Posts Tagged ‘Lonnie Donegan’

Blackpaint 679 – Lonnie, Des and the Dead Zone

September 30, 2020

Six Five Special

The brilliant Talking Pictures channel has been showing “Six Five” again (for those who don’t remember. this was a BBC TV showcase for popular music in the late 50s.  It featured bands like Don Lang’s Frantic Five and the John Barry Seven, who played a sort of hybrid, jazz- tinged rock n’ roll – Lang was a vocalist and trombonist, Barry the man who later became the distinguished composer and performer of the James Bond theme and much more film music.


This film, based on the TV prog, takes place mostly on board the “Six Five Special” to London, which happens to be packed with stars (Jim Dale, Petula Clark, the King Brothers) and the presenters Jo Douglas and Pete Murray.  Later, an episode of the show provides the setting for the rest,  Fantastic performances from Johnny Dankworth, Don Lang and above all, Lonnie Donegan.  Donegan starts with his- relatively- relaxed performance of the Woody Guthrie song “The Grand Coulee Dam” (yes, I have the 78) and follows up with “Jack O’Diamonds”.  It starts fast but quietly, but then builds to a climax in which Donegan seems just barely to be in control of himself.  In this respect, “Diamonds” is second only to his “Gamblin’ Man”, recorded at the London Palladium in 1957, was it? (yes, I’ve got that too – but with a crack, unfortunately).

Note the spelling of “Coolie” – I think Coulee is right,

Crack not visible.

Fantastic stuff.

“Des” & Killing for Company

Tennant on the right…

David Tennant playing Dennis Nilsen, whom he resembles very closely; murderer of young transient men in London, killed between 12 and 15 men in the late 70s-early 80s, kept their bodies in the flat with him for days, watching TV, chatting with the corpses – he was killing for company, not sex, he claimed and the phrase was used by Brian Masters as the title for his book on Nielson.

The police interviews with Nilsen and those with Masters reconstructed in the TV progs show Nilson to be articulate, manipulative and very chippy about perceived injustices and infringements of his rights in custody; he professed sympathy for his victims and claimed he was glad to have been caught – otherwise, he says, he would have carried on (true, no doubt).

Considering the circumstances of the arrest, he certainly asked for it.  He flushed human remains down the drain – and then called (or insisted that the landlord call) a plumber. who found bits of fingers.  The police found his flat to contain bodies and body parts, plastic bags full of innards and a human head in a large pan on the stove.

Apart from Tennant’s great job and that of Daniel Mays as the main investigating officer, the most noticeable feature was the smoking, incessant throughout, and carried on by all parties.  The most smoking I’ve seen on a screen since Fritz Lang’s “M” – another serial killer, portrayed by Peter Lorre and based partly on Peter Kurten, the “Vampire of Dusseldorf”.

The Dead Zone, dir David Cronenberg (1983)

After The Shining and Carrie, the best adaptation of a Stephen King book to date – some may argue for “Shawshank”, I suppose – but Christopher Walken has that intensity and capacity for sudden violence…  Martin Sheen’s mad dog populist candidate Greg Stillson is a great cartoon too.  The murders are low key but the scissors suicide of the cop murderer and the shoot out with his demented mother (shades of Carrie) are good shock value.

Next time, Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch and Performance –  and other up-to-the-minute stuff….


Standing Woman Collage


Wild Turkey – old painting, new title







Blackpaint 75

February 23, 2010

Richard Diebenkorn

Yes, it’s  addictive once you start, the game of making connections (see Bl. 74); yesterday, I was on about Keith Vaughan and Nicolas de Stael – today, I’m thinking of Diebenkorn and the tenuous connection to de Stael.

It’s landscape that is the link.  De Stael did those highly coloured landscapes made out of colour blocks sculpted onto the canvas with a knife.  Diebenkorn did those fantastic “abstract landscapes”, tawny like a lion’s pelt,and white and blue, crossed with black “roads”.  When I first saw them in that great, grey and orange-covered book by Jane Livingston, I  was struck by their beauty.  The later “Ocean Park” series are much cleaner, more geometric, more green and blue – but a logical development.

Then, I came to the figurative paintings; golden/orange and dark blues, greys and flesh tones, that were equally beautiful.  Diebenkorn was unusual, in that he kicked off as an abstract painter in the late 40’s and developed in Albuquerque (see Urbana series, for instance) and then switched to figurative between 1955 and 67, returning to abstract thereafter.  Guston, of course, also switched from abstract to figurative – but never made the return journey.


And of course, the “abstract landscape” thing brings me back to Peter Lanyon, because that’s a good deal of what he did too.  Many of his pictures are named after particular places in Cornwall and USA and are sort of total landscapes, giving all possible perspectives and sometimes impossible ones – from within the earth, say.  After taking up gliding, his paintings were increasingly “top shots”, to borrow a film-making term -and this is  another link to Diebenkorn, whose pictures sometimes look like aerial photographs (the opening sequence of aerial shots in “Up in the Air” comes to mind).

I’d had an idea that Lanyon had been killed in a glider accident in 1964; it turns out, though, that he sustained only a minor leg injury in a rough landing – it later developed into thrombosis, which actually led to his death days later.  Nevertheless, it is the 4th violent demise of an artist in this blog in three or four days, albeit accidental  – the others were Christopher Wood, suicide under a train; Keith Vaughan, suicide by drug overdose (ill with cancer); and de Stael, threw himself from a building. 

Listening (as promised) to Lonnie Donegan, “the Grand Coolie Dam”

“Now the world holds seven wonders, that travellers always tell,

Some gardens and some towers, well, I guess you know them well;

But now the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam’s fair land,

It’s the big Columbia river, and the big Grand Coolie Dam.”



Blackpaint 58

February 4, 2010

Penguin Covers

I love those old Penguin Modern Classic covers from the 60s and 70s, I think when Germano Facetti was in charge, when they used modern (ish) paintings.  At the moment, I’m reading At-Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien and it has a great Jack Butler Yeats cover; “the Bus by the River”, in fleshy creams, red-browns, light green and Prussian Blue, done with slices of a thick brush and maybe a knife, showing a capped man and hatted woman peering out from the bus at the passing houses – I’ve already nicked the colour scheme, but it didn’t come out as well as Yeats’, needless to say.

If you have any sort of collection of these old paperbacks, you should lay them all out face up on the floor – you’ll have  a fair set of great art repros, including some fairly obscure names; John Brack for instance, from the cover of Patrick White’s “The Vivisector”.  I’m going to go through my lot over the weekend to see what else there is (yes, sad, loser, all the other variations).

Gillian Ayres

Another fantastic painter, I’ve been admiring the Patrick Heron (as I thought) cover of our phone book – turns out it’s Gillian Ayres “Lure”.  look it up, you’ll see why i thought it was Heron.  Beautiful picture, throbbing colours; its easy to see why she couldn’t stand the Euston Road people who taught her, according to Martin Gayford’s Telegraph article last week.


Worth every penny.  it’s going to look very striking in my entrance hall.

Gambling Man trad. Lonnie Donegan

“Well, I’ve gambled down in Washington,

And I’ve gambled up in Maine,

I’m goin’ down into Georgia to knock down my last game….

I’m a gambling man, man, man,

I’m a gambling man…”



Blackpaint 57

February 3, 2010

Greer article

A small postscript on yesterday’s comments – I checked the internet for pictures by the three women artists that Greer mentioned yesterday; Helen Lessore, Silvia Gosse and Hilda Carline.  Very little for Lessore and Carline, more for Gosse, but some of them turned out to be by Sickert!  Excellent self-portrait and an interesting abstract by Carline.  A portrait of Patricia Preece too, fully clothed and clearly older than in the Spencer nude picture, with a thoughtful and very much alive expression.

Van Doesburg

There was more stuff on the above by Adrian Searle yesterday, that I didn’t get to mention because I was preoccupied with Spencer et al.  He highlights the “Jekyll and Hyde” nature of Van D., who had another persona, the Dadaist “IK Bonset”.  When he wanted to escape(?) from the De Stijl type artist he just adopted this other identity and did what he liked.  He even got his wife Nelly to put on a false moustache and pose for a not very convincing photo portrait of “Bonset”.

What a great idea – pretty obvious I suppose, but it sounds quite liberating to me.  I’m working on my other persona now.  Maybe several….


That Greer stuff has got me thinking about “ugly” in art;  she obviously hates those pictures by Spencer, maybe Freud too, which show women’s bodies in unflattering lights, poses, and with flaws present.  I think they have a sort of beauty; that’s a matter of taste.  What about Bacon?  I find a lot of Bacons beautiful too, especially the portraits of Dyer (the one with the bifurcated head, in a mirror is it?), Muriel Belcher and Isabel Rawsthorne.  The compositions and colours are “pleasing” too, in some way.  So some of them depict violence and pain – the National Gallery is full of crucifixions and beheadings and tortures, mostly depicted in beautiful colours and settings.  I found the stuff in that “Sacred Made Real” exhibition really ugly and depressing; couldn’t wait to get out and go upstairs for some crosses under blue skies.

I think the only paintings that I’ve seen that really horrify me are those by Marlene Dumas – the dead women’s portraits and the kid with bloody hands.  I’d be really interested to know what Germaine Greer thinks about them.  Any other offers? Interesting that you can buy (rather expensively) little toys of Bosche’s monsters in the NG gift shop – they were once considered horrifying, I suppose. 


Trying to do a figurative painting, using the “fractured surface” look I did in last two paintings – it’s not going well, as can be seen below.

Listening to “Ain’t no more Cane on the Brazos”, by Lonnie Donegan.  Yes, I know he nicked it and was a Leadbelly copyist – but I like it.

“You should-a been on the river nineteen and four,

Oh, oh, oh, oh,

“You’d-a find many dead men, most every row,

Oh, oh, oh, oh.”