Flexibition #35: Plastics x2

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A double whammy of flexi’s from Japanese band Plastics this week courtesy of Steve Cook who gifted me these from his excellent collection before heading for the sunny climbs of LA in a few weeks time. It’s not often you see a full colour ‘picture disc’ flexi but that’s one right there (pressed more than a little off-centre it must be said). Given away free only with UK copies of their 1981 album, Welcome Back, they cover The Monkees with a bizarre bontempi version of ‘Last Train To Clarksville’. As with the first track on the disc, ‘Paté’, the band come on like an electropop ‘Rock Lobster’-era B-52s with a bouncy, slightly hysterical style that relies on a minimal drum machine to propel them along. Here’s a live version with the top lyric, “Chinese ping pong big pink tits”.

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Flex35_PlasticsGolddiscThe gold ‘Diamond Head / Peace’ flexi was given away free to customers at record shops like Our Price in 1981 to help promote their Welcome Back album, in the same manner as the Joy Division and Durutti Column flexi’s I featured last week. In the early 80’s music papers like Tony Mitchell in Sounds were pushing Japanese techno pop as a new fad and record labels were clamouring to sign and promote these acts for a moment off the success of bands like Yellow Magic Orchestra. Plastics fitted the bill although were far from serious or sombre, ‘Diamond Head’ sounding not far off Piero Umiliani‘s ‘Mahna Mahna’, made famous by the Muppets meeting Devo.

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Another Japanese band, Spoozy’s, covered ‘Diamond Head’ on a Plastics tribute album in the late 90s and made it into a fantastic surf rock tune.

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Moosekid Comics #2

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A year is a long time but when you’re working for the love of it and trying to pull together nearly 40 artists and writers to make a free comic that showcases the wealth of talent in the UK for children’s comics it can go in the blink of an eye. A year on from the first issue Moose Kid is back, helmed by Jamie Smart (who draws Bunny vs Monkey and Looshkin for The Phoenix amongst other things).
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Among the old faces back from issue one like Gary Northfield (Gary’s Garden, Julius Zebra), Tom Paterson and Alan Martin‘s Young Tank Girl there are new faces too. Jonathan Edwards and Felt Mistress contribute a photo story of their character Tippy and one newcomer, Aisyah Stevens, is only 15 and was discovered at a Moose Kid comics workshop last year. You can read the new issue, as well as the first one, for FREE over on the Moose Kid website. Any parent with children who love comics should read this and, like The Phoenix, no adverts, no tie-ins to films, computer games or TV shows, all original content.

 

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‘In A Moment’ Ghost Box 10th anniversary compilation

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A new record from Ghost Box is always a cause for celebration on this blog but this next one is actually celebrating their 10th anniversary so congratulations are in order. It’s a double album of highlights from the back catalogue on CD and LP with thirty one re-mastered tracks, heavy with The Advisory Circle, The Focus Group and Belbury Poly as you would expect. Graphic design as ever is by Julian House and extensive sleeve notes are by music writer, Simon Reynolds (who coined the term ‘Hauntology’).

Only one track is new – from the forthcoming Hintermass album – and you can hear clips from the compilation here. They promise a double CD with booklet or gatefold LP with DL code. Available on 9th October 2015, (pre-orders in the Ghost Box shop from 19th September). I’m really looking forward to listening to this in one sitting,  from one of the most consistent labels out there and a constant inspiration.

Brian Lewis from Harry Harrison’s ‘Mechanismo’

Lewis Love MachineLove the psychedelic background, the way Brian has signed ‘Lewis’ bottom right and just look at that 3D op-art typeface on the book cover below. I found this book for £4 in the Notting Hill Book exchange last week after being alerted to it by members of the Brian Lewis fan page on Facebook.

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A real oddity of a book, cobbled together under different themes with random images from artists as diverse as Giger, Achilleos, Burns and Foss etc. held together with a narrative from Harrison. Several Star Wars concept paintings by Ralph McQuarrie feature as well for some reason and Lewis illustrates several weapons from the film as well. Here’s another image by Brian that was posted on the group, taken from David Kyle‘s ‘The Illustrated book of Science Fiction Ideas & Dreams’, Hamlyn 1977.From David Kyle's 'The Illustrated book of Science Fiction Ideas & Dreams', Hamlyn 1977

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Flexibition #34: Factory Records – The Durutti Column & Joy Division

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A couple of flexi’s from Factory Records this week and The Durutti Column one from 1988 is a thing of beauty that I bought purely for the design by Mark Holt of 8vo. It references their sleeve for ‘The Guitar and Other Machines’ and slyly changes it to ‘…and Other Marketing Devices’. From David Sultan‘s excellent FactoryRecords.net catalogue site:

“10,000 of these flexi’s were pressed and put in special countertop boxes to promote the Durutti Column album, “Guitar and Other Machines”. Mark Holt repeats his superb design, a three dimensional four foot high collage of image and text on the flexi and it looks amazing. Almost all went out to shops and were never seen again. The counter top container/box was an 8vo classic in itself and might attract serious interest amongst Durutti fanatics.”

Weirdly, the album that this was supposed to promote was released at the end of 1987 but this flexi didn’t arrive until the summer of 1988, another case of classic Factory lateness?

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The second disc is by Joy Division, featuring outtakes from their Closer album. What’s interesting about this flexi is the uncredited third track called ‘As You Said’ from the time the band went under the name Warsaw. It’s a short, electronic instrumental reminiscent of Kraftwerk and has a certain late 70s charm.

I do like these little messages on the label area, clearly Factory deemed flexi discs as worthless. This disc was pressed up in two batches of 25,000 and sent out to record stores to be given away from the counter. Later on it was also given away with a fanzine (with Factory’s permission) called The Other Sound. Easy to find but far from free, try telling that to the record stores charging a tenner for them today.

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As far as I know, Factory only did four flexi discs during their day, sadly I don’t have a copy of the 1980 Martin Hannett ‘Test Card’ disc that was inserted into The Return of the Durutti Column album with the sandpaper cover or the ‘Merry Xmas From The Haçienda and Factory Records’ one by New Order from the same year.

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Rodney Matthews Vortex cover

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I found this the other day, Vortex #2 from February 1976. Lovely Rodney Matthews cover and there’s a 5 page interview with him inside as well as short stories from Michael Moorcock and others. The pages are all watermarked and the cover was filthy with all sorts of grime stuck to it, I’d wager that it had been skinned up on many a time over the years. Still a thing of beauty and I love that Vortex typeface.

Weekend Finds: Sci-Fi paperbacks

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A very productive weekend of digging uncovered these sci-fi paperbacks among others including three with covers by Richard M. Powers to add to the collection (I’m not so interested in the content, just the covers). The SF-18 cover artist is uncredited but a quick web search reveals that it’s by Dean Ellis and the original art is actually available to buy from this site if you have $5.5k! I’ve screen-grabbed the original below.

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The Harlan Ellison book is an oddity as I noticed it shares a version of the same image on the cover of the Elektriktus album Electronic Mind Waves.

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The Dragons in Shindig! magazine #49

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My article on The Dragons is in issue #49 of Shindig! Magazine – out now, 6 pages too. New interviews with Doug & Dennis Dragon plus Donn Landee who produced their BFI album. After their recent publisher troubles the mag is back and as good as ever, you should be able to find it in most WH Smiths and decent record shops. If the article piques your interest and you want to hear the music they made then Ninja Tune still has digital and CDs in stock although the vinyl is long gone.
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Star Wars : The Force Awakens poster by Drew Struzan

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We’ve all seen this by now, right? Original master movie poster painter Drew Struzan was persuaded out of retirement to create a new poster for Episode VII. Harrison Ford (because that’s all I can see here, not Han Solo)  looks well haggard and seems to be thinking, “Let’s get this over with!”. I’m wondering, with the odd crop and lack of lettering (or space for it) whether this is the full image. I lightened it up a bit because it seemed so dark.

Marc Hagan-Guirey’s Star Wars Cut Scenes exhibition

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I just made it in time to see the end of this exhibition at the 5th Base Gallery today, 12 classic scenes from the first three Star Wars films, each cut from a single sheet of A4 paper. The process is called Kirigami – rather than purely folding paper as in Origami it involves cutting as well – and artist Marc Hagan-Guirey has created these 12 dioramas over a period of three years.

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Beautifully displayed in colour sensitive light boxes with mirrored surfaces they are quite simply stunning and are all apparently hand cut rather than laser cut. The circles are perfect the straight edges are perfect and the level of detail in such miniatures is nothing short of incredible. They are now going to be sold off to the highest bidders from the Kickstarter than Marc initiated to bring the exhibition to the public so this was probably the last time they’ll all be seen together.
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Look-In magazine covers

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Painted covers for the UK weekly magazine/comic Look-In from a huge online collection over at Comic Vine.
I used to get this in the late 70s and early 80s although I’m not sure I had many of these issues. The mag was full of tie-ins with TV, film and music with features, comic strips, interviews and posters. They sure had favourites as well, Steve Austin – The Six Million Dollar Man was on so many covers and DJ Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart seemed to rule for a period in the 70s (check for two of him inside the gallery below).

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Inside The Pleasuredome is nominated in the AIM awards

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I’m very pleased to announce that the Frankie Goes To Hollywood box set I co-designed last year with Philip Marshall and Ian Peel for Union Square Music has just been nominated for an award in the ‘SPECIAL CATALOGUE RELEASE OF THE YEAR’ category in the AIM (Association of Independent Music) awards. We’re up against Oasis, Bjork, Imogen Heap, The Pretty Things and the Cities of Darkscorch boardgame – fingers crossed. Regardless of whether we win or not it’s also been announced the Ninja Tune HAVE won the ‘Innovator Award’ so well done Matt, Jon, Peter and everyone involved in the label.

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C418 ‘Minecraft Volume Alpha’ soundtrack

C418 Minecraft vol.A If any of you have young children you’ll probably be familiar with Minecraft, the computer game where you can build whole worlds and adventure around without all the usual shoot ’em up, dodge the obstacles, collect the gems and battle the boss-type things (although you can do all that too if you want). It’s like virtual Lego and each self-generating land is populated by all manner of creatures who each have their own quirks. I always remark on the music when my kids are playing it, a collection of short, ambient piano pieces which remind of Satie, Eno or Budd and makes for a refreshing change from the usual repetitive manic mayhem associated with most games.

Now the soundtrack – by Daniel Rosenfeld aka C418 – has been released on vinyl and CD by Ghostly International, or the first volume has anyway – subtitled ‘Alpha’. Vinyl fiends take note: the first run of the LP (1000 copies) comes in transparent green after which is switches to black and the sleeve is a lenticular version of the graphic above. It’s available digitally for just $4 from C418‘s Bandcamp page which has previews of all tracks and the second volume, ‘Beta’, follows at some point in the future.

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Flexibition #33: Flexipop! magazine

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In the short film which debuted last week that The Vinyl Factory made about my flexi disc collection I briefly talked about Flexipop! magazine and this week’s entry is dedicated to the publication rather than any one flexi disc. Flexipop! was a unique magazine that existed in a unique time and it deserves a special mention in UK pop publishing history. From 1980 to 1983 it was independently published, created by a couple of ex-Record Mirror journalists – Barry Cain and Tim Lott – and a small team who took the bull by the horns and flew by the seat of their pants. Each monthly issue came with a free flexi disc attached to the cover (excepting later issues – more of that later).

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The mag straddled many different music genres and artists and wasn’t afraid to mix and match without much of a thought for any sort of core audience. At a time when it was competing against the newly launched, ultra-cool i-D and The Face (which they lampooned), the weekly triumvirate of The NME, Melody Maker & Sounds and the bi-weekly Smash Hits, it managed to somehow occupy a spot of its own, coming on like a sleazy big brother to Smash Hits, rising from the ashes of the end of the previous decade. The Punk movement was largely dead by this time, the main bands having moved on, had chart success or split. Synth Pop, New Romantics, a Rockabilly revival, Ska, the Blitz scene, Goths and what would later become known as post-punk and new pop were the order of the day. It was still very much a music business in transition from the DIY spirit of the late 70s to the blatant commercialism that would later consume the pop charts from the mid 80 and it was those years – some of the most interesting in the 80s – that Flexipop straddled.

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The magazine focused primarily on the Pop charts with an eye on the independent labels too and the gimmick of a free disc with each issue was the bait with which they sold their brand. Each disc was a new, exclusive recording as well, not something available elsewhere, which immediately appealed to fans of whoever was the featured artist that month. The discs were manufactured by Lyntone in London and many big artists of the time featured over the magazine’s three year span: Soft Cell, Toyah, The Jam, The Selector, Motorhead, The Boomtown Rats, Blondie, XTC, The Cure, Genesis, Depeche Mode… even Bucks Fizz!

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The first issue I ever bought was #4 for the Adam & The Ants cover version of ‘Y.M.C.A.’ – re-imagined as ‘A.N.T.S.’ – and reading it was a shock for an 11 year old. This was probably my first encounter with a more adult style of writing, complete with swearing, as well as the seedy cartoons of mag designer Mark Manning (later to transform himself into Zodiac Mindwarp) and the violent bloodbaths that were the monthly photo story.

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The mag had taken a leaf out of girl’s magazines like My Guy, Patches and Jackie and decided to run a photo story featuring assorted pop stars and friends in each issue. These gore-fests usually involved some form of torture, mutilation or bloody death in one way or another and ended up getting the magazine banned from WH Smiths stores at one stage. Aside from the photo stories they hardly ever ran the standard interview pieces, instead opting to go for more quirky, quickfire Q&A pieces (‘Lifelines’), features on childhood (‘Testament of Youth’), star’s everyday lives (‘Welcome To The Working Week’) or Top 10s and single reviews.

They also didn’t shy away from the twee either, a double page Abba spread appeared as did a pairing of Berni Nolan (of The Nolan Sisters) with Jello Biafra (The Dead Kennedys) and it was this sense of fun and irreverence that became its trademark. The ban effectively ended up killing the mag by 1983 though, halved sales, caused by the refusal of Smiths to stock it for two months, meant that the flexi had to go and a last minute re-brand with Kris Needs at the editorial helm couldn’t save the day. Their final issue featured Aleister Crowley on the cover (the interior piece was written none other that Current 93‘s David Tibet) and was dubbed issue 666 in his honour.

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What was remarkable, looking back, was the access they had to the stars of the day and the situations they managed to get them into as a result. The photo stories are the biggest shock – Depeche Mode being whipped by a dominatrix for instance – but Paul Weller being gagged by Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler as well as dressing up as a mad professor are things you didn’t see elsewhere. A full page kiss between Boy George & Jon Moss in 1982? It would be over a decade before the relationship between the two was publicly acknowledged so they obviously felt at ease with the publication. Flex33_FlexiKisspg

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A few months back, whilst researching this piece, I found a whole site dedicated to the magazine, set up by the original team who created it. Not only is it a treasure trove of content, covers, cartoons and other assorted crap but they just released a book – imaginatively entitled ‘Flexipop! The Book’, what else? – chronicling the history of the mag and reprinting a ton of content. Best of all, it comes with a brand new flexi featuring Spandau Ballet and Marc Almond! All the images in this piece are from it and you can grab a copy right here – it’s a blast of nostalgia the likes of which we’ll not see again I can tell you, even if some of the scans are a bit ropey here and there. Also on the site is Barry Cain’s blog with a ton of interviews well worth trawling through.

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For obvious reasons I’m not going to include the audio to this disc here, you’ll just have to go and buy the book…

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The Grateful Dead Movie animated intro by Gary Gutierrez

Pretty much the best quality version of the animated intro from the 2 hour + The Grateful Dead Movie from 1977 I can find on the web. It was created by Gary Gutierrez who “had already apprenticed at John Korty’s Mill Valley studio as an animator of children’s films, creating and directing live action and animation for “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company,” before working on the Dead’s animated sequence. He continued working withe band on various projects of theirs, including the surreal title sequence for the CBS revival of “The Twilight Zone” television series (1985), for which (Jerry) Garcia composed the score.” *

* Info from www.nightflight.com

UPDATE: There’s a good minute of the intro in very high quality over on Vimeo on the trailer for the film.

Rick & Morty season 2 trailer

If you haven’t been watching Rick & Morty on Adult Swim then you’re in for a treat and there’s a whole season to wade through before diving into the second. Essentially a riff on the professor and Marty McFly from Back To The Future it’s an animated, NSFW time travel adventure that always goes two steps further than you think it will.
Definitely not child-friendly in parts either and I wish these figures were real. Here’s a favourite clip from season 1 that has nothing to do with the main characters…

and a psychedelic music video from season 2…

…and a Simpsons intro cameo.

 

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