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LOU REED REMEMBERED

Lou Reed Remembered

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Yesterday October 27th was just another Sunday morning apart from the fact disorientation had set in due to the official arrival of winter with the clocks going back encouraging me to get up at an hour unthinkable a few years back. The only other thing slightly out of the ordinary was the fact I had an overwhelming urge to listen to Lou Reed’s Berlin album.

Usually an album which requires a certain mood as it is a dark, despairing and harrowing listen with little recommendation or redemption for any of its protagonists, even if its message is cloaked in some of the most awe inducing beautiful music ever recorded. Suffice to say it requires melancholic tendencies and I was far from feeling even remotely down; quite the opposite in fact. Melancholy, despair and shock arrived  only a few hours later however as I would be overwhelmed with feelings of sadness  when news of Lou Reed’s death, at the age of seventy one, began to filter through on social media and was later sadly confirmed as fact.

 Two days previously had seen an internet hoax reporting Reed’s death spread like wildfire before it was announced he was alive and kicking. As far as anyone knows at this stage he wasn’t even showing signs of the symptoms which eventually claimed him so some scepticism met the original Sunday reports of his death. In hindsight this made the news even sadder as on one of his last days on earth he had to deny he had died then forty eight hours later he was actually gone for real. In some ways this was typical Lou- rising to a challenge-who many had predicted wouldn’t live through the seventies never mind into his seventies.

 Like many others of my generation my introduction to Reed came through that font of all knowledge, David Bowie, when he tried to resurrect the faltering career of his idol by co- producing his album Transformer with Mick Ronson. Many evenings were spent with a select, elite group of friends lounging on bean bags applying nail polish, smoking mentholated cigarettes and contemplating sex in the hall as we listened to this album with its tales of decadent New York and colourful characters- Candy, Holly, Jackie and Little Joe- who we discovered were real and, at the time, all  very much alive.

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 Other favourites were the New York Dolls, early Roxy Music, The Sex Pistols and Bowie but Lou seemed darker and more dangerous- look at how his made up panda eyes glared past and through you on Transformer’s metallic cover- promising a subterranean demi-monde where it was always after midnight and debauched glamour was the entry code. On top of all this he was the best singer ever and he couldn’t even sing. Perfect!

 Transformer provided a perfect point of entry to Reed’s work and before long I investigated and discovered his Velvet Underground back catalogue which totally blew my mind. To the point I still refer to their debut The Velvet Underground and Nico as my all time favourite album. It had everything; sex, drugs, sado-masochism, twisted love songs, thrashing guitars, Reed’s throwaway drawl, Nico’s Germanic icy cool and Andy Warhol’s Factory people. Here was a record which inhabited a universe all its own and unlike Bowie’s exotic characters Reed’s subject matter actually existed. Oh, how I wanted to be there!

 Discovering Lou Reed was akin to finding a guiding light in my life. He spoke to me through the medium of song in a way I could never envisage my father speaking to me. Lou understood and prevented me from feeling I was wrong when my surroundings were screaming at me otherwise. ‘White Light/ White Heat’, ‘Candy Says’, ‘What Goes On’,Kill Your Sons’, ‘Sad Song’ and ‘Satellite of Love’ are just some of the songs embedded in my emotional hard drive eternally. How also can I forget the perfect chords of ‘Sweet Jane’ or the auto biographical Rock ‘n’ Roll’? As for the blistering assault of the seventeen minutes of mayhem that is ‘Sister Ray’, which at its denouement still leaves me feeling drained, exhilarated, confused, relieved and hyperventilating all at once; well it may be a cliché but they really don’t make them like that anymore.

 Lou Reed meant something not just to me but to so many others and he will continue to mean something. At some time we all have to take a walk on the wild side hitching a ride on a satellite of love and obviously Sunday October 27th was when Lou felt that final beckoning tap on the shoulder calling him. I could go on but really I have only one thing left to say and that is ‘Thank You ’.

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EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FASHION FESTIVAL-FUTURE FASHION

 

Edinburgh International Fashion Festival- Future Fashion

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This day long design market where designers mixed with prospective clients  followed by a runway show in the City Art Centre managed to encapsulate all that is inspiring and bvibrant in contemporary Scottish fashion. Often unfairly ignored on the international scene Scotland-and in particular Edinburgh- revealed itself as a fashion leader where tradition and innovation conspire to create a heady mix of forward looking styles.

 The glamour of the situation was perfectly housed in this gallery and Joyce Paton’s opening salvo of black/white combos, cinched waists, chiffon, elegant headwear and an overall feeling of exotica combined with classic style and Euan McWhirter jewellery made a great start to this finale to an interesting day.

 Moving along at a comfortable pace which never rushed the clothes but allowed the viewer to drink it all in the next collection was Bebaroque’s sheer and clingy mainly black offerings. Suited to those predisposed to a slight build and supported by only vertiginous heels this was a confident statement. Obscure couture continued this more erotic vibe with more daring clothes including a bondage coatdress bound up in a multitude of belts. Beautiful, exciting clothes suitable for a night out which made as much of a  statement  about the wearer as the clothes themselves.

 It was all not exotica and erotica however as Mairi MacDonald showcased extremely wearable cashmere and knitwear which seemed suitable to the more realistic Scottish climate we are more used to rather than the blazing sunshine of the last weeks.

 Other designers on show included Jacob Birge’s futuristic designs in funky, punkadelic colours and shiny fabrics as well as Rebecca Torres and Epitome. It was a mixed collection of various styles with something for everyone or for the more eclectic perhaps a little bit of everything.

 Future Fashion showed if any further eveidence were needed after this years festival that Scotland has a lot to offer in the fashion world and its contribution is multi-textual, innovative, futuristic, nostalgic, practical yet daring and most importantly effortlessly stylish.

The Demise of Thatcher

The Demise of Thatcher

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Britain –and in particular Scotland- seemed to have a new national anthem yesterday as ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ rang out loud and clear across social media, in the pubs and even on the streets. It is not customary in our nation of reserve and etiquette to celebrate the death-as opposed to the life- of an individual but the passing of Baroness Thatcher- in the exclusive enclaves of the Ritz Hotel-affected many in the country, especially those who grew up in her consumerist greed infested nineteen eighties, in the same way her policies touched them during her reign as Prime Minister.

Actually, perhaps not exactly the same way! The feeling I encountered yesterday seemed to be one of positivism as opposed to the feeling of dread the mention of her name engendered whenever it was mentioned. Having grown up in the eighties I felt the wrath of Thatcherism- politics so strident and defining they acquired their own branding- as many young people who did not embrace the ethos of greed and stamping over others to get what they want also did. She was a major force in the breakdown of our society and divisiveness which is as apparent-if not more so- today resulting in the selfish and greedy nature of subsequent generations who were born into a culture where such things were encouraged.

What then does her legacy consist of?

Many front pages today seem to be focussing on what they term the benefits of her time though that is as much a matter of opinion as it ever was. The Daily Hell has a headline proclaiming her as the woman who saved Britain and is happy to emblazon this across its front pages without a hint of irony. I understand that certain sections and a very certain type of person could flourish under Thatcherism but I am glad to say that I know very few of them personally so this headline is way beyond my comprehension and I consider her the more readily as the woman who broke Britain.

If you were anything other than from the white, aspirational middle class heterosexual family orientated side of life then Thatcher simply was not interested. If you were working class and involved in industry then you were expected to tow the line and do what you were told.

None of the airbrushed news items I saw yesterday even mentioned the horrors of Clause 28, supporting of Apartheid or friendships with dubious dictators although her brushes with the Miners and the Poll Tax were touched upon. More was made of her endeavours to privatise everything in sight including the NHS and social housing. The former is still in a mess almost to the point of collapse following her intervention and its future is forever uncertain. The latter seemed like a good idea to many at the time but with no new housing being built to replace those sold off to tenants its long term effects have seen homelessness increase and rents in the private housing market soar making it even more difficult for those on the lower end of the spectrum to crawl onto the housing ladder.

On and on the legacy of Thatcher continues and I could go on forever about the negative impact of her eleven and a half years as Prime Minister. The media seem to be rewriting an era I grew up in and this is the part which is most shocking to me. The flag at Holyrood Palace –in full view of the Scottish Parliament her tenure necessitated- flying at half mast seemed only to inflame feeling concerning her death and seemed insensitive in a country where few tears were shed over her death. In fact hatred of Thatcher is probably at its strongest among Scots who stood up to her when she introduced the Poll Tax –the instrument of her eventual downfall- here in 1989 a year ahead of the rest of the UK in 1990. The refusal to pay and subsequent riots when attempts to impose this unfair and ridiculous tax made even her own party realise they were dealing with a megalomaniac mad woman and subsequently set out to depose her.

How times (don’t) change though and a week before her death some of the most draconian measures introduced into our benefits system were introduced. It is almost as if she was hanging on to make sure they actually went through before she could rest in peace.

So for everyone who greeted her death as a cause for celebration it might be wise to not take your eyes off the big picture. Last week saw the introduction of the so called Bedroom Tax which is every bit as crippling as the Poll Tax and there was nary a whimper on the street. Her legacy seems to include having taken away the fighting spirit which used to have those with a conscience making themselves seen and heard whereas nowadays the only sound to be heard is the clicking of keys on a keyboard as everyone shares their opinions on a social network without having to leave the comfort of their couch. Complacency and acceptance have set in and however much vitriol people feel it barely makes it past the next status update.

For all the news items devouring her passing last night possibly the best example I came across of Thatcher’s legacy could be witnessed in E4’S timely return of ‘Made in Chelsea’. This bunch of over privileged, self obsessed, whinging expensively educated idiots are a perfect example of where it all went wrong. They and their ilk may have spent generations sneering down at us condescendingly and thanks to the auspices of Thatcher, who made sure they were protected under her policies, they still do. Thatcher may be dead but unfortunately Thatcherism is still very much alive and kicking.