Philip Castle's Airbrushed Retro-fitted 1950s


1974 Dutch only collection of R ‘n’ R hits on the Arcade label, as seen on TV or ‘Van de Radio en TV-Reklame.’ Clearly an attempt to ride on the back of the American Graffiti phenomenon, which is more than a guess because lead track, side 2, Flash Cadillac’s ‘At The Hop’ is tagged as ‘Featured in the Universal Picture American Graffiti.’ The album’s pulling power is boosted by two commissioned Philip Castle illustrations placed on the inside and the outside of the gatefold.

The originals, unadorned with graphic and track information, are reproduced in his 1980 collection Airflow (Paper Tiger).


Castle remains best known for the work he did on Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange publicity materials, where his clear affinity with the fetish pieces of Pop artist Allen Jones was put into play [here]. When he wasn’t taking adolescent delight in rendering phallic objects, jets and cars, threatening full penetration with a fifties styled pin-up airbrushed into a hard chrome sheen, he specialised in retro-fitting the decade’s icons, James Dean, Johnny Cash and Elvis, as man-machine conflations for the 1970s. The women, Monroe, Hayworth, Fawcett-Majors, Dolly Parton are offered to the male gaze as android fuck machines.


Mott the Hoople’s essential 1972 collection of Island era recordings, Rock and Roll Queen, is wrapped in one Castle’s illustrations. The repeating mirror images of Monroe reducing Pop Art iconography to a set of fast-dry, hard, scratch-proof textures that reflects back only its own vacuous surface qualities.


When the first UK paperback edition of Cohn’s Pop from the Beginning was being readied in 1970, Castle must have looked like the perfect choice to render the flash of the pop moment, five years later with the cover for George Tremlett’s cut n’ paste job, The Who, his work had become all formula.


Nik Cohn - Alan Aldridge - David King - Track Records

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In his pop column for Queen, Cohn was a tireless booster of Track Records. Not only for The Who, but for near anybody who appeared on the label, though he had less than kind things to say about John’s Children. Label and author also shared graphic designers and illustrators. Above Alan Aldridge and below David King. Neither book design has subsequently been reused and, hence, each new edition has lost a little of the original’s frisson.

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Greil Marcus on Nik Cohn


Greil Marcus’ webpages recently uploaded his introduction to Cohn’s AWopBopALooBopLopBamBoom (aka Pop From the Beginning) that hitherto had only been available in a 1999 French edition. It should have been included in all subsequent editions, and in any yet to come . . .

Reading, you can at any time feel as if you’ve slipped out of this book and into Treasure Island, out of the late twentieth century and into the eighteenth—here managers are pirates and singers are cutthroats, beggars, and whores impersonating aristocrats when they’re not nice middle-class people impersonating cutthroats, beggars and whores. Business is plunder when it isn’t pedophilia; art is appetite when it isn’t a decent way to kill time. The result is not a diminution of the pop romance but, really, its literary invention. As Cohn moves his story through the years, a sense of loss and corruption takes over: the corruption in which predictability replaces ignorance, expectation replaces chance, a forty-year career replaces saying your piece and disappearing whence you came, craft replaces inspiration, and rationality replaces stupidity. Even before Cohn gets to 1966, the golden days always seem somewhere back over that last hill. And, as this book ends, it was all over more than a quarter century ago.

click here to read the introduction in its entirety.

Nik Cohn, Market (Penguin, 1970)

Searching for gold in dusty, crumbling racks of old seventy-eights, chipped and derelict, bad tunes, forgotten singers, syrupy violins. And lurking in there somewhere, treasure, Little Richard or the Coasters or Jerry Lee Lewis, some early and orgiastic, wild rocker. . . He searches for an hour without luck, rack after rack of dross, his eyes get tired and his fingers are thick with dust . . . But when and if he occasionally does find something, an original Johnny Otis, the waiting and time wasted doesn’t matter, he wraps it up in his coat like stolen goods, spiriting it away through the market and onto his player at something near a run. Then he sits poised above the soundbox, and the music goes round and round, almost obliterated by the chips and the scratches and the crackles, but there all the same, deep down, a pure gem. His day made.

Nik Cohn’s Market was first published in hardback by Secker & Warburg in 1965, when it eventually made it into paperback in 1970 he excised virtually every section that was once topical and could therefore date his story. Much was lost . . . including the above.

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Nik Cohn Market (Secker & Warburg, 1965)

‘His nose is particularly keen, and he has no intention of letting us forget that urine and intercourse are of the essence of everyday life. The style is hip, hectic, American-orientated; but Mr Cohn’s stumbling prodigality would make less than a warm response ungenerous.’

Montague Haltrecht, The Sunday Times (November 21, 1965), 33.


There’s no overarching story, no central character, no defining event. The market is the place where lives flow, eddy and then pass on. Relationships and networks are defined in terms of exchange; grafted, bartered, borrowed, stolen, bought and sold. Money isn’t given it is taken. Whatever is being exchanged in the market’s stalls and streets, the public house, the pub, is the space where those transactions are finally adjudicated. Alcohol lubricates every exchange, every trade. The market is sodden with beer, wine and spirits. In these dingy places, there are no moments of transcendence or even a carnivalesque pretence of escape, just the temporary distraction of P.J. Proby on a jukebox, the sound and lights of a pinball machine or the promises found in the racing papers. The drudgery of life is mediated through bad sex and another bottle.

Blind drunk; only on her feet by instinct, stumbling and weaving, lurching across the corridor – her stagger is a bad caricature of walking. Her hair is straggling down into her eyes, and she wears so much running paint, mascara, her face looks like an oil painting that someone smudged over with a mop.

How many 19 year-olds would be capable of writing this regardless of who their mum and dad was?

How many 19 year-olds would be capable of writing this regardless of who their mum and dad was?