Friday, 31 July 2020

Fun in the sun - for FADD (Fun A Day Dundee) online exhibition weekend

My FADD Post from 28 Jan 2020

In January this year I took part in the Fun A Day Dundee art project by producing a piece of art every day for 31 days and posting a photo of it online (mainly to Instagram and Twitter). This week there are online events to celebrate the project (which has been running in Dundee since 2011) so here are some more details about my contributions, specifically information about all the musical references. This is my idea of fun... I did used to be a DJ and music reviewer in a previous life after all.

Step 1
At the end of December 2019 I wrote a poem with 31 words and no word repeated. You can read the poem back here (or square by square on Instagram or further down this post).

Step 2 
I did an illustration every day for January 2020 with a word from the poem at the centre and all kinds of references to songs/musicians. I posted one illustration every day to Instagram and Twitter. I have done very, very little drawing and illustrating in my life so this was really something new for me. If I had realised in January that I was going to use a 7 inch single format to display them I would have made my squares that size in the first place (I didn't, I randomly went for 15 cm squares instead).

Step 3
I started getting ready for the Fun A Day exhibition, got little record sleeves and was planning to display the illustrations (a) on the wall (as you see records displayed in record shops) and (b) in a little record box so you could flick through them (also like in record shops). I had some slightly enlarged versions of the illustrations printed by Urban Print so they would fit the record sleeve display idea better.

Step 4 
The on-wall exhibition was cancelled due to you-know-what and this weekend there is an online exhibition instead (see samples of all the participants' work here). My new contribution is a video of me and the poem filmed yesterday (apologies to Mr Dylan):

And here is a pic of all the illustrations together (on the floor, they haven't made it to a wall yet...):

And here are notes on the musical references for each one:

Start (1st Jan)
Just one musical link here – ‘Start’ by The Jam (released 1980). This has always been one of my favourite Jam songs. It makes me feel like a teenager (I was 13 in 1980).

with (2nd Jan)
Not much drawing on this one but wordy references (round the edge of the square) to songs by Hot Chocolate (‘It started with a kiss’, 1982), U2 (‘With or without you’, 1987), Stardust (‘Music sounds better with you’, 1998), Dusty Springfield/The Tourists/lots of others (‘I only want to be with you’ 1963/1979 and others), Stealers Wheel (‘Stuck in the middle with you’, 1972) and The Beatles (‘With a little help from my friends’, 1967). 

fun (3rd Jan)
This has one reference – ‘Big Fun’ by Inner City (1989). I was a career raver between 1989 and about 1997 so had to get some house music into this (note the wee hoose in the corner). ‘Dance the night away’ comes from the track (and I did, many, many times). 

and (4th Jan)
Here we have ‘And the beat goes on’ by The Whispers (1979). 10 million views on the YouTube video of this track so evidently it is still going on (and on and on). I got a tiny bit more adventurous with my drawings here (all with ‘beat’ or ‘whispering’ links).

make (5th Jan)
Suddenly my illustrating ambitions went up a level for this Motown record label-inspired drawing and link to ‘I’m gonna make you love me’ (various versions but best known Motown one by Diana Ross and the Supremes & the Temptations in 1968). This reminds me of teenage big fun sitting with a friend in her room in a Middlesbrough suburb in the 1980s, listening to her older sister’s soul records and singing along REALLY LOUD.

a (6th Jan)
The Jackson 5 and ‘ABC’ (1970) for this one. Also the little heart in the corner is a reference to Amy Winehouse as it is one of her tattoos (the easiest one to draw by some distance…).

mark (7th Jan)
This was the hardest to choose for many reasons and I ended up listening to lots of tracks to find the right one. In the end I picked a song I didn’t know before called ‘I was here’ by BeyoncĂ© (‘I will leave my mark so everyone will know, I was here’, on ‘4’, 2011). The bee is hers of course and the other symbols are various different marks linked to musicians (Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Prince...). I chucked in a treble clef for good measure, partly I think because I always enjoyed drawing them as a child when I played recorder (angrily), piano (badly/impatiently) and guitar (very briefly). Also I like trees (hence the trunk).

hold (8th Jan)
I loved En Vogue’s ‘Hold on’ when it came out in 1990 and remember hearing it played regularly on Leeds pirate radio stations like WYBC. The suitcase and the glass are just things you can hold… but the waves reference a song called ‘Hold back the tide’ by Northumberland musician Johnny Dickinson (on his album ‘English Summer’ 2005). I saw Johnny a couple of times at the folk club in Montrose and he was an amazing singer and guitarist and I still listen to his music regularly (I even have his ‘Hear me calling’ as my mobile ringtone). Sadly he died in 2019 after a long illness.

your (9th Jan)
Somehow friends and I ended up singing Hazel O’Connor’s ‘Will You’ (1981) on Hogmanay 2019. So luckily this gave me an idea for ‘your’ (‘You drink your coffee and I sip my tea…). ‘Breaking Glass’ (the film) was a big deal in the UK in 1980 (so I remember).

nerve (10th Jan)
I suspect the daughter (who loves musicals) helped me with this idea (‘if I only had the nerve’, Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz, movie, 1939). She even wrote about lions and musicals recently (see here).

don’t (11th Jan)
I couldn’t decide on a song for this one so I just put ‘don’t’ in the 'search' of our music library and copied a whole lotta song titles. If it’s hard to read there are song titles on here from Jewel, Laura Marling, Billy Joel, Thin Lizzy, Miles Davis, Etta James, Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore, Whitesnake, Sinead O’Connor, Crowded House, Ella Fitzgerald, Dusty Springfield, Harry Connick Jr, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, Yazoo, Awesome 3, Kirsty MacColl, BeyoncĂ© and Jack White, Norah Jones, Karine Polwart, Martin Simpson, Rhiannon Giddens, Elton John, Dionne Warwick, The Streets, Catatonia, Barbra Streisand, Fleetwood Mac, Stone Roses, Steely Dan, Bob Dylan, John Martyn, The Be Good Tanyas, Felix, Simple Minds and Elvis Costello. 

fear (12th Jan)
As a teenage rocker with two older brothers (both big into rock music) the first thing that came into my head for this was Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don’t fear the reaper’ (1976… but played long after that in our house). Not the most cheerful illustration for this one, I’m afraid! I did try to give the reaper a face but it wasn’t working so I went with moody and mysterious instead.

the (13th Jan)
I have a real soft spot for the song ‘The man that got way’ as sung by Judy Garland in ‘A star is born’ (1954). So when I needed a ‘the’ I went for a line from that song (‘the night is bitter’). My Mum and daughter were both partial to the ‘winning parts in musicals shows’ of the noughties (‘How do you solve a problem like Maria?’ etc.) so I watched them even though they weren’t really my thing. In the ‘Oliver’ themed one (‘I’d do anything’) the now very well-known actress Jessie Buckley sang this song as her big number (and did a fantastic job). She’s a star, that’s for sure. And she’s in the biopic ‘Judy’ (2019) though not playing the lead. Everything comes back to Oz one way or another.

dark (14th Jan)
‘The lights come on…’ is from ‘Blackout’ (1989) by Lil’ Louis (he of ‘French Kiss’ fame). ‘Dancing in the dark’ (1984) is another boss (Bruce Springsteen). I wasn’t a fan of Springsteen growing up but I have come round to him, bit by bit.

open (15th Jan)
I adore Corinne Bailey Rae’s first two albums and the line here (‘my heart’s an open door’) is from ‘I’d do it all again’ (2010) from the album ‘The sea’. I’m not really sure where the caravan came in (Isley Brothers link maybe…).

boxes (16th Jan)
I knew ‘Little boxes’ was a Pete Seeger song (1963) but I didn’t know it was written by someone else – Malvina Reynolds (in 1962). For the illustration I went for record boxes (and record sun) because I was a club/radio DJs for some years in my 20s. The Teletubby colours are from another period in my life I think (childrearing in my 30s and 40s).

turn (17th Jan)
This word turns up in lots of songs and I named one of my publications ‘Turn’ so I went through a lot of possibles for this one. In the end I went for a song I really don’t like (though it has been around for much of my life) – ‘Total eclipse of the heart’ (1983) by Bonnie Tyler – mainly because I was ending up with lots of circles in my illustrations and I liked the idea of an eye from the lyric ‘Turn around, bright eyes’ (it’s green because I have green eyes). This song was written by Jim Steinman (he of the Meatloaf songs) and I certainly did like them (in the late 70s/early ‘80s anyway) and still know most of the words. They seem very musical theatre in retrospect and there is indeed a ‘Bat out of hell’ musical out there somewhere (fairly recent I think).

up (18th Jan)
Two song links in this one. The first is an old song ‘Up, up and away’ (1967) by the 5th Dimension which is another of those that has, literally in this case, been around my whole life. The second is newer -  ‘Cranes in the sky’(2016) by Solange (lyric ‘I ran my credit card bill up’). I suppose the balloon is also a little reference to the film ‘Up’ (2009).

proud (19th Jan)
So why is Mary Poppins on that skateboard you ask? Because she’s ‘rollin’, rollin, rollin’ like a river.’ ‘Proud Mary’ is a Creedence Clearwater Revival track from 1969 and then there were various other versions including Ike and Tina Turner’s in 1971 (though it is now mostly associated with Tina Turner). It crops up all over the place (wii Just Dance anyone? Quite the workout). There are little nods to other Marys in the illustration too – Mary Quant top left and Mary J Blige bottom right.

burn (20th Jan)
After venturing into vaguely figurative art I moved from magical nannies to Scottish poets with this illustration featuring Rabbie Burns in a disco suit (influenced by the Trammps ‘Disco Inferno’, 1976 and its ‘Burn baby burn’). The witch’s hat in the corner is a nod to ‘Burn the witch’ by Radiohead from their album ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ (2016). I didn’t love Radiohead in the early days but I live with a fan and I have come to appreciate them. Way back I wrote a poem called ‘Not tonight, Radiohead’ that even mentions disco so that’s an odd link for me too.

down (21st Jan)
Two musical links on here – one to ELO’s ‘Don’t bring me down’ (1979) and one to ‘3 miles down’ (1978), a song about miners by one of my longtime favourites Gil Scott-Heron. The latter isn’t one of GSH’s better known tracks but the live version is particularly good. 

sadness (22nd Jan)
Watch out! Here comes Van Morrison and some links to his song ‘Have I told you lately that I love you’ (1989, lyric ‘Fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness’). It’s a gloomy (if cheeky) picture but it’s probably one of my favourites in this pack.

play (23rd Jan)
I had something else in mind for this but then I heard ‘Play the game’ (1980) by Queen on the radio at some point in January and ended up working around that instead (Freddie Mercury and Brian May on a playing card). There are a few little unspecified nods to playing games and playing music on there too.

out (24th Jan)
I first heard Michael Marra play, speak and sing in Montrose in 2006 (I think) but he was from Dundee (where I live now) and I heard him perfrom live here too (as well as a few more times in Montrose). He was such a great performer and songwriter that I struggle to put it into words. He died in 2012, which seems an incredibly long time ago already and I can’t believe he’s been gone that long. I had to get one of his songs in here somewhere and ‘Take me out drinking tonight/When these shoes were new’ (1980) was the one that seemed to fit. The little portrait (top left) doesn’t look much like him (only the headgear…) but the pub theme also reminds me of some of his other songs that mention pubs. He lovingly painted musical portraits of all Dundee life. For me he is up there (in both senses) with some of my faves (Nina Simone, Gil Scott-Heron...).  

loud (25th Jan)
Mainly the musical link here is Kate Bush and ‘Snowflake’ (2011) but also a little bit of Stevie Wonder and ‘Do I do’ (1982, ’Your love talks to me so loud…’). I had to get Stevie in somewhere.

Help (26th Jan)
It’s the Beatles. And they need help (look at them, their faces have disappeared...).

is (27th Jan)
Again I wanted to get David Bowie in somewhere and I managed it here. I did really love ‘Space Oddity’ (was fascinated by the visuals on Top of the Pops in 1975 when it was rereleased and went to number one) and I squeezed it in here (and you will notice I had had enough of trying to draw faces by this point…).

art (28th Jan)
I spent ages trying to choose a song I liked for this one. In the end I went for ‘Mona Lisa’ – best known as a Nat King Cole song from 1950. It was first written for a film (‘Captain Carey, USA’) and I probably know it best from another film (‘Mona Lisa’, 1986) which was popular in the ’80s but I haven’t seen since.

just (29th Jan)
I needed to have a Nina Simone song in the set too and one of my favourites is the live version of ‘Just in time’ (1962) that’s used at the end of the film ‘Before Sunset’ (2004). The song was written by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green and first showed up in the musical ‘Bells are Ringing’ in 1956 (musicals get everywhere!). Just to be fussy I set the clock in the illustration to the time of sunset in Paris on 29th January 2020 (because ‘Before Sunset’ is set in Paris).

take (30th Jan)
More circles in the illustration here… and a very vague link to ‘Don’t take away the music’ (Tavares, 1976) and ‘You are my sunshine’ (‘don’t take my sunshine away…’, numerous versions). And the radio? I’ve listened to so much music radio in my life (cheesy commercial radio in my teens and then later pirate radio, folk shows, 6 music…) that I had to get a radio in there too. Radio is a door to so much music.

part (31st Jan)
This is another one that took a while to choose. Mostly this refers to ‘The Parting Glass’ which I have heard various people sing at folk clubs and concerts (and there is lovely version on Cara Dillon’s 2008 album ‘Hill of thieves’). The song ends ‘good night and joy be with you all’ and it seemed a good way to end the run. Other musical references on the illustration are to Ian Dury and the Blockheads (Reasons to be cheerful part 3 – ‘why don’t you get back into bed’ and ‘summer buddy holly’), Joy Division (‘Love will tear us apart) and Fergie ‘A little party never killed nobody’. Oh and the curtains are parted. Ah ha!

If you got this far thanks for reading and come and join in the fun in 2021! I really enjoyed taking part and it is a great, friendly group.