Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Sixties Start Swinging!

May 13th
Modesty Blaise, the comic strip by Peter O'Donnell  and Jim Holdaway made it's debut in the London Evening Standard on Monday, May 13th 1963. O'Donnell got the idea after a wartime meeting with a girl in the Middle East and wondered how she would grow up.
 Modesty Blaise turned out to be one of the two or three most successful British newspaper strips of the 1960s- it was even made as a (mostly forgettable) movie in 1966.
Here is the first time Modesty is seen, the second strip, printed the following day, May 14th.
Illustrator Jim Holdaway gave the strip it's distinctive and luxurious look- sadly he died suddenly age only 43 in 1970, whilst still drawing Modesty Blaise. He hadn't been first choice- Frank Hampson had tried out but O'Donnell was unhappy with Hampson's treatment. Holdaway was just right, and his style personifies the 1960s like few others.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Calm before the storm

The Cannes film festival in the sunny South of France has always been the place to spot the celebrity de jour - but on May 8th 1963, it was really only the gentlemen of the press knew who this 'model' was; most of the general public didn't know yet that the young lady here walking calmly and unremarked (if not entirely unnoticed!) was Christine Keeler, who's name would fairly soon be known across Britain and the world as a byword for sleaze, impropriety, scandal and political intrigue, and whose face would become one of the most famous faces of the Century.
In 1961, A government minister was sharing his extra-marital bed with Christine, who, unfortunately, was also keeping very close company with a Soviet Naval attache. 1961 was the very height of the 'Cold War', but it was the ministers denial of the affair in March 1963 that would lead to this story unravelling slowly until, with a sudden rush in early June, the saga hit the headlines in a big way. More then. 
Meanwhile, at the Film Festival itself, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'This Sporting Life' were amongst the big winners, but there was upset as Hitchcock's 'The Birds' was deemed too late to compete.

Stones begin Rolling

It was a well-known story by May 1963- the Beatles, currently at Number One in the singles and Album charts, had actually been turned down by one of the countries most famous record labels in early 1962- Decca, run by Dick Rowe (left). But Dick redeemed his reputation in a very canny move on May 4th 1963 when, as Decca's head Artists and Repertoire man, he took up an invitation from a music magazine to be on the panel of judges at a 'Battle of the Bands' talent scouting competition held at the Philharmonic hall in Liverpool. Other judges included Alan A Freeman (not the DJ) of Pye records, and George Harrison, of The Beatles. George and Dick got chatting and Dick asked, unashamedly, "which of these local bands do you think I should sign?" George said " I dunno about these, but there's a group we saw in Richmond the other day called The Rolling Stones- I'd sign them if I were you." So, the very next day, May 5th 1963, Dick found himself watching The Rolling
Stones in Richmond; within a week, they were signed, and their long career had begun.  Mick Jagger remembered meeting The Beatles that first time; "We suddenly saw these four guys in identical long black coats- I thought, 'I don't care what it takes, I want one of those coats'! Then John and Paul went off into a corner and wrote us a song- I was nearly sick! I thought 'even if it means having to learn how to write songs, I've got to get one of those coats!'"