Saturday, 4 November 2017

Jean Shrimpton

"I don't live my life through the prism of the past"

The worlds first supermodel, Jean Shrimpton,  began modelling at the age of seventeen and became the muse of one of the top sixties photographers. She popularised the mini skirt, causing a scandal when she appeared in one at the 1965 Melbourne Cup.

Jean Rosemary Shrimpton was born in England, 1942, and brought up on her fathers farm. After a brief stint in secretarial school and a failed screen test it was suggested that she attend an academy for modelling. By the age of seventeen  she was gracing the pages of high fashion magazines. Whilst working for Vogue she was sent on assignment with photographer David Bailey. Bailey's images of her revolutionised fashion photography and he and Jean soon began a relationship. Jean quickly became the most photographed, famous model of the day appearing in all the major magazines and was instrumental in popularising modern clothes and hairstyles. Her relationship with Bailey however was marred by his constant infidelities and she eventually left him for actor Terence Stamp. Jean and Stamp were claimed to be the most photographed couple in swinging London, though Jean later claimed to hate the limelight and confessed she was dissatisfied with her work as a model. In 1965 she and Stamp travelled to Melbourne, Australia, where she caused a scandal by appearing in a white mini dress at the Melbourne Cup. The still conservative Australians were shocked by this youthful way of dress that had become relatively normal in Britain. In 1967 she took a foray into acting, starring alongside singer Paul Jones in the film Privilege.
Known as 'The Shrimp', a name which she hated, Jean gave away modelling in her early thirties. She opened an antiques store and became interested in literature and photography. In 1979 she married photographer Michael Cox with whom she had a son, Thaddeus. In 1990 her ghost written autobiography appeared, she admitted that she had only agreed to it in order to have repairs made on the Abbey Hotel she and her husband owned in Cornwall. Today Jean continues to  manage the hotel with her husband and occasionally gives interviews though she remains reluctant to talk about her past.

Jean's gamine looks did for modelling what Audrey Hepburn's had done for film a decade earlier. 'The Shrimp's' boyish figure and doe eyes were both envied and emulated. Many were amazed at her inherent naturalness in front of the camera. Without Jean there would have been no Twiggy or Penelope Tree. Though Jean's personality was not as accessible as Twiggy's, she was youthful and captivating, bridging a divide between upper and lower classes.

The images David Bailey took of Jean revolutionised fashion photography. Their work reflected a joie-de-vivre present for much of the decade. Fashion was no longer the domain of expressionless models and clinical settings, fashion was now a world of youthful experimentation. Not only fashion photography but fashion itself was catered towards youth and colour. Young women felt they could relate more to these new models from their own worlds and backgrounds.

Jean's ethereal beauty changed the world of modelling forever yet she always knew there was more to life. Her interests were wide ranging and she was determined to keep her private life private. She was always professional in her work but had an air of mystery about her that fascinated the wider public. Jean's work opened up a world of fashion for the young and inspired a generation of young women to pursue their own fashionable dreams.

"I am a melancholy soul. I'm not sure contentment is obtainable and I find the banality of modern life terrifying...But Michael, Thaddeus and the Abbey transformed my life"

Friday, 3 November 2017

Girl Groups: The Shangri-Las

"We were as tough as we needed to be. We had little to no protection on the road, and I usually carried the band's cash. It was a scary time"

The Shangri-Las were unusual in the world of 1960s girl groups. They did not come out of Motown and their songs, whilst catchy, often reflected the darker side of teenage life and relationships. Violence, death and runaways were frequent themes in their songs.

The group was originally made up of sisters Mary and Betty Weiss and twins Mary Ann and Marge Ganser. They formed the group whilst still in high school in their home of Queens, New York, and were signed to a record label the following year, 1964. They had two major hits with, 'Remember (Walking in the Sand)' and 'Leader of the Pack'. They appeared alongside The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and were briefly a trio when Betty left the group in late 1964 to have a baby. Betty left against in 1966 and in the following years both twins left and rejoined, Mary Weiss, the lead singer was the only permanent member. The group eventually broke up for good in 1968, though they briefly reunited in the late seventies.

Owing to the tough neighbourhood they grew up in and their favoured outfits of black pants and shirts, they were known as the bad girls of pop/rock, and often false stories began circulating about their 'tough' escapades. One famous incident found Mary in possession of a pistol, a cautionary measure as they were constantly fending off fans, and despite being teenagers they had no real protection. Still she credits their tough image for protecting them against unwarranted attention from the male bands they toured with.
The group continues to be an influence today and is credited with inspiring punk music. Tragically both Gasner twins have passed away but Mary continues to be involved in music, releasing a solo album in 2007.

"The Shangri-Las were punk before punk existed"

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Anna Karina

"I left home when I was 17...At that age young people can be very brave"

The beautiful Anna Karina became the best known of the French New Wave actresses through her collaborations with husband and director, Jean Luc Godard. She proved to be more than a muse however with her work in film, music and writing.

Hanne Karin Bayer was born in Denmark, 1940. She loved art, singing and dancing, though as a child she struggled with a difficult home life. Eventually she ran away to Paris at the age of seventeen. She started modelling and met Coco Chanel who changed her name to Anna Karina. After staring in a palmolive commercial she was spotted by director Jean Luc Godard. He offered her a film role but as it involved nudity she turned it down. Godard however was very taken with her and eventually cast her in the film Le Petit Soldat. Anna and Godard fell in love and were married in 1961. Professionally their relationship proved fruitful, together they made the films, Une Femme est Une Femme, Pierrot le Fou, Bande à Part, Alphaville and Made in the USA. Personally however Godard was cold and uncaring and following a miscarriage Anna attempted suicide. They divorced in 1967. Despite her personal unhappiness Anna was one of the most popular actresses of the day. She also became a fashion icon. Though her main films of the decade were collaborations with Godard she also stared in La Religieuse and Justine. 
She continues to act and has directed and produced films, she has also written four novels and remains a much loved figure throughout the world, often making appearances to discuss her work and life with Godard.

Whilst Godard's oeuvre was sometimes difficult to understand, Anna's luminosity and fragility made it more accessible to a wider audience. She could be both sensitive and lively, she imbued in her characters a sense of her own spirit. She was dedicated and passionate about her work and throughout her career continued to stretch herself in the roles she took on. She became an icon of the French New Wave and inspired many with her clothing choices, distinctive cats eyes and bangs.

Though she remains best known for being Godard's muse Anna was a talented and creative person in her own right.  She has worked in all areas of the arts including, painting, acting, singing and writing. She worked with some of the most talented people of the 1960s including, Serge Gainsbourg, George Cukor, Roger Vadim, Maurice Ronet and Jacques Rivette. In 1961 she was awarded the Berlin Film Festival's Best Actress award for her work in Une Femme est Une Femme. She also worked in the theatre including the theatrical version of La Religieuse (she would also go onto to star in the film version).

Despite their difficult relationship Anna has always remained loyal to Godard's artistic vision. She remains fascinating both as an actress and as a person. Her body of work presents a classic vision of France during the 1960s, and represents the ever evolving world of French Cinema. Though she found fame as a muse, Anna never let this define her, she was equally as creative as any of the powerful men she worked with. 

"It's about being human. It's beautiful, it's touching, it's acting. It's acting and reality at the same time"

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Girl in the Song-Rosemary Davies

Ray Davies grew up in a house with six sisters, and his younger brother Dave. It was the second eldest sister that inspired the Kinks song, 'Rosy Won't You Please Come Home'.
Ray was very close to his two oldest sisters, who were like second mothers to him. Tragically Renee, the eldest, passed away when she was only thirty-one and Ray was thirteen. In 1964 his second sister, Rosie, emigrated to Australia with her husband, Arthur and their son, Terry. Ray was devastated by this second loss,
"I started screaming. A part of my family had left, possibly forever...I collapsed in a heap on the sandy beach and wept like a pathetic child"
His sisters emigration later inspired the album, Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). Rosie passed away in 2014.

Saturday, 7 October 2017


"At sixteen, I was a funny, skinny little thing, all eyelashes and legs. And then suddenly people told me I was gorgeous. I thought they had gone mad" 

The most distinctive face of the Swinging Sixties was a young English Model who became an international icon whilst still a teenager. Lesley Hornby changed her name to Twiggy and the rest, as they say, is history.

Lesley Hornby was born in London, 1949. Her mother taught her to sew at an early age and she often made her own clothes. When she was sixteen Lesley had her hair cut at the famous hairdressers, Leonard of Mayfair. Leonard wanted to model his new short hairstyle and so he had several pictures taken of Lesley. The photos were noticed by a fashion journalist who arranged to meet Lesley and declared her to be the 'face of '66'. Her boyfriend, Justin de Villeneuve, became her manager and changed her named to 'Twiggy'. The newly christened Twiggy was soon modelling for all the major magazines, and quickly became an international icon. Twiggy even created her own fashion label, which was made especially for the teenage market. Although she was at the height of her fame Twiggy felt that modelling was only a transitory profession and in 1970 she retired from the business. In the following years Twiggy worked extensively in film and TV and had a successful singing career. In 1977 she married actor Michael Witney their daughter, Carly, was born the following year. The couple eventually separated and following Michael's death, Twiggy married Leigh Lawson. She currently lives in London with her husband and has her own fashion range, for older women, at department store Marks and Spencer.

Twiggy was one of the most recognisable and influential faces of Swinging London. Her slim androgynous figure, large eyes and short hair became the 'look' of the decade. She favoured miniskirts and shift dresses in bold colourful patterns, and was influenced by the 1920s. Twiggy was also more accessible to a younger audience, than some of the models of the day, and had a strong teenage following. One of her most distinctive features was her eyelashes, the bottom ones she emphasised by painting them onto her face.

Despite her youth Twiggy was always a dedicated professional and was interested in all aspects of her 'brand'. She was actively involved in her fashion label, collaborating with designers and flying around the world to promote it. She was also prepared for a life after fashion and stretched herself by pursuing acting and singing. She didn't want to remain a "clothes horse" for the remainder of her life and pushed herself in areas she found more personally fulfilling.

Though today she is best remembered for being something of a 'pop icon' Twiggy has remained a kind hearted, down to earth woman. Her achievements cross all aspects of the arts and she has had a huge influence on fashion, acting and the definition of beauty. More than anyone she encompassed the fun, youthful, working class feel of Swinging London.

"I used to be a thing; I'm a person now"

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Girl in the Song- Jenny Boyd

One of Donovan's loveliest songs was written for Pattie Boyd's sister, Jenny. Like her sister Jenny was also a model and later went on to marry Mick Fleetwood.

Though they never dated Donovan admitted he had a crush on Jenny, which inspired him to write, 'Jennifer Juniper'. Jenny and Pattie went on to open a small antique store on King's Road named 'Juniper', after the song. As Pattie remembered:

"Jenny and I took a stall in the antiques market in the King's Road, and specialised in art nouveau. We called it Juniper-because of 'Jennifer Juniper- and ran it for about a year. Jenny looked after the stall and I did the buying"

(Donovan & Jenny)

(Pattie & Jenny get a visit from The Beatles in their store 'Juniper')

Have a listen!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Joni Mitchell

“I had in fact, seen quite a bit of the ‘I’ve looked at life from both sides now’. I had some serious battles for a twenty-one-year-old. But I was trying to become a realist in all ways”

The melancholic folk singer was a distinctive voice in the late 1960s. With her beautiful lyrics, long blonde hair, and keen observations Joni Mitchell gained a passionate following, though her personal life was often difficult.

Joni Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson, 1943, in Alberta, Canada. Her early childhood was marred when she contracted polio. Doctors told her she might never walk again but she was determined to prove them wrong, which she did. She developed a love of art, poetry and music and taught herself the ukelele and eventually the guitar. She started singing and began playing in various folk clubs. When she dropped out of university she travelled to Ontario where she continued singing. In 1964 she discovered she was pregnant to her boyfriend, who soon left her. Destitute Joni gave birth to a daughter, Kelly, but had to put her up for adoption. Devastated she turned to song writing as a way to deal with her grief. That same year, 1965, she married fellow singer, Chuck Mitchell. Whilst her work gained in popularity the couple's relationship struggled and they were divorced in 1967. Joni moved to New York and the following year released her debut album, Song to a Seagull. In 1969 she released, Clouds, which featured one of her best loved songs, 'Both Sides Now'. That same year she wrote 'Woodstock' after hearing of her friends experiences at the famed festival. It became one of her most popular songs.
When the 1960s ended Joni released the albums, Ladies of the Canyon and the critically acclaimed, Blue. She continued to develop her musical style and eventually moved from folk to jazz, she became renowned for her lyrics. Following Blue, she released a further fifteen studio albums. She suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015 and has been in ill health, though friends say she continues to improve. She stopped touring and recording following her last album but continues to paint.

Joni was one of the most popular female singers of the late sixties. Her beautiful, personal lyrics struck a chord with many as did her distinctive and unusual guitar work, developed when she discovered her fingers had been weakened by polio and she had to create different tunings. She had the ability to create stories with her words as seen in some of her most popular songs, 'Both Sides Now', 'Woodstock', 'Big Yellow Taxi' and 'The Circle Game'. Her distinctive soprano voice is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and she gained a strong female audience in an industry largely dominated by men. She maintained the rights to her music and designed all her album covers, she often stated that at heart she was a painter and it was a passion she developed throughout her life. The cover of Clouds features her beautiful self portrait.

Joni was a determined woman who suffered many personal tragedies. As an unmarried mother in the sixties she faced many hardships, she did not even tell her family of her child. She supported herself as best she could and ultimately sacrificed her own happiness so that her daughter would be safe. The experience strengthened her resolve to make something of herself, but also highlighted the many injustices faced by women of the era. Happily she was reunited with Kelly later in life.

Joni had a strong creative vision and was dedicated to her ideas. Her lyrics were often confessional in nature and proved relatable for many women. She continued to explore new styles and forged a distinctive voice and place within the music industry, where she showed remarkable courage in the face of hardship.

“I sing my sorrow and I paint my joy”