Well I can confirm that it was, indeed, a vintage Miss Mouse (a.k.a Rae Spencer-Cullen) dress and you can now buy it from Vintage-a-Peel!!
Photos by Eric Bowman for Vogue, September 1973
When I was hunting for decent sized images of The Sweet for my last blog (fiendishly difficult, I might add), I stumbled across darklorddisco‘s flickr account and, more specifically, his 45 picture sleeves album.
I have gone through brief LP-hunting phases in the past. But lack of space has often restrained me from buying (though I love to look and still bitterly regret not picking up a Twiggy album from a charity shop in Streatham) and I’ve even re-donated in moments of madness (or clarity, however you want to look at it). I’ve started buying a few more lately because, well, my groupie ladies and my boyfriend are a very bad influence on me.
Whilst I’m trying to be ‘good’ and stick to people I know I love, there is something quite irresistable about really, really bad covers by people you don’t know. And by bad, I mean good. And by good I mean, they’re pretty bad. And so on.
Novelty has its limits, usually available storage space, so it’s a delight to come across someone else’s collection. Which saves you time, space and money. And scanning effort. I hope darklorddisco doesn’t mind my posting a few of my favourite examples. I’m VERY fascinated by those Risqué ladies indeed….
I think the main reason I adore them so much is that they are the perfect example of how pervasive the glam-look became in the early Seventies. As a natural successor to the mod and then the psychedelic dandy (both of which you could use to describe early incarnations of both Marc Bolan and David Bowie), glam rock was as peculiarly popular with men as it was with women. It makes less sense for men than either mod or dandy. Both of those looks were smart and instinctively retro. The kipper ties and paisley prints were flamboyant, but they harked back to the fops and dandies of the past.
Glam, however, was like nothing before it.
I appreciate that most men wouldn’t have been wandering around in full make-up, seven-inch platform boots and silver lamé. But the fact that proper ‘blokes’ like The Sweet would appear on TV and in magazines dressed as such, must have heavily influenced the general street style. Away from the gorgeous young things styling themselves on Marc Bolan, men did wear flares; they wore super tight t-shirts, brighter ‘feminine’ colours and, yes, they did wear moderate platforms.
This period is possibly the last time men would, somewhat paradoxically unselfconsciously, just dress however they liked. Without fear of mockery or being thought effeminate. Every other street style subculture since then has been rigidly regulated and adhered to, and only by those with enough confidence to try. This lot were just having fun.
Watching the latest glut of ‘guitar heroes’ and ‘I’m in a rock band’ type programmes on the BBC lately, even the grimiest, blokiest of rockers were wearing skin tight t-shirts and flared jeans, and is that a hint of a heel I can see there? Can you really imagine that happening now? Please excuse me while I drift into a reverie about men being manly enough to walk around in flares and tight t-shirts….
I don’t even need super-fit, super-lean young specimens of the sex. I find the chunkier, hairier, gruffer ones the most endearing.
Which brings me back to The Sweet.
They weren’t pretty like Bolan. They weren’t weird like Bowie. They weren’t goofy like Slade. They weren’t flamboyantly arty like Roxy Music (although, Eno is another good example of a most unlikely candidate for ostrich feathers and make-up, but he rocked it pretty impressively). They were four blokes who had already tried the psychedelic route, and failed with their version of Slow Motion (a Miss Peelpants favourite when it was done by The Magicians).
It’s a rather sad story, really. They were so desperate for success they allowed themselves to be moulded by the Chinn and Chapman hit factory into strange parodies of Bolan and Bowie*. They had little control over their musical output and, presumably, their appearances. They were even replaced by session musicians on some early tracks, despite being very competent musicians. But they seem to have thrown themselves into the glam style with great enthusiasm and flair, whether or not it was something they would have done to that extent without influence.
When they eventually broke free of the manufacturers, the first self-penned hit was Fox on the Run, they wrote some of the greatest material of their career. But while the make-up was toned down, and the costumes consigned to glam history, they continued to wear tight flared jeans and t-shirts – despite the spread of comfortable living and age starting to show.
I don’t suppose they had enough identity after this point, which is why they weren’t so able to metamorphose into a more serious rock band for the late Seventies. And the New Romantic love for glam rock was far too snooty and serious to take much influence from them. I remember being very sad when Brian Connolly died in 1997. He had been a heavy drinker and the failure of his career post-Sweet just exacerbated this. I’ll definitely visit him when my time machine arrives and I’m doing the rounds of hugging random people from history….
*That said, I love this era. I love the music, the clothes and everything. And I’m sure, in retrospect, they loved it too. It was just unadulterated, lightweight fun.
You cannot keep me seated when Blockbuster is playing. Seriously.
I really do love Lovefilm. Watched Les Demoiselles de Rochefort avec Monsieur M l’autre weekend, and instantly fell for the beautiful Françoise Dorléac. I knew (very vaguely) that she had died young, but reading up on it is so horribly sad.
Her premature death, aged 25, in a car crash outside Nice in 1967 (not long after completing Les Demoiselles) prevented Françoise from attaining the international recognition which would, eventually, come so easily to her younger sister Catherine Deneuve. She was as great a beauty and as talented an actress. I must see more!
Les Demoiselles… is a lovely, fanciful film by Jacques Demy about twin sisters who seek fame and love in Paris, if only they can leave Rochefort. Musical numbers abound, none of them overwhelmingly memorable, but enjoyable nonetheless. There’s even Gene Kelly! It’s got that sorbet Sixties feel, similar to something like Summer Holiday, which feels rather outdated for 1967 but seems to work within the deliciously strange world of the film.
I also rather enjoyed the clear referencing of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a clip of which I have placed at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!
I took a gamble on a copy of James Wedge’s Painted Ladies book. Produced in 1988, it is ostensibly a guide to how Wedge created many of his best images using some extraordinary hand-colouring techniques and bizarre manipulation.
The glorious side-effect is that it is also filled with these lush images. Many of which I haven’t seen before, and some of which were always a bugger to try to scan in from a weirdly sized copy of 19 magazine, or somesuch. I’m sure, over time, I will post more. But I thought I would give you a little taster in this amazing Victorian-themed shoot for 19. Unfortunately, the book isn’t great about giving dates so if anyone knows the issue then please let me know.
I can’t even begin to tell you how bored I am with the whole burlesque/pin-up hoo-ha these days. I’m sure some people do it brilliantly, in fact I know they do, but it’s all become so mainstream and yawnworthy. I can’t really see how jiggling your boobs around in feathers and tassles is particularly superior to jiggling your boobs around a pole, as I’m constantly being told. A stripper is a stripper; a glamour model is a glamour model. But maybe I’m just a cynic? People can do whatever the hell they like and, so long as they’re not hurting anyone, I really couldn’t care less. I just wish it wasn’t everywhere, and that it didn’t seem to automatically correlate with interestingness.
So many times I’ve gone to post amazing pin-up-style photoshoots from the likes of Nova or the Telegraph Magazine, but it’s all so commonplace these days I simply can’t be bothered. However, I don’t need any excuse to post delicious early-Seventies photos by James Wedge, inspired by Toulouse Lautrec. Who happens to be one of my favourite artists and biggest inspirations, and whose grubby, ramshackle, louche ladies are a darn sight more interesting than most of what we’re presented with these days.
James Wedge really does deserve some kind of retrospective exhibition and big glossy book. Would somebody please sort this out some time soon? Please? Thank you….
p.s If you have an issue with nipples, then you might want to avert your eyes and come back tomorrow. I happen to be fascinated by nipples and particularly what James Wedge seems to do with them…
Another uncredited image from David Bond’s book. Well, at least it actually states Biba this time (although it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to work that one out). This is my dream world. Biba clothes. Dried flowers and feathers. Curls. Sequins. Headscarves…. Suffice it to say, I would like to dive in head first.
No idea who took this, who the model is or who she’s wearing. I’m going to hazard a guess at Mr Freedom, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
I’ve scanned it from David Bond’s 1981 Guinness Guide to 20th Century Fashion, which has many luscious images within. Very few are given any kind of credit beyond who owns them. And I doubt those photo agencies exist any more. This is all too often the case with books of such vintage, sadly.