August 16th, 2008


JOEMUS as Slab Boys!

Shooting these pictures last week for our Joemus project, Joe Howe and I agreed that we looked -- surprisingly, and accidentally -- like The Slab Boys of John Byrne's autobiographical 1978 theatre piece about three aspiring artist tearaway Teddy Boy-types (quiffed, ciggy-lipped Phil, aspiring rocker Spanky and speccy nerd Hector) working in the colour-mixing room of A.F Stobo, a Paisley carpet factory in 1957.

It's mostly in the Ray Bans, of course, but there's a certain facial resemblance too. Check out these images of Byrne's own paintings of his characters, and some of the actors who've played them:

Now, since we're coming to the end of the recording of the JOEMUS album, it's time to think about sleeve artwork. And I thought it would be great to have an image -- a painting -- of Joe and me as Slab Boys.

I actually attended the original production at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre back in the 70s, and I remember seeing the ultra-stylish Byrne gadding around the Grassmarket in his black 1940s Citroen. Byrne recently revived the boys in a new Traverse piece called Nova Scotia which showed them -- aged 60 -- meeting up in the north east of Scotland (where he now lives, raising his children by actress partner Tilda Swinton). He made a film of The Slab Boys in 1997 (which I haven't seen), and reminisces in this documentary about the 1993 Tokyo production (at Parco Theatre): "They looked exactly like guys from Paisley, except speaking Japanese. It was very funny. And it was a great success in Japan."

I don't have the chutzpah to ask Byrne to parody his own painting, but I'm wondering if anyone out there either is, or knows, an artist with the skill to do a parody or pastiche painting, in Byrne's style, of me as Phil and Joe as an amalgam of Spanky and Hector? The most relevant image is the one I've included twice in the strip above, the one of the pair with their heads banged together. That kind of composition -- grotesque, caricatural, gap-toothed, messy, dark, slick, devil-may-care -- would fit best on a record sleeve, and the way the two faces are almost becoming a single person would fit with what we're doing with the co-written songs on the record.

The work would be paid -- rather poorly, I'm afraid, since, unlike Phil, Spanky and Hector we don't have day jobs or rock star aspirations. If you think you could do this, or know someone who could, or have a suggestion, leave a comment here with a link to an example of the work, or email me.

Meanwhile -- so things don't get too retro necro -- here's a video of Scottish artist Chad McCail, whose drawings I like a lot, and another of a couple of today's Scottish art students (Ashleigh Reid and Vivien Murdoch) debating the cultural situation in Edinburgh while doing what art students have always done best: smoking cigarettes with ridiculous intensity.

UPDATE: I actually got quite a few responses by email and we're going with a friend of Joe's, Stefan Sadler of Famicon Collective.