Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Big Wheel

The Attractions had disbanded (Elvis Costello had moved on musically) before Bruce Thomas, their bass player, wrote this memoir, mainly reflecting life on the road. He's an intelligent writer (no ghost writer needed here) with a wry sense of humour, and the book meanders back and forth with a string of anecdotes that will as often as not bring a smile to your face. Sadly it didn't bring a smile to EC's face though (maybe the revelation that Elvis had to go out to the toilet 6 times each night before going on stage had something to do with it), so when Warner Brother records forced an Attractions reunion on him the atmosphere was more than strained. But that lies beyond the timespan of this book which, although somewhat slight, makes for a very good read.

I wish I could say the same for 'Papa John', another rock memoir I read recently. Lots of anecdotes here too, but every one of them involves drugs and John Phillips comes over as the most dislikeable person. He does use a ghost writer which is a shame, because the lyrics to his songs with the Mamas and Papas showed that he was a very articulate man, and this book could not have been any worse than this depressing 'autobiography'. John Phillips is dead now, and 'Papa John' is thankfully out of print. 'The Big Wheel' is out of print too, but it's not too difficult to find a copy. Best tale in it? For me it would have to be the one where he accompanies an Irishman to collect a (very large) stock of secondhand Wellington boots in his (pre-fame) group's ageing van.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

A day in the darkroom

As wonderful as digital photography is, I don't think that there is any substitute for silver halide and celluloid when it comes to black & white photography, particularly when you do your own developing and printing. I've been out and about shooting film the last few mornings and I've spent most of today in my 'darkroom' (a blacked-out bathroom actually) processing the film and making prints. And I'm pleased with the results.

Nothing ever quite takes away the thrill as you see the image appear on the paper in front of your eyes; it still seems like magic. So why the picture of the camera? Well, I've had it for 35 years now - it's a very early (non-motordrive) OM, and it's never let me down; a reminder of just how wonderful a camera made from little other than metal and glass can be. The dictum that form follows function is ably illustrated by the mechanical SLR, particularly with the wonderfully brutish, indestructible Nikon F, but Olympus produced a design masterpiece of their own with the OM-1, a camera which in size and ease of use matched the Leica rangefinder; and which achieved a glorious and perfectly balanced aesthetic in it's design that was a satisfying counterbalance to that of the Nikon.

And most of all my OM-1 (no. 167667) is here because it's a friend; trusty and reliable. Mr Maitani, thank you.