Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Face in the Crowd, Four Corners Books 2018

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The Book
Four Corners Irregulars: a series of books about modern British visual culture

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Music is the Most Beautiful Language in the World: Yiddisher Jazz in London's East End 1920s to 1950s

A vibrant soundtrack to the Cockney Jewish experience, when the swinging hot dance bands were still all the rage, and the Yiddish language was spoken on the streets of Whitechapel. Feast on long forgotten 78 rpm discs that have only recently been unearthed, starring a host of recording artists united for the first time on ‘chai fidelity’ vinyl and CD.

Hear the legendary dance band figures of the era like Bert Ambrose and his Orchestra, and Lew Stone and his Monseigneur Band, to the relatively unknown Jewish speciality acts like the Johnny Franks and his Kosher Ragtimers, and Rita Marlowe, the siren of the Yiddish song.  

And just like the old time Yiddish Theatre where the audience were left with both a smile on their face and a tear in their eye, we can delight in the cheeky street patter of the incomparable slapstick drummer Max Bacon rejoicing in the East Enders love affair with ‘Beigels’, we celebrate the world famous Petticoat Lane street market with not one, but two 1920s fox trots - but also shed a tear with Leo Fuld, the remarkable Dutch Yiddish singer, whose recordings in post-war London were haunting reminders of a way of life decimated by the Holocaust.

‘Music is the most Beautiful Language in the World’ is compiled by Alan Dein, the multi award winning radio documentary presenter and oral historian. The album title is inspired by a 1920s Yiddish slogan of an East London gramophone record shop. 

It was a time when Whitechapel was a fertile breeding ground for singers, songwriters, conductors, and cantors to musicians, managers, proprietors of record shops and club owners - and according to Dein, “their stories are now entwined with the development of the British recorded music industry. But for the first time ever, we can the discover the remarkable sounds of Jewish-themed jazz recorded in London between the 1920s and the 1950s - which thankfully had been preserved within the grooves of ancient discs”.

The accompanying booklet designed by Will Bankhead includes a detailed essay by Dein, illustrated with rare photos and memorabilia. This release is co-compiled by Howard Williams, better known for his Japan Blues radio show on NTS, and a series of compilations spanning Moondog (The Viking of Sixth Avenue), cult Japanese jazz singer Maki Asakawa,  and glimpses into the worlds of Japanese surf rock (Takeshi Terauchi), rockabilly (Masaaki Hirao), and soul funk and disco (Lovin’ Mighty Fire).

“Music is the most beautiful language in the World” - Yiddisher Jazz in London’s East End 1920s to 1950s

JWM Records       LP: JWMLP001  /  CD: JWMCD001

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Highway Code booklets 1954 - 1987

Another of my mini-collections - this time a range of 'The Highway Code' booklets issued by HMSO in the second half of the 20th Century. 

Some superb exterior and interior graphic design in these publications which were launched in 1931, after the Road Traffic Act in the previous year.






Uncontrolled zebra crossing, 1959

Crossing the road, 1959

Signals by authorised persons, 1970

the ROADCRAFT manual was issued to students of the 'Motor Car Wings' at the Metropolitan Police Driving School

from ROADCRAFT, issued by the HMSO in 1955


Tuesday, 7 August 2018

The Arsenal Cafe, London N5

Way back to Arsenal FC's footballing days at Highbury Stadium, there were all sorts of places along the routes to the ground that would become fans favourite haunts for a quick bite to eat on the way to the game. The burger & hot dog stalls that parked up round the ground specially for match days, or the fish and chips shops in the locality. There were also several Arsenal-themed cafes which were open most of the week, but inevitably had their busiest days when there was a match on. 

I took this photograph of ARSENAL CAFE around 1990, which was in Gillespie Road, just around the corner from Highbury. Like so many local cafes throughout the nation that were or are situated up-tight to their neighbouring football grounds, these places often serve as a sacred part of a fans pre-match ritual.

Some can survive for decades, along with the yellowing memorabilia on their walls triggering nostalgic memories of players or successes past, or serving as a learning board for fans too young to remember - reinforcing the special role that these cafes play as home turf for fan camaraderie and pre-match chatter. 

I've no idea when the Arsenal Cafe closed down, most likely around the time that Arsenal left Highbury for the Emirates Stadium, and would be grateful to anyone reading this who may know...

With Arsenal's 2018/2019 Premiership Season just around the corner, I've accompanied this image with a piece of the club's history, which would be typical of the kinds of framed ephemera adorning the walls of the likes of ARSENAL CAFE...

Taken from a folded two-sided sheet with printed facsimile signatures, and a photograph of the 1965/1966 squad. It has some relevance to the present day, as this was from the final season of Billy Wright's short-lived managership, when the Club had one of their poorest ever runs of form in living memory, a feat which was echoed by Arsene Wenger's final season in charge of the team.. 

So what next for the Arsenal?

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Early Closing Days in London, Liverpool and Birmingham in the 1960s & 1970s

On the hunt for obscure minutiae of  the past - and this month's offering is extracted from three editions of vintage street atlases: London, mid 1960s, Liverpool & District early 1970s, and Birmingham & West Midlands from the 1970s.

Accompanying the index to streets and the sectional maps, are the usual lists of the addresses of hospitals and clinics, and also included in the London book, the locations of the "Commonwealth Offices", the railway stations and government and public offices.

One stand-out feature is the list of early closing days for shops and markets. I wonder how many of the following places still maintain these daily opening hours?