Thursday, 27 October 2016

London After Dark

Here is a small collection of eight vintage paperback books depicting London, or a district of London, in their titles and on their illustrated and photographic covers. Sensationalist snapshots and escapist fiction, lurid, exciting and cheap...

Published originally as 'The Stars are Dark' in 1943, this is the American edition of the tale of the British Secret Service, the spies and the counter spies....
Formerly known as 'The Misfortunes of Mr. Teal' when it first came out in 1934, this paperback version dates from 1963 

Want a little ZIP in your TRIP? asks the blurb on the back cover. "It's easy in London if you know the 'right' people who swing in the 'wrong' places"

She claims she started the permissive society! The full story of London's beautiful, turned-on people. It's the 1973 NEL paperback release of the '71 original. 

The legendary film director Sam Fuller's investigation into the life and times of the most famous squat in London at the turn of the 1970s

"the twilight world of the under-privileged...touches the depths of squalor and degradation". And all for five bob.

It's 1954, and here's the "The Murky Side of London...hitherto unpublished facts about dope, prostitution and blackmail". This edition was published by Panther Books in 1959.

"in these six stories about London's teenagers from Asian families Farrukh Dhondy describes, through the teenagers' own eyes, their life in Britain today" (well 1976 to be exact)

Friday, 23 September 2016

Radio Times, September 1953

While making a BBC Radio documentary about the Third Programme (1946-1967), I've just come across an original copy of the Radio Times - then sub-titled the 'Journal of the BBC' - dating from this very month sixty three years ago. 

There are some tantalising snippets within its 52 pages priced at Threepence. Here are a few previews of radio and television shows, and some lovely adverts in an era when you could buy Shaka Salt, Lassie dog food, Mayfair Royale chocolate assortments (So Hard to Resist!) and Scroll automatic ink pens.


Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Bookends, Farnworth

Another bookshop stamp, another story. Last night I came across a paperback that had once found its way in and out of BOOKENDS which was based in Farnworth, near Bolton in North West England.

No idea when, and for how long, they were in business - but judging from their opening days, BOOKENDS must have been a stallholder at Farnworth Market whose trading days were on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.

But after serving the local community for a century, Farnworth Market was closed down for good in February 2016. 

But why can't these places be kept going? Instead in comes some kind of sanitised development - often in a location where you need to drive to - and stallholders will inevitably have to pay much higher rates too...

Sadly, the signage reflects that the end was indeed nigh for Farnworth Market...

Sunday, 28 August 2016

This Book is Exchangeable at Half Price

Every so often I will find the name of a long-gone secondhand bookshop stamped on the yellowing flyleaf page of an old paperback. These were a very particular kind of used book store. Far removed from the antiquarian establishments where the price is deftly written in a soft pencil stroke on the top right hand corner of the flyleaf, or who may also choose to smartly cover a rare and desirable dust jacket in a protective acid free plastic cover.

These were the shops who defied the laws of the high brow collector set. They'd splat indelible ink right across the face of the first page, so the name and often the address of the shop was defiantly emblazoned within. It was very clear to the customer, and the proprietor, that every book stored within the four walls of the shop is well and truly branded, just like a herd of cattle. The shop stamp also removed any hint of anonymity about the book's provenance - it may have passed through several or a dozen hands but for one time at least, we know something about its shelf-life history.

The major selling point was that the book is exchangeable at half price - so often accompanying the ink stamp is the price clearly written in irremovable ballpoint. The exchange factor also meant that often these books could often be rather well-worn by the time they'd end up in your hands!

I have vivid memories of so many of these kinds of bookshops which were once common place throughout the nation. The 'Popular Book Centre' was perhaps the most-well known of them all as they were a kind of chain with many branches scattered throughout London (and perhaps further afield). Famously too, these places catered for a range of tastes that could not be satisfied by the more 'traditional' type of secondhand bookshop. Where else in the world could you source American super hero comics, X-rated adult zines, pulp fiction, car maintenance manuals, biographies, the classics, Mills & Book romance novels or ancient sheet music and pop magazines all under one roof? 

So now I'm on a new quest - to put together a collection of these book shop stamps as I come across them. Your examples much appreciated too...

This PBC was just a few doors away from the Hope & Anchor Pub, An opticians shop is on the site now.

Book Bargains states its address as being OUTSIDE number 160 Shepherd's Bush Market - which was in fact a grocers shop in the 1960s. The street numbers were given to each shop unit that was constructed beneath the railway bridge that runs between Goldhawk Road and Uxbridge Road. So Book Bargains must have traded from a stall...

Where were M&D based? Post the Half Price era. Note that the customer got just under a third of the price back 

A rather sparse looking stamp, but enough information to show the name and the (abbreviated) street. Most likely a stall in what was then the world famous Petticoat Lane market.

Undoubtedly a prime example of a shop catering for the massive British package tourism trade that transformed the Costa del Sol region of Spain from the 1960s. And guess what - it looks like Julian's is still going strong...

For 10p, Thunderbirds are Go at POPULAR BK. CENTRE. Why not use an unsightly thick black felt tip pen to really knock down the collectible grade of your recent purchase?

Finally, here's one hailing from the US. I recall spending about half a day in this place. Late 80s I reckon. What a treasure trove of amazing books, and so sad to learn that it has now 'TOO' bitten the dust...

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Some Olympic Games Stamps

With the 31st Olympic Games just about to commence, I thought I'd delve into my old stamp collection to check out some examples of the Olympic commemorative issues that went on sale around the world during the 20th Century. 

There must have been thousands of Olympics stamps printed by the host nations and the participating countries since 1896, when a set of 12 stamps based on ancient Greek art and architecture connected with the games was issued in Greece to mark the first modern Olympiad. Since then, there have been many superb designs, as well as the dull and the forgettable. 

So here are a few rather nice examples that I've found:

A finely illustrated swimmer bathed in pink swirly lines: from a classy set of six issued by Yugoslavia for the 1952 Games held in Helsinki, Finland.

The cracking Op Art stamp by the New Jersey-born graphic designer Lance Wyman - this was part of a stylish brand image for the 1968 Mexico games

A cool green pitch for this Dutch footballer. One of the eight Dutch stamps marking the 'IX Olympiade' - held in Amsterdam. It was the very first where the Olympic Flame was lit , and Netherlands 1928 marked a rather less romantic first too - the arrival of Coca-Cola as a sponsor...

The ghostly fencer. The City of Montreal hosted the 21st Olympics, which was in fact boycotted by 33 African countries. The reason? The  International Olympic Committee had refused to ban New Zealand from participating because its rugby team had been touring South Africa. 

South Africa itself was already banned from taking part in the Olympics - ever since the 1964 Tokyo Games - for its refusal to condemn apartheid.

Ghana commemorated the 1964 Olympics held in Japan with 7 stamps, including another one showing a footballer. This stamp must have been mailed sometime around Christmas 1964 - check the holly leaves on the post office cancel. The Ghanaian football team were beaten by Egypt in the Quarter Finals of a tournament that was eventually won by Hungary.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Rubbish Bin Boy, Southend, Essex

After languishing in my box of 35mm transparencies for over two decades, the rubbish bin boy is back. I took these photographs sometime in the late 1980s during a visit to the Essex coast. He's made of some kind of cast metal, and the idea was to throw your rubbish in his mouth. It looks like the actual bin which would have been affixed to his back had gone walkabout, so the rubbish would most probably have just piled up around him. At some point the Borough Council must have decided enough is enough, so hence his disappearance from the seafront not that much longer after I captured him on film...

Shame, I have always been very fond of street furniture such as rubbish bin boy, and these days it's hard to find pieces like this. Simply a crudely painted, brightly coloured object, but charming if a little bit mad looking.

I wonder if anyone knows when he was made and if there were any others like him, either along the Southend seafront, or anywhere else?

Was this the last paint job he ever had?
Perhaps he knew that his days were numbered. Note the red tear under his left eye...

Monday, 13 June 2016

Generation X - Revisited

An old chestnut this one. But I've been asked several times to explain why I still stand by my theory that Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson's UK book Generation X (1964) is the very first significant use of the now oft-used term 'Generation X'. Especially when the phrase was very likely first immortalised in print a dozen years earlier. If you've stumbled upon this post and wondering what it's all about - or fancy a refresher - please check out my previous article on the subject, dating back to 24th February 2014. 

Holiday Magazine December 1952
What the Holiday editors were previewing was a three-part article which ran in the January through to March 1953 issues of Holiday magazine. The project was initiated by Robert Capa with the collaboration of a team of his fellow Magnum photographers - but the 'Generation X' title (attributed to Capa himself) was actually ditched in favour of the rather bland billing 'Youth of the World'. 

So 'Generation X' what Holiday calls "the projection name" failed to get beyond starring in this snippet when published in the USA. It was also not mentioned at all in the UK when the same photo story ran in a special edition of the popular Picture Post magazine in January 1952.

But the term was actually fully revived in January 1954, when Capa's piece was rejigged for Switzerland's stylish DU magazine:

A marvelous cover - published by Conzett & Huber in Zurich, January 1954
Undoubtedly it is this publication that justifies the argument that the term was coined well before the 1960s or certainly Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel. But I think that sadly back in 1952 and 1954, Capa's Generation X concept simply failed to break through, and so swiftly slipped out of sight.

The major reason is that this was a much less-celebrated return to an earlier study of the lives of ordinary folk across the globe called 'People are People the World Over', which was first published in the Ladies' Home Journal in 1947. This also involved Capa, and the newly founded Magnum photographic agency. But also, the subjects of Generation X were 'young adults', already too old to be part of the emerging 'teenager', or the rock and roll generation that was waiting just around the corner. So too conventional perhaps, even though it was fascinating to hear from those people who were still children during WW2.

To sum up - here are some pages from DU (in German) where 'Generation X' first appears to enter the lexicon of our sociologists and cultural anthropologists. But it is interesting how the term was completely (and thus not conveniently) forgotten when the term would later be truly seized upon to describe a new breed of youth...