to say, this d├ęcollage of those two adverts for writing utensils that I snapped over twenty five years ago is now long gone.

After You've Gone will return in 2015, thanks so much for your support, and Season's Greetings...

Friday, 12 December 2014

Made in Dagenham - Ford Workers on Strike 1978

If you're about to watch the 2010 film Made in Dagenham, or are heading to the Adelphi Theatre in London to see Made in Dagenham The Musical which both present the true story of the 187 women machinists at Ford's in Dagenham who went on strike for equal pay in 1968 - spare a thought for those tens of thousands of Ford workers who also refused to walk through the factory gates, ten years later...

Sandwiched between a big run of my Punk singles from the late 70s, I've come across a 45rpm 7" single called Ford Workers on Strike that seems to have been issued sometime just after early October 1978 when all three tracks on the single were recorded. 

Give Way to the Ford Workers on Strike

The picture sleeve shows nine Ford Workers on the picket line outside the Langley Assembly Plant in Dagenham, Essex. They were out on strike arguing for a £20 increase on their weekly pay rate and a reduction of one hour from their daily shift. The proceeds of the sale of the record were to raise fighting funds for the striking workers.The strike ran for some nine weeks between September and November resulting in the union TGWU agreeing a settlement of 17% increase in the workers salaries. 

I have no recollection of buying my record - or if the late John Peel, the BBC Radio 1 DJ, ever did play it on his legendary late night show (even with that cunning prompt to JP printed not-so-discreetly on the left hand side of the front cover!). Visually, I can see why the record had been so easily hidden away within the kinds of singles of the era with similar looking picture sleeves - the stark B&W photo, the ripped and torn graphics, and the angry-typewriter lettering. 

The 'A' Side is The Ford Strike Song sung by 'OHC and the Gappers', to the tune of Country Joe and the Fish's 'Fixin' To Die' rag. With lyrics like: "You can stuff your five per cent , 'cos that won't pay the rent" replacing the Fish's "Don't ask me I don't give a damn - the next stop is Vietnam"...

Sonically it's of little interest though being in the vein of Pete Seeger's American-style folky singalongs. However, the B Side segues actuality of the striking Ford Workers marching through London with Johnny Strika by George Chriba and guitar accompaniment sung with a gritty rough and ready spirit. Pre-Billy Bragg if you will...

back cover showing the iconic Ford / Fraud logo
I am aware of several other records put out as fund raisers for striking workers before this Ford Workers on Strike disc, and of course if we roll the clock on six years to the Miners Strike of 1984/85, there was a wave of these kinds of strike benefit records being issued up and down the country.

The label, No Strings

I note that since the popular success surrounding Made in Dagenham, this record "Made, Sung and Produced by The Ford (UK) Workers' Combine" has up to now received no media coverage whatsoever. 

Well to quote a line from the Ford Workers' Combine "We'll expropriate the bastards of all their plunder - and get 'em back for keeping us under!"

Both sides of the accompanying lyric sheet

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

House of Dolls, Chapter 13. JOY DIVISION.

The House of Dolls is the deeply harrowing story of a young Polish girl in Block 24 at Auschwitz concentration camp, where Jewish sex slaves serviced SS guards. The book was originally written in Hebrew, and published in Israel in 1953. 

The author's name is made up from the initials of the German 'Konzentration Zenter', pronounced Ka-Tzet. 'Ka-Tzetnik 135633' was the pseudonym for the Polish-born Holocaust survivor Yehiel Feiner, who took up the Hebrew surname 'Dinur' when he emigrated to pre-State Israel after the War. Ka-Tzetnik's books were instrumental in educating a whole generation of Israeli's about the Holocaust, and House of Dolls, translated into dozens of languages, is probably his best known work. But the sexual content of the book meant that House of Dolls was eventually branded by some Israeli academics as 'Stalag Fiction' - a genre of pornographic Nazi exploitation fiction that mushroomed in Israel around the time of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann war crimes trial in Jerusalem.

Lion Library Edition 106

My rather beaten-up copy of House of Dolls hails from 1957, it's a second printing of the paperback published by Lion Library Editions of New York, USA complete with its truly disturbing cover painted by Dick Shelton. 

Fast forward to June 1978. The release of a four track EP 'An Ideal for Living', the first record by the Manchester-based band Joy Division. Two minutes and twenty eight seconds into 'No Love Lost', the second track on Side 1, Ian Curtis, the lead singer actually reads out several sentences extracted from Chapter 12 of House of Dolls beginning with "Through the wire screen..." 

Ka-Tzetnik opens Chapter 13 with JOY DIVISION in block capitals. Words first written in Hebrew just eight years after the end of WW2, and the horrors of the Holocaust. And the band? The ongoing influences of their music following the tragic suicide of Ian Curtis in 1980, the chart-topping hits of  the post-Joy Division band 'New Order', the critical and public success of 'Control', Anton Corbijn's 2007 biographical film about the life of Curtis, have all helped to elevate Joy Division to a revered status in rock music history.

Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (most likely the number tattooed on the arm of Yehiel Feiner in Auschwitz) died a recluse, in Israel in 2001, at the age of 84...

On the very rare occasions when Ka-Tzetnik explained his reluctance to discuss his past life, he said he had "no right to live - except as a Holocaust survivor, and that all that had gone before had been destroyed..."

lyrics from 'No Love Lost' by Joy Division scanned directly from House of Dolls

The 12" edition of "An Ideal for Living" was released several months after the initial 7" EP. It appears that the band wanted to scaffold over the original cover which had an illustration of a Nazi drummer boy - hence distancing the band from the book and the Nazi-connotations that influenced their name...