Metal & Ink / Beard & Kink

 

Ah, hipsters…don’t you just love ’em?  Apart from drinking out of jam jars (honestly, what’s wrong with just using a plain glass?), riding around on absurd bikes, and overly ostentatiously having a love for vinyl, they’re seriously hirsute and seem to take their grooming cues from the latest series of Vikings, and like to show off their very visible animal tattoos. 

 

They are the ones who globally embrace Movember, supposedly “for charity”, but really because they just love any excuse to manscape. Yes, they are the ones with waxed beards, ‘taches and sideburns, tattooed from head to toe, and invariably accompanied with various body-piercings (private or otherwise).  And with it, they like to scream “I am a hipster.  Hear me roar.” 

 

They also like wearing statements on their (almost always) goth-like black apparel, whether that be t-shirts or hoodies, the latest craze being “Metal & Ink / Beard & Kink”, as spotted here on Glasgow’s Viccy Road.

 

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This is practically on my doorstep on Victoria Road (more affectionately known to all as the “Viccy Road”), the main artery of Govanhill – easily the most racially and culturally diverse communities in Scotland, a district on the south side of Glasgow, home to some 15,000 souls, with people from an estimated 42 different nationalities all living and managing to coexist with each other within one square mile.

 

Here, you’ll find two mosques, one synagogue, and about half a dozen churches.  Its boundaries are narrow yet its horizons are broad, with community action having a long tradition in the area. On May Day, 1960, thousands marched along the Viccy Road to Queen’s Park demanding better housing, led by Paul Robeson, the radical American civil rights activist, who sang Ole Man River for them.

 

And this year proved a special one for the community, as the same venue hosted recently the inaugural Govanhill International Carnival, a new addition to the UK-wide summer festival circuit – and to help its launch, it also included a music festival that ran alongside the main carnival, and the political speeches coming from Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

 

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It’s impossible to swing a guitar in the Glasgow streets without knocking over a busker or two! Buskers have become as much a staple of the High Street on a Saturday as over-spending with performers of all shapes, sizes and styles delighting shopping crowds with their own acoustic efforts or their unique take on classic pop and rock songs.

 

And perhaps paying homage to the city’s busking scene, there now comes “The Glasgow Busker”, one of the latest top-notch permanent murals located on Sauchiehall Lane from Rogue One, the Glasgow-based aerosol artist who’s forever brightening the streets of our city with his wonderful work, and features in today’s photo.

 

In recent years, though, there’s a trend for even famous singers going undercover as buskers and performing to the public. And I can tell you where this trend is first thought to have originated from – right here in Glasgow, back in 1976, and by no less a figure than the fabled Canadian singer/songwriter that is Neil Percival Young!

 

Young and his backing group Crazy Horse were playing the last gig of their European tour at the Glasgow Apollo – never forgotten, but alas sadly now long, long gone – and his record company had hired a local camera crew to film his arrival in Glasgow from London and to cover the last gig of their hugely successful tour.  But with hours to kill before the gig, and not to mention being ever so heavily stoned out of his mind (Hey man, it was the ’70s…), Young came up with the wheeze of going incognito onto the streets with a long scarf and a deerstalker with the intention of just flopping down outside the entrance to Glasgow’s Central Station to strum away with his banjo and harmonica, just to see if anyone would recognise him.

 

Understandably, David Peat’s footage and his story behind Neil Young surreptitiously busking in Glasgow has since gone into rock folklore; and it also became something of a sensation when the footage resurfaced for the first time a few years back, as it went viral after it was posted on YouTube.

 

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The latest commercial advertisement campaign from the trendy folks at Diesel on the hustle and bustle of Glasgow’s Buchanan Street took a distinctly political slant recently by encouraging consumers to “Make Love Not Walls”, as it promoted its new Spring/Summer 2017 collection by taking a pop at President Trump’s plans to erect a border wall with Mexico.

 

It strikes me as never a good sign for any politician when a High Street fashion outlet has a go at you that proves popular – and it comes at a timely moment just as Trump approached his JFK milestone mark of 100 days in office. And this wasn’t the only Glasgow outlet I noticed having a pop at “The Donald”. 

 

This week the momentous occasion was also commemorated at the Ubiquitous Chip’s wee bar in Ashton Lane – off Byers Road in the city’s west end – with an update to its revered cocktail list of a new drink called “Letter to America”.  Below the title came the very Glaswegian explanation: “Yer Maw Was An Immigrant, Ya Absolute Roaster”.

 

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According to a new research study, it seems that the traditional fish and chip shop is taking a veritable “battering” and could make a shock disappearance from British streets – and all because those pesky, dietary-savvy millennials are shunning deep fried food in favour of more exotic takeaways.

 

Fish and chips are now deemed “out of touch” with modern times (but no doubt Nigel Farago and Ukip will somehow blame all this on the EU), and burger bars – even high-end, boutique burgers for the hipster clientele, such as Meathammer Ltd., located in oh-so-trendy Byres Road in Glasgow’s West End – are cashing in on this market with lighter takeaway menus that come replete with salads for those that like to adhere to the strict five-a-day regime.

 

Growing up in early 1970s Kirkintilloch, it was the ‘Chippies’ that ruled supreme in an era when “five-a-day” would often amount to your daily fried food intake, not forgetting to include a tasty dessert of the Scottish invention of a deep fried Mars Bar. And in those innocent artery-clogging times, we even had dear old departed Bert Schiavone’s mobile fish and chip van – a fire hazard on wheels, as he often called it – that toured the scheme, just like an ice-cream van.

 

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From one music legend to another, as we neatly segue from recently-departed Chuck Berry to long-gone Bob Marley, who came to fame with a juxtaposing rivalry during the rise of punk in the mid-1970s here in the UK. And Top of the Pops often took on a surreal feeling on a Thursday evening during this period as Marley, with his poetic words and rhythmic melodies, was often pitted against the mayhem, nihilism, and constantly gobbing Sex Pistols.

 

And last week, the reggae legend’s life was set to his own soundtrack, as ‘One Love: The Bob Marley Musical‘, written and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, opened to good reviews at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and now looks set for a London West End run and talks of it being turned into a movie.  This is the first musical of Marley’s life and features his greatest songs, including No Woman No Cry, Exodus, One Love, Jamming etc. 

 

The musical tells the story of a man propelled from rising reggae star to global icon, and is mostly set around the time when Marley’s beloved homeland of Jamaica is on the brink of civil war, and he’s called to unite his people as only he can with his music and his message of love and peace – and, as you do, he almost ends up being assassinated in the process!

 

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Lunchtime on Great Western Road, just off Byres Road in Glasgow’s trendy West End; outside three young  ladies rush from their place of employ to join students and theatre-goers as they head for the Òran Mór nightclub space, where there’s barely bum space to be found, as yet another packed audience, having picked up said sustenance of pies and pints, squeeze into their seats to watch the opening performance of this week’s new play, the fourth of 13 in the current 26th season.

 

It’s thirteen years now since the Wildcat theater veteran, the late David MacLennan launched his stunningly simple concept of A Play, a Pie & a Pint in the converted church at the heart of Glasgow’s West End, that’s been hailed as ‘one of the most magical theater initiatives of the last decade.’

 

Sadly, MacLennan died in 2013, but he left his legacy to the city and the arts’ world with his legendary lunchtime activity, where workers could spend their break-time with a cheap pint and a pie along with a fix of culture in the form of a short afternoon play – and the Play, Pie & Pint phenomenon has now taken off in different cities around the world.

 

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Here in Glasgow, mention “Tron” and it’s not so much the Disney futuristic sci-fi movie starring Jeff Bridges you’ll get for the answer, but one of the city’s oldest and most famous landmarks; a very eclectic place richly steeped – or should that be steepled? – in history.

 

Since a church was first built on the site in 1529, the eye-catching Tron Steeple has marked both Catholic and Protestant churches, a place of execution, a meeting hall, a police station…and, of course, nowadays, the Tron Theatre, one of Glasgow’s best-loved theaters.

 

But the steeple is the only remnants left from a club night of drunken bravado you would have thought had come straight from a Blackadder script.  In 1793, Glasgow’s notorious Hellfire Club more than lived up to its name by setting the Tron building on fire in an effort to see which members could – literally – best stand the heat!  

 

All was destroyed save for the steeple, which was incorporated into a replacement structure by the architects, James and Robert Adam that stands on the corner of Trongate and Chisholm Street, in the Merchant City – and still the basis for the beloved Tron as it exists today.

 

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The Skull is the companion piece to the Cherub mentioned in the previous blog, and the pair of bronze sculptures, powder-coated with gold, designed by Kenny Hunter, can be seen on opposite corners of Glasgow’s Tron Theatre. They form a single work: Cherub/Skull – and the skull is the one not so well known, as its hidden in its little niche on the much quieter Parnie Street.

 

But for me, this is the one I always go out of my way to walk past when I’m in town, as looking up to this image brings back memories of being a kid in the early 1970s and that wonderful ’Don’t Watch Alone’ series, the title created by Scottish Television that covered all those horror movies shown on a Friday night, starting at 11pm. It was my first introduction to those atmospheric old black and white Universal, RKO and also colour-infused Hammer Horror classics that still to this day have remained my favourites.

 

And the reason I always look out for it is my fondness for the underrated and relatively unknown gem I first saw as a 10-year-old, The Skull (adapted from a short story by Robert Bloch, author of Psycho), a wonderful 1965 movie from Amicus, the British horror studio that attempted to rival Hammer Horror.  And The Skull (streaming on Netflix) is a fearsome, finely acted and moody tale of Gothic horror and demonology with a solid cast of British thespians. 

 

The premise is that the skull of the Marquis de Sade has been taken from its grave, bringing terror to those who own it, and it stars those two legendary masters of the macabre, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who team up for the umpteenth time together as occult collectors in this doom-laden shocker – but with the twist being that this is the only movie featuring the gruesome twosome where Cushing plays the bad guy to Lee’s good guy. 

 

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The Tron Theatre is steeped in Glaswegian history. Having stood in the heart of the Merchant City for almost five centuries, it has been a Christian place of worship, a meeting hall, a market, a store house, a police station and a theatre. And walking towards the Trongate, you can’t but help look up and be transfixed by the evil lurks from the cherub that sits on the corner of the main entrance.

 

Cherubs are supposed to be angelic, representing innocent little children singing the praises of God. Not this little guy, he has a distinctly menacing and impish look about him. According to the website of the Merchant City Public Art Trail “the cherub steps confidently forward from an already existing ornate niche in the screen wall, as if about to fly or jump into the bustle below”.

 

This is one of a pair of bronze sculptures – the Cherub and the Skull – powder-coated with gold, installed in 1998 and designed by Kenny Hunter, that sit on opposite corners of the new-build Tron Theatre that refer to the span between childhood and death, suggesting that all human endeavour is reflected within the walls of the theatre.

 

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