Why Are Photomontage and Collage So Significant in Feminist Art?

“What struck me as I wandered through the exhibition was how widespread and significant photomontage and collage are in women’s art”

A woven red Double Labia; images of a stoical women dressed up as a cooker or a washing machine; disorientating screams on constant loop and visceral photographs of a punk performing in a meat dress long before Lady Gaga entered the stage. Where was I? The Women in Revolt! Art & Activism UK 1970-1990 exhibition in Edinburgh.

What struck me as I wandered through the exhibition was how widespread and significant photomontage and collage are in women’s art: from the visual art of Linder Sterling (meat dress provocateur), and Gee Vaucher – to the feminist zines of Lucy Whitman (aka Lucy Toothpaste), and the Riot grrrl movement of the 1990s.

Collage and Counterculture

Photomontage and collage have long been associated with counterculture movements, from the Dadaists to punk, due to its anti-establishment aesthetic. Hannah Hӧch was the only female artist included in the Dada movement (Lady Dada) and seen as a pioneer of the photomontage style, her most famous work being, Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, 1919; a commentary on Weimar Germany’s culture and politics. While Jamie Reid’s God Save the Queen image is the most iconic and enduring of the punk movement other – female – artists, were producing, arguably, more subversive and provocative work such as Gee Vaucher’s artwork for Crass and Linder Sterling’s art for the sleeve of The Buzzcocks’ single, Orgasm Addict.

Photomontage and collage were low-tech; usually cutting and pasting from mediums that were classed as disposable or without great value e.g. used newspapers and magazines, and most importantly it was DIY – the antithesis to the slick chimera sold by brands and corporations. Indeed, many of the artists used the branding and adverts of these corporations in their work, subverting and reworking them as satire and parody. This approach is now commonplace, and in 2012 the artist collective Brandalism was formed. 

However, the roots and significance of the female relationship with collage and pastiche is much older than the relatively new commentary and rejection of consumer society.

Women’s Crafts and Scraps

Although scrapbooking as a practice can be traced back to medieval times, the modern scrapbooking movement grew in popularity in the US in the 1980s/90s. The essence of scrapbooking is to document memories and stories about your life. It not only combines journaling and photographic imagery but offers sensory appeal with tactile fabrics and even fragrant dried flowers; clippings of recipes, cards, tickets and invitations can be included also. Scrapbooking is about taking, often disparate, snapshots in time and curating them into a comprehensive and united narrative.

This idea of taking scraps to create one comprehensive story is seen over and over in female art and craft; quilting and patchwork for instance, or weaving – the patterns of different countries each telling different stories. In her experimental weavings, Sheila Hicks blurs the distinction between craft and fine art, and uses a variety of materials such as shoelaces, elastic bands, shirt collars and even transparent noodles. Miriam Shapiro also blurred this line and coined the phrase ‘femmage’ – a combination of feminine and collage – and often used materials such as lace, thread and chintz. This highlights the significance in female art of the relationship between environment and materials; often there was no separation between home and art – art had to be made from the ‘scraps’ of domestic life.

“The collagists who came before me were men, who lived in cities, and often roamed the streets at night scavenging, collecting material, their junk, from urban spaces. My world, my mother’s and grandmother’s world, was a different one. The fabrics I used would be beautiful if sewed into clothes or draped against windows, made into pillows, or slipped over chairs. My ‘junk,’ my fabrics, allude to a particular universe, which I wish to make real, to represent.” 

                                                                  Miriam Shapiro, 1977

 

Women’s Time is Also Pieced Together in Scraps

By their very nature, scrapbooks, quilts, collage art and zines all have a fragmentary and dislocated aesthetic, it is what creates the art. However, this stitching together of segments is also a powerful visual metaphor of how women experience time.

Rigid structure in the arts is often seen as a male characteristic, whereas collage is chaotic, often contradictory, with several themes or ideas jostling for prominence. And this reflects women’s lives – pulled in several directions at once by competing demands and traditional roles; mother, wife, homemaker, employee and often carer. The disjointed nature emulating the scraps of time stolen and stitched together to hold and carry the work.

Zines and Power Cut

“with nothing to lose – it was able to take risks, to shock and to provoke.”

 

The Women in Revolt! Exhibition has many feminist zines on display, one of the most influential contributors being Lucy Whitman. In 1977, Whitman created JOLT a ‘feminist, anti-racist, anti-fascist punk fanzine’. JOLT contains all the elements of the anti-establishmentarian collage aesthetic – it is very much DIY (often handwritten), it has a ‘scrapbook’ like quality with bits taken from disparate sources and glued together. It subverts the expectations we have of the images and deconstructs cultural and social purviews. There is something deeply truthful about JOLT – and with nothing to lose – it was able to take risks, to shock and to provoke.

I’d like to think that Power Cut maintains a bit of this spirit and ethos. With a budget of zero, our logo was created in the collage tradition with scissors, glue, wallpaper remnants and poster paints.Power Cut Magazine collage logo

And although the magazine isn’t literally a photomontage or cut and paste job like JOLT or Sniffing Glue; it doesn’t adhere to the traditional literary magazine format, but rather cuts and pastes across form and genre bringing in humour and satire, visual art and commentary to prod and poke at what a literary magazine is or should be.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to support us, please consider buying a magazine or a bibliotherapy prescription from Madame Bruttipedi.

It’s Time for a Power Cut – Join the Print Magazine Renaissance

So Thrilling It’s Hypnotic!

We made it! Issue 1 has arrived! The foggy who-are you-kidding idea of summer 2023 has become a physical reality – a print magazine.

Power Cut Literary Magazine with a white and floral coffee cup

I cannot stress enough the gratitude I have for the writers and artists who took a gamble of trusting a newbie-nobody with their work. Without them Power Cut would not exist.

There have been ups and downs – and mistakes – but overall, for a first attempt, Power Cut has scrubbed up pretty well. Producing a printed magazine has been a huge learning curve and one that I hope continues as we grow and develop. Saying that, Issue 1 is better than I could have hoped for and features 17 unique contributors, including three evocative pieces of visual art by Mike Dmytruk.

Surrealism, Struggles and 20th Century Vibes

In an extract from her memoir, Jenny Vuglar leads us into the heart of the women’s peace camp and the struggles she faced as a protestor at Greenham Common in the 1980s. Callum J Grubb is a remarkable young man who lives a 1940s life in modern day Scotland, without the desire for a mobile phone or social media. His typed article about his fascination with 40s is an inspiration for anyone wanting to pursue a vintage lifestyle. And our poems by Danielle McMahon, Jason O’Toole, Oz Hardwick, Don Palmer, and Berin Aptoula ooze 20th century vibes and pop culture.

For metal heads there is an essay on the relationship between metal, horror and the occult. Where else are you going to find Nicolo Paganini, Giuseppe Tartini, Metallica, Jaws and Shock ‘Em Dead referenced in the one article? If you find this surreal – wait until you read the short stories by Terry Holland, Callum Henderson and George Smith! Terry’s unfortunate protagonist only wanted a relaxing soak in the tub but had to deal with esoteric musings by Malcolm McLaren’s ghost. Callum tells a strange tale about a ‘sineetah’ who eats cakes for the dead, and in ‘Strathclyde Regional Cooncil’, George creates a parallel universe that might have come to pass had rave culture become a political force in Scotland.

Kristina Stevens offers some dirty realism in ‘Trolley Dolly’, her absurdist story about two people waiting for a life that has already passed them by. She also contributes an evocative piece of memoir about a childhood visit to Nigeria.

“more facial hair…than a Mariachi Band convention.”

As the yin to Jenny’s yang, Annie Foy gives us a blistering piece of women’s lib satire in ‘Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves’ that has “more facial hair…than a Mariachi Band convention”. Careful with the rhinestones!

We then lurch into a bit of crime noir with ‘Alfie’ by Joe Murphy, where our eponymous anti-hero is a two-bit player is Glasgow’s underworld. It is old-skool crime, Kray-brothers-style, with a bank robbery and dreams of a Spanish getaway.

And then – just to make sure we can’t be accused of being too ‘samey’ – we have two powerful pieces of flash by Sinéad Ní Braoin set in wartime Germany.

Toast Water and a Foot Dominatrix Bibliotherapist

By now you’re probably thinking – wow – this magazine is simply jam-packed with cultural goodness, could it get any better? Actually yes. We also have an exclusive recipe for Toast Water – the go-to refreshment for Victorian invalids, and an abundance of kitsch mid-century vintage ads. And – what a coincidence – our Hovis ad ties in nicely with our recipe,

A well-balanced bread is essential for men and women who need to maintain a lithe and lighter body…

As if all that isn’t enough of a retro feast, there is none other than our very own Madame Bruttipedi, fresh from the burlesque stages of Yoshiwara and ready to provide bibliotherapy prescriptions to our lovely readers. Madame has a regular column in our print magazine where she will endeavour to untangle your problems and salve any emotional disturbances through the wonders of literature. For those of you who don’t already know, Madame has really ugly feet and will only work with readers that dig that sort of thing.

Head shot of vintage pin up girl

Phwew! It’s some ride…what are you waiting for? Start your digital detox and join the print magazine renaissance. Get your copy now!

Why You Should Be Reading Print Magazines

If I told you reading print magazines rather than online magazines would improve your health and well-being would you believe me? What if I said that it might also reduce your carbon footprint?

Power Hungry Internet

Bud Fox on the phone in Wall St

Way back in the 1980s when Amstrad computers and fax machines began to furnish leather-topped hedge fund desks, the dream of the paperless office began. Administrators and associates fantasised about the day when chunky metal filing cabinets and endless dog-eared files would be banished forever. But we are still a long way from being paperless; we use more paper now than ever. We’ve all heard a variation of the joke about the volume of photocopying killing a whole tree – wasn’t the digital age going to be the saviour of the rainforests?

There is still a consensus that less paper is good, it seems a reasonable and logical premise. But what you don’t hear about is the carbon footprint of data storage. Every email, text, file, photo or video that is sent has to be stored, usually in ‘the cloud’. Most people don’t give the cloud any thought, assuming it drifts benignly above us, an ethereal entity a bit like 1950s radio waves. But actually data storage occurs in village-size electricity-guzzling data centres; thousands of square feet of servers requiring industrial energy-thirsty cooling systems. According to the New York Times,

“Worldwide, digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants,”

And this was in 2012!! Let’s not even think about the ethics of mineral mining and the ever-growing problem of discarded electronics.

Paper Fights Back

Young woman reading a magazine at a news stand

Paper, on the other hand, is easily recycled and modern inks are now much less polluting than before. The paper industry is fighting back and contesting the ‘go green go paperless’ claim. And when you consider that storing a terabyte of data for a year produces 10kg of CO2e you can see that digital isn’t as clean as we are led to believe. (University of Cambridge).

But you’re still not quite convinced so you search for your favourite online magazine. Jesus, Elvis and the mother of all hangovers this is tedious! Have you noticed the Columbo-esque dogged determinism required to get to the damn thing? GDPR cookie preferences, shit wi-fi, slow-loading site, pop-ups, notifications, pop-ups, pop-ups…you’re finally there and…BAM! Another pop-up; sign up for a subscription, a newsletter, chips and curry sauce on Mondays, adverts with 10%, 25%, 150% off. Are you still persevering or have you given up yet?

Having finally reached the website, very few of us can resist the FOMO lure of hyperlinks; this looks interesting…no this really is fascinating…I just need to find out about...and into another article, another review, another site. This isn’t happening by chance, the internet is designed this way. You could click through links day and night for the next hundred years and still be nowhere in sight of an ‘end’.

In contrast, the serene world of a print magazine has no annoying pop-ups, no rabbit warrens of time-grabbing hyperlinks or relentless demands for your e-mail address. It is a finite product that is self-contained, giving the reader control over what they read and the time they spend on it.

All Tattoos Are Beautiful

Traditional Swallow tattoos on the back of a man's hands

My first tattoo was an old-school swallow, beloved by sailors and jailbirds (especially on the thumb webbing). From the minute that first squeeze of Savlon was applied, I knew I’d made a mistake. Sometimes the cheapest tattoos aren’t always the best. Years later I finally got round to sorting out a cover-up courtesy of the genius, Xed Le Head. On inspection, he confirmed my swallow was, indeed, shit, but that was ok as, ultimately, all tattoos were beautiful. Xed lived for tattooing and any tattoo, by its very existence, was a piece of art to him.

And I feel the same about print magazines. A print magazine is a beautiful thing. Unlike the soulless endless scrolling on a device, it offers a sensory experience appealing to all senses… Yes, including taste – some people LOVE chewing paper! Visually, a print magazine can be akin to walking through an art gallery, it pops with vivid colours and evocative images that are so much more powerful than those viewed on a screen. And what about the ASMR satisfaction of listening to the pages turning? This rhythmic sound has a calming effect and roots us in the here and now. The feel and smell of the paper also enhance the experience making it immersive and interactive. I’ve never met anyone who smells their phone screen or laptop keyboard.

Print Magazines are the Antidote

Older female customer reading a magazine in a hair salon, under a dryer with orange towel.

As so many of us now spend the majority of our working days – and leisure time – staring at a screen, a print magazine can offer respite from this, a sanctuary from the online world, quiet time from all the digital demands. It is an antidote to information and content overload. We are all aware that extended screen time can lead to eye strain and poor sleep (from overstimulation of blue light). A print magazine, however, offers a different reading experience, one that is more focused and engaged; the deep reading allows us to slow down and enter into a meditative, dreamlike state. Although magazine content can be read in any order, it is designed to tell its own story with a beginning, middle and end. Picking up a print magazine is making a conscious decision to take time out and allow the world to stop for ten minutes.

“investing in a fitness magazine can make the difference between a chocolate muffin for breakfast and a green smoothie”

So you’re convinced. You went out and purchased a print magazine. Chances are you chose it because it aligns with your values or interests or aspirations, and so naturally you will want to keep it to remind yourself of these or simply to enjoy re-reading the articles. A print magazine can give you a sense of community and belonging, a worldview that you identify with. If you are into fitness, investing in a fitness magazine can make the difference between a chocolate muffin for breakfast and a green smoothie. A photography magazine in your back pocket lets the world know that you know your aperture from your composition. You may carry your magazine around in your bag to look cool, or display it on the coffee table to impress your friends and let them know how intellectual/arty/hip/edgy/nerdy you are. You may be a super fan of a specific magazine and collect every issue. And that is another beauty of print magazines – ownership; they are yours, you choose where to store them and how to display them. You can go back to them again and again, and flick through to a favourite article or image. How often do we do this with online content? Yes, you can go back to them again and again and again. Print magazines cannot be changed; unlike digital content, they cannot be deleted or edited, updated or ‘enhanced’. I collect vintage magazines and stepping inside the covers feels like I have mastered time travel, discovered a portal to a bygone age. Will we ever get such a thrill from vintage websites?

Fly Swat or Ransom Note?

And for all those lingering sceptics among you how about these; a print magazine can be read in the bath without fear of losing charge/electrocution, it doesn’t ring or beep or lose connection, no one can track if you’ve read it or not or what % is still to be read, it doesn’t have cookies, it can be used as a wasp/fly swat, cup coaster, wobbly table wedge, lining for a cat litter tray, any paper-mache project you have coming up, it can be donated to the doctor’s surgery or dentist waiting room, it can be used for wrapping glass when moving home, it can be cut up for a collage project or ransom note, you can make paper hats and paper boats from it, and if you are having an argument with someone you can tear it up or throw it at them for dramatic effect (not advisable as you’ll probably regret it and the other person will rightly think you are a bit unhinged). And if none of these appeal – you can channel your inner Duchamp and draw moustaches and doodles on it when you’re bored.

Have you got any other uses for the printed page?

 

 

 

 

 

Rave at the Cave – Anecdote or Story?

Anecdote or story? What’s the difference? Every so often I come across a social media post by an aspiring writer who wants to write a book about the funny and/or humanly impossible experiences they’ve had in the course of their jobs/travels/crazy relationships. However, as entertaining as these situations may be, they do not a story make. They sound like a series of anecdotes – which probably couldn’t carry a whole book, unless it was a unique and well-written ‘Diary of a…’. Even the most zany of situations can come across as quite dull on the page with a you had to be there to appreciate it quality.

“The police raid was…wild and scary and clearly memorable – but is it a story?”

I was on the phone with my aunty Jane the other night and she was asking how submissions for the magazine were going,

            ‘You should write about that night at the Rave at the Cave, when it got raided,                   that would make a good story.’

My aunt is not a typical aunt (whatever that might be), and she introduced me to the London acid house scene in the late 1980s. It got me thinking. The police raid was a dramatic event, certainly an action-packed event, it was wild and scary and clearly memorable – but is it a story?

Anecdotes Don’t Do Deep Emotions

So would my potential Rave at the Cave tale work as a story or is it best kept as an anecdote? An anecdote is a retelling of an event; it can be funny or sad and will usually include the main elements of a story – character, action, and setting. Pubs and bars the world over are the spiritual home of the anecdote, which often start with, ‘You’ll never believe this…’, or ‘Guess what happened to me..,’ or ‘Wait till I tell you this…’.

An anecdote focuses on what happened, usually a specific or unusual incident. It deals with facts, but also perspective, i.e.‘ x happened and then y followed leading to z, it was terrible/brilliant/disgraceful,’ etc. However, an anecdote doesn’t explore the deeper significance of the event; there is no subtext. The punters in the pub are looking for jovial banter, not to be pulled into an emotional autopsy in search of meaning or epiphany. Some anecdotes can be developed into stories if the writer can tease out the story arc, the conflict and the stakes. But not all anecdotes can go the distance. Knowing when to keep the narrative to the realms of drunken repartee is an art.

What Makes a Powerful Story?

Stories, on the other hand, help us make sense of the world, they mirror back to us our secrets and desires; they dissect and explore the emotional crux of the action and why it is meaningful. According to Carl Jung, stories help us to tap into universal truths and social connection through the use of archetypes and the collective unconscious. A memorable story will grab us by the guts, it will resonate with something fluttering within us. We will feel an affinity with the protagonist or revulsion/anger at the antagonist. Most good stories involve a conflict, a series of obstacles that the main character has to overcome to achieve their goal. By doing this, change is achieved. Perhaps what they want has shifted, or a choice has unforeseen consequences – the outcome may even be tragic, but things will never be the same again. The main character can never go back to who they were before. Stories provide a safe space to explore our deepest fears and darkest thoughts through metaphor and symbolism; think of the witch or the forest in Hansel and Gretel, or the serial killer/psychopath, like Hannibal Lecter, in horror movies.

The Rave at the Cave Police Raid

So what did happen that night…?

Rumours had been going around for a while that undercover cops were infiltrating the raves, trying to buy drugs, and gain intel on the dealers. You could usually spot a fed – there was something about them that didn’t quite fit, something ever so slightly off. Maybe you could sense their discomfort, or that they weren’t on the same wavelength as everyone else. Or maybe because they weren’t shit-faced they were as wooden as a peg-legged granny doing the slosh. Despite the smiley t-shirt and bandana, you could see right through to their law-abiding core. And looking down at the shoes always confirmed it. You would never see a fed going mental mental radio rental.

The Rave at the Cave was one of the best underground warehouse parties in London, held in a greasy unit underneath a railway archway at Elephant & Castle. The venue was a working garage during the week and, for anyone who didn’t notice where they were, the flatbed lorry parked in the middle of the main dance room was a big rusty hint. This didn’t faze anyone, in fact, getting a spot on the lorry-come-stage imbued the lucky matey with a nimbus of acid-shiny kudos for the night. On the lorry you were cooler, brighter, sexier and had all the moves. The air was always thick and humid; saturated with spliff and poppers. The contact high alone would get you off your nut until Sunday teatime. Everyone was on the same trip and the energy sparked unrelenting all night long.

We hadn’t long arrived, and I’d just taken an ecstasy, an E. I was about to get on one to Break 4 Love by Raze when it all went tits up.

            ‘Nobody move, this is a police raid.’

There was a millisecond of confusion where I thought it was a joke or a mistake and the music would come back on and I could get back to waving my hands in the air like I just didn’t care. But it quickly became apparent that it was real. And serious. My aunty Jane’s mate had asked her to keep a couple of E’s in her purse for him. The police were going to be searching everyone and she really didn’t want to be caught carrying class A drugs. So she tossed her purse. But immediately she was worried that as she had her name and address written inside the purse in case she lost it, they would find it and arrest her. She’d also thrown away £40 and a precious black and white photo of her dad, looking handsome in his navy uniform.

The atmosphere had changed instantly, instead of Balearic beats, we were surrounded by menacing-looking police dogs snarling and having a go at anyone not dressed in navy blue. Two hundred officers had descended on the rave and were systematically processing everyone. When it came to my turn I said I’d already been searched. It was a lie, I just didn’t want to let them win. Everyone who had been searched had been sent to the opposite side of the room or outside, it was impossible that they would have searched me and left me in situ. But I held my ground with a female cop. My aunt intervened, and being older than everyone else, carried an air of authority.

            ‘If she says she’s been searched, then she’s been searched,’ she declared.

There was a bit of a to-do and I caused a minor scene but, miraculously, the officer of the law capitulated and I was sent to the searched side of the room. Later, I told my aunt that I hadn’t actually been searched.

            ‘Then why the fuck did you cause all that commotion?’

             ‘I don’t know.’

And I really didn’t.

So, what do you think – anecdote or story? is there an arc here?  Are the stakes high enough? Perhaps it would work better from a different point of view? Could this be developed into a story – or is it best kept as a you had to be there pissed-up pub yarn?

If you enjoyed reading this post please share on social media or buy us a coffee. Or you can check out our 1980s toolkit for some more pop culture.

 

 

 

Calling All Storytellers – We Are Open For Submissions

Nosferatu

Greetings Power Cutters!

Power Cut literary magazine is now open for submissions! We are extremely excited to read all your seedy, creepy, freaky work. We want spirit and energy, sweaty armpits and bleary eyes – the underbelly of writing. Give us high-voltage stories, bulb-shattering poems, grid-surging essays, socket-melting artwork, and electrifying haikus. You’ve torn those words from the gutters of your brain and mashed them into a semi-cohesive state – now send them to us! We want the stories that stay with us long after we’ve read the last line. Show us the world in a new way.

Misfit writing for misfit readers by this misfit magazine.

To see the world differently, you have to think differently. And so, we love outsiders and loners! We want the writers who have wandered away from the crowd and are doing their own thing. Let us in on your unique and possibly slightly oddball ideas, reveal your fresh use of language and your sharp imagery. We say write like it’s 1978 – step outside the virtual panopticon and allow your imagination to lead you to all those weird and wonderful places.

Ventriloquist

We want to hear from all writers who love the ethos of the 20th century as much as we do. We believe writing and publication should be accessible to all and, therefore, do not charge a reading/submission fee. Writing has become a big business and many new writers can feel intimidated if they don’t have a degree in English literature, a post-grad in creative writing or a PhD in character development. We don’t care about that. Voice is the most important aspect of writing and cannot be learned in a class. We are open for submissions until 31st January 2024. Tell us the stories that are important to you, the stories that have shaped you.

We can’t wait to hear those beautiful, seedy, creepy, freaky, misfit voices.

 

 

 

Blackout (1978)…did the power fail?

Blackout (1978)

Sadism on the Loose

‘Holy power cut, Batman!’ Boy Wonder would cry before the crime-fighting duo Whap! and Kapow! the villains into submission. Blackout (1978) doesn’t have Batman or Robin, but it does have phlegmatic super- cop, Dan Evans, defending the citizens of Gotham.

Blackout is billed as a thriller and also a black comedy, but manifests more like a low-rent exploitation-disaster movie.  The chaos of New York City’s 1977 blackout provides the opportunity for four deranged criminals to escape police custody and go on to terrorise a swanky Manhattan apartment block. Rape, murder, arson and robbery ensue.

The opening scene is an ominous shot of electricity pylons shrouded by threatening storm clouds, the foreboding heightened by a menacing sound track. An aerial shot of the Empire State building with a bleak weather report leaves us in no doubt as to what is coming. The camera cuts to a busy street scene and follows our hero (Jim Mitchum, son of Robert) chasing a purse-snatcher. He is relentless in the pursuit, and would have caught the thief if it wasn’t for a pesky clothes rail that appears at just the wrong moment. Inevitably, he gets tangled up in the shirts.

“At power grid HQ the control panel, which is larger than the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, is ablaze with red and amber warning lights.”

We then witness our felons being bundled into a Department of Corrections van to be taken to another secure unit. The two escorting officers, one of whom appears to have borrowed his moustache from Leather Man in the Village People, are tetchy when told they need to wait for another offender, domestic terrorist, Christie (Robert Carradine). He promptly arrives by helicopter, having been diverted from JKF due to media attention. It’s not clear why the helicopter can’t fly him directly to his destination, but why let common sense get in the way of the plot? The cops push him into the truck and set off. Thunder and lightning is now crackling and flashing dangerously. At power grid HQ the control panel, which is larger than the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, is ablaze with red and amber warning lights; prompting us to grip the side of the sofa in trepidation of the impending disaster.

Biker Mayhem and Road Carnage

In what has to be the most random and avoidable road accident in the history of cinema, two bikers appear, seemingly having taken a wrong turn from the set of Dawn of the Dead. Although the road is utterly deserted, the road hogs careen in front of the van causing it to swerve and crash into a flimsy plywood shack. The prisoners break out unscathed to find both police officers embedded in the windscreen. By donning the dead men’s uniforms, the motley crew are able to trick the security guard of a nearby apartment complex into letting them in. They immediately kill him and, with Christie as ringleader, commence their reign of terror.

Blackout (1978)

 On his way to clock-in for the nightshift, Evans spots the wreckage and hops inside for a peek. His night nosedives further when a woman appears on her balcony, screaming for help. Flashlight in hand, he leaves a couple of bystanders in charge of the scene and hotfoots it into the apartment building.

Gun Shots and Burning Rubber

The plot then meanders around the building for a while, with Evans handcuffing one of the gang to a toilet pan. Tricked by Christie, he is overpowered by the baddies who tie him up with wire connected to a speedily rigged contraption – ready to be electrocuted when the power is returned. All that’s missing is an Acme Corporation stick of dynamite. Will our hero be rescued in the nick of time? Or will it be a crispy end?

Jim Mitchum as Dan Evans in Blackout

Unsurprisingly, Evans escapes; rescued by…? Didn’t see that one comin’ did ya?  One by one the perps are offed until Christie is the last man standing. Finally the power comes on, in terms of the action, and a car chase almost on par with The French Connection speeds off. After some good sound effects in a dimly lit underground car park, Christie inexplicitly drives into a wall, causing the car to explode. As he tries to escape his trench coat catches fire and Evans watches him burn to death.

Robert Carradine in Blackout

As with many b-movies, the plot flaws and so-bad-it’s-good vibe provide the entertainment in Blackout. Sadly the power did kinda fail here, and the most shocking aspect was the bad driving (resulting in deadly crashes). For anyone who loves 1970s New York, it delivers on grittiness, with cool cars and kitsch apartments. For everyone else, it may be more washout than blackout.

If you have enjoyed read this post, please consider supporting us so that we can tell you about more bad b-movies.

 

 

Why You Should Take A Trip Into The Wardrobe

 

“…flashing lights will take you to another world…and the answers you’re looking for may just be found in the inner wardrobes of your mind…”

 

The Vibes, 1980s trash garage band. Inner Wardrobes of Your Mind

 

The Psychedelic World of The Vibes

The Vibes’ EP ‘Inner Wardrobe of Your Mind’ is a mind-bending, almost synaesthetic, voyage into another dimension. I recall one sunny autumn afternoon bunking off college with my best mate. We were in my bedroom, waiting for the mushie-tea we’d choked down to kick in. The red and purple and white of the EP label was spinning in a carnivalesque haze on my hi-fi turntable. I was about to do a hand-trail test, convinced the mushies weren’t working, but then did a quick double take on the album cover. The words were undulating, the frazzled bloke’s hair was pulsing and his eyebrows were twitching. I glanced at my mate, but she was too engrossed in smoking a Superking to notice. Back to the cover. It was still hoaching and writhing like a maggot infestation. The deranged bloke on the cover was now nodding and squinting at me. Had he been in the wardrobe? Was that what you look like before you go in or when you come out? What was he trying to tell me?

“This could be the answer you’re looking for…”

I was desperate to know, and allowed myself to merge into the purple and red.

 I sat cross-legged on my bedroom carpet, lost in an unhinged world for an hour, five minutes, a year – how long did it take my mate to smoke that fag? I reached over to switch the light bulb off, it was way too bright. But, despite my attempts, the damn thing stayed on. Frustrated, I turned my attention back to the wardrobe, desperate to see inside and learn its secrets. And all the while the bloke’s hair was pulsing and his eyebrows twitching. Jesus Christ, that wardrobe was a dark place and didn’t offer any hint to its cavernous possibilities. And then, in what seemed like half an eyebrow twitch, the purple and red spewed me out. Side Red had finished and I had to get up and flip the record over to Side Purple.

 

The Vibes, Inner Wardrobes of Your Mind

 

Trash is Glorious

If you like your rock ‘n’ roll to spit out a screechin’ and howlin’ explosion of energy, you’re in luck. Punk-trash-garage meets psychedelic-tripped-out rockabilly, this is one helluva trip through your mind’s inner wardrobes. Mine are still leaning precariously to one side with both doors hanging off. The Vibes emerged from the same swamplands as The Sting-Rays and Thee Milkshakes, and have the welts and bruises from the Cramps’ stiletto heels all over them.

There are only four tracks on this EP, and the hallucinatory overtones add to its intensity. Side Red includes ‘I Hear Noises (extended trip version)’ and ‘I’m In Pittsburgh (And It’s Rain’in)’. The latter is a more menacing and urgent cover of The Outcasts’ 1965 garage track. Side Purple brings us ‘Hasil Adkins In My Head’, and ‘Scratch My Back’. For those of you unfamiliar with Hasil Adkins, he was known as the ‘godfather of psychobilly’, and his suitably weird and filthy lyrics were a major influence on the Cramps, who covered ‘She Said’.

 

 

Everyone Needs a Wardrobe

‘Yer awfy quiet,’ my mate said, grinding the dowt into the saucer-come-ashtray, ‘let’s get out of here.’ We wandered up to the local post office, where we stood outside for an unknown period of time, trying to get it together to go in and buy a 1st class stamp.

Like bioluminescent fireflies, The Vibes’ lifespan was short. They formed in 1983, but by 1986 they had all but self-immolated.  Although they had several 12” and 7” releases, they only produced one studio album ‘What’s Inside?’ in 1985. Several members went on to form The Purple Things, and Lloyd Tripp moved to America where he still performs as Lloyd Tripp and the Zipguns.

 ‘Inner Wardrobes of Your Mind’ is a bit like The Vibes themselves – it tears through your head like a crazed and hellacious rockin’ twister and then, all too quickly, it’s over. It might be a short ride, but a journey into the wardrobe “could be the answer you’re looking for”.

Check out our 1980s page for more groovy stuff to watch/read/listen to.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, please consider supporting us to keep the gramophone playing.

 

Banned Book Club

Join Our Banned Book Club!

book burning

Greetings Power Cutters!

I’ll be honest, I have only recently discovered #BannedBooksWeek, and was surprised to discover it’s been around since 1982! But I did some digging and found that book banning goes back centuries, and the reasons are all too familiar. John Milton’s Aeropagitica, written in 1644 and banned until 1695, was a passionate defence of free speech and critique of censorship. Milton was a bit of a rebel politically, and a royal proclamation was issued in 1660 calling for the suppression and burning of two of his previous works. Almost 400 years later, the irony continues as academics and writers advocating for free speech follow the same fate, having their work censored or banned. It might have given Milton a degree of satisfaction in knowing his work was banned for posing a threat to the establishment. However, some books are banned for the most ridiculous reasons.

3 Craziest Book Bans

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – banned by the South African Government during the Apartheid era because of the word ‘Black’ in the title.

Little Red Riding Hood – was banned in 1990 by two Californian school boards because Red had a bottle of wine in her basket.

Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs – California again. Banned because Tarzan and Jane were cavorting out of wedlock in the treetops.

Leave Agatha Christie Alone! Don’t Mess With Ian Fleming!

Books shouldn’t be banned and they shouldn’t be retrospectively censored. All art is a reflection of a moment in time, which is inextricably fixed in its identity. Attempts to alter a book will only destroy its balance and essence. Books written now are products of this world and this life, and play a vital part in deconstructing society for us. Future attempts to carve them into something more aligned with our descendants’ way of thinking would miss the point entirely.

Banned Book Club

last exit to brooklyn

With this in mind, what better time to launch our Banned Book Club than the end of Banned Books Week? Every month we’ll be reading a banned book from the 20th century. Get in touch if you have any suggestions.

We’re going to kick things off with Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964) by Hubert Selby Jr. Like any good book club, we’d love to know what your thoughts are. Do you love it, hate it, DNF? Here are some Banned Book Club questions to consider:

What scene has stuck with you the most?

What did you think of the writing?

Should it have been banned?

If you are keen to read more cult classics from the 1960s, check out our mini-guide to essential music, books and movies of the decade.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, please support us to keep our Banned Book Club going.

The Best Literary Magazine Title Ever – Courtesy Of The 1970s

Welcome Power Cutters!!

We’re kicking off this first blog post by getting down to Power Cut business – why call a literary magazine Power Cut? The zine is a tribute to all things 20th century and one of the first names bandied about was Flying Saucers and PVC Pants, an attempt to capture the essence of the 1950s and 1970s. But FS&PVCP was hardly catchy and had about as much ring to it as a phone in a 1980s slasher movie. So it was back to the drawing board for a moniker that could connect the past to the current zeitgeist without sliding into nostalgia-naffness.

Enter the 70s

Whoever said the 70s was the decade that style forgot clearly had no sense of style themselves. We should be thanking the 70s for giving us Kojak, the Sex Pistols, Bruce Lee films, and tie-dye. Kids fuelled on Findus Crispy Pancakes and Cremola Foam happily bounded the streets on Space Hoppers, while adults remained indoors puffing on Silk Cut and drinking endless cups of tea. Everyone was happy. But the national psyche was also shaped by darker forces – the power cut.

Lights Go Out…

Between 1972 and 1974 power cuts and blackouts were imposed on the nation following a series of coal miners’ strikes. People were encouraged to only heat one room and keep non-essential lights switched off. [The latter has since been readily adopted as standard practice by dads across the country. This is often accompanied by the refrain, ‘It’s like Blackpool illuminations in here!’ as they plunge their teenage offspring into ambient and existential darkness.]

Miners also picketed power stations in an attempt to restrict coal supply. This prompted Prime Minister Edward Heath to impose a Three-Day Week as a way to conserve stocks. The restrictions kicked off on 1st January 1974, and ironically ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ by Slade was number 1 in the charts. ‘Dreary Xmas Everybody’, might have been more apt.

The Times They Are Not A-Changing

Other than essential services, all businesses had to limit their use of electricity to the Three-Day Week. This led to bizarre scenarios of pubs opening by candlelight, and barbers administering buzzcuts in the street. Hundreds of factory production lines ground to a halt and thousands found themselves turfed onto the dole. Even Santa Claus found himself out of a job that year. Panic buying led to empty shelves in supermarkets as people stockpiled essential goods. The country was in a state of emergency.

Welcome to Fear City

Fast forward to July 1977. The New York City blackouts were not caused by political conflict or poor government policy but by lightning strikes. Although the power outage only lasted between 13-14 July, it occurred when the city was experiencing harsh economic problems and the Son of Sam was prowling the streets.

Prior to the blackouts, New York City had been on the brink of bankruptcy. To save money essential services had been slashed, prompting the fire and police unions to distribute pamphlets with the headline ‘Welcome to Fear City’ to tourists. It was a stunt intended to pressure the city mayor against further job cuts. The chaos of a blackout, for a city already simmering in anger and fear, was enough to spark a state of disorder and looting. This period spawned cult movies such as ‘The Warriors’, and despite Giuliani’s gentrification of the city in the 90s, New York still labours under the legacy of this post-apocalyptic vision.

Can’t Beat the Stench of Burning Lard

So why name a literary magazine after all this grief and aggro?  Like all good writing, the term ‘power cut’ can be interpreted at different levels, literally and symbolically. I see it as symbolic of the spirit and resilience shown in these challenging situations and the creativity that sprung from them. In the winter of 1973, the people of Britain had to come up with ingenious ways to conquer the boredom, to make cash last that bit longer, and to get a short back and sides or a feather cut. Entrepreneurialism thrived; in response to the inevitable candle shortage, butchers began selling lard on string as an alternative. However, the stench and smoke from burning lard were so overpowering that a tear gas attack may have been more enjoyable. 

Colonel Mustard is Guilty

By Johannes Østby – https://www.flickr.com

Lastly, in terms of fiction writing, you couldn’t ask for a more dramatic setting than a power cut. All kinds of Noir-ish goings-on can be thought up around a blackout. An epic Stephen King-esque horror could unfold or a Hitchcock-like psychological exploration into the protagonist’s fear of the dark. Colonel Mustard could even kill Professor Plum in the courtyard with the revolver, out his mind on burning lard fumes.

My view is that fiction should always be slightly subversive, or at least shining a crooked light into the shadows of current orthodoxy. Unsurprisingly, the theme of our first issue will be power cuts, so get ready for the lights to go out and all manner of weirdness and mayhem to unfold.

Ready to get going? Check out our essential Tool Kit, a mini guide to cult classics for each decade. Why not start in the 1930s and follow the pop culture journey? Alternatively, go straight to the 1990s and trace back to see where the inspiration for all your favourites came from.

If you’d like to support our retrograde obsession, we’d be chuffed if you bought us a cup of tea.