I have Prince memories that define moments in time. So long ago, in Carlton with my Melbourne radio friends when the first Prince album arrived in the studio, and how they laughed at it, convinced this strange new artist would never make it. In London, with my good friend, seeing Sign o’ the Times at the Leicester Square Empire Cinema, emerging late into a still-light balmy midsummer evening. In New York, with old friends newly met, staying up late watching footage of Prince in concert. And in Sydney in 2012, seeing him live, oh how lucky to have done so.
A hukilau is a centuries-old Hawaiian method of fishing. When the time to catch the fish is right, a large number of people, sometimes the entire village or community, gather at the beach to participate in the event. They would work together to cast a large net from shore, and the resultant catch provided food for everyone. Hukilau Beach is in La’ie, on the northeastern shore of Oahu, and is so named because of the hukilaus that took place there until around 1970. The Hukilau Song was written by Jack Owens in 1948 after he attended a hukilau at La’ie, and has since been covered by many Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian musicians. And the first hula I learnt was the Hukilau, played and sung by Uncle Sam and taught by Auntie Malihini on Maui.
If you were to visit my house or ride in my car, you might wonder if there was any music other than Hawaiian music. (Is there?) We have an eclectic collection of music, but it’s the slack key guitar records that are on high rotation. I’m not quite sure how it all started, but the seeds were sown even before we set foot on Hawaiian soil for the first time, even before we heard The Descendents soundtrack. This handpainted sign is in Kapaa.
I wonder if this is some reference to the TMNT characters, or scrawled by some modern jazz and Jamaican ska aficionado. Either way, the perpetrator has made an impressive mark on this scarred rendered rock face. I came across it at the site of a local art prize. The prize was one of considerable repute, but this scratched graffiti—most definitely not part of the exhibition, although it could have been—was just about the thing I liked best.
On my way home today I saw a poster announcing the upcoming Blur tour. Seeing it reminded me that, back when they last toured, there was that whole Blur vs Oasis war going on. It was hard to like the foul-mouthed Gallaghers but there’s no question that ‘Wonderwall’ was a great pop tune, and so was Blur’s ‘Song 2’. We often put ourselves in one camp or another. Beatles or Rolling Stones. Ford or Holden. Helvetica or Arial. Oh, and speaking of typefaces … Blur was designed by Neville Brody in 1991, comes in three weights—light, medium and bold—and in 2011 was added to MoMA’s design collection. It bears no resemblance to the band Blur’s logo, which is more akin to Bauhaus.
I’d like to know what the green paint is covering, but as far as the sentiment goes, I’m all for music too. Whether they left the words unobscured on purpose, or just because it wasn’t the part that, for whatever reason, needed to be covered up, hardly matters. This has the look of the hand-drawn, and I like it for that too.
My ukulele group meets twice a month, and this week’s theme was Country Music. We sang along and strummed along to songs by Merle Travis, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and others. Today I needed to use Giddyup and Giddyup Thangs for a publishing job I’m working on, and was delighted to discover that the dingbat I had always thought was a guitar was, in fact, a uke! Giddyup—inspired by the rope letters decorating cattle brands and cowboy blankets—was designed in 1993 by Laurie Szujewska while she was art director at Adobe. She was also in a band called The Chairs … I wonder if she played ukulele.
I can see that I’m not going to get much done today. There are workers next door, and although there is a fence between me and them, they are still only a couple of metres away. They’re using power tools and talking (in bogan) about what they had for breakfast. All of that’s ok, part of city living, but what really drives me to distraction is the radio station they’re listening to. I listen to music while I work too, but there is something about the sound frequency of commercial radio stations broadcast from tinny tradie radios, the inane chatter of ‘upbeat’ announcers, the lowest common denominator talkback, and the ads, which drill through my head as if I’m plugged into this electricity portal.
On Friday night, at the Hunters & Collectors gig at the Enmore Theatre, I missed an excellent photo opportunity. In my effort to carry as little as possible I left the house phoneless and cameraless, so when the giant digital screen which formed the stage backdrop displayed DOG in huge letters, I was unable to capture the moment. Luckily I have a pretty good memory for letter shapes—and the shape of the G was the giveaway that the typeface was Arial. The song ‘Dog’ is from the 1986 album ‘Human Frailty’ (released 28 years ago tomorrow), the record that brought the band commercial and critical success.
The Beatles logo is one of the most universally recognised pieces of lettering, and first appeared on Ringo Starr’s drum kit in 1963. It was designed by Ivor Arbiter, who ran Drum City, London’s first drums-only store, as part of the payment negotiation for Ringo’s new Ludwig drum kit. Arbiter made a rough sketch on a scrap of paper, and was paid £5 for arranging the artwork, which was painted onto the drum head by local signwriter Eddie Stokes. The capital B and dropped T were intended to emphasise the word beat. While there is nothing typographically sophisticated, or even particularly interesting, about The Beatles logo, the power of typography is such that it endures in its ability to evoke memory and emotion. Yesterday marked the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles’ first arrival in America, and tomorrow marks the fiftieth anniversary of their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The typeface has been digitised as ‘Bootle’.