From Subcultural Capital to Parafictions

At the beginning of this final module I did a presentation outlining what I produced for the previous module and explained my goals and ambitions for this module.

  • The first thing I suggested was to change the format of my web page or produce a new one to reflect the change of direction with my creative practice. I am no longer a glass maker, for the time being, and I need a web presence that reflects my change of direction.
  • I also need to refine core lines of practice, possibly learning film making and editing and develop some form of performative and video based pieces.
  • I also stated that I need to engage with relevant art theory and
  • explore the significance of subcultures within a wider cultural context.
  • Then finally decide on the general orientation of my work.

 

The feedback was interesting as it was suggested that my previous work, especially the video was parafictional. The video was a satirical presentation of the craft of the “labelsmith” making bespoke white record centre labels. In the real world, record centre labels are printed onto ceramic infused paper, then fired in a kiln. Both heat resistant labels, one for each side, are simultaneously fixed top and bottom as the record is pressed. My video presents the making of a bespoke white label as an object of desire on its own terms, without being attached to a record.

 

Parafictions are a form of fiction which are intended to reveal the truth through presenting a plausible narrative. During the research for the previous module I was intrigued by the practice of “cover ups” on the Northern Soul scene. The discovery of a rare record would be mis-titled or the artist’s name would be changed to protect its identity. This would ensure that a particular record would retain its original anonymity protecting the DJ’s exclusive collection and from bootleggers. Originally cover-ups were just pieces of white paper fixed to the label however some DJs would have replica labels with new cover-up names and titles. Cover-up titles would usually be a lyric contained within the song or title and the artist’s names would be substituted someone already familiar with the devotees of the music and artists. For example, JJ Barnes was singer on the Ric Tic label and had a similar singing style to Motown’s Marvin Gaye. When Marvin Gaye’s lost classic, “This Love Starved Heart of Mine (It’s Killing Me)” was discovered, it was covered-up as “Killing Me” by JJ Barnes.

 

Of course I need to consider the wider cultural implications of parafictions and fiction in my work and the significance of subcultures within a wider cultural context. Both issues can be seen as analogous as fictions and parafictions are significant within subcultures and has implications for contemporary media culture and “fake news”. I am currently developing a fictional record label, “Sexton Records”. “Sexton” is cockney rhyming slang for fake or counterfeit, as in Sexton Blake, fake. I have been making artwork for the record centre labels but I have reached a crossroads regarding the narrative.

Sexton Records

 

Should it be centred around this record label? Where I create a history of a long lost unsuccessful record label?
Or should this label be a vehicle, a part of someone’s story? Where this record label is a facet of a biographical narrative?

The first option would allow me to create from scratch a narrative which could include similar record company’s histories. However I am mindful that I could just create a fictive parody. Would this be considered parafictional?

Sexton Records Dia1

The diagram shows how Sexton Records could be portrayed as a small record company similar to Drew Records and have only one group/artist on its books. I also needed to have a plausible company address for Sexton. I was researching Detroit based companies and the address of Soutrack Records was mentioned on an online message board. It appears that both the record company and its address no longer exist. Ideal.

The narrative could include elements of the rivalry between Ed Wingate and Motown’s Berry Gordy. After declining Gordy’s offer of partnership in Motown, Wingate set up a rival record company and the Ric Tic subsidiary was creative rival to Motown. Cheekily Wingate even persuaded Motown’s session musicians, the Funk Brothers, to moonlight at Ric Tic. However in 1966 Gordy bought out Ric Tic’s holding company, Golden World Records for $1m. Despite having Edwin Starr and JJ Barnes on his books, Wingate was unable to compete and both moved to Motown as part of the sale. Wingate reactivated Ric Tic and had some success until Gordy bought out Ric Tic in 1968.

Soussan dia

Simon Saussan was a bootlegger or rare soul records on the Northern Soul scene. A spiv, chancer and an enthusiastic recreational liar, his story is shrouded in mystery and there are many anecdotes about his dealings. French-Morroccan Soussan ended up in Leeds, via Paris, and discovered Northern Soul and saw opportunities in acquiring and selling bootleg copies of rare soul records. He joined the few avid collectors that made trips to the USA to hunt for these rarities. Apparently he managed to persuade Tom Del Pierro at Motown to allow him access to their archive and “borrowed” a copy of an unreleased song, “Do I Love You?” by Frank Wilson. The song made in 1965 was never released and most of the 250 demo copies were destroyed. Saussan made an acetate copy and sent it to the UK. The cover-up name was Eddie Foster and became a massive hit on the Northern Soul scene. There are only two known copies and one was sold in 2009 for over £25,000.

Eventually Soussan emigrated to America Where he set up Soul Galore Records and Soul Fox Records to sell bootleg copies to the UK. It is rumoured that he set up other labels and these can be identified by the imprint “Licensed exclusively to Soul Galore Productions”. One of them being Sexton Records?

Soussan’s story is open to speculation. Anecdotes around him have become established as facts but he still remains an enigma. However he did go on to have a brief career as a disco producer. He was Shalamar’s first manager through his connections with Soul Train television show presenter Don Cornelius. Their first hit, “Uptown Festival” was a melange of Motown hits but it was originally meant to be a Northern Soul medley. However there were limitations to this especially with the US market in mind. Despite this concession Soussan named the band after the Shalimars who had a popular Northern Soul hit, “Stop and Take a Look at Yourself”. It was while he was on the set of Soul Train that Soussan met Motown’s Tom Del Pierro.

Here is a video of Simon Soussan being interviewed on Soul Train with another band he managed, Arpeggio: https://youtu.be/iqgt-mbHn4o

Soussan-Arpeggio-Cornelius

It is rumoured that Soussan has retired from wheeling dealing in the music industry, renouncing his former life and reconnecting with his separdic jewish roots.

Posted in Blog - MA Fine Art.

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