That is all.
The exhibit opens with a great photo of Joan Jett with a “takes no shit from anyone” look and a guitar slung over her shoulder. The next thing you see is a timeline, then a piano — Lady Gaga’s childhood piano, as it turns out. Appropriately, the exhibit starts with the music, or at least, one of the tools to create it.
Around the corner you go, seeing memorabilia of some of the earlier influences including Bessie Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and LaVern Baker. It’s good that the exhibit reaches into pre-rock history, though I wanted more of it, history geek that I am.
Turning to your right, you see an impressive US-flag-style dress on a headless mannequin in a glass case, next to another mannequin frilly black and yellow dress sprinkled with tiny musical notes. The flag dress was made for Wanda Jackson by her mom; the yellow one was worn by Ruth Brown. There are some other memorabilia pieces in the display — Jackson’s guitar, Brown’s record — but what draws your eye here is the costuming. And this focus continues through the rest of the exhibit.We see sparkly dresses worn by members of the Supremes, really short sparkly dresses worn by Tina Turner, and flowing dresses worn by Stevie Nicks, Mama Cass, and the Wilson sisters from Heart. Loretta Lynn’s dress is essentially a 1980s wedding dress in pink: sparkly beaded bodice, big puffy shoulders, and a chiffon skirt. And a nice guitar next to it, but the “ooh, shiny” steals its thunder.
Some costumes are less girly: Joan Jett, of course, with a leather jacket (sporting a Keep Abortion Legal badge), and the outfit she wore on the I Love Rock & Roll album cover. Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth is represented with a shirt bearing the phrase “Eat Me” and the Rolling Stones’ tongue logo.
The definition of “rock” is pretty broad by the time you get to the Britney Spears and Shakira outfits, basically sequined pants with bikini tops. Both mannequins have belly buttons. I think Shakira’s gets a six-pack; no such luck for Britney.
There is a case nearby with a mannequin wearing something that looked like something out of a horror film, red and gross. Yes, it’s Lady Gaga’s meat dress — “meat jerky by now,” we were told. At this point I heard one of the other reviewers mumbling thoughts similar to mine: “Why is it all clothes?” To be fair, it’s not all clothes. Quite a few of the mannequins come with guitars, and some have album covers or magazine articles on display showing the clothing being worn. A few have handwritten lyrics or letters. There is a wealth of text to read about each performer. But the fundamental format of the exhibit is basically mannequins wearing cool stage costumes.The focus on the costumes seems to be both a positive and a negative. On the negative side, the heavy emphasis on costumes seems to crowd out memorabilia that I have seen in other exhibits — more letters, press, vintage posters, tickets, etc. It tends to define almost all the artists by their clothing, displayed on those (mostly) headless, nearly interchangeable mannequins. (The only ones with heads were ones with hats. And those heads were generic.) What’s important, it says, is what’s below the neck. This is what defines each artist. And this is problematic.
Women in rock are not about their clothes — the clothes are a sideline and kind of a distraction. Show me more video, show me more memorabilia — how about the kind of display where it feels as if “you are there” seeing some of them perform, instead of dead faceless mannequins wearing pretty clothing? What was it like to see Ruth Brown sing “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean” at the Mambo Club in Wichita, Kansas in 1956? What was it like to see Blondie at CBGB’s in 1977? The display is more “Nordstrom window” than “rock and roll.”
On the positive side, seeing so many mannequins does give you a bit of a feeling that “hey, there are a lot of women in rock, and this is only touching the surface.” And at the same time, it gives you that sense that they are just people like yourself — maybe shorter than you are, maybe thinner, maybe not — not some onstage demigods glowing under a spotlight.
I must admit that I personally find costume interesting. I’ve researched it, and it’s one of the aspects of history that draws my attention, so I enjoyed seeing the clothing, but I did not like that it really seemed to be the focus. Having costumes there is good, but the exhibit seems kind of imbalanced.
That does not mean you shouldn’t go see it anyway, though. Imbalanced or not, the exhibit is still fascinating. I just wish it could have been more.
The blog is great itself, but the collection of images and links that Sharon has compiled on Pinterest is really stunning. Check out this list of boards:
- House Interiors (early 1900s)
- House Exteriors (early 1900s)
- Craftsman Dining Rooms
- Craftsman Living Rooms
- Craftsman Bedrooms
- Craftsman Remodel
- Early 1900s Bathrooms
- Remodeled Bathrooms
- Early 1900s Kitchens
- Remodeled Kitchens
- Shopping Resources
- Craftsman Furniture
- Craftsman Stencils, Wallpaper and Paint Colors
- Early 1900s Tile
There are more, including collections of early 20th Century clothing. If you have an old house, or any interest in Arts and Crafts style of the early 1900s, these are great boards to follow.
While working on remodeling my bungalow bathroom (more on that later) I was looking for some vintage art to put on the wall. I found this 1922 ad:
I loved it immediately and decided that would be on my wall. (I ordered it from this eBay seller.) But, note the caption:
“Five Foot ‘Standard’ Bathroom
Pembroke Bath with Shower, Marcosa Lavatory
and Expulso Closet in a room five feet square.”
Five feet square?! 25 square feet? That’s a pretty small room, but it is possible if the sink is small. I grew up in a house that had a very small bathroom, but it was closer to 5’x7′ — the sink and toilet could both fit on the same wall, which at least left room for a laundry hamper.
Looking at other Standard ads from the 1920s, I saw this theme repeated over and over, usually with gorgeous painted artwork to illustrate (click each image to see a full version):
The advertising emphasized the flexibility and freedom of having these small bathrooms as convenient extra bathrooms in one’s home to “assure ideally ample bathroom facilities” and allow “leisurely washing, and splashing, and fixing, and primping before the lavatory glass.”
This ad attempted to appeal to both women and the men in their homes who might be irritated at the time spent in the bath:
Oh how she had longed for a bathroom all her own — where she could take her own sweet time, knowing it would not be remarked upon — confident that others were not being inconvenienced.
How hard it is to use a bathroom on schedule!
The bathroom in this ad, though tiny, had a sense of feminine luxury, with rose-colored tilework, golden sconces with aqua shades, and a butterfly area rug.
Unspoken in the Five Foot Square ad campaign was something else — if you can install a full bathroom in such a small space, you can easily add bathrooms to homes that previously didn’t have indoor plumbing.
Standard ads, both in the 1920s and otherwise, tended to promote elaborate and expensive luxury bathroom designs, ones which were out of reach for many. Earlier ads often showed fairly large bathrooms with features such as bidets and sitz baths, and it was common for the ads to show household maids at work in the bathroom. Here are a couple of the earlier Standard ads:
The Five Feet Square ads combined an appeal to luxury (extra baths for the lady who has everything) with an appeal to those homeowners still in smaller, older houses: you too, they said, can have glamorous indoor plumbing. All you need is a spare closet or the end of a hallway!
Whether the campaign was successful or not, I don’t know. By the 1930s, Standard seems to have moved on to ads emphasizing color, Art Deco modernity, and the replacement of old, “unsightly” fixtures such as clawfoot tubs. If you want a bathroom in a room five feet square, though, American Standard (formerly Standard) still sells a tiny sink or two.
At least among my contacts, Pinterest seems to feature a lot of DIY projects, clothes, and recipes. But it’s used to collect other things as well. The other day I stumbled on an interesting pinboard curated by Pamela Saunders on the topic of the Black Death, the medieval pandemic that may have killed one-third of the population of Europe in the late 1340s, and then returned at regular intervals for the next several hundred years.
A mass grave containing probable Black Death victims’ skeletons was found earlier this month in London during excavations for the Crossrail project, which brought this medieval pandemic into the daily news. Pamela’s pinboard links to that story, as well as to artwork inspired by the plague, mourning jewelry, fourteenth-century plague graffiti, and more. It’s an interesting assortment of links if you have any interest in this aspect of medieval history.
Long time no blog. I’m finally biting the bullet and using one of the standard WordPress themes for this site — I just don’t have time to customize a whole theme anymore. I’m planning to post some more about a few of the things I’ve been doing lately, including interesting history trivia, crafts, design, and more.
Here’s something interesting I found tonight in the R. Williamson and Co. Catalogue No. 15, Illustrating Electric and Combination Fixtures/Art Glass Domes (undated, but by internal evidence it is no earlier than late 1908. Catalogue 14 was from 1906 and Catalogue 17 was from 1911, so I think that this one is from 1908-1909).
In the days of the telegraph, the cost of the telegram was based on the number of letters in the text. For this reason, it was common for people to use a “code” to send their message so they could send as few letters as possible while still getting their message across.
R. Williamson and Co. had a code in their catalogue, spread over two pages to include many necessary phrases. For example: PAPA 2378 FIR CELERY LENTILS RICE SISTER HOME was a much shorter and cheaper way to say “Can you ship fixture 2378 at once on receipt of order? Three light bracket, wired as explained in catalogue, assembled ready to hang, regular length as in catalogue, in the rich gilt and satin finish. Send by American Express, C.O.D.”
Here’s the full code.
This week I’ve got YEAH! Magazine issue #5 for you: the 1987 Bumbershoot Preview. We posted capsule previews for all of the local bands playing at that year’s Bumbershoot festival. If you were around here in the 80s, these names should bring back a lot of memories.
This was the last weekly issue. The weekly grind was a bit much for us so we switched to biweekly after this one.
(Click on the cover to download the whole issue as a PDF.)
I went to scan YEAH! Magazine #4 today, and was disappointed to find that I don’t have a copy of #4. I thought I had a complete run of the ‘zine, but apparently not. I’d like to appeal to anyone who may have a copy of #4—I would like to copy it if you have one.
Since I don’t have this week’s issue for you, here’s a review of YEAH! #3 from the September 1987 issue of Blue Suede News instead.
Next week: The YEAH! Bumbershoot ’87 issue!
Following up on last week’s post, here’s YEAH! Magazine #3, featuring the Life, the Young Fresh Fellows, Sam Smith, the PopLlama Picnic, and more. (Click the cover to download the whole PDF.)
This issue was reasonably solid, I think. The magazine’s volunteers weren’t burned out yet, and we were all pretty motivated. Some of the highlights this time around included another episode of Rob Morgan’s Two Katz and a Toaster, several references to Stump, The Band, and an early review of Soundgarden, sort of (as Sound Garden), by Danimal:
“Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron from Sound Garden, along with original Garden drummer Scott on bongos, were up next. Chris and Matt both played acoustic guitars; Chris played one of those with way too many strings. They played ‘Train Train,’ and a song, probably from this here new album, called ‘Painting My Face.’ A Syd Barrett tune and a great Zeppelin medley, then Scott got to sing Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Sloppy Drunk Blues.'”
Notice also that “Sound Garden” is listed twice in the week’s show listings—both times, as an opening band at a club show. Ah, the old days.
A famed Squirrels performance was also immortalized in this issue—the PopLlama picnic show at which the band jumped into the lake.
YEAH! Magazine was published off and on in 1987-88. I founded the magazine during the summer of 1987, after a long conversation with friends at the Hall of Fame club in Seattle’s U District. I had just gotten back from touring with Prudence Dredge as a vocalist, and a few of us were bemoaning the state of local music-oriented media.
The Rocket, where I had been writing for a couple of years, was good, but only came out monthly, and included a lot of national and international acts, not just local bands. That year, an issue of The Rocket had Bruce Springsteen ocn the cover, and some of the locals were not pleased. Springsteen didn’t need the press, they felt. Why not feature the local talent? The Rocket was great for what it was, but a lot of people felt the need for more. There was so much talent in the Seattle area, and so much going on.
So I figured there was room for a “local music supplement,” as it were. Something that would come out every week and list all the upcoming shows in the area, and write exclusively about local bands. Let The Rocket have Springsteen and U2—we’d write about the Squirrels and the Fastbacks.
One of the bands I was peripherally in at the time (Prudence Dredge) was on Green Monkey Records. Other bands I saw a lot at the time, such as the Young Fresh Fellows or the Fastbacks, were on Popllama. The Popllama/Green Monkey groups tended to have a common fan base, and most of the volunteers I was able to scrape up for YEAH! were friends or fans of those bands, so we tended to have an (unhealthy, probably) emphasis on that aspect of the Seattle scene. There was a lot happening elsewhere, and perhaps if I’d kept publishing longer I would have improved the ‘zine by covering the rest of the scene a bit more. But it was difficult to do when I was relying so strongly on friends/fans of the bands I knew well, and my own limited experience. Later that year Dawn Anderson’s Backlash started publishing, and it covered the Sub Pop groups and other stuff that YEAH! wasn’t doing a great job of covering.
We introduced YEAH! to local music fans by showing up at one of KJET’s Mural Amphitheater shows and distributing as many of them as we could. (I think we only had 250-500 copies of the first issue.) It was fairly well-received. The next week, we did it again, and people were actually waiting for us to show up. It seemed as if we were a success, but then again, the magazine was free.
I continued publishing YEAH! through the fall and early winter that year. We did manage to keep up the weekly schedule for a while, but it was grueling, and no one—including me—was getting paid. Ad sales were eventually enough to pay for printing, and nothing else. (The early issues were mostly printed for free or cheaply via several kind benefactors. The first issue was printed secretly overnight on a heavy-duty photocopier at someone’s workplace. A few more were printed by someone with access to an offset press, for a small fee. Later we went to an actual printer in Snohomish and printed on newsprint like a real newspaper. But the cost was high.) I couldn’t manage the weekly issues anymore, and had to print less frequently. I think my day job that fall was occasional temping or part-time work. I don’t remember for certain. I think I was barely surviving, and it was stressful.
Along with the logistical difficulties of publishing came the problems of publishing a ‘zine about your friends. I should have expected what happened, but I did not. Feelings got hurt, people started to fight, and eventually I decided I had had enough. I packed up my stuff and made plans to move to Minneapolis.
I moved to Minnesota in early 1988. Before I moved, I sold YEAH! to Holly Homan and Joe Davenport for $300. I still contributed occasionally after that, but I was no longer the editor.
I came back to Seattle six months later (long but not very interesting story), and soon ended up writing for Backlash.
Recently I was looking through my collection of YEAH! issues, and I thought it would be nice to get them scanned and online for people to enjoy and reminisce over. The first two issues are here, and I will try to get the rest of the issues from my tenure as editor posted soon. Perhaps I will post them on the anniversaries of their original publishing dates.
I am glad I published YEAH! I learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it. It did cause a lot of upheaval in my life—much more than I’ve gone into in this brief post. Much of that time was very difficult and stressful. But the net result was positive.
I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Seattle in the late ’80s.
It’s been a while now, but I remember quite a few late night meals at the Dog House before it closed. It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years! So when I saw this matchbook cover on Flickr, it made me smile.
While I was searching for something else, I stumbled on this fairly horrifying story, published in the Schenectady Gazette, April 14, 1923. If you click on it you can see a larger copy. It says:
CHILD FOUND GUILTY OF MURDER
Montrose, Pa., April 13.—Four-year old Elmer Washburn, confessed slayer of Silas Payne, an aged recluse, was found guilty of murder in the second degree by a jury today. He will be sentenced later.
Young Washburn, it was testified at the trial, had seen Payne counting $2,000 in gold on numerous occasions at his shack near Montrose. The lure of the gold, the lad said, was too strong for him and he confessed that he had sneaked up behind the recluse and clubbed him to death. The gold was later recovered where Washburn told the authorities he had hid it.
Can that story be true? I didn’t have a chance to do any serious research on it. But I can’t imagine a four-year old child being able to club someone to death. Could it have been an error for “fourteen”?
Follow-up: Yes, it was an error. He was fourteen. I found it in the New York Times, November 2, 1922. Still a horrible story, but, sadly, much more believable.