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TAKING NO PRISONERS WITH THEIR NEW VINTAGE COLLECTION
CLASSIC STYLE. MODERN VIEWPOINT.
101 YEARS OF PUTTING THE BOOT IN
MELLOTRON USA VS UK
FROM PROG ROCK TO SAMPLING: THE INSTRUMENT WITH EVERLASTING APPEAL
THE BEST T-SHIRTS FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC
elcome to The Retro Collective, a monthly magazine international in outlook and co-operative in spirit. We’re all about style, whether that’s an individual’s scene or the products from the world around them. TRC was conceived in the Defectors Weld, Shepherds Bush, in February 2009 after a conversation about the heritage of a mate’s new Crombie. In May 2009, five NCTJ trained journalists ranging in age from 23 to 54 with experience spanning from national newspapers to high-end lifestyle magazines, met at the Journalist Works in Brighton and began working on The Retro Collective. Each issue will feature our Inspired product reviews featuring lifestyle, gadgets, motoring, in fact anything that portrays classic style in a modern, contemporary way. We will also include in-depth features on brand heritage, iconic individuals, historic events and ground breaking innovations. As a collective, we are always on the lookout for individuals who are passionate about classic style from a modern viewpoint. If you would like to be a regular contributor or just write a one-off piece, drop a line to: email@example.com Cheers, Bruce Hudson The Retro Collective Classic Style. Modern Viewpoint.
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TOP FIVE LIFESTYLE GADGETS MOTORING T-SHIRTS
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LEVI’S CONVERSE MELLOTRON 3-D
46 BLACK IN THE DAY 47 BACK IN THE DAY 48 MICHAEL FISH
Cover image from the Diwon Man Autumn/Winter 09 Collection
The F131 Hellcat Combat Looking for adventure, well the Confederate Motor Company from the deep south of the States should satisfy the wanderlust. Born with an ethos of rebellion being ‘adopted as fundamental to the pursuit of personal empowerment’ Confederate’s latest offering, the F131 Hellcat Combat, features a design specific hand ported and polished head design, ultra high compression, special camshaft grind, retuned intake system, which result in a 12% gain in rear wheel horsepower and a 4% increase in rear wheel torque. Forget all that, this beast, looks spankingly cool. With only 150 available, you’ll feel like an especially wild one when you hit the motor running and ease this baby down the motorway. www.confederate.com
Diwon Man Autumn/Winter Collection This launch, from a New York fashion house, is going for a slimmed down look ‘resulting in a sleek silhouette that will define our contemporary minimalism’. No, we don’t know what that means either but we love their thin-lapelled suits and rectangle ties. With an influence of Brooks Brother’s Mad Men in the range (see front cover) these boys have a real future. They also do a superb line in accessories. www.diwonman.com
Smeg Retro Dishwasher Who would have thought? Smeg do dishwashers. We should know this at TRC, but it seems they’ve gone under the radar of most of the Collective. So we’ve just put that right! I bet you Wallace and Gromit won’t be feeling so Smug when they find out. www.smeguk.com
Dark Knight Poster This was Brandon Schaefer’s first movie poster produced after a design break and his first fully computer illustrated piece. His website’s brilliantly minimalistic blurb says ‘I’m Brandon. I make things!’ and you can’t get fairer than that. You can get hold of Brandon and see his other work at: www.seekandspeak.com
Jimmie Martin Union Jack sofas
Jimmie Martin is a designer of modern furniture with a classicallyedgy twist. Commissioned by the likes of Kylie, Dawn French and Kelly Osborne Jimmie’s generated an awesome amount of publicity for a brand that has only been in existence since 2004. We’re big fans and TRC is already thinking about next year’s footie in South Africa, sitting on our Jimmie Martin, donning our union jack boxers and cheering on the lads. You can’t get more patriotic than that. Rooonnnneeee! www.jimmiemartin.co.uk
Matti Walker Max Fan Heater
A great all year round heater, the Matti Walker Max Fan can be adjusted to suit your every temperature need. With a slick three legged design and bold colour, this is far groovier than its elder beige-boxed cousins and will look, well, cool in your lounge. £75 www.redcandy.co.uk
Sahara Wood Sofa
Inspired by the African Lodge Life, Scandinavian designer Gunilla Allard combines turned-wood with soft-chrome fittings finished with white leather to create a comfortable and visually pleasing two seater sofa. Simple. P.O.A www.lammhults.se
Wild & Wolf Trim Phone
Combining the looks and design of the past with the functionality of today, the Trim Phone has the balance just right. Sharp lines with classic circular numbers finished off with touch tone buttons replacing the time consuming twist-to-dial mechanism. The bold, red colour is bound to make every call, even to your Mum, feel just that little bit more important. £32 www.redcandy.co.uk
Retro Flip Down Clock
Simple and stylish, this flip down clock will make your desk look that little bit sleeker. With a satisfying click every time the hypnotic numbers flip, you’ll never miss lunch or work late by mistake again. Requires just a single D battery. £18.96 www.chinavasion.com
NEW PRODUCTS. CLASSIC INFLUENCE.
Danish wizard Troels Seidenfaden presents a threein-one design classic, combining a side table, bookcase and magazine rack to bring you the Stelton Magzbook. The sleek steel design is around 40cm tall, finished with dark grey leather. Perfect, just don’t put the yellow pages put on it. £169 www.panik-design.com
John Lewis DAB Radio The good people at John Lewis certainly have delivered with this fine Digital radio. Hiding behind the sleek metal grill are two powerful 3 inch drive speakers with Clearsound technology. In the walnut casing there’s a display screen giving you detailed programme information, kitchen timer and even a USB port through which you will soon be able to add new features. £149 www.johnlewis.com
Tribeca Coffee Table Although contemporary in appearance, the original design for this piece of furniture was apparently first produced in the mid-forties. This eye catching table is made of tempered glass and quality fiberglass, giving the rare combination of great design, robustness and value for money. £99 www.retrorepublic.co.uk
Jimmie Martin’s Andy Dandy chair range was produced in collaboration with photographe
Bianchi Pista Via Brera The latest offering from the world’s oldest surviving bicycle-making company (they revolutionised the world of pedal-pushing forever with their bonkers idea of equal-sized wheels and pneumatic rubber tires in 1885). On the frame that ‘launched a thousand fixies’ is a ‘milk and coffee’ finish, which sounds rather like a cappuccino to TRC so we’re keen to freewheel straight into the express-o lane. Well, except this is fixed-gear which rotates with the wheels, so we’ll probably head to the safety of a velodrome. $799 www.bianchiusa.com
rs’ Christopher Makos and Paul Solberg. See www.jimmiemartin.co.uk for the latest range
Timex 80s Series
Timex’s 60s TV advertising slogan ran ‘it takes a licking and keeps on ticking’ so it seems they were discovering their feminine side when they launched these wonderfully disposable, Bjorn Borg headband styled, watches in the 80s. Re-released TRC won’t be wearing one down the construction site any time soon. £50 www.timex80.com
LOMO Diana Mini 35mm
Just in case you’re not one of the 1 million lomographers out there LOMO stands for Leningradskoye Optiko Mechanichesckoye Obyedinenie or Leningrad Optical & Mechanical Enterprise if you’re not fluent in Russian. LOMO has been around for more than 80 years and in 1914 they were the largest optical device manufacturer for the Russian Army. These cameras are so cool there’s even a special edition Diana Meg (from the White Stripes) range. At TRC we’re really excited by the idea of the Jonah Lomu LOMO as he’s really big and...ok you see where we’re going with that. $60 www.shop.lomography.com
Cassette Tape USB Hub
Another novelty gadget using the humble cassette. It’s a great design, and care has been taken to add details such as moveable wheels inside the case. The Hub offers four USB ports, and at under a tenner, it’s not going to break the bank. £8.99 www.play.com
NEW PRODUCTS. CLASSIC INFLUENCE.
Vita Audio R4
The R4 is designed to create a huge, room filling sound from a small cabinet. Combined with a stylish, minimalist look that betrays the cutting edge technology and you’re on to an instant classic. There’s even an i-pod style RotoDial remote so all your R4 and iPod functions can be intuitively controlled from the comfort of your sofa. If only relationships were so simple. £176 www.vitaaudio.com
Revo Domino D3
The thoroughly modern radio with a tip of the hat to the wireless of yesteryear, well my word it just suits us perfectly! Revo’s newest edition to the domino series still has the rubber like finish, smooth rounded edges and joystick based controls, and features DAB digital radio, iPod and iPhone docking, wireless audio streaming and of course FM radio. With remote control and alarm clock, we think it’s a lovely little addition to any room. £169.95 www.revo.co.uk
Steepletone Roxy Record & CD Player
This looks like a standard retro styled CD player until you lift the bonnet! The Roxy will play all your old vinyl, even your 78s (ask your Dad), but is hooked up with the latest tech: a CD player, a USB 2.0 you can play tunes from an MP3 or flash memory drive, and also an i-pod dock. Bryan Ferry would be proud to own one. £126.99 www.limemarketing.co.uk
A family run business for over 50 years Grado has 48 patents under their belts so they’re used to making people sit up and listen. These handcrafted mahogany head-phones are an upgrade on the 2007 version hence the i, with changes in the headphone cord & hardware construction but they still deliver the Grado “room” for the ears to sit in. TRC likes that. £990 www.gradolabs.com
Retro Papercraft Speakers
Ever a stickler for the more novel items, we introduce to you the Retro Papercraft Speakers. That’s right, get out the make and do materials and create your own hi-fi, boombox or bookshelf stereo with one of these little kits. Each one contains a small USB powered speaker that can plug into a pc or laptop, so by following the easy to understand japanese picture instructions you too can cut out and assemble your very own paper speaker. £18 www.japantrendshop.com
USB Fever Retro Cassette Stereo Mini Speaker for iPod / iPhone
Totally bombastic and boombox-tastic. Bang your ipod into this and the next thing you know you’ll be able to listen to the Stereophonics in, er, stereo phonics. All bought to you by the fabulously named USB Fever. Because, at the end of the day, you just can’t get too excited about USBs. Warning: not to be confused with UXBs, bang your ipod into one of those and you’ll be hearing more than stereo (or not depending on the severity of your injuries!). $31.99 www.usbfever.com
Olympus E-P1 Skins
The Olympus E-P1 has always had a retro look, but now you can accentuate that by adding a skin from Kindai International.They’re carefully made to fit the dimensions of the camera exactly, ensuring a snug fit for the mottled pattern skin. The skins are available in three colours: Green, Grey and Black. £12 www.kindai-inc.co.jp
We couldn’t decide if this can really be classed as retro or stylish, but nevertheless it is still damn good. Desktop Henry can do everything his larger counterpart can do, but he may need to be emptied more often. Running off two AA batteries, little Henry is perfect to help sort out those little biscuit mishaps around your desk. £11.99 www.gadgetshop.com
Nixon Fluro Rubber Player Series
Nixon released this mystery-coloured watch on October 15, with the colour reflecting the charity, Boarding For Breast Cancer, proceeds of sales will go to. There have been two previous mystery colours, Orange Fluro (August) and Green Fluro (Sept), with a November one still to be released (we don’t know the colour...it’s a mystery). A limited range and they’re being snaffled up. $170 www.nixonnow.com
Sega Saturn Zippo
Zippo conjures up images of campfires, spittoons and cowboys hunched over non-filter rollies, as dust storms sweep around their chaps. Now Zippo has teamed with Sega the image is set of the anarchic gamer, computer looming large on the horizon, protecting his Marlboro Light from the fire breathing wind from his, er, open balcony door! O.K. it needs a bit of work, but now even the meekest of gamers can whistle The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as they light up and that’s a good thing! £70 www.banpresto.com
You’ll never be short changed with this beauty. Released in 1984, presumably for the mathematics teacher, on the go, it’s half watch and calculator or ‘The Walculator’ as TRC has rather snazzily renamed it. The UC2000 was the first of its kind and launched on the back of the first TV watch, released in 1983. Seiko is traditionally an Olympic sponsor, so TRC is pushing for Usain Bolt to wear the UC2000 in the 100 metres final, as it will give him something to do, waiting for the opposition to finish. P.I.R.O. £200 where available
2010 Mercedes SLS AMG Gullwing
The 1954 SL Gullwing was the ultimate achievement of style combined with substance. Sex on legs (o.k. wheels) and it went like the clappers. What’s not to like. The 2010 version is shaping up to be equally impressive with acceleration of 0-62 mph in 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 317kph. If you leave the doors open on this number you’re going to need some firm setting hair-gel! With paint colours including an Alubeam silver, which “shines like liquid metal”, you’ll be more Terminator than Kindergarten Cop when you put your foot to the floor on this fantastic car. For more detail: www.mercedesbenz.motortrak.com/slsamg.php
NEW PRODUCTS. CLASSIC INFLUENCE.
Fiat 695 Abarth Tributo Ferrari
This car has a story line most soaps would be happy with. Ferrari sleeps with Abarth all under the watchful eye of its parent company Fiat and the 695 is born only to be whisked away by Ferrari owners when they feel like a bit on the side. All this, as the cute 500 looks on, wondering why the Abarth was given a 1.4 litre turbo beef-up in the first place. TRC doesn’t care, we’d quite happily go ‘up west’ with the 695. www.fiat.com
Honda Concept EV-N
If Makka Pakka from In The Night Garden was a car then this shorter, but far cuter version of the late 60s N600 is it. Honda’s electric concept car has a solar powered roof which helps power the battery, swappable seat fabrics and an UX-3 super gyroscopic robot unicycle in the passenger door, which looks like a futuristic Segway and means if you forget your shoes you won’t get your feet wet when you pop in to the local supermarket. www.honda.com
UK VS USA
REPRESENTING THE UK: DESIGNS FROM BALCONY SHIRTS 1.Cornish Pasty 2. Scunthorpe 3. Cricket - I Love It 4. Goes Up To 11 5. Sexual Ealing 6. Middlesbrough
REPRESENTING THE US: DESIGNS FROM THREADLESS: 1. Jurassircus 2. Splatter in D Minor 3. Pandamonium 4. Fencing 5. I’m Like A Bird 6. Self Portrait
Cinch’s vintage range, Inside / Out, celebrates 30s to 50s American prison wear. Niki Corfield unlocks staff’s passion at Levi’s concept store
rom Cool Hand Luke to The Birdman of Alcatraz there has always been a rebellious coolness to doing bird. But describing a prisoner as a ‘fashion icon’ seems to be stretching things. Yet hanging from the walls of Cinch (Levi’s London concept store) you’ll find striped black and white t-shirts, washed jeans and sack coats nestled between mirrors etched with mug-shot height measurements, a sparse looking prison bunk, and torn out images of 1950s pin-up girls. It’s all part of the latest Levi’s Vintage Clothing collection, Inside / Out, which is themed around the life of the prisoner. “This vintage range is very much inspired by 30s to 50s American prison wear – Shawshank Redemption was a big influence,” says Daniel Wade, shop manager of Cinch. For many years, denim was standard issue for institutional life, with overalls, white vests and t-shirts, sack coats and chambray shirts all finding their way inside. As a leaflet in the store puts it: ‘The Inside / Out collection draws on the experiences, history and struggles of serving time, while
keeping one eye on the freedom beyond wholesale dry goods to small general stores in the American west. In 1872, a the walls.’ tailor named Jacob Davis approached The garments in the Inside / Out Levi’s with the idea of taking out a patent collection are all recreations of original together on the process of riveting the Levi’s clothing from the era, with the pocket corners on men’s trousers. The subtle addition of some graphic prints patent was granted on 20th May 1873, and design as part of the convicts’ and Levi Strauss & Co began producing theme. Launched in 1996, the Levi’s denim waist overalls. Although Levi’s Vintage Clothing Collection (LVC) didn’t invent the cut or fit of the overalls, features reproductions of key items in the riveting of the traditional trousers the Levi’s archive from 1873 to the was an entirely new invention, and the 1980s, created with minute attention to original blue jeans were born – though it authentic period detail and design. It’s faithful to the letter – a tab on one pair of would be nearly another 70 years before they would be known by that name. 1930s reproduction jeans features a “They weren’t number mark showing One of Cinch’s regular called jeans at the time, they were part of a government initiative to customers leaves his they were called waistuse local suppliers, jeans ‘raw’ for six overalls and they used to be worn specifically while the t-shirts all months, then jumps in as workwear. Guys have recreations of original label designs the sea to shrink the would wear them on top of their own clothes, so stitched inside them. jeans to fit and let the they’re quite a loose Some items in the collection are salt treat the denim. fitting jean,” explains Wade of the 1873 constants, such as the ‘raw denim’ range of jeans, (featuring reproduction pair. It wasn’t until the 1920s that Levi’s introduced belt loops to around 15 reproduction jeans ranging the design, and only in the 1940s and from 1873 to 1983), along with 50s that they started becoming a fashion reproduction white t-shirts from the piece rather than a practical workwear 1920s to the 1980s, and denim jackets. garment. Although there is some dispute Every season Levi’s designers also over when and where the term ‘jeans’ create a themed range – like Inside / actually originated, what is known is that Out – inspired by a particular era in history, or time of cultural shift. Previous by 1960, the word ‘jeans’ had replaced ‘overalls’ on all advertising and seasons before this have been inspired packaging of the Levi’s product. by lumberjacks, rodeos, and the 1930s Nowadays, jeans have become US Depression era (“That one was very arguably the most ubiquitous garments bleak,” says Wade, “all patches and of the modern era, and Levi’s is one of everything looking stitched together”). the world’s largest clothing brands, with There’s certainly a wealth of history sales in more than 110 countries, and an and heritage for the Levi’s designers to draw from. Founded in San Francisco in incomparable global presence in the jeans market. Although the company 1853 by Bavarian immigrant Levi briefly experimented in the 1970s with Strauss, the company originally sold
individuality – you can find something a employee ownership and a public stock little bit different that no one else has got. listing, it is still owned and controlled by The high street is saturated with items descendants and relatives of Levi that are exactly the same. This is where Strauss, and remains firmly connected to someone can pick up something a little bit its heritage. more individual.” This year marks the 10th anniversary The raw denim range of jeans are the of Cinch, which started life as Levi’s store’s bestsellers, and Wade believes premium boutique store. Along with the part of their appeal is the fact that they are LVC collection, it also stocks Levi’s a kind of a “blank canvas” for customers collaboration ranges – the current one is to stamp their individuality onto. Raw Original Fake, with graffiti artist Kaws, denim is pure cotton that’s not yet been while previous seasons have featured washed, unlike that used in most modern Damien Hirst and Henry Holland. But vintage is the main collection in the store, jeans, which has already been treated, shrunk and faded. “It means the way you and part of what Cinch has become wear them and decide to wash them known for. Although LVC is available makes them completely online, and you can pick up key items in The explosion in individual – after six months of they mould some high-end vintage and the wearget your ownto your shape, you creases, your boutiques, Cinch is demand for it at own fades, and they become the only place in the your own jean, rather than one world that stocks the the moment that’s been produced for you,” full collection. It gets means we’ve seen explains Wade. fitted out seasonally The people who visit the to match the vintage a big increase in ranges, and even the awareness and shop are often true denim enthusiasts, who relish this name Cinch references the brand’s unique footfall in the shop potential for individuality, along with the collection’s authenticity. heritage – it’s a clasp used to tighten jeans when they were still worn These denim connoisseurs go to great lengths to get their vintage pieces just the as overalls in the 1800s. “Vintage is our bread and butter,” says way they want them. One of Cinch’s regular customers leaves his jeans ‘raw’ Wade, “it’s really grown – the collection for six months, then jumps in the sea to has expanded and it’s becoming more popular. The explosion in vintage and the shrink the jeans to fit and let the salt treat demand for it at the moment has definitely the denim. Others are known for religiously handwashing theirs, or leaving helped – over the last couple of years them in the fridge wrapped in plastic bags we’ve definitely seen a big increase in to achieve a certain colour effect. As awareness and in footfall to the shop.” Wade says: “We get customers who are So why does Wade think vintage has so passionate about the brand, to the taken off in such a big way? “It’s just this whole retro thing that everyone has really point where they’ll be as passionate about denim as some guys are about football or jumped onto. I think vintage has
music. As staff, you have to know what you’re talking about otherwise you’ll get caught out. Customers really know their stuff, so we need to be passionate about the products, and it needs to be genuine.” All of Cinch’s staff members are given training on the brand and its history, and all possess a genuine interest in the LVC collection. Simon Jeal, Cinch’s assistant manager, and a vintage enthusiast, believes the heritage of the range exerts a special draw. “Once people get interested in one sort of style of jean that they like, they’ll start looking at other eras, and get hooked,” he explains. “Quite a few customers are looking at the longevity of buying vintage as well – we get guys who bought jeans in here maybe 5 years ago, still wearing them, still loving them. You’re investing in a product that will actually last.” Jeal and Wade’s references to Cinch’s customers as ‘guys’ are deliberate. Of the roughly 30 or so pieces in the LVC range, only 9 are women’s clothing. Levi’s womenswear spans a much shorter heritage than the men’s range, having only originated around 75 years ago, and as a result the majority of the visitors to the shop are male.
Cinch’s customer base is extremely loyal and long-standing, having grown mostly through word of mouth and recommendation. “There’s not a lot of advertising, we’re not on posters around London, we don’t have our own website,” says Wade. “It keeps LVC exclusive and I think that’s the important thing about it. If it was too readily available then I think people would lose interest in it. We’ve been here 10 years so we’ve built up a good customer base, but it’s still a bit underground.” The nature of the clothing itself adds to this esoteric feel; many of the items are only subtly different to modern day designs, and it can take a trained eye to spot the history inherent in the garments. “I guess only people that have an interest in premium fashion would know [that they’re vintage reproductions],” says Jeal. Perhaps more than anything, it is this sense of underground exclusivity that lies at the heart of LVC’s appeal: while not exactly a secret, these products are only for those truly in the know. Cinch, 5 Newburgh Street, London, W1F 7RB Tel: 020 7287 4941
LACED WITH RO
Converse started life as rubber galoshes, then diversified into basketball shoes. Now their sneakers wear the images of guitar bands. John Hartley celebrates an historic case of sock and roll
ver 60% of Americans have owned at least one pair of All-Stars and Converse’s signature design is available in every colour and pattern imaginable. There’s even an option to ‘create your own’ on their website and now you can also wear AC/DC and Pink Floyd flavoured sneakers round the high streets. So where did it all go right for the Nike owned brand? Marquis Mills Converse started The Converse Rubber Corporation in 1908, producing work related rubber shoes and galoshes. At first this was done on a seasonal basis, but when the company realised it would be more efficient to employ their workforce all year round, they ventured into manufac-
turing athletic footwear, and invested their efforts into shoes for the emerging sport of basketball. The first version of the All-Star sneaker was made in 1917, in natural brown with black trim, and three years later became America’s first mass produced basketball shoe. This year holds a double anniversary for the Converse brand. The 60th anniversary of one of the world’s most popular and iconic shoes - the classic black and white Converse ‘Chuck Taylor’ All-Star, and 40 years since the death of its namesake. Charles Hollis Taylor, wore All-Stars as a high school basketball player, and in 1921 went to the Converse sales office in Chicago in search of a job. Over the next few decades he was to become
one of the most influential men in the company. His outstanding salesmanship and his successful promoting of the shoes, along with input on the design earned him a place in history when in 1932 his name was branded on the shoes. The ‘Chuck Taylor’ All-Star sneaker was born. Chuck went on to help design the optical-white high-top model for the 1936 Olympics, with its patriotic red and blue trim, becoming extremely popular among young Americans. With the advent of war, the expected lull in sales never eventuated, and the white high-top ‘Chucks’ became the ‘official’ sneaker of the US Armed Forces. The company also provided footwear, apparel, boots for pilots and army servicemen, parkas, and rubber protective suits and ponchos. After the War ended, Converse launched their most iconic sneaker yet, the classic black and white All-Star. With the recent formation of the professional NBA, these became the must have for any player, their look becoming part of the team. By 1957 Converse had 80% share of the entire sneaker industry, and Chuck was named ‘Ambassador to Basketball’ due to his tireless efforts. Despite the millions of pairs of Chuck Taylor branded shoes sold, he was by no means rich from it. Chuck never had commission from the shoes he sold, for years
driving his white Cadillac across the country staying in motels, although it’s said he wasn’t shy about using the company’s expense account. Chuck Taylor died of a heart attack the day before his 68th birthday on June 23rd 1969 and along with the passing of their figurehead, came the gradual slip of Converse’s grip on the industry. New rivals such as Nike grew in size and popularity, and despite Converse’s best efforts, basketball teams switched to other brands. The sneaker had an unexpected rebirth in the 70s, with the shoe becoming popular with adults who wanted it for comfort and affordability as opposed to sporting performance. The company responded by launching the old classics in a variety of colours and designs. Since then it has been a favourite among musicians and the shoe of the counter culture. The management and ownership of the company changed several times in the 1980s and 1990s, and the Converse brand fell into financial difficulty. In 2001 they filed
for bankruptcy in 2001, closing all North American manufacturing outlets and relocating to Asia. The company survived and was eventually bought by long time rival Nike. The Chuck Taylor branded sneaker still thrives and is as popular as ever. One of the most iconic and stylish sneakers is still with us and the memory of its founder lives on. Converse Rock Collection (from top right) Metallica: Pushead AC/DC: Lock up your daughters Pink Floyd: Animals Pink Floyd: Wish you were here (out) Pink Floyd: Wish you were here (instep) The Who: Pack AC/DC: Back in black Metallica: Flaming Skull Ozzy: Doodles Metallica: Ride the lightning Pink Floyd: Dark side of the moon Ozzy: Straight jacket The Who: Union Jack
When Harry Chamberlin invented the Mellotron his instrument unexpectedly pioneered sampling and became the backing sound to prog rock. He also hadn’t bargained on the company’s salesman pitching the instrument as his own creation. Graeme Coop puts his finger on the discord
he Mellotron seems to have a life of its own. Having started out as an instrument for your Aunt Mabel to play at fifties cocktail parties it ended up being used by a multitude of bands including The Beatles, The Moody Blues and more recently Oasis. For the instrument to have taken on a life far removed from the inventor’s original intention is synonymous with the life it has lead off the stage as well. Harry Chamberlin invented The Mellotron back in the mid forties. Harry liked playing his home organ, but wanted to put the sound of an orchestra behind it. So Harry decided to adapt and essentially invent a new instrument to fill his needs. By recording single notes played by real instruments onto tape loops, and adapting his keyboard to trigger the tapes, the Chamberlin was born. Harry continued to develop the idea and in 1960 he
manufactured and sold Chamberlins from his shop in California. He employed Bill Fransen as a salesman for the Chamberlin. Bill was good at his job, but there were problems. Harry couldn't keep up with the orders and the scrolling mechanism kept changing the sounds so the completed orders had a 40% chance of failure. Bill saw the genius in Harry's idea, but felt the instrument could be better made. He took two Chamberlins across to England, and showed it to the Bradley brothers of Bradmatic Ltd in Birmingham. The brothers were excited by the idea of the instrument, and when Bill asked if they could manufacture them, they agreed believing the idea to be Bill’s. A year later in 1966, Harry caught up with Bill and you can probably imagine, he wasn't a happy man. Harry finally agreed to sell the technology to the Bradley brothers
Below: The M4000 Mellotron the most recent model released in 2007. Bottom Left: Bill Fransen in 1963 in the first of 3 Mellotron factories. Top Left: Harry Chamberlin with his prototype 3/8ths inch tape based instrument from the 1950s
Pictures courtesy of Markus Resch (www.mellotron.com) and Streetly Electronics (www.mellotronics.com)
for $30,000, and went back home to continue his own path of development, resulting in the 1970's Chamberlin M series.The Bradley brothers changed their company name to Streetly Electronics and started to mass produce Mellotrons. A young lad Mike Pinder (below), started to work for them, getting a job at the end of the line, checking the instrument for any faults before it was sent to the customer. He soon fell in love with the sound and Leslie Bradley helped him purchase a Mellotron MKII, which Mike hoped would make a great addition to his band, The Moody Blues. They released their hit single "Love and Beauty", and shortly afterwards the Beatles released "Strawberry Fields Forever". The future of
the Mellotron was cemented forever in history. The Mellotron is still used today by the likes of Radiohead and Sigor Ros, but not to the degree it was in the 70s. In comparison to its modern day counterparts, it is heavy and unreliable, though Streetly Electronics updated the M400 and released the M4000 in 2007. The delicate tape loops used to create the sound make touring with the instrument difficult. So it’s left to enthusiasts to keep the name and sound going as they cherish and love them for their quirkiness and unreliability. In the same way some people are fanatical about classic cars, Mellotron lovers are proud to own or even use the instrument.
Dianna Dilworth (right) recently made Mellodrama, a documentary on the Mellotron’s troubled history. Coops spoke to her about why the instrument deserves its place in music’s hall of fame
Where did your interest in the Mellotron come from and what inspired you to make a documentary about it? I grew up on the music that features Mellotrons, but I really learned what a Mellotron was in the mid 90s, when my friend Mattias Olsson, a Swedish producer, showed me his collection and taught me about the mechanics of them. I was amazed by the tapes. I love the music and I am fascinated by the technology and the somewhat accidental influence that Harry Chamberlin has had on the history of sampling. I am intrigued at how this relatively rare and archaic instrument was a forerunner to many modern ideas in music production. Harry Chamberlin was definitely not the only person thinking about using a
King Crimson’s Epitaph certainly wouldn’t have been on Harry’s cocktail party playlist
keyboard to emulate the sounds of other instruments, but he was early with this idea. I also love that the technology was brought to the marketplace with one intention, to be a home entertainment attraction ala 1950’s cocktail parties, but was actually adopted by rock musicians who used it in weird and creepy ways. King Crimson’s “Epitaph” wasn’t exactly what Harry was hoping for, and it certainly wouldn’t have been on Harry’s cocktail party playlist. This really fascinates me, the collision of worlds. The Mellotron seems to be one of music’s “happy accidents”, what was Harry Chamberlin trying to create when he came up with the idea? Harry Chamberlin was an organ player and he developed the Chamberlin to have an orchestra accompaniment to go along with his keyboard playing. He came up with the Rhythmmate, a very early drum machine, and the Chamberlin keyboards, which incorporated orchestral sounds into a keyboard. In the early 50s when he was doing all of this stuff, I don’t think he ever imagined that it would become the defining sound of progressive rock. Where did the original samples used on the Mellotron tapes come from? The Chamberlin sounds were recordings of the Lawrence Welk Orchestra that Harry made. Harry was very meticulous about the sound and he spent a lot of time making sure he got the notes right. He also used really great technology and so these recordings have an excellent fidelity, to this day. Harry’s tapes were used on the early Mellotrons, though in the 60s Mellotronics recorded their own tapes in IBC Studios. Brian Carroll and Don Lawson, retired studio musicians, worked on the recordings and recount the experience of recording the tapes in the film. The Mellotron tapes don’t sound as good as the Chamberlin tapes, because the engineers that worked on the recordings did not put as much
effort in. Apparently it was a very mechanical and non-musical process. Still that’s what gives the Mellotron its weird sound, which is of course, so cherished. What do you think made the Mellotron so popular, despite only a few thousand being made? It has a very unique and haunting sound and it was used by great musicians like The Beatles, The Moody Blues, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Genesis and these guys made the sound way more popular than the instrument ever was. It lives on today, because bands like Radiohead, Sigur Ros as well as producers like Jon Brion are doing their own things with it. Do you think the unreliable reputation of the instrument has given it another edge or personality, particularly because it needs to be looked after and repaired so often? I think the unreliability is what killed the Mellotron in the late 70s, but from today’s point of view, its quirky attributes are seen as kind of sweet. I wouldn’t say that anyone really likes it when they break down, but I think people appreciate the quirks and try to work it into their playing. Jon Brion told me that his Chamberlin M1 has a personality of its own and every time he plays it, it’s different. One day the tape sticks on the C key, another day it’s the B, and some days its fine. I think he likes the finicky experience of it and plays along to it accordingly. You obviously have a fondness of the Mellotron, how do you view some of the more recent electronic or virtual equivalents? This is a great debate among Mellotron users. Some musicians will tell you that they’d never use a sample, because it is all about the machining, the interface and the characteristics of the particular Mellotron you are playing. This is true. So much of the Mellotron sound comes from the fact the
tape can be manipulated by the pitch bend and the fact the tape zips back to the top after the 8-second loop is played, plus the whirring of the motor has its own charmingly warm sound. I sit somewhere in the middle. I can understand the desire to use the real thing, but I love them for their sound and if a young band can experiment and do interesting new things with these sampled Mellotron sounds, then I’m all for it. During the filming for the documentary you interviewed many greats of the music world, who or what was the highlight for you personally? Everyone in the film was delightful to meet and speak with. Some highlights for me include speaking with Rick Nielsen, who is a real character and would stop mid-interview to make jingles for my film. Brian Wilson was really cool as well. It was incredible to bring a Mellotron to his house, since he hadn’t seen one in 30 years. I think the most amazing moment though was when I went to interview Fabio Frizzi, an Italian soundtrack composer who did some of my favourite horror film scores in the 1970s. We did his interview on the rooftop of a government building in the centre of Rome. It was
a beautiful location overlooking the city. But when we showed up to film, there was a marathon going on and we couldn’t cross the street. It was a circus of cars, runners and people trying to get through yelling at the cops. Once we got there we had to carry this big old Mellotron through a crowded Italian ruin where there were tourists and weddings going on. When we got it up it was really hot, so we worked quickly to make sure that the ‘tron didn’t melt! But it was really a fantastic day. I felt like I was living a Fellini film! What are your plans for the future? Right now I’m working with the distributor on the DVD release for the film. I’ve also got plans in the works for a new documentary film about Neon lighting.
Mellodrama is set to be released on DVD this winter. For more information visit www.bazillionpoints.com/mellodrama or www.myspace.com/mellotrondocumentary Mellodrama images courtesy of Dianna Dilworth
Unfinished Symphony: Composer John Brion (left) speaks about his love for the instrument, and The Beach Boys’ frontman Brian Wilson plays a Mellotron for the first time in thirty years
Since the golden era of 3D in 52 there has been three revivals. So why have audiences been so fickle in their appreciation of the format? Don Jagger puts on his glasses to see if the latest incarnation will finally be a spectacle
hen the world of 3D first appeared, audiences were amazed, usually entertained but often left the comfort of their cinema chair with a feeling of nausea. In these early days, two images were projected on to the screen by placing two projectors next to each other, and playing the reels simultaneously. The screen showed a double image, the audience given special glasses that block one image from each eye. This imitated how your eyes view objects normally, with slightly differentiating views, creating depth. This caused problems however, because if either of the reels paused fractionally
or had to be repaired, the images, i.e. what the cinema goer was watching, went out of sync, giving the audience headaches and left them feeling sick. Despite this, 3D was still a popular choice among movie goers, and gave cinema the edge it needed to get the public away from their television sets. Vincent Price became known as the “King of 3D” after he became the actor to star in the most 3D features, most notably for his role in the 1953 classic House Of Wax. After the initial excitement of 3D, audiences soon got tired of this gimmicky approach to
movie making, preferring instead to watch films with more focused plots and stronger story telling. 3D’s popularity waned for the next few years, with a few exceptions including 1961 hit “The Mask”, which used a combination of 2D and 3D filming to enhance the dreamlike sequences when the mask was worn. The technology improved during this time, with films now able to be shown using just one projector, increasing reliability.The biggest revival of the format came in the 80s, with a huge influx of films being shown in 3D. During this new found craze many classics were re-issued such as “House of Wax” and “Dial M for Murder”. As audiences fully embraced the 3D movie once again, many directors created films geared towards 3D releasing such classics as “Jaws 3D”, “Amityville 3D” and “Friday the 13th Part III”. We now find ourselves on the brink of the third 3D revival, where the technology has been tightened, the content no longer restricted to live action. With CGI films proving a
popular format in 2D since the early nineties, recent 3D versions of these smooth animated films is sure to continue . The major studios are also encouraging 3D releases as the dual image on the screen effectively cuts out piracy. It is estimated that around ninety percent of pirated movies are from people taking video cameras into cinemas, and this format makes the film almost unwatchable when recorded in this way. Monsters Vs Aliens had the biggest opening of the year with $58m (£40m), and 3D versions of films continue to take more than 2D counterparts.There are also plans to re-release Disney’s nineties classics “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” in 3D format, just in time for the third installment of the series, as well as a 3D re-working of romantically-laced disaster flick “Titanic”. But with Steven Spielberg announcing in 2005 he was patenting a 3D cinema system without the need for glasses, TRC is still concerned our Guccis (see below right) will be confiscated at the door.
The Cinemizer Plus, made by Carl Zeiss, is the don of 3D glasses.They may look like a cross between swimming goggles and sunglasses, but don’t let that mild mannered exterior fool you, these specs enable you to watch movies on a virtual TV screen, get this, with a 45” diagonal at a distance of 2 metres. With built in earphones, the glasses let you watch any movie, anywhere (although it’s probably not advisable, or legal, to be watching The Godfather as you hit the fast lane of the M1). The Cinemizer Plus glasses let you watch 3D movies, play 3D games, can be used to view movies from your iPod, and even takes into consideration those with glasses already with The Plus adjustable to the needs of a prescription of +3.5 to 0.5. www.zeiss.com
Photos courtesy of Carl Zeiss
3D movies worth a look…
House Of Wax (1953) Vincent Price stars in this gritty horror as a sculptor in a wax works museum who is left to perish in a fire started by his partner to claim insurance money. Many years after the fire, he reappears to open his own museum featuring wax works of murder and horror - with some looking a bit too realistic. It Came From Outer Space (1953) A classic tale of fifties paranoia, after seeing a meteor crash out in the desert, a young man investigates and witnesses the gruesome truth of what landed before it is covered by a landslide. The townsfolk don’t believe him, until strange things start to occur. Jaws 3D (1983) The third installment of the series was by no means hailed as the greatest, but signified the biggest revival of 3D, as Dennis Quaid finds himself on the hunt for a troublesome shark in Florida’s Sea World. Polar Express (2004) Animated magical Christmas warmer featuring some of the most breathtakingly stunning scenery. Tom Hanks does a great job voicing five characters in the film, which was received with critical acclaim.
YOU’VE BEEN FRAMED
While sitting in a darkened room, with strangers looking at the back of our heads, we all need to look our best. So it comes as no surprise, in this fashion conscious world, that the cardboard framed red and white glasses have given way to a much more sophisticated looking, aviator style, black lensed pair of spectacles. As if this wasn’t enough, Variety magazine published unconfirmed reports that top flight designer labels such as Gucci are planning to make designer 3D glasses available in time for the release of James Cameron’s epic 3D blockbuster “Avatar” in December.
BLACK IN THE DAY
Nunchucks at the ready coz Black Dynamite has just released in the States and is already looking like a cult classic. With hot reviews and a plot where ‘The Man’ murders his brother, pumps heroin into local orphanages and floods the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor, it can do no wrong in TRC’s eyes. The soundtrack’s mighty fine as well. www.blackdynamitemovie.com
BACK IN THE DAY
Purple Gez remembers nights of mayhem with Midge Ure and Chris Cross from Ultravox. But was her cooking really the inspiration for Vienna? y ex-husband is a musician and his first band back in the late 60s was Barbed Wire Soup but despite having a reasonable following they couldn’t secure a recording contract. When they split the remaining members put an advert in the New Musical Express for a bass player and a keyboard player. Chris Cross (later-Ultravox) responded to the advert, signed up, moved from London to the bright lights of Bairstow Street, Preston, and a new incarnation, Ritzi, was born. He and the band spent a great deal of time in my house. Pete Hughes (ex Stoned Roses), Michael ‘Caz’ Carrol, Nigel Davenport Sawyer, my ex and Chris played guitars, piano and sang all night long. We had a mad time, definitely a case of Too Much Fandango, Tequila And Tango (Ritzi’s biggest hit. It didn’t chart in the UK, but was No1 on Mike Reid’s Breakfast Show on Radio One and topped the charts in Australia!) and I remember spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking to abate the munchies following the intake of various substances. I usually cooked omelettes and green salad, but if I had had a really productive session, there would be home made pizzas in the freezer. Ritzi had signed to Warners in 1973 and Too Much Fandango released in 1974 but after that things changed; Nigel was the first to go on to pastures new and now
writes music for film and television as well as being a much sought after session player. Chris left to join Ultravox after seeing an advertisement in the NME while Midge Ure had just replaced John Foxx (a Lancashire lad, who had left Ultravox to pursue a solo career). One evening, don’t ask me the date, my ex, Pete Hughes and Chris Cross accompanied by Midge Ure came back for another big night. Midge was a quiet unassuming guy, very polite and courteous but not a great conversationalist. During a night of various substances and general mayhem, Chris, started tinkering away on the piano and the famous riff featured in Vienna (the video features a debutante gracefully descending down a sweeping staircase, in time, with the music) began to echo through the house and into the kitchen where I was warming up the frozen pizzas. Mushroom with tinned pineapple if memory serves me. “The feeling has gone only you and I. It means nothing to me. This means nothing to me. Ooooooh. Vienna.” Well it means something to me. And the pizza was damn nice as well!
ichael Fish, MBE, described by The Times as a ‘national treasure’, will always be remembered as the BBC weather presenter at the time of the ‘Great Storm of 1987’. In the early hours of October 16, winds of up to 122mph tore through the South Coast killing 18 people and uprooting 15 million trees. For 22 years Michael, a meteorologist employed by the Met Office, has tried to explain that he wasn’t on duty at the time of the storm (not a hurricane he points out). Don’t worry Michael, TRC believes you! Michael was born and raised in Eastbourne, East Sussex. He has
co-written a book about extreme weather events called ‘Storm Force: Britain’s wildest weather’ and appeared in a nationwide tour of ‘The Play What I Wrote’. He is also famous for his collection of ‘Fish’ motif ties (he has over 100) and has received the title of ‘Tie man of the year’ on three occasions. Michael was also named ‘worst dressed’ and ‘best dressed’ man on television, in the same year. Now semi-retired, Michael presents a weekly forecast for Netweather.tv and is a familiar face at climate change events. Interview by Mel Coley
What is your favourite song? I suppose it would have to be the one about me (John Kettley is a Weatherman...and so is Michael Fish by A Tribe Of Toffs). What is your favourite film? I don’t go to watch films much actually, I haven’t been for donkey’s years. The last film I watched was ‘Borat’. I enjoy that type of ‘schoolboy’ humour. Who is your favourite actor? I lust after Jane Asher (above). What is your favourite TV show? The weather, of course. I also like documentaries and watch BBC
natural history programmes. What is your favourite meal? I don’t care, but it has to be spicy! Do you collect anything? Goss china (facing page). It was extremely popular between the wars. My Grandfather had a shop in Eastbourne where he used to sell the china marked with the family name. I have a collection of about a hundred pieces. Who was your first girlfriend? I still remember her. In fact we are still in touch but I won’t tell you her name. We are still friends – very close friends. What was your first car? It was a mini. The registration was 739 BGY and I called it ‘the buggy’.
Do you have a 20th century hero or idol? Possibly Winston Churchill – who dragged us through and out of the war. What was your first job? My first job was at the Met office. I earned £26 a month but it cost me £29 a month to travel there by train. Who or what has been the biggest influence on your life? My physics master who made sure I got good grades; and the great storm of 1953 which triggered my interest in the weather and the elements. If you hadn’t become a meteorologist which career would you have most likely followed? I wanted to join the airforce and become a pilot. What is your proudest achievement? I suppose getting an MBE from the Queen, although I think it should have been a knighthood. Have you ever ‘splashed’ the cash on something big? Yes. I bought my Mazda RX8 with my retirement payout. What is the one thing you want to do before you die? Yes there is, I want to get my pilot’s licence.
Image courtesy of Lynda Pine at gosscrestedchina.co.uk
Feeling under the weather? Then cheer yourself up with a Michael Fish ‘forecast’ coffee mug and fridge magnets available from his official website: www.michael-fish.com
Contact The Retro Collective: firstname.lastname@example.org
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