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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Oh, you Hansen devil!

I would imagine that all of the Streetlamp's readers are familiar with the work of anti-folk colossus Beck. How many of you, though, are familiar with his impressive counter-culture ancestry and, in particular, the wild life and times of his mother, Bibbe Hansen. Never heard of her? Good, because the Streetlamp is here to bring you some charming, girl-group music from the early 60s and to take you on a journey through the history of US alternative art and music along the way.

 Bibbe Hansen was born in New York City in 1953 and right from the start she had impeccable Bohemian credentials. Her father was Fluxus artist Al Hansen and her mother was the actress/model/dancer/stripper/poet Audrey Hansen. Bibbe began performing as a child, often participating in her father's avant-garde theater pieces called "Happenings". At the same time, she performed with mainstream theatre companies in New York City and sang in an Elizabethan music group, studied dance with Phoebe Neville and Lucinda Childs, and was filmed by "the godfather of American avant-garde cinema" Jonas Mekas.

In 1964, at the tender age of eleven, Bibbe was leading the typical life of the 'problem child', skipping school, shoplifting, and hanging out in New York panhandling with her similarly wild and crazy friends Charlotte Rosenthal and Janet Kerouac  (yep, the daughter of the legendary beat poet and novelist Jack Kerouac). Anyway, by chance, the intrepid trio of juvenile delinquents accidentally met songwriter Neil Levinson (writer of  the Randy & The Rainbows' 1963 hit "Denise", later covered by Blondie) and hustled busfare from him. On the bus journey, the girls and Levinson began chatting. The Beatles had just spearheaded the British Invasion of the US pop charts and, in an attempt to cash in on the hysteria, Levinson had written a girl-song response to 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'. All he needed now was a girl-group to record it, and so, later that day at Steinway Studios on 57th Street, Levinson and the girls recorded 'I Want To Talk With You'. Have a listen, its a classic slice of early 60s girl group pop.

Incredibly, within weeks, the trio, now called The Whippets, were signed to Columbia's Colpix label and the single was pressed up with the strange and silly 'Go Go Go With Ringo', complete with faux English accents, on the b-side. Have a listen:

The record was released and, apart from making a very small dent in the single's chart in Canada, disappeared without trace.

Shortly thereafter, Bibbe became a “guest” of the State of New York, and spent some time in Spofford Street Youth House and several other NY institutions for child criminals. Upon her release, Bibbe met Andy Warhol when her father took her to Stark’s coffee shop, where the art crowd gathered on Saturdays.
 “And what do you do?” Warhol asked her.
Her father piped up proudly, “I just sprung her from jail.”

Suitably impressed, Warhol suggested they collaborate on a film about her recent experiences. The film was called Prison and also features Marie Menken and Edie Sedgwick. Bibbe went on to make three other films with Warhol and also danced briefly with the Velvet Underground.

Eventually, events brought Bibbe to the west coast of the US and she settled in Los Angeles where she founded a theater company, acted in "B" movies and participated in the local punk scene as musician, and documenteur. Nowadays, Bibbe and her husband Sean are the directors of the Al Hansen Archive, continuing exhibitions of her father's work, performing and lecturing at museums, galleries and universities around the world. You can find out more about Bibbe at her website 'here'.

If you enjoyed The Whippets' songs then you can freely download them as MP3 files from Bibbe's page.


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Never rode my bike down to the sea

Now that Griff has opened the door to blog posts consisting mainly of series of images with his anarchy cats, I feel as though the door is opened for me, the most visual member of our little group, to make my mark on the Streetlamp's pages. Unlike, Griff and Gord, I'm not going to bore you with too much verbal guff but I'm going to get straight to the pictures. The artist I want to showcase today is Bangkok based illustrator Chalermphol Harnchakkham who works under the psuedonym Huebucket

I should mention that Huebucket doesn't always feature bicycles in his illustrations but that those just happen to be my favourite ones (as anyone who knows me could have guessed already). Huebucket also features the ocean and ocean creatures as a recurring motif and the way he juxtaposes discarded human artifacts and the power of the ocean reminds me a lot of Miyazaki's Ponyo. I think the reason I like Huebucket's art so much is that it is bold and linear but also has a subversive, subtle, feminine quality about it. Or maybe I just like it without worrying too much about why.
If you're into buying stuff, you can accquire these images as prints or get them on a t-shirt for looking ubercool when you're out and about cycling. Or you could nick them off here and do what you want with them... after all, I'm not the art police!


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Fashionable Material - Pierre drops the bomb

I've written a couple of times before on the blog (see 'here') about my friend, Pierre Chandeze, the musician and graphic artist who specialises in creating distinctive art  featuring 'ugly animals'. I've also mentioned before that, rather infuriatingly, Pierre always seems to be involved in some sort of marvellous project or other, which serves to make the rest of us look like we're lazy under-achievers. Now, that may well be true but we don't necessarily want to be reminded of it.

Anyway, Pierre's latest project involves taking his excellent 'With A Messy Head' website into the netlabel scene with the release of a brand new, freely downloadable, compilation album on bandcamp.

Called 'You Don't Have To Be Fashionable Vol​.​ 1', the album features  13 shades of pop - principally in the experimental, indie, lo-fi vein - from all across the globe.

We here at the Streetlamp were rather taken by track 9, Veiled Clock by Scotland's own The Maginot Band:

This lot are a six-piece, indie-pop hailing from Caithness in the North of Scotland and this track certainly has something undefinably dark, northern and wintry about it. Check out their bandcamp page for more releases soon.

We also loved the bouncy, bass-driven punk of track 11, Restraint by The Internet from Santa Barbara, US.

The Internet band was formed in May 2010 by guitarist/singer Marvin Dominguez and guitarist/singer Alex Brown. Drums are supplied by Miguel Cuate and bass by Angel Guerra.

I can't finish without also giving special mention to track 12, Lon Chaney by Paul & Pierre. The Pierre in question is, of course the aforementioned Monsieur Chandeze and the Paul is yet another Scottish-based artist, Edinburgh's own cult legend Paul Vickers. Now I'm not going to embed the album version of this song, which is an alternative take on the track, but instead I'm going to give you the official Paul & Pierre video version. The reason for this deviation is that the Streetlamp's Ray, a man with an unparalleled love of black and white horror movies, insisted that this is the version we included. And who am I to argue?


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Cats for Chaos! An Anarchy Cats picture special.

It has been noted previously on the Streetlamp (see 'here' ) that the contributors, as well as having a passing interest in libertarian socialism, are all great cat lovers. That's not surprising, as the idea that cats, particularly black cats, are symbolic of anarchism has a long history.

Most people will be familiar with the the  Industrial Workers of the World inspired Wildcat (above), said to represent  the spontaneity, direct action, solidarity and militancy of a wildcat strike. Usually depicted with an arched back and with claws and teeth bared, it is closely associated with anarcho-syndicalism and was designed by Ralph Chaplin, who was a prominent figure in the IWW.

More recently, the IWW has cottoned on to the lolcat phenomenon, most specifically the I Can Has Cheezburger? offshoot with these image macros popping up on the internet:

Another historical black cat, Felix the Cat , the popular 1920s cartoon character, has also been seen to pop up occasionally as an anarchist logo:

Very recently, I've noticed image macros of cats popping up on anarchist sites and on the blogs and personal sites of anarchist acquaintances. The best and funniest of these is almost certainly this little hooded kitten:

There are a few other variations of this floating around on the internet but I reckon this is the best of them. A few other 'anarchist cat'  images have been cropping up too. Here's a selection, of variable quality:

So, why cats, you may be thinking. Well, I reckon that humans have long recognised that the cat is just too much a lover of liberty to be ever truly domesticated in the way that, for example, dogs are. Back in the Victorian era, when Kipling was explaining the fantasy origins of various creatures through his Just So stories, when it came to writing about the cat, he finishes the tale of The Cat That Walked by Himself by writing:

"But the Cat keeps his side of the bargain too. He will kill mice and he will be kind to Babies when he is in the house, just as long as they do not pull his tail too hard. But when he has done that, and between times, and when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Woods or up the Wet Wild Trees or on the Wet Wild Roofs, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone."

Yes, writers recognise the strong streak of independence that just can't be coaxed, bribed, starved or beaten out of the cat. Hemingway, a fanatical cat lover, wrote in For Whom the Bell Tolls :

"It is not liberty not to bury the mess one makes, he thought. No animal has more liberty than the cat; but it buries the mess it makes. The cat is the best anarchist. Until they learn that from the cat I cannot respect them."

Another great American writer, Mark Twain, wrote the following in his notebook in 1894:

"Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat."

And it's not just writers who recognise this quality in cats. The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson , widely considered to be the master of street photography and the father of modern photojournalism, loved cats and was once quoted as saying:

 "I'm an anarchist, yes. Because I'm alive. Life is a provocation.... I'm against people in power and what that imposes upon them. Anglo-Saxons have to learn what anarchism is. For them, it's violence. A cat knows what anarchy is. Ask a cat. A cat understands. They're against discipline and authority. A dog is trained to obey. Cats can't be. Cats bring on chaos."

 So it seems that this seemingly recent internet phenomenon of the 'anarchy cat' has a long and proud tradition. Areas of political protest closely allied to anarchism have also been employing the image. Here are a few examples:

We here at the Streetlamp enjoyed these images so much that we decided to see whether we could come up with some ourselves. Below are our first efforts. We hope you like at least some of them:

We'll finish off with a tribute to the oldest anarchist joke in the book:

If you know of any more 'anarchist cat' pictures we've missed, drop us a line. We'd also be delighted to see any of your own efforts.


Monday, 7 January 2013

Let's get slavery out of our system!

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month so the Streetlamp wanted to provide you with some tools you could use to raise awareness and to start making a difference. First up, we wanted to bring your attention to the Slavery Footprint site, which was launched in September 2011, and which asks the simple question;

"How Many Slaves Work For You?"

Do you have any idea? Well, now you can find out about your connection to modern day slavery by visiting and taking their survey. This effective little tool, which is beautifully designed and actually fun to use, poses a series of seemingly innocuous questions, such as; 

what do you eat? what do you wear? what medicine do you take? what electronics do you use? 

Upon completion, a number is revealed, which is the calculation of how many slaves work for you. You may be shocked at just how high the number is. Of course, the precise number isn’t the real point of the test.  The real value of the site lies in the way that it makes you think about the true nature of the global economy, and your actions in it. So, please, take the test and find out how knowing where your clothing, furniture and electronic goods come from is vitally important.

Slavery Footprint is the brainchild of Justin Dillon a onetime musician with the band Tremolo who got involved in the anti-slavery movement through hosting benefit concerts. Justin has now made abolitionism his full-time job, and has also made his directorial debut in the human-trafficking documentary, CALL+RESPONSE.

For more information about how you can take part in the fight to end modern slavery you can visit the Slavery Footprint blog 'here'.

To take action to end trafficking and to download resources, such as a toolkit with 20+ ways to take action, visit the Fairtrade Fashionistas site 'here'.