Posts Tagged ‘60s’

Stereo systems and speakers, 1960s & 70s style

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Stereo shelf, storage for records

Stereo shelf, storage for records

Why don’t we do this kind of thing anymore? You saw it a lot in the 1960s and 70s—speakers embedded in display shelves or on a wall, as part of the decor. Maybe it’s partly that components were better looking then, in general, but you could still do this now. Why don’t we? Is it because stereo components are now considered throwaway, and you’d never make built-ins because your components wouldn’t last long enough to justify it? The stereo system above has been in continuous working order since it was installed in the 1970s in Vancouver in an architect’s house. The only change is that a CD player has been added into the built-in box that doubles as display shelf.

Maybe those who rent would be disinclined to make alterations like this, but what about everyone else? Whatever happened to using stereo components as elements in room design? Maybe these items were valued far more highly then than they are now, and not perhaps out of audiophilia so much as an overall sense of design and function.

On a related topic, have you ever tried to get good storage for your vinyl nowadays? Good luck. If the unit above (it’s the wooden credenza thing on the floor) were available now, I’d buy it. It’s beautiful and simple, and it looks like solid wood.

The photo below is from The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement, Greystone Press, 1970. Check out the speakers on the built-in bench or shelf along the wall, the great reel-to-reel deck, and then the amp held up by cupids on the wall. Not to mention the vari-coloured wall, separated into quadrants via different paint colours. So great.

 

Stereo wall, 70s living room

I can’t find further good examples of this setup just at the moment, but here are some entertaining vintage stereo/storage shots: LP storage unit from ancienthistory,  And then there’s this, when things go space age. And pots and pans in one drawer, turnable in another via teddy_qui_dit (more here and here),

 

Tame Impala / Lonerism

Saturday, October 6th, 2012


The single “Elephant” from new Tame Impala album “Lonerism”


Album cover for Lonerism by Tame Impala – fenced garden, Paris

The new Tame Impala album Lonerism is out. (It’s not released in North America yet, technically, but seems you can get on iTunes already.) I’ve had it on perpetual repeat for 3 days. It’s interesting in terms of its psychedelic 1960s sound because as many reviews have pointed out, you can’t reduce it to just pastiche or quotation or derivativeness. It’s its own thing altogether, as if 60s paisley music had been fully metabolized along with a multitude of other sounds and traditions and then catalysed into this entirely new thing. I guess it’s obvious why I’m including it here, then.

Tame Impala is the creation of Kevin Parker (in pea coat, 2nd from right), also its lead singer. Five-star review in The Guardian.

Tame Impala are from Perth, Australia.

One of the album’s catchier tracks:

Petulia, 1968

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, starring Julie Christie, George C. Scott (who looked a little like Sean Penn then) and Richard Chamberlain, was shot and set in San Francisco in 1967. An odd film but interesting in that it’s one of the few in which the villain—if he is a villain—occupies traditional decor while our main protagonist, a divorced doctor, occupies the modern. This bucks a pretty solid trend of villains or generally immoral types living in the coolest decor while heroes enjoy Queen Anne chairs and overly baroque curtains.

In the midst of this small current wave of 60s nostalgia (in music anyway) it’s interesting to remember what 1967 actually looked like, or at least what an art director thought San Francisco looked like in 1967, which was of course the height of Haight-Ashbury. Full photo set here.

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Petulia, 1968

Arcosanti, by Paolo Soleri

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti, designed by Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri, is an experimental architectural complex perched on the side of a gulch in the Arizona desert, about 70 miles north of Phoenix. Arcosanti was begun in 1970 as a multi-stage project, but it is not—and perhaps may never be—finished. Ultimately meant to house 5000, it currently houses far fewer but nevertheless still exists as a proposition for a new hyper-dense, ecologically sensitive mode of human settlement.

Soleri arrived in Arizona in 1946 to study with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Scottsdale. However, apart from a shared interest in making architecture in a manner sensitive to its environment, Soleri and Wright took different paths with Soleri producing complexes distinct from Wright’s both aesthetically and functionally. As a friend of mine pointed out, Arcosanti’s concrete circles and arches are more reminiscent of Louis Kahn, though they also remind me of the quasi-islamic desert settlements in Dune. As with the sietches in Dune, Arcosanti is focused on water and resource reclamation. I appreciated the sign above the toilets, warning not to drink the toilet water as it’s reclaimed. Sadly dogs can not read. I’m kidding. It was just nice to see that type of dedicated water conservation in the desert.

Soleri was a follower of philosopher, paleontologist and theologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and there’s a strong mystical component in his work.He is also a member of the Lindsifarne Association, whose precepts include:

• The fostering of a new and healthier balance between nature and culture through the research and development of appropriate technologies, architectural settlements and compassionate economies for meta-industrial villages and convivial cities.
• The illumination of the spiritual foundations of political governance through scholarship and artistic communications that foster a global ecology of consciousness beyond the present ideological systems of warring industrial nation-states, outraged traditional societies, and ravaged lands and seas.

Soleri’s idea was that Arcosanti would house 5000 people comfortably without sprawl and while sitting lightly on the land. It would feature multiple common areas and on-site recycling of resources including water, energy production and general self-sufficiency. Soleri describes this project as “arcology”—the marriage of architecture and ecology. He seems to like that type of neologism, n aminghis Scottsdale home/studio “Cosanti,” a combination of “anti” with “cosa” meaning thing in Italian.

The concept of Arcosanti is interesting, and aesthetically I loved many of its features, especially the huge round windows and the geometic concrete shapes. Aesthetically there are a few things I would change, both internally and externally. The complex’s shape is formally confusing from the highway, almost giving a sense of a debris field, though its aspect resolves as you approach. Leaving the highway, you approach Arcosanti via a dry, rather uninviting dirt road. As you get closer, you find a weathered chain link fence made more windproof by a plastic yellow weave flapping in the wind, and we began to wonder if the whole place is abandoned. But beyond the dusty gravel parking lot and some kind of works yard, the actual entrance is quite lovely as you can see below. The interior provides inspiring airy spaces that allow light and protect you from the desert sun. When we were there the place did seem a little forgotten, and though a number of people live there, it had the feeling of an underfunded university—it turned out though that most residents were away for the holidays. The quiet cafeteria was only populated by some Aussies discussing Being and Essence.

The Cosanti foundation makes income by selling Soleri’s famous bells and windchimes, which are everywhere. Their sale is a major funding source for the complex. The bells sound very pretty but to me have an overdecorated, very specifically folksy/hippie feel incongruous with all the simple geometry, but then the conflict between brutalism/minimalism on the one hand and florid drawings of Gaia etc. on the other has been ongoing since the 60s. The common areas do have a short of hippie, overstuffed couch/bad-art sort of feel. An architect friend said that when she toured the centre she suggested that Arcosanti make money in additional ways, perhaps by enhancing the centre’s influence by hosting workshops or conferences. Taliesin West has done a good job of networking and disseminating ideas and there’s no reason why Arcosanti could not do the same.

Finally, I was taken aback by the tall pillar cypresses dotted around the complex; they seem really incongruous in the Arizona desert landcape, as if the whole place had been flown in from Italy or Turkey and gave it the feel of an archictectural folly or science fiction set, rather than a settlement in harmony with its specific natural environment. This is particularly noticeable after you’ve driven many miles through that desert to Arcosanti, acclimatizing yourself to the  silvery cacti, chaparral and jojoba and scrubby round juniper. I may just be a purist, and I should also disclose that I’ve never liked those trees.

These are all minor quibbles. Even when semi-deserted and maintained in less than pristine condition Arcosanti is quite an amazing place, providing comfort in a harsh landscape, and its contribution to the field of environmentally sensitive sustainable design for dense settlements is historically important.

Soleri participated in the UN Habitat Conference on Human Settlements in Vancouver in 1976 and lectured on the Arcosanti project there (see my research website for my upcoming book on that event) along with Buckminster Fuller. This is how I first learned of his body of work.

Soleri still lives at Arcosanti and Cosanti. He is 92.

Arcosanti

Above, imported cypresses flank the main building housing the cafeteria and bookshop. Below, looking in the other direction, part of a metal workshop area where windchimes are manufactured by students and volunteers.

Arcosanti

Arcosanti Project, Near Phoenix Arizona
Above from Glen on Flickr, originally from Omni Magazine in the early 1980s. Below, bell workshop.

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti - bedroom

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti

The full set of photos is here.

Our Man Flint, 1966

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Our Man Flint, 1966

Our Man Flint, 1966

Screenshots from Our Man Flint  (1966) from architectural site Pushpullbar. Our Man Flint was a James Bond parody starring James Coburn.

Not sure if my current trip through 1960s irreverence and parody is unseasonal or not. I’m just in the mood. I’m doing the Christmas dinner this year, and we’re having fondue.

Our Man Flint, 1966

Our Man Flint, 1966

Our Man Flint, 1966

Nice sweaters.

The Monkees

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Monkees - BANG

Monkees

Monkees - Superheroes


Frank Zappa and Mike Nesmith

Monkee Bathtub on wheels

The Monkees - phone boot

Update: Goodbye Davy Jones, 30 December 1945 – 29 February 2012. You were the sweet, lovely heart of the Monkees. Memory of Davy by Peter Tork.

The television show The Monkees ran from 1966-1968. I grew up on the Monkees and  I had a crush on all four of them. I still miss the off-hand, deadpan humour and the surrealism, I miss the characters (who were known by their real-life names), their affectionate, faux-naif interactions, the insane sets. People think these shows simply came from a more innocent time, but the faux innocence actually masked a sort of post-McCarthy-era proposition. The show was set and shot in Los Angeles where people were still being chucked out of establishments for wearing their hair long and there were riots in L.A. in 1967 over a 10 pm downtown curfew for “youth under 21,” so the aesthetics of the show felt more iconoclastic then than they might seem now.

Like Sid and Marty Krofft’s Lidsville and HR PufnStuf, and other shows like Green Acres, The Monkees habitually broke the 4th wall, with actors directly addressing the camera and crew and mocking sitcom conventions. This was a new thing for television and it felt revolutionary at the time. I actually see less of this experimentation now than I did then. Each Monkees episode also featured what was actually an early version of music videos, as well as complicated surrealist sequences and the use of newer techniques like jump cuts.

When the Monkees began in 1966 as a manufactured pop group in the image of the Beatles, they actually outsold the Beatles and the Stones for a time. They were decent musicians in their own right and a couple of them eventually went on to play on Beatles recordings, thus closing the loop. Jimi Hendrix opened for them on tour, which granted wasn’t the right way around. After the Monkees was cancelled in 1968, the band continued for a couple of years and then went separate musical ways.

While it’s true that they produced a fair amount of bubblegum, the Monkees had a distinct sound that transcended their producers’ involvement. More than that, they had a completely unique interpersonal chemistry. I’ve never seen that done again, not like that. And the fact that I, ubersuperhater of slapstick, can adore the Monkees with their perpetual physical humour and collisions is an indication of something. I think it might be the unusual combination of irony and love.

The Monkees - Davey and swan

Above, Davy Jones dramatizing with swan on hotel grounds during a tour. Also included here are screenshots, many from Season 1, episodes 28 and 29. As Season 1 progressed it got much weirder. The episode “On the Line” involved numerous riffs on the telephone (actually telephone gags persisted through three seasons). Then there was the emphasis on unicyles and bicycles, wheels in general, objects mounted on wheels whether pedalled or not (bathtubs, harpsichords).

By 1968 the costumes were less Mod and more groovy. Sadly I currently can’t get hold of Season 3.

More on the relationship between surrealism and 60s counterculture in subsequent posts. I love Mike Nesmith’s boots. So did he. They lasted more than one season.

The Monkees - Mike Nesmith in Monkeemobile

The Monkees - On the Line

Directly above and below, classic surreal musical sequence in the offices of the “Urgent Answering Service” from the episode “On The Line.” I am in love with the logo of a giant ear containing a small rotary telephone all mounted on a bare foot.

The Monkees - Giant Rotary Telephone

The Monkees - motorized skateboard

Above, the ever laid back Mike Nesmith on motorized skateboard. Below, all four in the Monkeemobile, a customized Pontiac GTO.

The Monkees

The Monkees

The Monkees - beachhouse exterior

Monkees - interior of beach house

Above, the California beachhouse where they all (fictionally) lived, its clapboard exterior hardly matching the odd quasi-medieval interiors (below).

The Monkees