Archive for September, 2007

Fashion: The Style Decade

September 25, 2007

The 1980s spawned a colorful array of new styles, with visionaries in the worlds of music and fashion rising in direct relation to one another. As the decade advanced, it was the designers that made the greater cultural impact, with the likes of Anthony Price, Stephen Linard, Rachel Auburn and the milliner Stephen Jones moving from clubs to catwalks just as their musical counterparts (Boy George, Adam Ant, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet) were falling off the charts and airwaves.

By contrast, the progressive era of 1969-1975 produced little talent in the realm of fashion, for it was not an age in which creativity as applied to costuming was encouraged or even understood, with the antiquated notion of ‘rawness over refinement’ condemning beauty to the cultural backwaters for longer than a lustrum. Granted, the hippy styles were a reaction towards the more constrictive modes of grooming which had preceded them, making the attendant slack drapery more an exercise in freedom itself than a vision of creative expression. And the musicians recognized these limitations, opting for elaborate, surreal artwork to front their visuals in lieu of their uncomely, hirsute selves. A revisit of GQ from this period reveals a void in which the model likeness of the fashion world was complimented by a scant few in the realm of pop, namely Bryan Ferry and David Bowie.

One of the most liberating things about punk in the UK was that it spawned a rebirth in autonomous streetwear. But it wasn’t until the early 1980s – when a select coterie of budding stylists dressed the spunky punk motifs with regal embellishments – that London exerted it’s first major influence on the Paris runways since the mid ’60s, with the opulent luster and robust silhouette of the New Romantics forming the aesthetic catalyst for a bold new era, henceforth known as the Style Decade.


The Many Manes of John Miles

September 15, 2007

John Miles burst onto the English rock scene in early 1976 with an orchestral glam/pomp sound crossing the lavishness of Steve Harley with the dynamics of Kayak on his blazing debut album Rebel, which he topped with a striking James Dean/Daniel Boone-style image comprised of cuffed, denim straight-legs and a sleek, manicured quiff. A musical whirlwind, his long-player absorbed all senses in the lilting vocal prowess of “Highfly”, the campy romp of “Rebel”, the heartfelt poignancy of “Lady of My Life”, the climactic catharsis of “Pull the Damn Thing Down”, and the popular pride of purpose embodied in “Music”.

John Miles, 1976

John Miles, 1976

His uber-cool image – which would have looked fairly casual a few years later – caused a ruckus amongst the mostly hirsute audience of his chosen musical style. So after being chased down Notting Hill Gate by a gang of Teddy Boys, Miles opted for a hammy, mustached disguise on his sophomore release Stranger In the City, where his lavishness was downscaled for a humbler set of songs spanning the 20th century lexicon of pop: brassy ’60s showtune pastiches like “Manhattan Skyline”, thumping Music Hall on “Music Man”, feverish disco with “Slow Down”, cinematic balladry like “Remember Yesterday”, and eerie alleyway night rock such as the title track, amongst others.

For 1978’s Zaragon, Miles adopted yet another renegade likeness in the white-robed and frizz-permed imagery of Luke Skywalker, while ace producer Rupert Holmes steered Miles back towards pomp rock, only this time in a more stripped down trio setting, which drew him closer sound-wise to stateside contemporaries like Ambrosia, Trillion and Zon. Compositionally grand as ever, the set was propelled by the sinister triplex complicity of “Nice Man Jack”, the modulated heights of “I Have Never Been In Love Before”, and the bombarding might of the cautionary tales told in “Overture”.

Six songs from his phenomenal first three albums, plus a clip for his 1976 UK hit “Music”, can be experienced right here.