Today’s column could be the most archetypal of alchemies. A courier is en route with what can only be described as a quintessential cache of rare literature, I have the Rosita spun up and I’m holding not one but two 35mm disposables - the first loaded with Kodak’s finest and the second with old faithful Ilford 400 Plus. If only I can get them to the lab and turn around some negatives within the next twenty-four hours then we might just be in business. It’s doable, I feel it. I can make it happen and together, we can has our fuckin’ cake and eat it.
‘Cat People’ by Bill Hayward (Dolphin, 1978) is a choice for obvious reasons. If those reasons are not so obvious to you then I shall bid you welcome, new person. Have no fear - the room you have entered is a safe space and none here wish you any real, intrinsic ill will. I feel like this makes an excellent follow up to that Rattazzi dog book that we had back in March. There is a certain responsibility, when discussing the canine, to also account for the feline and in lieu of a certain book on ‘Cambridge Cats’ (that I totally thought you’d seen but that’s totally not the case…yet) this shall be the device through which I accomplish that balance.
There are a wonderful variety of cats and their associated characters here - writers, editors, actors, directors, models, photographers, artists, painters, curators, columnists, dancers, teachers, home makers, metal sculptors, and even The Episcopal Bishop of New York City - often with their own unique, esoteric take on the moggy mode and appropriately ridiculous photos to accompany them. There are also some really wonderful shots that reiterate my assertion, as someone who has been trying to catch Lenny on Polaroid for the past three years, that…how to put this? Cats are both very easy and very difficult to capture. They are beautiful, yes but they are assholes in additon. Rogers E. M. Whitaker, The Old Curmudgeon provides a perfect introduction, summing up the partial understanding we share with these weird-ass gods, wherein there are certain mysteries and ‘secrets that it is given neither to man nor cat to know.’ Sounds about right.
Aslan is getting married in October and has requested my attendance as one of the men belonging to the groom. Last weekend necessitated escaping the Large Smog for a trip out to Leamington Spa, which is neither where they birth these little guys, nor an exclusively curative destination. Well, it is that but it is also home to a rather good tailors and as he explained to me, they would need to take precise measurements of all four of my limbs and various readings related to my folds in order to attenuate a suit to my specific dimensions. I realised at some point that I’d never asked him where people in LS purchase their vinyl, which - when you’re me - is the kind of question that normally get’s asked pretty soon after, “Where do you live?” Following a brief consultation with Google, he informed me that there was indeed a record shop attached to the old Assembly, Leamington’s former and once excellent live music venue and that we could be there in a matter of minutes on foot. I was already suited and booted before his sentence was spake. Unfortunately, when we arrived it turned out that the record shop, like the Assembly, had now closed. More fortunate was the fact that our disappointment was to be short-lived, as there was an excellent little emporium just behind us, across the street called, fittingly, Leamington Record Store.
It’s one of those wonderful “good stuff on the walls / genre’s & eras round the edges / cheap fun in the middle” type places and I couldn’t believe I’d not been in there before on previous trips to Spa town. It’s frequented by everyone you might imagine, should they find themselves in the area and run by a suitably sterling soul. I picked up a bunch of stuff (four Best Ofs for a tenner) and this: a 1983 pressing of King Kurt’s psychobilly epic, ‘Oohwallahwallah’. Sometimes a cover sells a record all by its sweet self, particularly when it was designed by their roadie Sean Pertwee - son of the third Doctor Who, Jon Pertwee - and Stiff Records are responsible for whatever you’re holding in your hands.
If you’re getting Joy Division meets The Clash vibes then we are of a mind. I also think there’s a touch of Ramones in there and all of this is starting to make sense, especially when you see that Dave Edmunds (The Ronnettes, ‘Baby, I Love You’) was on production duties. They built a fairly manic following at their similarly manic gigs and this album saw them briefly hit the heady stratosphere of Top 40 fame with ‘Destination Zulu Land’. ‘Mack The Knife’ and ‘Banana Banana’ are also worth a shout and yes, that’s the ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ (the live videos are too good and that one’s from 2010 at The Gaff - also now shuttered - and it looks mental) and they totally rip off ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ on side B. It fun. If I remember correctly, Rough Trade had a very nice repress of this on transparent yellow vinyl for Record Store Day 2018 but at £5.00 for a sweet OG copy: I’ll take it anytime.
The Lady S stopped by the other day, wearing what can only be described as a gold velvet leotard, black socks and black combat boots. Naturally, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to catch that on film and she was happy to oblige. I would like to think there’s something of Newton in these…perhaps some Cheyco Leidmann and even a little Guy Bourdin? There is always a part of me that gets overly concerned with the throw-away nature of shots on disposable being too much in the vein of Juergen Teller, whereby everything gets snapped & sent straight to print, often with seemingly little in the way of discretion. I don’t mean to be unkind - I love a great deal of Teller’s work and he wouldn’t give a damn anyhow - it’s just that I’m under no illusion that I could get away with being so bold. Thankfully, there are enough good, grounding people in my life (Ms. S included) who wouldn’t allow me to and I thank them for that. As such, I try to be fairly picky in selection for your consumption and so there are definitely alternates that you might get at some point. We’ll see. You can have three colour Kodak ones today and three of the b&w Ilford on Thursday. Fair?
I wouldn’t really be fulfilling my promise to give you the purest, most complete form of noisy alchemy if I were to ignore the “more” component of our mantra. Also, change is good and where three things is the norm, four is the wall that we can and must break if we are to innovate, change and grow. I was recently told that people don’t change. I don’t agree with this. At all. Much in the same way that we can stick a record on, listen to the whole thing from start to finish and then listen to it again, we just think we are hearing the same thing. We’re not though. Vinyl, similar to things that live, is an artefact that changes over time. Our relationship with it is nothing if not haptic. The needle will move differently in the grove and there are any number of ambient factors that might influence subsequent, even sequential play throughs. Yes, it is the same record but it has and will change even if it is the same record. It is different. That’s life. Oddly enough, someone else pointed out that back in its heyday, vinyl was more commonly referred to by the length of audio content, i.e. EP or LP, not so often by the format, vinyl itself. It was never about the format because that wasn’t what was important. It is only now, looking back that we are obsessed by that thing and I think we sometimes forget that music is music, wherever you might find it. That’s a dynamic change in perspective.
Summer in London often means exhibition extravaganza and this year could be the most extravagant yet. If you have even half a day free, I would urge you to check out the new Cindy Sherman thing at The National Portrait Gallery. The lovely people at The Art Channel have you briefed and I include their terribly fine work above, although it could be enough to know that she is a master of disguise, as well as a fantastic photographer. It’s on until the middle of September so y’all have time and the venue is well worth a wander, if you have the time and you know you do. I am a fan and so I spent a good two hours there, in that room/realm alone but you can dedicate more or less, constraints depending. Rooquardt was only too eager to express his love for the NPG itself - he’s right, it is a banger of a venue, both in terms of architecture and curation and many curious rooms, some of which move around of their own accord. Sherman is, without doubt a seminal person of interest and this feels like an optimal opportunity to look at her work.
Or you could just go and lie down in the park. That’s good too.
JD - TACOCAT