Sunday, 29 September 2013

Happy 10th Birthday - Sept 30 1977

Looking at the big header on this spread of my diary I thought maybe I'd gone big on celebrating my sister's birthday, but no that's in August. And my own 10th birthday was before I started doing a diary, so what could I commemorating with such emphasis? Radio 1. Honestly, the tenth anniversary of the start of Radio 1 was so big a deal I gave it a big headline? That's how interesting my teenage life was.

Loving the TV line-up, and the pop records I've made my "RFTD" (Record For The Day). Yes, I think we have my childhood totally summed up there. Flowers In The Rain by The Move, fair enough, but who remembers Stranger In The Dark by Stella Parton?

Saturday, 15 June 2013

My Jubilee Arch - June 16 1977

My diary's a positive whirlwind of royalty imagery in the Jubilee summer, isn't it? Here we find me describing, in between hopeless poems and delusional self portraiture, the horseshoe shaped archway I was designing to commemorate the Jubilee by hanging it over my bedroom door for, I can only guess, no-one to see. Oh, look, I've just found a photo of the very arch I describe in this diary. Yes, it still exists, in a cupboard, in my childhood home:

It's decorated with hundreds of tiny comic characters and panels from some of my favourite strips of the time - Barry Smith's Conan, Gil Kane's Spider-Man and Neal Adams Vision featuring prominently, alongside a Queen logo and a celebration of our school rock band which was, by that stage, called Walter Tottle And The Expanding Liberals With A Member Of The Royal Family, The Corgis and a Shaggy Dog. Why oh why were we not more successful?

Records For The Day were an interesting mix. Sure we all remember The Muppet Show and ELP, but Hollywood by Rufus?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Bernard Manning & Murder Most English - June 2 1977

And if any illustration were needed of just how different 1977 was from today, here he see an illustration of racist comedian Bernard Manning, wearing a union jack waistcoat, on a spread which includes TV shows Top Of The Pops, Royal Heritage and Murder Most English. No comment from me, no sense of irony, just an innocent acceptance of all things Royal in the run up to the Jubilee.

And isn't that a beautiful picture by Mick Brownfield, cut out of the Radio Times and necessitating me writing the whole page sideways to fit it in. Around this time, my Dad was something to do with Radio Leicester, the details of which I didn't take enough notice of at the time, and we got a free Radio Times every week. Mick Brownfield, meanwhile, had also produced the artwork for one of my favourite albums of 1977, The Goodies' Nothing To Do With Us. We'll talk about my musical taste on another day.

See this page on the Peoples History Of Pop.

My Records For The Day were Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy by Queen and Strutting Ground from Rock Follies of 77.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Mum's artwork - May 29 1977

May 29th diary's 1977 page is a rarity, bearing an illustration by my Mum, Corral Sutherland. Now we see both where I got it from, and also how at age 15 she's putting me to shame with her freehand drawing. I think she probably still does. She went to Edinburgh College Of Art in the fifties and her life model was Sean Connery. That's right, you should be impressed. And that was a rough drawing that she didn't want and was about to bin, think on't. On the facing page you can see the level I was at, with a resolutely two-dimensional self portrait with Spider-Man.
You try telling the kids today that your telly consisted of Captain Pugwash, Blue Peter, Nationwide and Panorama, and they won't believe you.

My Records For The Day avoided the hit parade, being a cover version of Walk Right In by Dr Hook, and a Kenny Rogers b-side (for, I note, the second time).

Monday, 27 May 2013

It's A Knockout & sunbathing - May 27th 1977

I remember this, sunbathing over the sunniest weekend of the year so far, following what had been quite a disappointing spring weather wise. 1976 had been the driest summer on record, the "drought" as we called it, with standpipes in the streets, people sharing baths, and my Dad collecting used bathwater in a barrel at the back to put on the garden. A record crop of sweetcorn that year, I recall. But 1977 wasn't shaping up that way, hence my celebration in illustrated form of the joy of sunbathing, or am I just celebrating the disproportionate immensity of my feet?

On TV we have shows that they'll never repeat, including Tiswas, which was mostly not kept on video, and It's A Knockout about which little more needs be said. And a dodgy sounding film called The Trouble With Girls, which hasn't popped up a lot recently. It's a great shame that such fondly remembered shows as IAK and Top Of The Pops have had their memories sullied by the discovery of what was going on behind the scenes, let us hope that the kids of today don't have their great childhood shows spoiled in the same way (though, given that most 9 year olds seem to subsist on a diet of Keith Lemon and Family Guy, I'm guessing they're not as innocent as we were to begin with).

My Records For The Day are the usual mix of predictable pop hit, Telephone Line by ELO, and weird b-side from my small and random collection. Girl Get A Hold Of Yourself by Kenny Rogers is from the flipside of Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town, now you ask.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

John Burns art - May 24th 1977

Beautiful John Burns art in this spread from my diary from May 1977. This was the most common way I would decorate the pages of my diary, by dessicating my copies of Look-In, by far the best drawn and most expensively printed of the comics I received every week, and sticking them into my diary with Cow gum before designing the page around it. I use the word designing in its loosest sense.

The painted art in Look-In was the most impressive I'd ever seen in a comic, especially the pages by John Burns (this one being from The Bionic Woman), Martin Asbury, Mike Noble and Harry North. As a result of my use of them in the diary, hardly an original page remains intact, and a back issue in a retro shop will usually go for around a fiver. This means that my diary, running as it did in this way for about 3 years (in 1978 I seem to have moved to keeping a much simpler picture-free diary accompanied by a scrapbook for letters, and in 1981 stopped keeping a diary completely), put paid to about 150 Look-Ins (or is that Looks-In?) costing me a potential £750 in resale value. Kids eh?

Those Records For The Day:

Thursday, 16 May 2013

TV Schedule Disaster - May 17th 1977

It's a measure of how exciting the life of a 15 year old is that the most important thing I could find to write was that I'd recorded the TV shows on that night by writing them on the wrong pages in my diary. It's also indicative of just how seriously I was taking my studies, that I give revising for exams as the excuse. If I was revising that heavily, why was I still recording all the evening's TV shows by drawing my versions of their logos in multicoloured felt tip pens? Quite how much time this wasted I cannot begin to imagine, though I daresay it pales into insignificance alongside the number of hours I now sacrifice on the altars of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

See this page on Peoples History Of Pop.

(What did I tell you? Seconds after writing this diary entry, in 2013 that is, I made up my mind to go straight to my email and start the day's work, not to get distracted. Oh, I thought, but it won't hurt to just check out what's on Facebook. 10 minutes later I've liked three things and read this whole article. Thanks heavens I only had my own obsession with TV and comics, and a pack of Platignum pens to distract me.)

My Records For The Day were Gimme Love Your Way by The New Seekers (which doesn't seem to exist online) and Moving Out Today by (so I seemed think on this first hearing) "Marie Sager". I know.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Roy Thomas? - April 29th 1977

Why have I drawn Roy Thomas? Your guess is as good as mine. On a pair of days when I get artificial respiration demonstrated on me, go to a wedding, play football and celebrate the start of a new series of Call My Bluff (the New Series icon appears proudly and regularly throughout the diary, bless its cotton socks), I draw Roy Thomas. Nope, no idea.

The caricatures on the right hand page are by an artist called Cole whose work appeared every day in the Daily Express. Mum & Dad got it, not my idea. But it had Giles in too, so not all bad.

Records For The Day were Have I The Right by The Dead End Kids and Evergreen by Barbra Streisand.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Fonzie jumps the shark - April 21st 1977

I'm pretty sure the two-part episode of Happy Days I describe here, and indeed churn out a not-too-shabby drawing for, is the infamous story where they go on location and Fonzie jumps over a shark on his motorbike. This has gone on to become short hand for a TV show which has lost its way and is beginning to act out of character. Oddly, at the time I wrote this diary, Happy Days was new to British TV, being shown at different times in different regions - we, in Leicestershire, were able to see completely different episodes on ATV and Anglia. So we began with the shark jumping, whereas the Americans were into their fourth year of the show, those earliest episodes (the first of which didn't even feature Fonzie, and Richie had an elder brother who was soon written out) not getting shown in the UK until the 80s.

And that's as interesting as I can make Happy Days sound, sorry. At the time we kids found it the funniest thing around, and it may well have been our introduction to the concept of "cool". I had a black cap-sleeved t-shirt with Fonzie Is Cool on the front, which I'm sure tells you all you need to know. The 1970s, you had to be there. See this page on the Peoples History Of Pop.

The Records For The Day were I Want To Get Next To You by Rose Royce and Capture Your Heart by either Rays or Blue (I wasn't certain then, it's anyone's guess now).

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Morse Code? - April 15th 1977

Nowadays I teach kids how to draw comics, when I'm not drawing them myself, and looking at my childhood diary makes it quite clear to me that loads of kids can draw better at age 14 than I could. My enthusiasm's unbounded, as is my obsessive-compulsive ability to spend every available waking second at my desk. But my draughstmanship, as we unashamedly called it in the unreconstructed 70s, was rubbish. I did a lot of copying from comics, which looked great, but leave me to my own end with a bit of figure drawing out of my head and I'm rotten.

I am of course talking about my 1970s self. Shut up.

As for whatever the morse code page says, I can honestly admit to not being arsed to translate it. Knowing me, I did it that way because I was confessing something embarrassing about fancying a girl. So good luck anyone who wants to decipher it, may you squirm with hideous spotty awkwardness just like its author did.

The Record For The Day that I can make out is Lucille by Kenny Rogers.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Hello Citizen Smith - April 11th 1977

Babysitting in 1977 cost a quid, and so did the cinema. Don't say this diary doesn't teach you anything. For anyone who's wondering, or hasn't worked out, what an RFTD is, it's my Record For The Day. A constant adherant to Radio 1, I lived and breathed pop music, and seemingly adopted a theme song for every day. Perhaps these were simply my ear worms, or the last thing I heard on Noel Edmonds before I caught the bus to school, or maybe I saw myself as a DJ for the future where, 36 years later, I would get to tweet the names of records, some well known, some even more obscure than the opening track from a midsummer Top Of The Pops 1977, much as I do in 2013. Who knows.

And who knows what that Play For Today was, or where that water stain on it came from. I used to devote half a page every week to reviewing comics, but the best I could do for the TV shows I watched, or that were on while I was busying draw comic strips and decorating my diary, was to give them the same logo every week and put a big red numbered flash on the when they were the start of a New Series. Weird kid.

Citizen Smith was a Comedy Playhouse pilot and Rising Damp started a new series. I was there.

Records For The Day: Whodunit by Tavares and Let Em In by Billy Paul

Twitter @KevFComicArtist

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Roots - April 8th 1977

My diary from April 8th 1977 devotes an unusually generous page to my comic reviews, these normally occupying a quarter of Wednesday's page. Though the weekly comics were mostly cover-dated as coming out on Saturday, they almost all arrived on Wednesday. I went on to write and draw a column of this same name, The Wednesday Column, in the fanzine Fantasy Advertiser in the 80s.

The 'Bumper' Wednesday Column is clearly a result of the Easter holidays, when we've been up with the relatives in Scotland and I've been indulged with extra pocket money for comics. It is quite possible that every single one of those comics still exists somewhere in a box in my office to this day. And the grand total spent on that mountain of comics? AS you'll see at the end of the page it's come to £3.04, which I obviously considered quite extravagant at the time. For eighteen comics? At today's prices each individual comic would cost nearly £3 alone, which means my 2013 contemporary would have no change from fifty quid. Truly we were the privileged generation.

A career as a TV reviewer seemed likely to me at the time, judging by my portentious take on the first episode of Roots. But do I detect a note of accidental racism in the closing line? The 1970s, a different world.

Record For The Day: "Floating" On The Wind (sic) by Roger Daltrey

Welcome to my 1970s diary

Hello and welcome to my 1970s diary. Let us begin with the front cover.

The front cover, as you can see, of Volume Ten of my Picture Diary. This began life in 1973 as an attempt to depict my life as a comic strip. Very soon, I mean literally within days, it became clear that not enough happened in my life to merit a scene by scene graphic adventure. I was at high school, doing the same lessons week after week, devoting much more attention to reading comics and watching TV than what might be considered having a life. So my diary became an exercise in design, in scrapbooking, in commentary and review, and occasionally something worth reading. I have not read these books for 35 years, and they are the mix of delightful innocence and awkward embarrassment you might expect.

If I find the free time, and can be bothered, I shall post some pages from this diary, hopefully on the days they originally appeared. So far I have found, in boxes in my office, volumes 9-11, which take us from mid 1976 to late 1977. I am hoping the others survive somewhere but have yet to unearth them. Stay tuned, and do chase me if I've not posted anything for a while. The first pages to appear here will be the double page spread from 8th April 1977.

Twitter @KevFComicArtist