Tag Archives: 1960s London

Ode to British Psychedelia or ‘What it means to me’

6 Jan

Last few days I’ve been rereading the book called Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd: Dark Globe by Julian Palacios, and relishing in its every page. It explores Syd’s life from the early days in Cambridge, to his Swinging London days at the height of his fame as a psychedelic rock star, all the way to his last days spent in seclusion. Each page reveals Syd’s influences in terms of books, artworks (as he was a painter too), films, music and his ideas in general. Even though he is best known for his days with Pink Floyd which resulted in the album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967): a beautiful psychedelic gem, and his subsequent solo albums, it is not his fame or heyday which interests me the most.

Quite the contrary, it is his childhood and teenage years that reveal the true Syd – a creative figure and a true inspiration. What made Syd a psychedelic icon, what made the underground scene thrive wasn’t just LSD, but a great Pandora’s box of different influences. I am fascinated by the 1960s counterculture before it became mainstream. After reading the book, one can truly see all that lay beyond acid trips because psychedelia is so much more.

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”The vanguard of London’s latest subculture, driven by LSD and hashish, far removed from the plastic flash of mods and dolly birds, took a sharp turn into the mystic. Drugs prompted many questions, so out came Ouija boards, I Ching, tarot cards, Hindu scriptures, meditation and vegetarianism.” (quote from the book)

Psychedelia or ‘altered consciousness’ doesn’t mean wearing tie dye shirts, listening to Jimi Hendrix and being stoned. That’s almost a disgrace of the original spirit and ideas of the underground scene. For me psychedelia means exploration, daydreams, hedonism and joy, everything that’s opposite of logical and rational. Reality is so bitter, and fantasy worlds so appealing, so why couldn’t we choose fantasy, lead happy lives, and discard reality like a fan after the ball. Sadly, this option is impossible, but infusing one’s life with a dash of psychedelia isn’t.

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First of all, as, for me, psychedelia equals almost childlike exploration, the key thing is to delve into all sorts of activities and hobbies. Whole range of interests may be suitable for the spirit of psychedelia. Art, for example. When Syd was studying art in London, he became acquainted with painters from totally different art movements; from Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s whimsical portraits formed with fruits and vegetables, to Gustave Caillebotte’s striped wooden floor to Klimt’s golden, mystical beechwoods – all of which I’ve written about. He was also fascinated with Dali, James Ensor and Chaim Soutine. If Syd stands as a symbol of psychedelia, at least in British rock, then everything that influenced him may be considered psychedelic too, am I  right.

alice in wonderland mad hatterAlice in Wonderland (2010)

The erudite nonsense of these traditional English children’s stories blends fantasy and sly surrealism. Gnomes, goblins, Hobbits, unicorns, Cheshire cats and hubble-bubble smoking caterpillars. Moles and toads walked, talked, and even drove motor cars. English in eccentricities and mannerism,m the animals wore waistcoats, carried pocket watches, smoked pipes, and were irritable and witty by turns.

Syd’s writing in Pink Floyd was described as ‘rock meets Mad Hatter’s tea party’. Now, who wouldn’t like to attend a tea party with acid-laced sugar cubes? David Bowie also liked Syd’s lyrics and even compared him with Peter Pan. This is precisely why the British psychedelia appeals to me strongly, more than American, as much as I like The Doors and Jim Morrison, I could hardly imagine him reading fairy tales or attending a tea party, and I’m afraid that’s a major factor for me. May I also note that I adored the opium smoking caterpillar when I was little, and I do still. Such a great character. I was thrilled when I discovered Pink Floyd because Syd’s lyrics combined everything I loved. Adults read fairy tales, men wore velvet trousers and floral shirts – must have been a lovely era.

Alice in Wonderland (1966) 9”..doll’s house, darkness, old perfume…” (Matilda Mother – Pink Floyd), still from Alice in Wonderland (1966)

Another thing that British psychedelia cherished was nature. Syd had a profound connection with nature which never left him. Even around London he use to walk barefoot. In moments of loneliness at Wetherby Mansion, he remembered the idyllic strolls, and the landscape of his innocent childhood days. ‘Barrett’s powerful connection to nature set him apart from others brought up with the same books. His lyrics evoke the woods, fenlands and rivers of Cambridge shire.‘ Syd defined nature and energy as one. Sculptor Emily Young, and the inspiration for the song See Emily Play, called Syd ‘a little wild Puck figure coming out of the woods.’

1877. Linnie Watt - A Woodland WalkLinnie Watt – A Woodland Walk, 1877

Another thing typical for British psychedelia is a certain nostalgia unusual with people so young. In December Syd and his friends attended the annual performance of Handel’s oratorio Messiah at the Albert Hall. Also, a typical evening at the UFO started with Vivaldi’s Four seasons. Girls took fashion inspiration in Arthur Rackham’s illustrations; they dressed in long flowing gowns and adorned their hair with flowers. William Morris’ illustrations and drawings by Beardsley influenced the poster designs for the Underground, as well as the 19th-century Orientalism. Young people were ‘torn between an idealised future and rose-tinted visions of the past‘, quoting the book again.

Syd’s interest in Eastern mysticism grew upon moving to London. He was particularly fascinated with I Ching (esoteric reading) and Chinese board game Go. As the decade progressed, many adapted bright colours and loose cut Eastern-inspired clothes designed by Thea Porter. The Rolling Stones traveled to Morocco. George Harrison admired Indian culture and mysticism, became a vegetarian and admired Lord Krishna.

1967. Maddie Smith, she had a part time job working as a shop girl in Biba and also did some modelling for them, appearing in the first Biba catalogue which was photographed by Donald SilversteinMaddie Smith, model for Biba, 1967

All in all, British psychedelia is a whimsical and dashing mixture of Alice in Wonderland, LSD, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Jazz, Eastern mysticism, focus on the innocence of childhood, Wind in the Willows, Pre-Raphaelites, and cheerful domesticity.

My recipe for adding a dash of psychedelia in one’s life is: obviously listening to matching music such as Pink Floyd’s album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (magnificent title), Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and even bands like The Stone Roses. Secondly, indulge in fantasy novels, fairy tales and imaginary worlds, Tolkien is the best in my opinion, as well as Romantic poets, explore William Blake’s artworks, the Pre-Raphaelites. Take interest in many things! Quote by Vincent van Gogh ‘It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.

My plans for the following weeks include reading Scandinavian, Persian and Russian fairy tales and reading about (and finally learning) Greek and Roman mythology, and connecting it to art. Thirdly, wear colourful clothes, and earrings, feather boas, floral shirts, velvet trousers, in homage to the glorious days of the flamboyant London scene. And venture into nature, feel its energy. As Heraclitus said: Nature loves to hide itself. Who known what kinds of creatures inhabit the forests. I believe that trees have souls, and different personalities. I’m certain of it. Birch trees look so fragile, while poplars seem so lonely. This is kind of my manifesto for this year. I wish you all a psychedelic 2016.

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Brian Jones – A Rock ‘n’ Roll Dandy

11 Oct

Brian Jones; an eccentric, decadent, creative, fashionable, extravagant and intelligent person was the soul of The Rolling Stones. As much as he was famous for his musical accomplishments and visionary ideas regarding The Stones, Brian Jones had a peculiar fashion style, and became a style icon of the 1960s as important as Marianne Faithfull, Twiggy, Pattie Boyd or Jane Birkin were.

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Brian Jones seems to have stood out even in his teens. His fair locks, wide smile, mysterious gaze, perfect manners, romantic charm and attentive conversation all made him loveable with the girls. It’s not a secret that he loved them too, having had his first child aged only seventeen. Brian was a complex individual never the less, Bill Wyman remembers “There were two Brian’s… one was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking… the other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers… he pushed every friendship to the limit and way beyond”. If it wasn’t for the introverted, deep-thinking side we might wouldn’t of had all the original sounds and ideas that shaped the band and made it popular, and still, if it wasn’t for his artistic, arrogant and swaggering side, I wouldn’t be here writing about the amazing fashion style he had!

A rebel even as a child, Brian successfully defied his parents in every aspect; his numerous romances and offspring, musical ambitions, the way he behaved, dressed, even cut his hair all made his parents angry, but hey, that was the intention. He certainly didn’t let others dictate his life. Highly intelligent, Brian passed two A-levels and seven O-levels and with the slightest effort he would excel academically, but even with the alleged 133 IQ, Brian blew it all away, and replaced the boring schoolwork with rock ‘n’ roll. I’m most obligated for that, and I’m sure the history of rock ‘n’ roll is too.

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Though eccentric and eye-catching, Brian’s fashion style wasn’t as peculiar from the beginning. In the period 1963-65. he mostly wore striped Mod tailored suits and fairly neat bowl haircut. Even then, in those stiff and ordinary ‘Beatles’ style suits, usually worn by all the group members, Brian stood out with his  engaging smile, arrogant gaze and dandy-esque hairstyle. As the years went on, and the mod scene slowly waned in favor of more original, more daring and eclectic style inspired by Psychedelia, Brian’s style changed and evolved too. The change is the most visible in the haircut; blonde locks became more untamed and longer. The trousers became tighter, the boots bigger and the black-white geometric prints dictated by Mod style were discarded in favour of colours, paisleys, floral print, oriental scarfs combined with crimson coloured velvet Victorian inspired blouses plus plenty of jewellery on top.

Antique dealer and Brian’s friend, Christopher Gibbs, remembers ”Brian did absolutely love dressing up (…) He had a tremendous lot of clothes and spent an awful amount of time preparing himself for late-night forays into the clubs.”

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Despite Brian’s numerous affairs, the love of his life seems to have been nobody else but Anita Pallenberg; half Italian half German rock chick, as eccentric, as daring, as decadent and every bit as impulsive and tempestuous as Brian himself. Their relationship was turbulent and ardent for the most of its course, and yet the two lovers were more similar to each other than they could possibly imagine. Their fashion style was very similar too, with Anita having almost the same hairstyle as Brian. Now remembered as one of the iconic 1960s couples, Anita and Brian met in Munchen on 14th September 1965. when Anita approached Brian after a gig offering him a joint which he gladly accepted. They started talking and a few months later they could be seen together swanning around London in Brian’s Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, purchased from George Harrison. They moved into a sumptuously decorated flat at 1 Courtfield Road, South Kensington, which was, after their holiday in Morrocco the following year, embellished even more by rich fabrics and embroideries brought from there.

Embodiment of unconventional and eccentricity, Brian Jones indulged himself ever since his position in the band degraded. He entered fully into a life of debauchery, surrendering to the rock ‘n’ roll decadency. He became a ‘playboy prince’, an eccentric, somewhat arrogant and impulsive dandy, befriended art dealers and film directors, and started hanging out with rock elite, never hesitating to indulge his whims, no matter how eccentric they might be. Jones’ biographer wrote ‘Together they forged a revolutionary androgynous look, keeping their clothes together, mixing and matching not only fabrics and patterns, but cultures and even centuries. Jones would parade the streets of London wearing a Victorian lace shirt, floppy turn-of-the-century hat, Edwardian velvet frock coat, multi-coloured suede boots, accessorised scarves hanging from his neck, waist and legs along with lots of antique Berber jewellery.’

Music Personalities. pic: circa 1967. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones group with one time girl friend, Swedish actress Anita Pallenberg.

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Marianne Faithfull also remembers some of the extravaganzas of the couple when it came to style:

One of the best things about visiting Anita and Brian was watching them get ready to go out. What a scene! They were both dauntless shoppers and excessively vain. Hours and hours were spent putting on clothes and taking them off again. Heaps of scarves, hats, shirts and boots flew out of drawers and trunks. Unending trying on of outfits, primping and sashaying. They were beautiful, they were the spitting image of each other and not an ounce of modesty existed between two of them. I would sit mesmerised for hours, watching them preening in the mirror, trying on each other’s clothes. All roles and gender would evaporate in these narcissistic performances, where Anita would turn Brian into the Sun King, Francoise Hardy or the mirror image of herself.”

Brian Jones’ wardrobe was transformed almost over night. There was no place for the clean cut tailored suits and striped black-white trousers with modest details that evoked the Mod spirit of the mid ’60s anymore. No more was it ‘Paint it black’; paint it in colours would be the new motto. Hippie psychedelic decadency has by 1965. took its place; crimson velvet, tightly fitted jackets, fur coats, trousers with floral print, fur waistcoats, ethnic jewellery, abundance of rings, necklaces, floppy hats, big boots…

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However, the progress of his fashion style went hand in hand with his destructive behavior. He sank deeply into the rock and roll decadence, indulging in alcohol and drugs, particularly LSD. Resentful and exhausted, he drove around London in his black Rolls Royce with the number plait DD666, the DD apparently standing for Devil’s Disciple. Strung out, betrayed, weakened and assailed by his asthma attacks, bored and withered, his song-writing and music composing talents slowly waned. His role in the band was pretty much reduced to adding exotic elements to the already existing songs.

Brian Jones, although arrogant, impulsive, gregarious and charismatic young man with Byron like quality when it came to romances, was still a very important figure not only in forming The Rolling Stones, but in the Rock and Roll scene and the development of the 1960s Swinging London culture in general. Remembered today for the mystery surrounding his death as much as for his crucial role in the music scene, Brian J0nes, the man who played every instrument and had any girl he desired, was as eccentric as he was intelligent. His life was as wild and glamorous as it was short, filled with unimaginable decadence, drugs, beautiful music, arts, party, clothes, sex and women. Brian Jones is a symbol of the 1960s, a decade he ruled and sadly died with.

Fashion icons: Pattie Boyd

18 Jan

With the help of the Pink Floyd music I entered the 1960s Psychedelic era and  instantly fell in love with the captivating, optimistic and consciousness expanding decade. I love Swinging London as you may have guessed since I’ve written a post about it recently. There are lots of things I love about the 60s and one of them is surely fashion. My favourite fashion icon from the 60s is Pattie Boyd – muse of, both George Harrison and Eric Clapton.

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Pattie Boyd’s style can be described as a Mod-turned-hippie. While she was a model for Vogue and many other magazines, she cherished Mod style – characteristic for middle 1960s London. Later on, after the Psychedelic revolution changed the scene and bands such as Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett and The Jimmy Hendrix Experience set psychedelic fashions in the London Underground she started dressing in more hippie style but still very chic.

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In early years she wore straight, knee-length skirts and pointed shoes but after her marriage with George Harrison she started wearing more Mod-like fashions. She basically replaced a classic 1960s style for more youth-oriented Mod fashions which included very short A-line dresses, geometric patterns, more colourful fabrics, mini skirts…

In the photo below she wears a knee length floral patterned skirt (hint of hippie style) and a turban (ah, those crazy 60s). I personally love Mod fashion with a psychedelic touch. It’s still elegant and simple, but without too many geometric patterns and bold, black and white combinations.

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Mix of Mod and Psychedelic fashion is just perfect to me and this is one of the reasons I’m in love with Pattie’s style. She’s a real cutie, 1960s doll with good taste when it comes to fashion and men (George Harrison). Her fashion style is very inspirational to me but I like her hairstyle as well. As she once said, it is more important for being a model to have a feeling for clothes and a natural gift for wearing them than being beautiful. She certainly had that. She was beautiful and cute but not a least bit conceited or arrogant. Her appearance was just natural all together.

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Notice her shoes on the photo above. They really interesting, though typical for 1960s. I’ve also noticed how casual and comfortable her style actually was. She rarely wore jewellery or any accessorize, maybe earrings only, for it wasn’t fashionable in the 1960s Mod fashion. Of course, later when she embraced psychedelic hippie fashion she started wearing large wooden earrings and bracelets, but I’m focusing on her Mod look here.

Various - 1966

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I love the 60s A-line mini dresses! They’re so simple, clean and fluid without excess detailing and yet they easily catch everyone’s attention. Pattie looks so stunning in these dresses with her long thin legs and angelic face with big blue eyes. The dress above on the left is also very pretty; it’s a little bit longer than usual but equally beautiful.

The dresses down below are a bit more hippie influenced but I still love them. Short and A-lined with floral patterns and nice trimmings they are truly captivating. I think my personal favourite would be the one in the middle, but the other two leave me speechless as well. The sleeves tended to be quite interesting themselves; just look at the ones below. Another thing I love about 1960s fashion is the neckline – actually, the absence of one.

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Does Pattie Boyd inspires you with her great fashion sense and touch for clothes or is she not particularly your cup of tea ?