Wednesday, 11 May 2016

"Cool was invented in 1937..."
- The Aviator, Ray-Ban icons

The staple of any Retro Sunglasses collection, the Aviator was developed by Bausch & Lomb (the original owners of Ray-Ban) in 1936 and the design patented in 1937.

In the 1920s, new technology in planes meant that pilots were able to fly higher and for longer periods than previously. Some pilots complained that the extended exposure to the sun's glare was giving them headaches and altitude sickness. In 1929, US Army Air Corps Lieutenant General John MacCready asked Bausch & Lomb, who at the time were a New York-based medical equipment manufacturer, to create a pair of sunglasses that would reduce the headaches and nausea experienced by pilots.

The prototype to the Aviator, then called 'anti-glare' sunglasses, was designed in 1936 with plastic frames and green lenses, designed to cut out the glare without impeding vision. The design was updated to its now instantly recognisable thin metal frame the following year and renamed the Ray-Ban Aviator; Aviator after the pilots and the name Ray-Ban chosen to convey that these sunglasses literally banned the rays from the suns from the wearers eyes. The original design featured Ray-Ban's G-15 tempered glass lenses, transmitting 15% of incoming light. The large lenses are slightly convex shaped, to cover the entire range of the human eye and prevent as much light as possible from entering the eye from any angle.

As well as pilots, other groups of people soon found the Aviator useful for purposes. A couple of years after the classic Aviator was developed, Ray-Ban developed a sister style, The Outdoorsman, specifically for activities such as hunting, fishing and shooting.

In the 1940s, gradient lenses and mirror lenses were introduced. These lenses featured a special coating on the upper part of the lens for extra protection, but an uncoated lower lens for a clear view of an aeroplane's controls and instruments.
"People of the Philippines: I have returned" - General MacArthur wades ashore in 1944

During World War II, the Aviator gained more fame in the mainstream after American army General Douglas MacArthur landed on the beaches in the Philippines in 1944. Dramatic newspaper photographs showed him (and other army personnel) wearing Aviator sunglasses, as they waded ashore. "People of the Philippines: I have returned," said General MacArthur in his speech that day.

In the 1950s and 1960s the Aviator grew in popularity moderately. The oversized style, allowing a lot of coverage for the wearer, meant that soon Aviator sunglasses were being adopted by celebrities and politicians.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Terry Rawlings at Decca Records, 1980

Through his vast knowledge of music from both working within the industry and as a fan, author Terry Rawlings has created works worthy of any music connoisseurs collection. His impeccably researched Mod: A Very British Phenomenon and Brian Jones: Who Killed Christopher Robin? are staple books in many a household and he has earned a reputation as an authoritative figure within the mod scene. Gibson London’s Simon Parr invited Terry to his London Showroom and this is what he had to say:

Simon Parr: How did you first become a writer? 

Terry Rawlings: I was expelled from school in the 5th year for doing graffiti on the walls outside the school gates. The school was at Dockhead, and we were right on the docks. I got the white liner that was used to mark out the pitches and I wrote all along the back where the docks were, ‘Mr Shields is a c***’. My friend was up a wall, painting over a lot of graffiti and I thought I can’t let him take the blame for it so I stupidly owned up. After I was expelled, I didn’t really have a career or anything in mind until I got a job in the post room at Decca Records, which [DJ and presenter] Gary Crowley got me. I just sort of replaced him. He left on the Friday and I started on the Monday. It was sort of like-for-like because we both dressed the same and the studio manager just thought it was one parka for another. From Decca Records I went onto Sire Records, where we were doing this Small Faces fanzine. Paul Weller liked the fanzine and it was Paul who opened the door for me to start writing. Paul Weller, after getting our fanzine, started one of his own up called Decembers Child and I did some bits and pieces for that, and it was him who suggested I should write a book.

SP: And that was All Our Yesterdays? The Small Faces Book? 

TR: Yes. I was working for Sire Records (Home of The Ramones and The Pretenders) and me and a friend of mine, Tony Lordon - he was the bass player in Department S (of Is Vic There? fame) - we used to do a fanzine called Sha La La La Lee (not very imaginative, I know!) about The Small Faces. Back then, we’re talking about 1980, The Small Faces had been totally forgotten, nobody knew about them; the profile they’ve got now wouldn’t have been dreamed of back then. The only album you could get was on Charly Records, anything else you couldn’t get hold of. Paul Weller had got into The Small Faces. He was a big fan of The Kinks and The Who, and he got into The Small Faces too.

We used to do the fanzine on the photocopier in the Sire Records office and Paul would come and get it. We’d done about three issues and then he suggested the idea to do a bigger version of it, like a pamphlet or a mini- book thing, which we called All Our Yesterdays. I’d found all these photographs that hadn’t been seen back then. Nobody cared about them. They had reformed once and no one cared. The band had 3 of the Small Faces in it and they’d been playing pubs.

SP: That was minus Ronnie Lane wasn’t it? 

TR: Yeah, he came back for about a day and then they had a bit of a punch up and he left again, so Rick Wills from Foreigner, who’s in Kenny Jones’ band now, joined instead. But they couldn’t get arrested, you know? They didn’t look like The Small Faces, to be honest, they looked like Smokie, you know, all weird.

So, Paul came up with the idea of doing a better version of the fanzine and that was my first attempt at writing something. We did this little pamphlet thing that he got printed up, and they sold them on The Jam’s merchandising stall at the gigs. We re-printed it a few times. It started to turn people onto The Small Faces. It reminded people [of them]. I never big myself up about it but it was the only thing you could get then on The Small Faces and it caught people’s imaginations. People only knew about The Who and The Kinks, in that ’79 Mod Revival, and they didn’t know about The Small Faces. It started a little Small Faces revival, I’m pretty sure, and look at where it is now. I don’t even have a copy of the book anymore, which is quite sad. It wasn’t a great literary advancement on my part, but after that Paul suggested I do another book, a serious book, and that turned out to be twenty years of researching the Brian Jones murder. So it was down to what Paul said and his help that got me going, so I owe it all to him.

SP: That became Who Killed Christopher Robin: The Truth Behind The Killing Of Brian Jones, about the life and death of Brian Jones from The Rolling Stones. 

TR: When I worked at Decca, it seemed everybody had been there since the 1960s and they all had a story about Brian Jones and speculated on his death. The edition that is out now is the third edition. We had to do a second edition when we realised how many mistakes we’d made in the first, after we got new information, new police files, new home office files and more interviews. We’d realised we’d made so many glaring mistakes in the first one we had to do a second one just to put it all right. So we had about 80% of the story put right in the second edition, but there were still massive areas where we weren’t sure of things.

Then I got ill and I was out of the game for about a year when I had cancer and in the meantime I heard a guy had beat me to the new police files which had been released after forty years. Paul Spendel was going to do a book and he was asking me for help. I said, ‘Listen, it’s only right that I’ve done this much work and you’ve just jumped in at the last minute and got the last files because I was ill, why don’t you join me and we’ll put out a third edition - that is the ultimate edition - and we’ll share the grief and the glory, so to speak?’ He was a nice fella and he was up for doing it, so it made sense to collaborate.