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10 years is a long time.

Almost an eternity in pop music.

10 years ago exactly…Kylie was Number 1 in the singles AND album charts and taking over the world (with CGYOOMH & Fever)…Aaliyah was being mourned…Destiny’s Child were too Bootylicious…Steps were about to split-up…Westlife were showing no signs of following suit…and a certain Stefanie Germanotta and Robyn Fenty were 15 years and 13 years old respectively (Lady Gaga and Rihanna to you and me)…crumbs!

Smash Hits & SKY collection

On the way home last week I saw an advert for a brand new magazine called ‘We Love Pop’ on the back of a bus…I wondered if it was the first in the way of such a magazine since Smash Hits’ demise in 2006.

Starting in 1978, Smash Hits was a music magazine aimed for teens. But unlike any I can think of nowadays, it was lauded by kids and grown-ups alike. Like NME & Melody Maker aimed for adults, it was a powerhouse of great journalism and was seen as one of the ‘movers and shakers’ of the music industry. Alongside asking about ‘favourite colours’ or ‘best pizza topping’, it pulled no punches in getting down to the nitigriti, searching for the truth behind musical influences, personal experiences, in-band rifts, artist rivalries and much much more. Even surveying readers’ lifestyles including sex and alcohol.

In it’s heyday it sold millions, and along with the Top Of The Pops music show it was seen as vital in breaking new singers. Previous featured editors and journalists include Nick Logan, the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, Mark Ellen, Alex Kadis, Sylvia Patterson, Miranda Sawyer, Mark Frith, Kate Thornton, Lisa Smosarski & the recently deceased Tom Hibbert to name quite a few. AND not forgetting the most appealing aspect besides the free stickers or gifts often attached…much sought after song lyrics!!! And all for 70p!!! (Yes, I know, £0.70!?!?)

Bugger...this'll take ages to clean up!

I started buying Smash Hits in 1993 when I fell in love with Take That and (especially!) Jason Orange…and then couldn’t be bothered to buy anymore at the ripe old age of 20. Every 2 weeks I’d eagerly buy the latest issue, soaking up the interviews, chart analysis, music reviews and the unique humour Smash Hits injected. I was hooked. Inbetween homework, coursework and the troubles of teen life it was a welcome lifeline to the music world in the days before the internet, reading all about my favourite popstars. Reading it, I could be a popstar!

So I simply had to dig out my old collection for a trip down memory lane!

->

7-20 JULY 1993 : TAKE THAT

I never liked boybands, but the only one I totally did was Take That. Perhaps puberty or just Jason Orange, all I remember is one day suddenly being obsessed…I had to know everything about them and my beloved! In this issue Alex Kadis joins them in an earlier promotional trip to try and crack the States and interviews them along the way. Not being famous over there they have a hectic workload, but being anonymous there’s time for plenty of tomfoolery. HIGHLIGHT: Reading about their chemistry and Gary being highly keen on how much all the big houses cost and on renovating, and practicing keyboard before bed…that’s Gary!

27 APR-10 MAY : KURT COBAIN R.I.P.

The world was in shock to hear of Nirvana’s lead singer’s death, with Smash Hits not shying away from reporting ‘he committed suicide by blowing his head off with a shotgun’. It published that he was ‘painfully shy and his inability to cope with fame led to problems with heroin and depression. But millions of fans ‘will remember him as a great singer, guitarist and songwriter.’ The suicide note left for his wife Courtney Love and their two-year old daughter Frances Bean ended ‘”I love you, I love you”‘.

31 AUG-13 SEPT : KYLIE’S POST-SAW COMEBACK

I’ve loved Kylie since Neighbours and before she became a legend. Her first release since leaving PWL records and the pop producers Stock, Aitken & Waterman was HUGELY anticipated. By that time she was well and truly a huge gay icon but I was clueless, but discovered this shortly after. Here she talks about her new music, about finally being seen as ‘cool’, movies and men…the interviewer notes something that is often famously said, Kylie is very guarded in revealing information. But also that she looks stunning and is a pop force to be reckoned with. HIGHLIGHT: Being bored stiff with Madonna comparisons, hanging out with Prince, and snogging Lemonheads hottie Evan Dando. Plus THAT eyebrow and her hearty ‘infectious guffaw’! P.S. The comeback, Confide In Me, is one of my favourite songs EVER.

24 MAY-6 JUNE 1995 : MICHAEL JACKSON’S POST-ABUSE CONTROVERSY COMEBACK

Friend and journalist Adrian Grant details the goings-on since Jan 1994, dealing with the sexual abuse allegations by Jordy Chandler, it’s impact, marrying Lisa Marie Presley and releasing new album HIStory. HIGHLIGHT: He talks of his hurt about the allegations, his love for his fans, new songs, and enquiring about blue hair extensions in London…!

21 JUNE-4 JULY 1995 : DEUCE

Favourite band during my GCSEs. Pure dance-pop with Kelly O’Keefe (now owns a restaurant in West Hampstead), Lisa Armstrong (now Mrs Ant McPartlin), Craig Young (varying success in the States) & Paul Holmes (did songwriting for a while). Kelly was hot. Lady Gaga-esque imagery. Yes I am cringing a little. Better than Steps though.


2-15 AUG 1995 : ROBBIE LEAVES / (WAS SACKED FROM) TAKE THAT

A pop milestone. Millions of fans in tears. Smash Hits – with a sombre cover – detailed all the information. Did he quit? Was he pushed? Celebrity reactions and remembering 15 golden Robbie moments. HIGHLIGHT: Emphasising that what is likely to be the truth is that Robbie told the boys he wanted to leave but would stay till the end of the tour, but then a few days later the rest of the band said it would be best if he left sooner. That and contacting the then prime minister John Major and The Queen’s spokespeople for comments…none given.

16-29 AUG / 30 AUG-12 SEPT 1995 : BLUR vs. OASIS

Britpop mania reached fever pitch when Blur’s Country House & Oasis’s Roll With It were both released on 14 August 1995. Both sold well over 200,000 copies in the first week. Blur won. But Oasis had longer success. Smash Hits decided to print both bands on their covers in consecutive issues, but Blur first, perhaps because Blur answered reader’s questions in their edition.

16-29 AUG 1995 : LOUISE LEAVES ETERNAL

The biggest UK girl group at the time. Hailing from south London, debut album Always and Forever sold over 4 million units worldwide (over 1.2 million – 4 x Platinum – in the UK alone). Then Louise left. The white one out of three blacks. Was it racial? No, Kelly Bryan and Louise Nurding were best friends. Louise enjoyed success as a solo artist for a while while Eternal carried on as a trio. Kelly left and then the two remaining sisters’ called it a day after the hits dried up.

9-22 OCT 1996 : THE SPICE GIRLS

Just when you thought pop music had died…BAM!!! The Spice Girls launched with a blaze of publicity but – mainly – top quality pop songs. They took over the world. They were huge. They’ve sold over 100 million albums and singles worldwide. HIGHLIGHT: Loving Louise’s breasts, gatecrashing Courtney Love’s hotel room, and being honest and warts and all. Victoria does a rare smile on the cover.

3 JUNE 1998 : 5IVE

Jason ‘J’ Brown. My last teenage crush. (What is it with Jasons and colours?). Phwoaar. That is all.

;-D

18 NOV 1998 : STEPS

Love ’em or hate ’em, Claire, H, Faye, Lee & Lisa grew ever popular and sold loads of records, with a string of Top 10 hits. Bright, cheery pop music with dance ‘steps’, hence the name. They disbanded acrimoniously on Boxing Day 2001. HIGHLIGHT: Claire sometimes forgetting to bring the right underwear for performances, such as wearing a white outfit and having black knickers, but H never having that problem. H stands for hyperactive apparently…not for homosexual then.

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From ‘The Telegraph’ newspaper

R.I.P Amy. It’s particularly sad when someone dies before their time. Especially when they had so much potential, and especially when life got too unbearable and loved ones couldn’t seem to help.

We were all anticipating the 3rd album. For that spark on stage again.

Clearing out my bug-ridden PC, I think that’s why I had recently forgot I was lucky to see Amy. A personal appearance at The Astoria on 14 Apr 2007, at G.A.Y. no less! The photos and videos I took reminded me that I hadn’t completely forgotten, but for many reasons for me that was practically another lifetime ago.

Amy Winehouse – Astoria – 14/APR/2007

I almost never went. Some friends were not available, others couldn’t be bothered! At the eleventh hour I thought, “Screw it, I’ll go on my todd”.

I’m so glad I did. I met a guy and a girl also going (not seen them since) and we had a blast on the balcony!

I have no detailed photos or sharp clips though. They are only about a minute each in length, only a taster. It was a far cry from my usual trigger-happy, ready-to-record collection of gigs now. Coupled with the fact that my battery had run out of juice.

So you may be disappointed if you expect even average quality.

Amy Winehouse – Astoria – 14/APR/2007

But the graininess instills a rawness to it that makes it seem more real. And that her voice and character still come through is a testament to her prowess. Her voice still so strong and so arresting.

Watching the clips last week felt very eery, I guess you’ll feel the same. The lady singing before us had sadly passed away suddenly at 27 (or unfortunately perhaps not so suddenly if you think about it). In a venue that is now no more after being demolished for the Crossrail project.

Knowing I was also 27 (meaning she was 23…!) while looking through my camera lens at her was alarming. But mostly, 2007 was the last year my Mum was alive; any event whether banal or stupendous in 2007 I can’t help hold as painfully sacred. Events like perhaps going home and telling my Mum about the concert, listening to her reaction, and then tucking our conversation away in some corner of my memory, maybe as nothing particularly special, completely ignorant that in months to come the change in my landscape would be nothing short of alien.

Amy Winehouse – Astoria – 14/APR/2007

I hadn’t seen these clips since 2007. But apart from feeling sad, there was a bittersweetness. And seeing Amy reminded me how much she entertained everyone that night. The room was filled with happiness at her kookiness and her power. She was such a laugh, joking with the crowd. And I hope you get that from watching them too, which is why I wanted to share these clips for anyone who loved her, as short as they are. Hopefully a warm fuzzy feeling of how great she was!

Amy Winehouse – Astoria – 14/APR/2007

I also wanted to promote MIND, the mental health charity. It’s an umbrella organisation to deal not only with addiction, but all mental health issues, depression, anxiety, minor to major, the lot. There shouldn’t be a stigma attached to it. Sometimes it goes unnoticed compared to other tangible physical diseases. But it’s devestating when someone feels isolated, having seen loved ones suffer and also been affected.

Sometimes all it takes is to share one’s worries with a loved one, to feel on top of the world again. But for many people, this simple act of opening up, which most people engage in, seems to not be an option. And that’s when small problems can spiral out of control, and often they need not. And it’s not just drug addiction, other reasons for feeling low, which is normal for all of us at some time or another and usually we pull through it, can be left unchecked until, in some cases, it’s too late.

Click here to be taken to the MIND Charity.

Right now, someone else who isn’t famous is going through this. Maybe your neighbour you pass by every day. Your work colleague. Family member. Trying to put a brave face on it. Maybe you?

Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being strong for too long.

So, whether you liked the clips or thought they were crap! ( :-/ ) …have a look at MIND and donate if you like. Or maybe someone needs your support. Or maybe you do, but are too scared to ask for help. We all need help sometimes.

I think a life without art would be a life less lived. Music’s my passion, but I would love to be able to paint a masterpiece.

I’m lucky enough to know a few friends who, when putting brush to canvas, or even pencil to paper, create beauty. I’m totally in awe of them!

I’m not a painting aficionado, but I think I can appreciate talent. And I reckon anyone who sees Lorna Wadsworth’s pieces would no doubt say the same.

Throughout school and university, she has honed her unique skills in capturing the human form in charcoal or oil paint. She has a natural eye for capturing detail to photographic-like quality. And her technical skills match her artistic flair, by employing a vast array of painstaking methods to create work taking hold of your senses.

Most of her recent work is big and covered in gold leaf, and therefore expensive. To make her Art available to anyone who might want to start a collection she had the idea of launching a ‘Diffusion Line’, almost like D&G to Dolce and Gabbana, as a way of making art affordable to all.

100 PICTURES, 100 POUNDS!

Called ‘100 Pictures, 100 Pounds!’ the idea is as simple and brilliant as it sounds. You can have a look at her pop up website http://www.100pictures100pounds.com, although I’m not sure how longer the project will be live, so get clicking fast!

100 Pictures, 100 Pounds!

While most world-renowned artists are all highly talented, it seems luck seems to play a big part. ‘Hyping-up’ of artists, creating a ‘buzz’ around a particular exhibition, and a few well-placed media stories can create a seemingly exponential projection of the chosen few into the media stratosphere. But becoming the word on everyone’s lips doesn’t seem all that fair when such methods serve to not only grossly inflate art prices, but also deny many artists at least as talented the chance to succeed. Often all it takes is circumstance, a lucky shot.

Lorna’s experiences as an artist have led her to some exhilarating and unique encounters, from capturing scenes in the urban jungle, painting random men who take her fancy, being commissioned to recreate The Last Supper for a church, to portraits of well-known figures, with Margaret Thatcher, Derek Jacobi and Rolf Harris to name a few.

But the art world can be difficult to crack. Studio prices are high, and spaces for exhibitions are also expensive and oversubscribed, and can take hours of multi-tasking to put together.

Lorna’s well due her big break, so I wanted to help by doing a little blog!

BEAUTIFUL BOYS

Beautiful Boys, 11th to 23rd Oct '07 - Empire Gallery, 30 Vyner Street, London E2 9DQ E2

I first met Lorna when I went to her exhibition called Beautiful Boys in October 2007. She wanted to get a strong female’s perspective on the male form, challenging and matching the centuries-old notion of male painter’s gaze and female muse. The boys featured were either people she knew or random passers-by in the street, whom she ran upto and told them of her project! As well as paintings on display there were charcoal sketches, some of which she did live before our eyes. It was amazing to see how quickly yet accurately she could take the likeness of someone and transfer it to paper, and after (much too kindly!) sketching me it was eery to see ‘me’ in her drawing.

A LAST SUPPER

After irregular contact our paths crossed again a year or so later. Having contacted me to ask for my help in a portrait, I hadn’t heard back after replying, until a few months later in early 2009 when I tried again. Apparently she never received a reply, and was nearly finished, but desperately needed my help still! So we arranged a time when we were both free, and I was to meet her over the course of a few weekends in a studio in Hackney. I was very intrigued to say the least!

We met, and making our way to a dilapidated building, she introduced me to her makeshift studio; paints, fabrics and clutter all around, but it was a space she was able to paint with. It might be taken for granted, but I realised how hard it was for artists to have somewhere to store and create and not be charged extortionately for it, especially in London. And then she told me about the project.

A LAST SUPPER, 4th March to 4th April 2010 - St. Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square

‘A Last Supper’ – a modern interpretation of The Last Supper – was to be painted as an altarpiece for St. George’s Church, Nailsworth, Gloucester. A late parishoner, Alan Denman, who left a sum of money as a bequest, had a vision of this story to be on show at his church. Following her Beautiful Boys exhibition, Lorna thought it would be a great progression to get some of the guys from this together for it, on the condition that the commission was expenses only but she had complete artistic control. So she set about creating her masterpiece, with Jesus as a striking black figure, and the various disciples surrounding him all with their unique features. There was one left to paint, and I was humbled to help…particularly as embarrassingly all the other guys were models and I was anything but in comparison! I was to be St. Peter! And a gay Muslim at that! (OK, neither point actually matters, but I couldn’t help smile 😉 ).

Ta-daa! ;-D

So over 3 weekends, I helped her. Amazingly, she painted the piece completely from life; all the people who contributed she painted in person over the course of a few months. And all thirteen people could not come together simultaneously. So she set about painting each figure, one by one, adding slowly to her masterpiece. Remembering the positions of the ones before, along with the shadows cast, the looks exchanged, all at a particular time of day so the sunlight could be recreated.

I had never before bore witness to an artist in the throws of their creation; it was fascinating to see what goes into it all. Following a mainly academic route myself career-wise, I really respected her dedication to her work. Hearing about her previous works, it was evident she is not only talented but also highly-skilled with a variety of technical know-how. And this piece was a complete labour of love. From getting up early, to painting long hours, trying different styles, to revisiting different parts of the growing masterpiece. So holding statuesque still, half-robed, gesturing and maintaining a particular facial expression all at the same time was the least I could do to help her create St. Peter as painlessly as possible, even though it was agony at times!

It was great bonding experience too. We shared a lot. She told me about what she’s been upto, heartache, successes, ups and downs. She was going through a particularly difficult time when we met and I could see how such emotions can be reflected in or even influenced by painting. Although Lorna tells me she doesn’t strive to recreate what the camera sees, which flattens colours and simplifies form, and has only one focal point. She paints from life as she believes painting can capture what photos can’t, and her Last Supper pulstates with life and energy as though the figures were all about to start moving and turning towards you. And I think the end result was positive and cathartic for her.

Me by Lorna! (Better than the real thing I think!).

And the experience became important for me to. It was the first time we had seen each other since we first met that October 2007 – and that day was forever etched in my mind, because I was on the way home to see my Mum and family. And that was the first time I saw just how ill my Mum had become. Mentally, she had been under too much pressure, and I saw the beginnings of her unravelling before us. It was heart-wrenching. Nothing could prepare us for her untimely death a couple of months later. But I remember on that day, I told her about where I had been…that this random lady had done a life-like drawing of me! Like all Mums, she was thrilled and was looking forward to seeing a copy that Lorna said she would give, but of course, she sadly passed-away.

So it was quite an experience to meet Lorna again, having not seen her since my Mum was alive, and sharing stories about my family, about changes in relationships that I had, and career since then too. On the last day, after I had helped all I could and Lorna had pretty much wrapped up that aspect of the painting, I was surprised to see she had brought me something. And it was the original charcoal sketch when we met that day, plus different sized copies. I’m no oil-painting I know! But for an artist to give her original work was really nice. And it was because it signified an important association with my Mum on that day that she gave it. It’s quite a bittersweet possession for me, and I thought it was really sweet of her.

SACRED OR PROFANE

SACRED OR PROFANE, 4th March to 4th April 2010 - St. Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square

At Trafalgar Square, Lorna also had another exhibition. ‘Sacred or Profane’ is a modern interpretation of Zurburan’s shadowy robed monks, recast as the modern-day ‘hoody’, including St. Francis of Assisi’s infamous kneeling image. From her website: ‘Reinterpreting great themes of art of the past for the post religious modern world, Wadsworth’s paintings address the aching spirituality still endemic to the modern world’.

Lorna’s currently been working on a whole new collection of paintings, and is trying to get an exhibition sorted, and as usual is still working hard, especially when getting an exhibition together can be such an ordeal.

100 Pictures, 100 Pounds!

So make sure you check out her works of art on sale in the link above and at the top. And if you like them, make sure you grab them, they’re going fast!

And after that, check out her website below. Lorna May Wadsworth – a great talent!

Lorna May Wadsworth

ALL PAINTING IMAGES COPYRIGHT OF LORNA MAY WADSWORTH.

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