A Short History Of The World – In Several Pairs Of Jeans

This a tale of times long long ago – in the land that Levi Strauss forgot.

Of British boys and girls with – denim set on destruction.

Born in 1955 I was hurled into the turmoil of the Swinging Sixties, with little or no idea concerning style or fashion. Clothes were hand me down, home made accessories to a guileless life of pre-teen, jean-less hi-jinx.

The Beat Boom, that raging torrent that swamped the North West of England in a swirling vortex of raw R’n’B and indigo trousers changed all that forever.

I have no idea just here they came from, or any idea or where they eventually went, but my first pairs of jeans were Tek Sac and/or Jet.

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A thin copy of their American cousins, cut and stitched with a casual carelessness from the pale blue gossamer that was Empire Brand cotton, they were pre-worn out,  threadbare before you had actually worn them out. Designed to induce a distressed look in the wearer, years before the coming of the distressed look.

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Jet seemed to have survived into the 70s – rich in Disco Chic, even warranting their own TV ad – get into Jet Jeans get into Jet.

As I remember the first pair of serious branded jeans were local – for famous local people – they were Liverpool made Lybro of Mount Vernon. A slightly heavier denim, styled to suit and fit the lower half of the upwardly-mobile, mobile teenage tearaway.

 

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In 1963, a Liverpool jeans company, Lybro Limited, asked if The Beatles would advertise their jeans. The request may either have come through the group’s manager, Brian Epstein – or through their friend at the Cavern Club, DJ Bob Wooler. The advertising agency behind the campaign was Millican Advertising Limited, operating from Liverpool 3.

The original photos came to light in 2004, when photographer Richard Cooper unearthed the pictures in an old file and remembered the shoot on which he worked as a young 20-year-old apprentice at a photo studio in Liverpool’s African Chambers.

The photos formed the basis of drawings used on the final advertisements.

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Lybro Jeans Shoot

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Then along came came Brutus – possibly the first homegrown denim to challenge the American imports for distinctive style and quality.

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By now flares had flared up like an unwanted rash on the face of the mid-seventies, whilst I remained in a parallel omniverse – constant and true to the parallel cut.

Beloved of the boot-boy and rampaging teenage togger hooligan alike, Skinners ran counter to the ever widening gulf between toe cap and jean hem. I had several pairs in the Seventies, indigo, white and corduroy – we were out, straight and proud.

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Less enlightened times produced a rash of Skinner clad misdemeanours on the streets and terraces of this fair Isle.

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Manchester United fans in Cardiff 1974

As the Seventies began to collide with the Eighties the upper half of the UK embraced the widest and wildest styles they could find, the northern soul danced to Northern Soul, as jeans, skirts and trousers wrapped and embraced their flailing all-night limbs.

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John Bulmer – Manchester 1974

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Blues & Soul August 1976

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Blues & Soul January 1979

It couldn’t last, we had to take a narrower view in our strides.

The onset of Punk Rock heralded the inception of the skinnier jean – despatching the Hippy flare and Soul Boy bag, indigo to the bargain bins of history.

I then began to buy mine from Crazy Face – brainchild of Joe Moss, he had series of Stockport shops on Mealhouse Brow, Lower Hillgate and Tiviot Dale along with Chapel Walks in Manchester – Joe would later find fame managing Manchester pop sensations The Smiths.

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Stuart Lee of Stockport County at Mealhose Brow

For years I would wear a wide variety of wide and not so narrow Crazy Face denim – served by fresh-faced, soon to be superstar DJ Jason Boardman.

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Nothing last forever and my love affair with home grown denim eventually came to an end, Joe Bloggs, Hooch and Bench largely passed me by.

And so our story ends – a Storm Rider in a turn up, I began wearing Lee Jeans and I’ve never looked back, owning several pairs in various states of wash and wear loved, they are now no longer made.

So some ways down the line I’ll have to take a look at what’s shaking – shake down a pair of eBay Tek Sacs and start all over again.

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Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts – Liverpool

And so castles made of sand, 
Fall in the sea, eventually.

Once there was a battle here, several actually, and battles mean castles, possibly.

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Erected in the between 1232 and 1235, inevitably through the passage of time, blows were exchanged, the Banastre Rebellion of 1315, and later in 1689 Prince Rupert was battered by King Billy, and so on until it was eventually demolished in 1726. A series of churches ensued, finally to be supplanted by the arrival of an amusingly statuesque Queen Victoria, replete with plaque.

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In 1976 excavation of the south side of Castle Street was conducted before the construction of the Crown Courts building, which was built in the style of a castle.

What goes around comes around, ending up largely square in Derby Square.

And lo and so it came to pass, new law courts were erected upon the site begun in 1973, opened in 1984. Architects were Farmer and Dark, who were also responsible for the Fawley Power Station.

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And the Cornwallis Building at the University of Kent.

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I passed by there yet again last Saturday, still maintaining a restrained ambivalence regarding this monolithic concrete and sand pseudo-castle. Less than, and larger than the sum of its parts. The quirky detailing and awkward geometry, producing a somewhat confused, yet imposing scheme, an ossified pinkish ribbed construct from another age.

Mass – possibly without redemption.

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Coat of arms by Richard Kindersley

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Rhyl to Wallasey Hovercoach

After Telstar, Rhyl’s residents and visitors have this week been privileged to see another miracle of scientific progress – the Vickers-Armstrong VA-3, which arrived on Sunday to prepare for the first scheduled passenger carrying hovercoach service in the world. 

Strange but true!

It says so here.

The world’s first commercial passenger hovercraft service ran briefly from Rhyl to Moreton beach in 1962, but ended when a storm hit the passenger hovercraft while it was moored, damaging its lifting engines.

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I’m fascinated by hovercrafts, they were for a while the future that we seemed to have been promised, a future that had consistently failed to arrive.

Until even they failed to arrive, or depart for that matter.

I do have a love of doomed hovercraft services – I’ve been to Pegwell Bay.

Youngest passenger was 21 months old Martin Jones, 128, Marsh Road, who travelled with his mother, Mrs Millie Jones, an usherette at the Odeon Cinema: his grandmother Mrs Jean Morris, and Mrs Morris’s 14 year old son, Tony, a pupil of Glyndwr County Secondary School, the first schoolboy to travel on the hovercraft.  Mr Tony Ward of 13, Aquarium street, a popular figure as accordionist on one of the local pleasure boats a few seasons ago, and his 20 year old daughter Rosemary, cashier at the Odeon, who were among the first to book seats at the North Wales Travel Agency, were also among the passengers.

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Mrs Handley was the manageress of the Sports Cafe and got to know all the crew as they had all their meals there, even a farewell party with a cake in the form of a hovercraft.

The Queen and Prince Philip had received an invitation to undertake the trip, but declined perhaps just as well, for on what proved to be the final journey the hovercraft left Wallasey at 1.15 p.m. on September 14th and both engines failed en route.

There has been talk of reviving the service, a service that sadly seems so far to have defied revival.

“It really will be a feather in our cap for Rhyl.”

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William Mitchell – Liverpool

To wander the streets with a broad smile, open heart and eyes, is to enter into an unwritten contract with the unexpected and inexplicable.

Chance encounters with old, new or familiar friends.

Imagine my surprise, when for the first time ever I unexpectedly came upon these William Mitchell reliefs on Hope Street, whilst walking aimlessly away from Lime Street.

That sense of surprise has never diminished, my spirits lift and my smile broadens to a cheeky grin, my pace quickens in ever so eager anticipation as I approach.

Wrapped tightly around the low, low waist of the former Federation House – big, bossy and very, very beautiful – though at times obscured by more recent architectural intrusions.

Public Sculpture of Liverpool – Terry Cavanagh 1997

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The original raw concrete is now awash with washes of off-magnolia exterior emulsion.

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Hughes and Willet were seemingly less amazed or amused, the opinion of the Aztecs, or for that matter the Neo-Aztecs, is sadly not a matter of record.

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I remain impressed by the impressed concrete relief, a convincing addition to a sharp functional modern office block, all of which have not dated disastrously as soon as the fashion supporting it has collapsed.

Treat yourself take a walk, surprise yourself once in a while.

Aztec bars were withdrawn shortly after their launch in 1967.

The Aztec race was all but wiped out following their disastrous encounter in 1519 with the Conquistadors.

The William Mitchell reliefs prevail to this this day, as of last Sunday.

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Myrtle Gardens – Liverpool

Once again I wandered the warm and welcoming streets of Liverpool in search of houses.

Once again I found older housing, dressed up as newer housing with a new roof, windows and clientele, a stone’s throw from my former encounter in St Andrew’s Gardens.

Myrtle Gardens in Edge Hill was part of the larger project of Liverpool’s inter-war rehousing programme – a tale very well told by Municipal Dreams.

An area with a whole heap of history

And a whole heap more on this fine site The Liverpool Picture Book from whence these images were taken:

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There is also a  comprehensive visual history here in this clip:

Containing the poignant lost faces of the estate:

A familiar tale of bomb damage, decline and sale to private developers and here we are today, a mix of short student lets, newcomers and a handful of long term residents.

Eddie the porter – named Eddie Porter, a clear case of nominative determinism, proved the perfect host, I introduced myself as the man from the Manchester Modernists, doors opened and the conversation flowed like fine wine.

Tales of lads illicitly playing football in the roof voids, families leaving concrete structures in order to huddle in corrugated iron Anderson Shelters, A Hitler’s time in the ‘Pool and his resolve  save the Liver Building, bombs that did fall on the now missing blocks of flats, a family celebrating the return of their son killed in an air raid.

We parted and I strolled amongst the elevated homes some 300 flats, over 80 years old and continuing to provide shelter and succour for the many, though sadly no longer under the sheltering wing of the Municipal Housing Department and their team of engineers, architects and builders.

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Wavertree Liverpool – Pathfinder

How does the modern world treat the past?

With a disdain bordering on a sociopathic destructive indifference it appears.

New Labour with an eye to rehouse the housed, tinned up hundreds of homes prior to demolition and redevelopment. They were and still are solid late Victorian terraces possibly in need of improvement – during the 1990’s, period housing stock was refurbished with central government funding, through a system of easily obtained grants. Improving the living conditions of many, maintaining the structures, and  supporting the local self-employed building trade.

So several years down the line, I visited the streets of Wavertree discussed in Owen Hatherley’s article of 2013.

Little or nothing has changed there are some tenanted houses, interspersed between the blanked out windows in sadly deserted streets, save the two camera shy free runners, who had lived and played in the area for some seven years.

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When one door closes another door closes.

If working-class areas are to defend themselves, they need confidence, both in themselves and in the places they live, otherwise the whole grim process will go on, with councils making the same mistakes and the same lives being destroyed, without interruption.

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The Bullring – Liverpool

I love walking around the Bullring, there are no bulls, just students.

What was once imagined as inter-war social housing, a proud public utopia for you and me, is now a temporary pied-à-terre for them and their owners.

Built in 1935 as part of the city’s expansion of council homes, a time and place very much in thrall, to the then current developments in German Modernism.

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It was one of many such developments across Liverpool, as outlined here:

in this detailed post by Municipal Dreams.

St Andrews Gardens, aka The Bullring is the sole survivor.

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In 1967 the residents turned out in force to celebrate the opening of the very close by Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

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Faces now faded, the lost warm, wide smiles and pretty paper flowers of post-war dreams.

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Captured here on film:

Go take a walk today through a past and a future which we all still deserve.

There is still the sense of a magical space and possibilities as yet unrealised

God Bless Our Pope