British Underground Press of the Sixties at the A22 Gallery

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Just opened at the A22 Gallery in Clerkenwell is an exhibition supporting the British Underground Press of the Sixties book by Barry Miles and James Birch that collects the covers to all (big claim I know) the major magazines of the late 60s and 70s together. The exhibition features much more than just the magazines though with archive posters, badges, promo material and memorabilia collected together in a mass of psychedelic colour and badly registered print.

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Oz, International Times, Frendz, Gandalf’s Garden, Black Dwarf, Ink, cOzmic Comics and more all feature and it’s a wonder to behold. Some of the covers verge on pornographic and serve to remind of more anarchic and sometimes unsavoury times. The book is spectacular, highly recommended at £35 from Rocket 88 and is also available at the gallery with a deluxe edition containing vintage copies of original undergrounds for a silly money price too.

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Pink Floyd at the V&A Museum

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It’s taken me an age to post these because life is currently getting in the way in the form of moving and renovating a new home. The Pink Floyd exhibition, ‘Their Mortal Remains’ at the V&A Museum, is very much worth seeing even if, like me, Pink Floyd don’t mean much to you. I swore off them for a long while due to ‘Another Brick In The Wall Pt.2’ being no.1 for so many weeks as a child and finding myself utterly sick of it.

But the fickleness of youth only lasts so long and I found myself gradually checking back through their back catalogue, picking up the odd cheap LP here and there and finally realising why everyone raves about ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. This exhibition highlights exactly what a forward-thinking, visually aware band they were, adapting as their fame and venue sizes increased, their sleeve concepts becoming ever more outlandish as budgets made pre-photoshop surrealist montage possible. The amount of artwork and props present attest to a group with a very strong concept behind each album, courtesy of the Hipgnosis team of course.

Starting at the beginning and travelling chronologically through their career we enter a time tunnel and emerge inside a version of the UFO club circa ’67 complete with pulsating liquid light ceiling, psychedelic poster gallery and films. Rooms concentrating of Syd Barratt, Wish You Were Here, Dark Side of the Moon and more eventually give way to a stunning display of Animals and The Wall-era stage props and art. The 80s side of things were less my bag but the concepts were now reaching gigantic proportion and are impressive as last bastions of the sort of excess that just doesn’t happen any more now that we can do all these things digitally. The final room with a surround performance of their reunion at Live8 was very moving and a perfect way to end this retrospective. Go and see if before it ends on October 15th!

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Welcome To The Dark Ages Pt.1 – Tuesday: 2023 book stamping

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Ok, I’ll attempt to get this down while it’s still reasonably fresh, there will be gaps, there will be questions raised that are never answered, there will be confusion, joy, hilarity and sadness plus everything in between. The reasons why are pointless to debate and the amount of pre-planning, effort, co-ordination and just plain luck that went into the events I just took part in may never be known. The truth is also irrelevant as everyone will have their own version and perspective on it, you’ll have to take my word for it and if you were there you may understand it better than those who weren’t. That’s not meant to sound elitist but you’re ultimately reading an account and looking at highlights of what went down from one perspective out of 400. I’m betting that if all the participants told their stories, each would differ quite radically in places, such were the multitude of experiences, tasks, responses and reactions to what unfolded over the last five days in Liverpool.

I’m going to have to post this in parts as there’s just too much to tell and here’s a quick recap for those who don’t have a clue what this is all about. The JAMsBill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty – aka The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The KLF, The Timelords, The K Foundation, K2 Plant Hire and more have reached the end of their self-imposed 23 year hiatus following the burning of £1 million of their own money back in 1994. To mark the occasion they are staging a series of events in Liverpool where 400 tickets have been sold at £100 a head and each ticket holder is a volunteer who will take part in the events that unfold over the days 23rd-25th August 2017. I was one of the 400 but I was also taking part in the event at the request of the JAMs, but more of that later. Just one more thing before we begin, even though I was asked to perform, I had no idea what was going to happen at all, I probably had two or three scraps of info that others didn’t but had no idea how these fitted into the jigsaw puzzle that was constructed over the following days.

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Tuesday 22nd: I departed for Liverpool, arriving to my hotel close to the Static Gallery, now rechristened The Dead Perch Lounge – the base of operations for the week. On my way up the street I passed a fly poster for the Graduation Ball, happening that Friday night, featuring myself and Greg Wilson on the decks and the unknown band Badger Kull performing their one and only gig. Inside was a bar and a wristband collection point where we signed in and gave names and telephone numbers, receiving a menu for the week with times, places and info on what would lie ahead. Each person was presented with a list of eight different tasks that they had to pick one of whereby their names were written next to the number and then put into a bucket for later. These tasks ranged from ‘Are you a strong swimmer?’ to ‘Can you tell people “no”?’ to ‘Are you strong and exactly 5’5″?’. I chose number seven, ‘Can you draw?’.

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By the bar was the merchandise area – run by the L-13 Light Industrial Workshop: T-shirts, mugs, posters and more – all priced at £20.23 each regardless of their size – with a couple of mystery items to be revealed at the end of the week on the price list. Most of these items are now available from L-13 at these prices – just go here.

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At 23 seconds past midnight (technically Wednesday) the JAMs were to drive their Ice Kream Van down Bold St to the News From Nowhere bookshop to stamp hardback copies of their new book, ‘2023′. In the window was the infamous ‘T-speaker’ from ‘The White Room’ LP cover – now with the addition of a small TV with single roving eyeball video on top, giving it a more religious, crucifix-like shape – and a list of rules for the event that forbade the signing or memorabilia, the taking of selfies or jovial conversation with the band.

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The queue had formed hours before and by midnight half the street was full with the 400, onlookers, press and organisers with the odd taxi struggling to get through the mass. Super-fan Phil Blake was one of the 400, arriving in his customised Ford Timelord police car, complete with siren. At the appointed time the JAMs arrived in their van, blaring out the ‘Just One Cornetto’ theme alternated with their own ‘What Time Is Love’ in classic ice cream van distorted bell form. The media scrum around the van was unlike anything I’d ever seen, fans and paparazzi alike rushed the van as it made its way down the street and chaos reigned for 10 minutes while they tried not to run anyone down and were quickly ushered into the bookshop.

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Each book was stamped with a variety of different insignia ranging from ‘Built By The JAMs’ to the pyramid blaster to the new ‘Toxteth Day of the Dead’ skull that I’d spotted earlier stuck to the back of the speaker and was now plastered over the van outside with another mysterious 99 Mu Mu brick sticker. Channel 4 News were doing pieces inside and outside of the shop and you can just see me above getting my book stamped with the Moody BoyzTony Thorpe to the right. People hung out until 2am at least, catching up with friends, new arrivals and speculating what we would be in for during the week. Rumour was rife, faces were spotted and names bandied about, this very much seemed to be a coming together of the original crew again save for the few who had since passed on like Ricardo da Force and plugger Scott Piering. It was an exciting start to the three days we would be taking part in, the JAMs were back, there were more questions than answers but we’d soon be finding out what the FUUK was going on… part 2 here

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Liverpool 2017, the JAMs and the Dark Ages

Instagram Mu notesMy Instagram page at the moment – follow me there for images from Liverpool later this week, I will put some sort of report together once I’m back but I won’t be posting properly until next week once I’m in Liverpool. I’ve been posting KLF-related bits that I’ve done in the past all week and here’s a selected recap of The Sound of Mu(sic) mix and poster series jape that I made with Mr Trick back in 2003. For the full story download the pdf here

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DJ Food in Liverpool: Graduation Ball & Emotion Wave

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The cat’s out of the bag – I’ll be playing at the Graduation Ball on August 25th after the three day event The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are holding in Liverpool commencing August 23rd. Greg Wilson will also be playing and, topping the bill (for 3 minutes) will be the mysterious Badger Kull. This is free for the existing 400 ticket holders for the Welcome To The Dark Ages events but additional tickets just for this gig can be bought here. Be there for the birth of FUUK.

The day after, I’m playing at Emotion Wave, a night not a million miles away from my own Further nights in concept. I did a quick Q&A with organiser Neil Grant, aka Lo Five with a recent release on the Patterned Air label. All on the bill is Mark from Loka with a DJ set, Melodien and Neil himself.

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Franco Grignani at the Estorick Collection of Italian Art

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There’s not much to say about this post really, I’ve posted about Franco Grignani before, quite recently. The Italian designer has been featured in a couple of exhibitions in London this year, the second of which has just opened. Just look at these images and then go and see this wonderful artist’s work, it’s on display at the Estorick Collection of Italian Art on Canonbury Sq. in London. The simplicity and precision of execution is simply breathtaking.

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We Are Watching: Oz magazine at Chelsea Space

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Chelsea Space at the Chelsea College of Arts in Pimlico has recently opened an exhibition looking at Oz, it’s obscenity trials and the counterculture magazines of the 60s and 70s that sprang up around it. Featuring every issue of both the Australian and British runs, posters, letters, films and all manner of ephemera from the estates of Richard Neville, Martin Sharp, Felix Dennis and many private collections of those who worked on it, it’s a lovingly curated selection by Cherie Silver who was minding the exhibition when I went last week and was eager to answer questions.
If you’ve never seen issues before then here’s a chance, there are some that can be looked through and one wall lays out the Magic Theatre issue, comprised entirely of a stream of consciousness collage. It finishes on July 14th and is free, usually open between 10.30-11am.
* I rather like the graphic above, subverting George Orwell‘s 1984 maxim, unfortunately they could never have foreseen the Big Brother they’d be watching half a century later.

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25 years ago – UFOrb

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Twenty five years ago my friend David Vallade and I traveled to Brixton to see The Orb, being poor students we ended up buying last minute tickets from a tout outside. When it came to entering the venue David got in and I didn’t as my ticket wasn’t deemed valid. Gutted, I returned home and David was left to do the all-nighter on his own. Above is the flyer, found online earlier this year, a fly poster version of which I had on my wall for years with its early typography by The Designers Republic that was later changed for the album artwork.

David Klein, illustrator

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Whilst combing the web for something else entirely I stumbled across the work of the late David Klein. I’ve always been envious of artists who can seemingly use every colour in the palette and not make the result look like a dog’s dinner and there are some wonderful combinations here. His travel posters are lushous examples of a bygone era that occasionally resurfaces when illustrating period pieces like Mad Men. His psychedelic version of Alice In Wonderland is one of the best I’ve seen and there’s an oddity of what looks like six unused prelims for The Exorcist in there too. Visit his website to find out and see more…

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The Last Jedi trailer and poster

I’m sure it’s been noted all over the net as fanboy analysis videos pick apart ever inch of this trailer but it seems to mirror parts of the first Force Awakens trailer with the sudden ‘jolt’ appearance of an out of breath main character at the start, Vader‘s melted helmet replaced by Kylo Ren‘s and the flying craft skimming the surface shot. There may be more but those were the ones that stuck out to me. Not a lot to get excited about here at the moment for me, those new ships look a bit like B-Wings, is that Carrie Fisher from behind? Glad to see Phasma back, I hope they’ll actually use her this time. Nice nod to the original Star Wars poster in this teaser too.

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