The Cupboard of Indie Nonsense: Sexless things

Older readers may remember one of Madonna’s (many) memorable moments. One that saw her letting it all hang out all over the shop.

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In 1992, Madonna released her coffee tables tome entitled ‘Sex’. It consisted mostly of Madonna hanging about the place in the scud, with famous snappers taking photos of her. The tabloids were horrified and a reviewer in Spin magazine declare that Madonna was “…becoming the human equivalent of the  Energizer Bunny”*

Most of the people I knew were mildly amused for about 5 minutes but not especially bothered one way or another.  One person I knew, Sean Forbes from Rough Trade, AKA Big Sean, and his band of merry men, responded with a style and panache rarely seen in indie-land.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Wat Tyler’s ‘Sexless’.

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Wat Tyler was one of those eighties/nineties punk bands that played crusty places like Club Dog at the George Robey and bounced about on various labels releasing whatever they fancied without seeming to bother their heads about what the rest of he music biz was doing.

Released in 1993, ‘Sexless’ saw Wat Tyler picking up the gauntlet thrown down by Madge, giving it a sniff, and wiping their bums with it. And then, probably, giving it another sniff. It consists of a booklet of ‘erotic’ images paying homage to her Madge, and a 7″ single.

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Madonna’s original was made with aluminium covers with the name stamped in it, giving it a high end, hard edged, somewhat fetishistic feel.  Each book reportedly utilised a pound of aluminium resulting in a $100+ price tag.

Indie bands, and indie fans, just can’t run to that kind of money so, as a token, each release contained a little piece of tin foil with a hand-written message. Mine says “Brown love”. I’m just going to assume that that’s rude.

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So what’s inside?

Madonna’s book featured the lady herself in a state of undress and in a range  increasingly provocative poses. Working fetish looks, exploring erotic fantasies, and simulating sexual acts of all kinds. Madge was joined by her, then, beau, Vanilla Ice and a cast of famous supermodels, socialites, porn stars, and other assorted publicity-hungry types. But where were the Wat Tyler lads going to find models willing to strip off and stand about in the street having their pictures taken? For no money?

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Oh!

Where Madonna’s publication revelled in shiny, stylish, stylized erotica, Wat Tyler were a bit more…earthy.

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One of the images was later released on a picture disc so you could watch it going round and round, but I don’t have that (I don’t think so anyway).

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I don’t know how Sean feels about this now, but I think it’s a masterpiece from a Master Piss-taker.

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*This image is from the Wiki entry for Madonna’s Sex. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_(book)

The Cupboard of Indie Nonsense: 7″ of fun

The Cupboard of Indie Nonsense is being reopened following a special request from my pal Dave.

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As the core business of Indie Nonsense is indie music, I’m going to put on display a few of the oddities and rarities that The Cupboard contains.

I was having a chat with a couple of pals a while back about, among other things, the silly money that some records and band memorabilia go for on ebay. I haven’t looked up prices for any of these because it just makes me roll my eyes but I do know that collectors can get a bit ‘keen’ for some of this sort of stuff. These are not for sale.

Anyone who has ever read this blog will know that I’m a bit of a Loop fan, so I’m starting with a little bit of Loop-related nonsense. First up, The Field Mice.

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This vinyl flexi-disc (BULL 4-0) is The Field Mice’s celebrated cover version of Loop’s ‘Burning World’. A classic.

Being a flexi-disc puts it in the category of REALLY indie nonsense. Flexi-discs are, unsurprisingly, thin, flexible little 7″ records* which were often given away with magazines and fanzines or sold for about 50p at gigs.

This one is extra-indie because it’s clear vinyl.

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Incidentally, in the making of this post, I’ve discovered that I’ve actually got three of these! Random.

Here’s another Loop-related disc, only this time, it’s the boys themselves.

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This hard vinyl disc, Sniffin Rock #8 (SR005A7), was given away with Sniffin Rock magazine in 1989 and contains 3 tracks; ‘Pulse’ by Loop, ‘For Dude’ by Gaye Bykers On Acid and the delightfully entitled  ‘Wanking In The Bog’ by The Abs.

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As the wonderful Teenage Fanclub are currently on tour, wowing audiences up and down the country, I’d decided to include a few little nuggets of Fanny nonsense here but then I realized that I’ve got loads of TFC 7″, so I might do a whole separate post of those. Here is just one goodie to finish with.

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This song, ‘Everybody’s Fool’ is the final track on the Fannies’ first album ‘A Catholic Education’ (PAPLP004) and it contains the classic lyrics “‘I don’t fucking care, what clothes you wear, you’re still fucking square”.

It was also released as a 7″ in 1990, backed with ‘Primary Education’ and ‘Speeder’ (OLE 007-7).

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In late 1990, Teenage Fanclub were touring with Gumball and did this hilariously good fun free gig on a Saturday afternoon at Rough Trade, Covent Garden. So I had my record signed by the band and by BMX Bandits guru Duglas T Stewart.  I actually have a photo of this historic moment.

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But wait, there’s one signature missing. Where’s Raymond? I’ve no idea. Maybe he wasn’t there that afternoon (he isn’t in any of my photos).

Still, this is a prized possession and the splodgy-evil-grin-Norman-face in the top right of the front cover, and across the back cover, was replicated on another prized possession; the corresponding badge.

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If I ever lost these badges, I would cry so hard.

More nonsense indie records next time.

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*other sizes are available.

Teenage Fanclub and Friends

Christmas 1990.

At The Venue in New Cross, we celebrated the season with music, booze, fun, booze, youthful hijinks, booze and spray snow. And booze.

Teenage Fanclub played with a range of pals including the BMX Bandits, The Pastels, Primal Scream, Robert Hampson (from Loop), Eugene Kelly and the amazing Duglasettes (AKA Chantelle in the silver dress).

This is one of those nights that I thought I’d imagined. I had a vague recollection of Teenage Fanclub playing with Loop but that just sounded so unlikely. And then I found the photos.

The image quality is universally terrible because the photos were taken by a drunk person with a crappy disposable camera. The venue also seems to have been incredibly smokey. Or maybe the film is fogged. Or both. Probably both.

 

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Caution: may contain #wallporn

I was in France again last weekend and it was heritage weekend;  Journées européennes du patrimoine. I was staying in Angers (for Levitation France) but, as always, I was looking out for places to visit, places of a Roman persuasion, and I found a cracker.
About 100km north of Angers is the small village of Jublains. Jublains may be small but it is built directly on top of a Roman civitasNoviodunanum, so there are lots of fantastic standing remains as well as a Roman museum.
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This being the case, it was a prime target on the list. Unfortunately, as is the way with small rural villages, getting there by public transport is fiendish. Nevertheless, where’s there’s a will (and BlaBlaCar), there’s a way.
I arrived at the north end of the village where there are the remains of a large temple and sanctuary. 
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The lower courses of the porticoed peribolus (courtyard) wall survive, along with some traces of the supporting buttresses, a pool in an external annex and traces of the western gate.
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Inside the peribolus is the temple itself, which was reached via steps up. The stone and brick-work remains to a greater height and it’s possible to make out the platform and the internal cela where the rituals were performed.
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Excavations at the temple site suggest that this may have been the location of an earlier, La Tène ritual site, although evidence is relatively scant. There were no inscriptions relating to the Roman temple found but here was an abundance of ritually deposited fibulae and pipe-clay Venus figurines, along with fragments of a pipe-clay seated mother goddess
It seems that the local council is keen to promote its claim to fame, the extensive Roman remains, and ensure that they are as accessible as possible (to car drivers in any case), as there is a walking trail throughout the village, making all the visible archaeology very easy to find. Parts of the route follow the roads of the Roman town’s grid street-plan.
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There are workshops in the artisanal quarter.
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These may represent some of the earliest settlers in the Roman town, possibly dating from the Augustan period.
There are the remains of a bathhouse under the church, although only the frigidarium (cold room) is accessible.
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In the centre, the impluvium (pool) is beautifully lined with schist tiles, many of which are still intact.
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The church was actually built out of the bathhouse, utilising the walls and parts of the foundations.
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A few steps away from the church are the remains of two theatres, built into a natural slope.
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The earlier, first-century theatre (in red below) was roughly circular with internal semi-circular buttresses. The second theatre (in black below), built on the same site, is a d-shaped layout with regular cavea (seating sections) and scalae (stairways).
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As part of the heritage weekend, a production of Aeschylus’ Suppliants was being performed at the theatre and my visit coincided with some last-minute preparations.
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And so to the largest and most striking Roman structure in the village.
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It looks for all the world like a Saxon Shore Fort but we’re nowhere near the coast. It’s enormous and well-built, and yet Jublains spent much of its history as a bit of a back-water, relatively under-populated for much of the Roman period and superseded by Le Mans. It’s so random.

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The site is actually a little less square than the model but you get the idea.

The layout, from the outside in, involves a thick outer wall with regular external bastions, an earthen bank and ditch (only the bank is visible today), an inner fortified building with corner towers, and two bathhouses.

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Here is part of the external wall. Look at this #wallporn! And it’s positively bastion-tastic!

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The site was built over the period of about a century, with the internal buildings dating from the early third-century, followed by the inner earthwork, probably from the late third-century, and finally the outer rampart, which dates from the end of the third-/early fourth-century. The purpose seems to have been altered during this time with it finally functioning as a fortified storage enclosure, possibly a military supply depot. The defenses were probably a response to the invasions by Germanic tribes in the 270s.

The external wall, with bastions, is faced primarily with rectangular/sub-square blocks, as you’d expect, but, weirdly, there are also these shaped and interlocking blocks.

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These don’t look like most of  the Roman #wallporn you see around so I can’t offer any particular explanation for them but, in any case, these elements are beautifully well-made.

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The internal structure, which may have been the granary building, features some lovely #portalporn (new #) alongside the #wallporn.

Excavations continue in Jublains, so this is a developing story.

Go visit.

What happens in Konstantinopel stays in Konstantinopel *

The fifth- and sixth-centuries CE was a period of enormous change in the Roman empire. In the west, pressure from Visigoths and Huns hastened the end of imperial rule, Rome was no longer the centre of ‘Rome’ as, in the eastern empire, Constantinople (previously called Bysantium and Nova Roma (New Rome)) grew in importance, influence and wealth following its enrichment and enlargement by  the Emperor Septimius Severus and, later, the Emperor Constantine. In this large, bustling city, opportunities for entertainment were plentiful and the most important site, both socially and politically, was the hippodrome.

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Horse racing in the ancient world was enormously popular, even more so than the gladiatorial combats and beast hunts held in the amphitheatres, and Constantinople’s Hippodrome was large enough to hold audiences of around 100,000 people. As was the case with the staging of gladiatorial games and beast hunts in the Colosseum, the events held in Constantinople’s Hippodrome were important politically as well as socially, and provided the opportunity for the populous to connect directly with the Emperor.

Unsurprisingly, gambling on the horses was always a big part of the fun. At the Bode Museum on Museum Island in Berlin is this fascinating object, purportedly found somewhere near the Hippodrome, and acquired by the Bode Museum in 1891. It’s a racing-themed gambling machine!

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I spent ages looking at its features to work out how it would have worked.

There’s a zig-zag slope from the top to the bottom, with a groove running along the edge of it, suggesting that there was a wall running along it. At various points along the slope there are holes, some of which go all the way through to the next level down, some of which don’t.

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Balls, would be rolled down the slope in a race, mimicking the races in the Hippodrome. It’s like a penny-in-the-slot arcade game. The machine is decorated with images of horse-racing and, especially, winning, to encourage those good feelings that help to loosen the purse-strings.

On the two side panels are scenes from the hippodrome.

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Here (above) is the start of the race. At the top, men carry a banner while musicians play pipes.

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Below this is a scene from the race preparations. In order to decide which team would race in which lane, coloured balls corresponding to the colours of the teams would be spun in a sort of tombola and be dropped out into the receptacle beneath.

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Along the bottom the charioteer whips his team on. At each corner is one of the conical posts, called the metae, which mark the turning points.

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The other side shows the end of the race.

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Again, banner-bearers and musicians are show at the top. Below this is the winning charioteer, displaying his winner’s garland to the admiring lady up at the window.

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And along the bottom, the winner crosses the line with his whip help up in celebration.

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And this is what a champion horse look like. Look at those ears!

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Of the museums that I visited on Museum Island, the Bode seemed to be the least busy. It’s right at the northern end of the island and, perhaps, doesn’t have the big draws of, say, the more famous Pergamon Museum. The ongoing renovations also cut it off a little from some of the other museums. Nevertheless, the Bode is really worth a visit as it has a lovely collection of late antique and medieval artefacts, and the building itself is worth seeing too.

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* The is the German spelling of Constantinople.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippodrome_of_Constantinople

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/circusmaximus/bode.html

 

Hidden Arlon

Secret places are the best. Even if they’re not really all that secret. Anything that takes just a little more effort to go beyond the ordinary is just better. It just is.

So, If I find myself in Arlon, in the Luxemburg region of Belgian, hurrying to an appointment with a nice lady called Suzette, who is from the tourist office. Hurrying because the bus took ages and my legendarily terrible sense of direction has lead me round in circles trying to find the office. All’s well that ends well though, and having met Suzette, we set off to have a look at the ‘not really hidden but you need someone with the key’ history of Arlon.

The first of two sights on the ‘hidden’ list is one of the towers of the Roman city wall, known as Tour Jupiter. This was discovered when the owner of the house on the site was doing some works and stumbled across it. Excavations were carried out in 1948.

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It consists of part of the wall and tower built in the late third-century.

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The wall seems to have been built in response to incursions by hostile Germanic neighbours, and the tombs and funerary monuments of earlier townspeople were fair game as building material (as is so often the way). This has lead to the survival and recovery of many pieces of carved stonework, some of them very fine and in great condition. Many of the pieces have been removed to the local museum (more of which later) but some pieces proved impossible to remove without compromising the stability of the wall. This is where it gets really good.

I’m already underground, but in order to see a couple of the best bits, I had to go further, down the ladder to the level of the wall foundations and actually crawl into a small space under the wall (I can literally feel your envy right now😀 ).

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The view under the wall. A bit wobbly as I had my mobile (with torch) in one hand and camera in the other, whilst trying to crawl under a wall!

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And here are two of the nicest carved pieces.

The ‘Neptune stone’ with the god in profile, with a billowing robe and his tell-tale trident.

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Medusa the Gorgon, here with long flowing locks as well as snakes.

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The second tower, Tour Jupiter, is, as so often seems to be the case these days, in a car park.

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During the construction of a new home for elderly residents in 2009, this section of wall with its tower was unearthed. The decision was taken to preserve it in-situ and it can be seen at any time through the glass doors.

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If you know someone with the key, you get a better view.

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Again, earlier Roman gravestones and altars have been co-opted as foundation stones. A little bit if ferreting turns up this carved hand, with, possible a face on the other face of the block.

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This Jupiter stone was also turned up in the foundations. Here, the god is depicted in the form of Jupiter Caelus, the sky god.

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This carving was originally painted, and there are still traces of a red pigment visible.

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After seeing the towers, Suzette showed my several other sites and features of Arlon but, for the purposes of this blog, I’m going to stick to Roman Arlon and skip forward to the town’s museum, The Archaeological Institute of Luxembourg.

The museum contains the single example of an inscription bearing the Roman name of the town, Orolaunum Vicus.

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This museum is also home to an impressive collection of the many stone altars and funerary monuments found in Arlon. Here is a small selection.

After the museum, I walked down to have a look at the remains of the 4th century bathhouse.

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This site is gated but  free to access, and has been the site for the Roman bathhouse, and for an early basilica in the 5th century, and was used as a cemetery site until the 19th century.

It’s quite overgrown but you can see some of the walls and there is an information board to help to make sense of the site.

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There is also a cover-building with the remains of the bathhouse.

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If you happen to be in Luxembourg (the country) or southern Belgium, Arlon is really well worth a visit. Contact the Tourist Office in advance about visiting the Roman Towers –  visite.arlon@gmail.com . They’re very helpful.

There is a very useful tourism website here: http://www.arlon-tourisme.be/uk_region.php?variable=arlon%7CRegion%7CArlon%7Cuk 

The Land of Fire and Ice 2: Harpa

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One of the most prominent buildings in Reykjavik is the Harpa concert hall.

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Sited by the old harbour, on the waterfront, the building was designed by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson.

The design is supposed to reflect aspects of Iceland’s natural landscapes and colours. The glass panels are shaped and coloured to suggest fish-scales.

The dark-coloured interior, with black walls and the hexagonal reflective panels on the ceiling, echo the basalt rock columns and dramatic black sand beaches of many of the coastal areas of the island.

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The construction was started in 2007 but was pretty well abandoned as a result of the 2008 financial crash. Eventually, the Icelandic government decided to fund the completion of the concert hall, although not of the additional elements of the development that had originally been planned (apartments, shops, a luxury hotel and banking headquarters).

The site is now a landmark buildings and it’s free to go in and have a look.

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