Umm. Pink tights and green platforms? Yes please!
Noosha just gets more and more spectacular…
The vinyl hunting continues; I am currently having most luck in East Anglia, so thank you very much East Anglia! Six quid seems steep for a 12inch, unless you know who Noosha Fox is. In case you have never heard the song before, here’s a rare Noosha performance:
The amazing Mr Brownwindsor has furnished me with a much-desired copy of the [would be a cult if anyone knew about it] film Side by Side. From 1975, it has a lot to recommend it if you are anything like me and care not for plot or characterisation when there’s glam rock groups, immensely outrageous clothes and period location shooting involved. Even my beloved Fox make an appearance.
Most amazingly, there’s an incredible segment recorded on location at the Biba rooftop restaurant. Wicker peacock chairs, fringed lampshades et al. An incredible, and rare, insight into the then-soon-to-be-lost world of Big Biba and one which seems to have itself largely been lost in the mists of time.
Two beautiful photographs by the iconic photographer and artist Sarah Moon, from Vogue April 1972. Music by Noosha Fox. Calming me down on a stressful and miserable Monday…
There are many reasons to slobber and pore over Dominic Lutyens and Kirsty Hislop’s superb book 70s Style and Design, but the most spectacular image, for me, is the incredible shot of Noosha Fox which opens this review. I really do struggle to do ‘regular’ book reviews; I just want to scan the pretty images and gush most tragically over the contents. Assuming the contents are gush-worthy, but you needn’t worry about that with Seventies Style and Design.
From start to finish there are more lush visuals on offer than any other book tackling the era. It suffers, if suffering is exquisite, from the same problem as Marnie Fogg’s Boutique book in that, frankly, you’ll probably read it about twenty times before you actually come close to reading the text. I sat down, determined to read it from cover to cover for this review, and my determination was flagging after the midway point because I just wanted to gaze at the images. Which in turn got me thinking about the potential of a ‘double book’ where you have a separate tome dedicated to the images, and can sit down and properly concentrate on the written word; clearly researched extremely well and full of ‘new’ information, which just gets lost or swiftly forgotten amongst the visuals. Tricky, but well worth it, I reckon.
My gushing only hesitates at two issues, which is quite amazing for picky little me. The first is probably too general to explain properly, the second is horribly specific.
Firstly, the ‘theming’ of the subject matter into edible chapter-sized chunks (Pop to Post-Modernism, Belle Epoque, Supernature and Avant Garde). I completely understand the motivation behind this, and the themes aren’t your average “chapter one: Psychedelia, chapter two: Glam Rock” type. Thank goodness. Thought and care has gone into them. But it’s always going to struggle a bit in an era which the authors even admit was something of a ‘free for all’ in its style and design themes. You could be forgiven for exiting from the last page with an idea that the Seventies was relentlessly fabulous, iconic and glamorous in its appearance. They even make punk look mouth-wateringly elegant. It is wide in its coverage, but it still orbits only in the atmosphere of what is now perceived to be interesting, beautiful and/or iconic. Which is a curious kind of Russian doll trap, given that the chapter on the Art Deco revival goes into the very interesting notion of cherry-picking from the Twenties and Thirties.
Page 73, 70s Style and Design
I’m not sure how self-aware the authors are, but it amused me to see this in a book which itself contributes to the modern synthesis of the Seventies into a more glamorous, louche and decadent era than most ‘average’ people who lived through it would recall. I know I’m guilty of much the same thing, especially when writing my blog and listing my wares, but I’m also deeply attracted to the more mundane, everyday primary sources. I love dull, contemporary documentaries, unfunny and borderline-gloomy sitcoms, films and dramas, pictures of slightly iffy looking people in iffy looking clothes and naff interiors and objets. It can’t always be high-gloss, high-sparkle.
I know examples of bad taste are ‘clichés’, but many great aspects of the Seventies are in danger of becoming as much clichés themselves. See the likes of Lady GaGa. When one becomes tired of Bowie, has one become tired of life? Sadly, I have found myself pondering this lately.
Saying that, it’s always wonderfully refreshing to read a book about Seventies design which doesn’t set out to sneer or incite howls of I-can’t-believe-people-dressed-like-that laughter.
Plus, high-gloss and high-sparkle are exactly what we need these days. And I don’t blame anyone choosing to jettison Gloomy Style and Design from their research, not least because the book would be twice the length and half the fun with those things included.
My second criticism, and it really is horribly specific, is the omission of Janice Wainwright. There! I said it was specific. If you want a pure-as-the-purest-spring-water example of the best of the Seventies aesthetic, I would say she was high up amongst the greats. Ossie, Biba, Mr Freedom, Bill Gibb are included, certainly, but Janice remains as yet unsung. In a book which gives us references to Universal Witness, Antony Price’s Plaza, Manolo Blahnik’s Zapata, Strawberry Studio and Kitsch-22, it seems a shame to leave anyone out!
What I love about the design of the book is that there are plenty of full-page, high quality images which have never been seen before, interspersed with a more scrapbook-esque mish mash of visual references. Adverts, photoshoots, posters, labels; some are annoyingly small but it’s just so nice to see them all included without any detriment to the written word. The inclusion of many lesser-known designers and characters is quite wonderful; I hadn’t encountered Thea Cadabra and her incredible shoes (see front cover) before, and now I’m a bit obsessed.
Also, any book which contains a half page reproduction of a Malcolm Bird illustration, the aforementioned full page photo of Noosha Fox and which uses the word ‘splendiforously’ is always going to take pride of place on my bookshelf.
Highly recommended for any vintage wishlist this Christmas (and beyond).
Roxy Music – Out of the Blue (and pretty much the whole of Country Life. Love times a bazillion).
Svensk – Dream Magazine (from brilliant psychedelic compilation album Piccadilly Sunshine)
Prince – Girls and Boys (And pretty much the whole of Parade right now. I particularly love the line “She had the cutest ass he’d ever seen, he did too they were meant to be”.)
The Lemon Pipers – Green Tambourine (Perfect pop. Makes you happy without making you want to vomit)
The Who – My Wife (and most of Who’s Next. This one in particular always seems to make me laugh.)
Fox – He’s Got Magic (I very rarely skip past Fox songs. The lyrics are brilliant, baffling and beautiful, which is possibly partly to do with Noosha’s style of singing. Love.)
Every so often, the lovely person who runs this small tribute to Noosha Fox manages to unearth some new single covers. This may not seem terribly exciting to other people but, considering the dearth of images of the lovely Noosha, it’s a bit awesome really. There’s also an incredible, high quality video of Fox performing Only You Can on Top of the Pops over on Youtube which I have embedded at the bottom of this post. I know a few of you adore her as much as I do, so I thought I ought to get around to sharing!
I find I’m completely captivated by two videos of two beautiful women, with unique voices and dancing, wearing stunning red dresses, with brilliant hair and make-up. I realise this is not all that surprising for me.
What I find really odd is that, dates-wise for these videos, Noosha appears to be imitating Kate. Whereas, in fact, Noosha pre-dates Kate with her style, singing voice and aforementioned peculiar movements. I generally tend to think Ms Bush imitated Ms Fox, albeit probably quite subconsciously. So when these things blur in such a way, it boggles my mind.
Is it just me overthinking things? Did Noosha start imitating Kate slightly, or was it the natural progression of her own style (which Kate acquired a little earlier because she was processing the Noosha style faster) – since she’s certainly changed a bit! Almost like she’s had a sexual awakening between S-s-s-single Bed and The Heat Is On. Perhaps it’s the effect of a really sexy red dress?
Why should I care? I have no idea. It certainly makes me wonder about individuality and imitation, and how clear-cut either thing can really be.