London In Colour 1970-1971: The Photos Of David Wisdom

David Wisdom took these pictures in 1970 and 1971 while he was sharing a luxury flat in Holly Hill, Hampstead with a group of friends from Vancouver. He was born in post-war England to a couple of touring actors of the repertory stage. In 1952 he moved to Vancouver with his parents, and has spent most of his life there.

All photos © David Wisdom

Evangelical street preachers in Trafalgar Square.

Primrose Gardens. An up-market area in North London.

A fashionable woman attracting attention on Kings Road, Chelsea.

Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park. Traditionally a place where people would promote their beliefs in public.

A seasonal funfair in North London.

Street busker with his trained parrot. The bird would hold the cup for any donation money.

Elderly shoppers at a busy street market.

The last shop trading in Stepney Green.

Retro Music 57

I was 19 years old in 1971, and my music tastes were becoming more varied. Deep down though, I was still a Soul Boy at heart, and that year I heard a wonderful Soul singer with his great new song. I bought this record the same day, then went on to buy his other records for the next four years.

By 1976 Al Green had decided to become a Gospel Minister, and changed his musical direction to Christian music. For me, that was a great loss to the genre of Soul Music.
He still performs today.

(The lyrics appear on the video.)

London 1971: The Photos Of John De Prey

During 1971, John de Prey stayed for a few months with his friend Marcus in Powis Square in Notting Hill. This is the same area made famous in the 1999 film ‘Notting Hill’, but over fifty years ago, it was still a multi-cultural working class area of London.

From 1981 until 2001, I worked as an EMT in the same area, based at the nearby Ambulance Station. I saw it change rapidly during that time.

Hare Krishna devotees in Portobello Road Market. They had a ‘temple’ nearby in an old shop, and used to parade around the area.

These locals didn’t seem very keen on being photographed.

Graffiti on a side wall.

An unenthusiastic busker.

Some elaborately decorated shops in Portobello Road. They tended to sell ‘alternative’ items.

Golbourne Road Market. Many of the traders there sold second-hand goods.

This horse is taking advantage of discarded vegetables in the market to have a snack.

Children having fun in the Antiques section of the market.

This man is selling low-grade meat for consumption by pets.

Many of the items being sold were not of good quality. This potential buyer is inspecting something closely.

A second-hand shoe stall attracting some multi-cultural buyers.

Lyrically Evocative (33)

David Bowie’s 1971 album ‘Hunky Dory’ probably ranks as the one record I have listened to more than any other during my lifetime. It was a “You had to be there” moment, when this amazing album was first released. I know every track by heart, and still enjoy listening to it as much as I did when I was only 19 years old. Fifty years ago!

As I got older though, I resisted change. Even now, small changes to my routine can frustrate and annoy me, and I constantly find myself raging at the need for change in almost every single aspect of daily life.

I forgot what it is to be 19 years old, yearning for change.

But David reminded me, when I listened to this song again last week.

Here are the lyrics, written by him a very long time ago.

David Bowie

Oh, yeah
Still don’t know what I was waitin’ for
And my time was runnin’ wild
A million dead end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
How the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test
Turn and face the strange
Don’t want to be a richer man
Turn and face the strange
There’s gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
Mmm, yeah
I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
And so the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through
Turn and face the strange
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Turn and face the strange
Where’s your shame?
You’ve left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can’t trace time
Strange fascinations fascinate me
Ah, changes are taking
The pace I’m goin’ through
Turn and face the strange
Ooh, look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers
Turn and face the strange
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: David Bowie
Changes lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management, DistroKid

And here he is singing them. Reminding me of the constant need for change.

Just Been Watching… (118)

The Beguiled (2017)

***No Spoliers***

Just got around to watching this, which I had saved on my PVR. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a remake of the original 1971 film by Don Siegel, that starred Clint Eastwood.

Adapted from a novel of the same name, it is set during the US Civil War, in 1864. In war-torn Virginia, only a few girls remain at an academy for young ladies. Still being taught, and working the land to survive, they hope to see out the war safely, by staying in seclusion. Then one day, the youngest girl is searching for mushrooms in the woods, and comes across a wounded Union soldier. Despite him being an enemy, she takes pity on him, and helps him back to the school.

His arrival among the girls and two older women teachers causes a stir. At first they think to hand him over to Confederate patrols, but the novelty of having a man in the old plantation house makes the owner change her mind. She tends his wounds instead, and allows him to stay locked in a room until he has recovered enough to become a prisoner of war. The mixed ages of the women and girls means we see a range of emotions toward the man. From the repressed sexuality of the older lonely women, the curiousity of the pubescent younger girls, and the youngest one who looks upon him as an older brother.

The scene is set for a dangerous mix of passions to explode in the closed atmosphere of the school.

Director Sophia Coppola offers us a muted colour palette, a real sense of the summer heat in Virginia, and glances and nuances that betray the desire of the females, and their Union prisoner too. The casting is first-rate, with Colin Farrell as the Irishman who no longer wants to fight, seeing an easy life is possible by staying shut away with the women and girls. The owner of the school is played by Nicole Kidman with her usual flair, and the excellent Kirsten Dunst shines as the sexually-repressed woman who lusts after contact with the handsome man. The other girls in the cast capture the mood of the 19th century very well, and as each one encounters the man during his stay, they manage to perfectly convey their change in attitude to him.

As he grows stronger, and is able to mix with them, the soldier begins to take advantage of his unusual situation, and things build to a satisfying climax. All of this is packed into a suitably short running time that never stretches to boredom, or uses ‘fillers’. It sounds good, doesn’t it? And it is.

But, there’s a big BUT.

The whole thing is pretty much a scene by scene remake of the original 1971 film. In that one, Eastwood plays the soldier as a more sleazy and opportunistic character, and we always know his intentions. The women in that first film are less attractive too, explaining to some extent why they so easily succumb to his charms. Siegel gives us a more lurid film, as suits the story, and the sense of overwhelming repressed desire is better handled too.

In short, the remake was completely unnecessary. (They usually are) And the original, in my opinion, is a more satisfying film.

Many others don’t agree with me, I know. That’s up to them.

One Film, Three versions: The Omega Man

In 1971, I went to see an unusual science fiction film starring Charlton Heston. It was about a man, Robert Neville, who thinks is the lone survivor of a biological warfare accident that has killed off human life on Earth. He spends his days driving around, going to watch the same film in a cinema, and helping himself to anything he needs from the deserted shops of Los Angeles. But he has to be back home by nightfall, as the city is also home to plague-affected survivors known as The Family. They cannot cope in daylight, but at night they constantly try to attack Neville, and he has fortified his home against them.

In his comfortable house, Neville plays chess against himself, and tries to keep his mind active, to prevent going insane with loneliness. He relies on generators for power, keeping his house well lit against attack, and has a large supply of weapons to use to defend himself against the marauding Family members. One day, he finds another person, a young woman unaffected by the plague, and she tells him of a group of others that live outside the city. He was one of the doctors who worked on the original vaccination against the contagion, so decides to replicate the drug, to help the group of young people survive.

This was imaginative and exciting, and despite Heston’s usual rather wooden style, he was ideally suited for the role, with his strong physique, and determined nature. The Family, led by Anthony Zerbe, are quite scary, and suitably obsessed with destroying Neville, as well as all the technology that they blame for the apocalyptic event. Set pieces are very good, but the star of the film is the deserted streets, empty shops, and the ghostly, eerie atmosphere that comes across so well.

I later found out that this was a remake. The second adaptation of the novel, ‘I am Legend’, published in 1954. The first film had been called ‘The Last Man On Earth’, released in 1964. and starring Vincent Price. But I hadn’t seen that film, and still haven’t.

In 2007, a second remake was released, now called ‘I Am Legend’, like the book, it starred Will Smith as Neville, the ‘last man’, and the story is much the same. Though Neville now lives in New York, has a dog, and The Family are known as ‘The Darkseekers’. Of course, it benefits from modern technology like green screens and CGI, so some very nice effects are delivered as a result. But that polish makes it feel flat, and less affecting as far as I am concerned. And Will Smith only ever plays Will Smith, so we knew what to expect.
I still like the 1971 film, and I am sticking with that, until I see the Vincent Price version.

One film, two versions: Get Carter

In 1971, Michael Caine starred in what is arguably one of his best-ever roles, as the gangster Jack Carter, in Mike Hodges’ gripping. British thriller. Set and filmed on location in the grimy industrial landscape of North-East England, the story follows London-based Jack returning to the town of his youth, after the death of his brother. Once there, he discovers a web of corruption, based around a seedy world of pornography and prostitution manipulated by a local crime lord. With his suspicions about the supposedly accidental death of his brother confirmed, he is further horrified to find that his young niece was also used in sex films, and embarks on a personal quest to exact revenge from everyone concerned.

Meanwhile, his London gang boss wants him back, and to stop him interfering in the workings of the criminal underworld in that part of the country. He sends some henchmen to get him to return, and very soon Jack is being hunted by both sides.

This is a cracking thriller, with Caine at the top of his game as the unstoppable Carter. Everything is just right, from the authentic locations to the script, and the supporting cast too. Ian Hendry, John Osborne, Britt Ekland, as well as George Sewell and Glyn Edwards, all do their jobs well. There are the first film roles for both the excellent Alun Armstrong, and well-known TV actress Dorothy White, and a memorable performance from Bryan Mosely as Brumby. Completely convincing, and forty-seven years after it was released, still one of my favourite British films.

But they couldn’t leave well enough alone, and in 2000 the film was remade, starring Sylvester Stallone as Carter. What follows is more or less a straight remake, with some modern tweaks to put the story into the new century. As usual, the cast is A-list heavy. As well as Stallone, there is Miranda Richardson, Mickey Rourke, and Alan Cumming. Even Michael Caine shows up, this time playing Brumby. (Then again, he was never an actor embarrassed to ‘take the money’) The setting is changed of course, with the American Carter now a Las Vegas gangster, returning to his brother’s funeral in Seattle. All the names used are the same, and the revenge plot more or less identical. So, what was the point? The critics were not amused, and the audiences stayed away too, despite the box-office appeal of Stallone.

Better to watch the 1971 film again, and save yourselves a waste of time.

Significant Songs (194/195)

American Pie/ Vincent

I don’t often feature two songs from one singer, but these are two great songs, and are from the same album. In 1971, American Don McClean released his second album, ‘American Pie’. It got a lot of attention, and was loved by critics and record buyers equally. The two hit singles released from it both got to the top ten, and were popular all over the world.

I never bought the album then, and never have since. But I bought both of these unusual and compelling singles, and still enjoy hearing them forty-seven years later. ‘American Pie’ was unique. An amazing tribute to modern music and American history, with unusual construction, great lyrics, and also very well performed by Don. Despite being unusually long for a single, (8:30) it got played on the radio in its entirety by every radio station around at the time. It was covered by Madonna in 2000, and a new audience was introduced to the genius of this special song.

The next huge hit from the album was another unusual song, a tribute to the artist Vincent Van Gogh. I couldn’t think of anyone who had written a ballad about an artist before, and it seemed to be an unlikely subject. But what a song! I never met anyone who didn’t like it, and we all strangely related to it, even without knowing why. McClean had something special as a songwriter, I was left in no doubt of that.

Don is still working, writing and performing. He may never have maintained the world-wide fame he had following these two songs, but he has loyal fans, and his wonderful songs have endured for decades.

Retro Review: The Last Valley (1971)

***No spoilers***

Very few films have been set during the Thirty Years War that ravaged Europe from 1618-1648. I can only think of two, and this is one of them. But it is not really about that war, although it features a short battle scene. It is about what people will do survive, in a land ravaged by not only war, but the Black Death too. A time when wandering bands of fierce mercenaries were paid to fight for one religion or another, and would change sides for a better offer. It is also about the hypocrisy of religion, and how old beliefs and customs came to be associated with witchcraft, during an era dominated by opposing faiths.

Vogel, a wandering teacher, (Omar Sharif) is fleeing the pestilence and combat consuming the country. By chance, he discovers a fertile valley, and a village inhabited by prosperous and suspicious villagers with little knowledge of life outside their idyllic existence. Meanwhile, a mixed bag of mercenaries and deserters, led by a man known only as ‘The Captain’, (Michael Caine) is heading in the same direction, stopping on the way to kill, rape, and steal anything they can find. Vogel is taken in by the reluctant villagers, for fear he would tell on them if he was sent away.

When The Captain and his men finally stumble across the village, it seems the fate of everyone is sealed. But the clever Vogel steps in, persuading the village headman (Nigel Davenport) and The Captain to reach an agreement. The soldiers will protect the village from outsiders for the winter, and in return, they will supply women to service the sexual needs of the men, and provide adequate food and shelter for them all. An uneasy truce is declared, but tensions remain high, especially as summer approaches, and some of the soldiers feel they should return to the army.

This film shows its age now, but not in a bad way. Despite its ‘epic’ status, and big-name cast, it feels more like a Hammer film at times, especially during the parts concerning witchcraft. The supporting cast is on form too, with hunky Michael Gothard impressive as a baddie, and the scene-chewing Brain Blessed relishing an all-too short role. You also get the British actor Jack Shepherd, and the Greek actor Yorgo Voyagis as Pirelli. Throw in some more international stalwarts, and there is something for everyone, in a film destined to be shown all over the world. Female desire is dealt with by the inclusion of Florinda Bolkan, and Madeline Hinde. Direction and writing is in good hands too, with the experienced James Clavell.

One word of warning, and it’s not a spoiler. Michael Caine adopts a strange German accent throughout the film. Not his best choice, in my opinion.
That said, this is hugely enjoyable, and very different.
The trailer is almost as good as the film!