"With the finest military quicklime"
John Squire (left) pictured with The Seahorses in York on 1st April 1997, one year to the day that he announced his decision to leave The Stone Roses. Partly in response to losing his only son, John, in the First World War, Rudyard Kipling joined Sir Fabian Ware's Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission), the group responsible for the garden-like British war graves that can be found dotted along the former Western Front and the various other locations around the world where Commonwealth troops lie buried. Kipling's most significant contribution to the project was his selection of the biblical phrase 'Their Name Liveth For Evermore', found on the Stones of Remembrance in larger war graves, and his suggestion of the phrase 'Known unto God', for the gravestones of unidentified servicemen. John Lennon photographed an early incarnation of The Beatles (right) in front of the inscription, 'Their Name Liveth For Evermore', at the Arnhem War Memorial in the eastern Netherlands, in January 1960.
This is John Squire speaking to Melody Maker on 3rd June 1989:
Interviewer: Did you learn anything stimulating at school ?
John: "Learnt what it's like to run around with a gang. History was all right, I didn't listen to most of the stuff."
The above interview extract reveals an embryonic interest in History at school, and later, John's music and art drew upon the subject significantly. This essay is structured chronologically, in analysis of the subject's enduring influence on the guitarist's career.
World War One
In a humorous 1990 Smash Hits feature, John Squire cited Martin Luther King and Percy Toplis as two people whom he would like to meet. Francis Percy Toplis (1896 - 1920) was a British criminal and imposter active during the First World War. He is sometimes claimed to have taken a major part in the Étaples Mutiny, as 'The Monocled Mutineer', during the war, although there is some dispute as to whether he was actually present. In 1915, the year after the outbreak of the First World War, Toplis volunteered to enlist in the Royal Army Medical Corps, where he served as a stretcher bearer, his first active duty being at Loos, France. His unit was shipped to the landings of Gallipoli, and when they returned, Toplis was hospitalised for dysentery. Afterwards he briefly worked in a munitions factory. His unit was later posted to fronts in Salonika and Egypt, but he was sent back when he contracted malaria. In September 1917 his unit was shipped to Bombay for some months and then returned to Britain. In August 1918, Toplis' father died. Soon afterwards, he deserted from Blackpool. He was sentenced at Nottingham Assizes to two years in prison for fraud. When released in 1920, he joined the Royal Army Service Corps, and was stationed in Bulford. He was soon selling rationed fuel on the black market, forging false papers to gain access to other soldiers' salaries, and wearing a colonel's uniform when he visited women in town. He often used a gold monocle as part of his disguise. Toplis went AWOL again on 24th April 1920. After 9.00 p.m., taxicab driver Sidney George Spicer was found dead from a gunshot wound on Thruxton Down, near Andover. Toplis was seen in Bulford Camp around 11.00 p.m. The inquest into Spicer's death took place in a barn on Thruxton Down. The jury returned a verdict of 'wilful murder' by Percy Toplis, foreshadowing the possibility of his execution when caught; it was the first British inquest in modern times to declare a man guilty of murder in his absence. Toplis was pursued by police in the following weeks, and on 6th June 1920, suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the chest, inflicted by a chief constable's son.
Paul McGann stars as Percy Toplis, a deserter from the British Army during the First World War, in the 1986 Buggers Broadcasting Communism television series, The Monocled Mutineer. The four-part serial, written by Alan Bleasdale and directed by Jim O'Brien, was an adaptation of the 1978 book of the same name by William Allison and John Fairley. The series fuelled accusations by the Conservative government of the time of left-wing bias at the British Brainwashing Corporation.
The British Soldier's Testament (1929)
The final verse of John Squire's 15 Days is an extract of a prayer by Archbishop Alexander, from The British Soldier's Testament (1929):
'Almighty Father, I have often sinned against Thee. O wash me in the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Fill me with Thy Holy Spirit, that I may lead a new life. Spare me to see again those whom I love at home, or fit me for Thy presence in peace.
'Strengthen us to quit ourselves like men in our right and just cause. Keep us faithful unto death, calm in danger, patient in suffering, merciful as well as brave, true to our Queen, our country, and our colours.
'If it be Thy will, enable us to win victory for England, and above all grant us the better victory over temptation and sin, over life and death, that we may be more than conquerors through Him who loved us, and laid down His life for us, Jesus our Saviour, the Captain of the Army of God. Amen.'
The Great Depression
In 2008, John Squire created a series of 25 artworks, each one taking an image and overprinting a graphic output using an electropalatograph machine. Electropalatography (EPG) is a technique used to monitor contacts between the tongue and hard palate, particularly during articulation and speech. A custom-made artificial palate is moulded to fit against a speaker's hard palate. The artificial palate contains electrodes exposed to the lingual surface. When contact occurs between the tongue surface and any of the electrodes, particularly between the lateral margins of the tongue and the borders of the hard palate, electronic signals are sent to an external processing unit. EPG provides dynamic real-time visual feedback of the location and timing of tongue contacts with the hard palate. Electropalatography has been studied in a variety of populations, including children with cleft palate, children with Down's Syndrome, children who are deaf, children with cochlear implants, children with cerebral palsy and adults with Parkinson's disease. The tenth artwork in this Electropalatography series by Squire uses an iconic image from the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s. It was the longest, most widespread, and deepest depression of the 20th century.
'10/25' (hand finished Linocut print, 30cm x 23cm) in the Electropalatography series features an iconic image from the Great Depression, taken by Margaret Bourke-White.
The Hindenburg disaster (1937)
Top: The Hindenburg floats past the Empire State Building over Manhattan, on 8th August 1936. The German airship was en route to Lakehurst, New Jersey, from Germany.
Second and third rows: The Hindenburg crashes in flames, 6th May 1937. Of the 97 passengers on board, 35 people died in addition to one fatality on the ground. The exact cause of the fire remains unknown, although a variety of theories have been put forward for both the cause of ignition and the initial fuel for the ensuing fire. The accident served to shatter public confidence in the giant, passenger-carrying rigid airship, and marked the end of the airship era.
LZ 129 Hindenburg, named after Paul von Hindenburg (1847 - 1934), German President from 1925 to 1934, was a German passenger airship. Together with its sister-ship, LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II, it was the largest aircraft ever built. In its second year of service, it was destroyed by a fire while attempting to land at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey, on 6th May 1937. In total, 36 people perished in the accident, which was widely reported via film, photographic, and radio media. Ian Brown is seen watching the footage on a giant screen in the Ten Storey Love Song video. The flock of journalists in attendance was in anticipation of what was the first transatlantic Zeppelin passenger flight to the US that year (it had already made one round trip from Germany to Brazil earlier in the year). Herbert Morrison's broadcast remains one of the most famous in history, with his plaintive cry, "Oh, the humanity !", resonating with the impact of the disaster. His recording was not broadcast until the next day - parts of his report were later dubbed onto the newsreel footage, giving the misleading impression to some modern eyes accustomed to live television, that the words and film had always been as one.
Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939)
John Squire entitled a Stone Roses track, Guernica, after the Pablo Picasso painting which encoded the horrors of the Spanish Civil War within it.
Top: Guernica is saturated by an air raid.
Bottom: Ruins of Guernica.
Nazi Germany and the Second World War
Top: U.S. Army troops wade ashore on Omaha Beach in Normandy, during the D-Day landings, 6th June 1944. During the Battle of Normandy in World War II, Normandy became the landing site for the invasion and liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany. This is recognised as the start for the war in Western Europe. Following the armistice of 22nd June 1940, continental Normandy was part of the German occupied zone of France. The Allies coordinated a massive build-up of troops and supplies to support a large-scale invasion of Normandy in the D-Day landings under the code name Operation Overlord. This led to the restoration of the French Republic, and a significant turning point in the war. The remainder of Normandy was liberated only on 9th May 1945 at the end of the war, when the Occupation of the Channel Islands effectively ended. The Waterfront were inspired to write Normandy (On A Beach In) by a visit to Normandy in 1983.
Middle: Allied troops unload equipment and supplies on Omaha Beach in early June of 1944.
Bottom: "You're walking from Caen, you go to where a marsh is now". Two civilians survey the ruins of Caen, 10th July 1944. The Battle for Caen, from June to August 1944, was a conflict between Allied (primarily British and Canadian troops) and German forces during the Battle of Normandy. Originally, the Allies aimed to take the French city of Caen, one of the largest cities in Normandy, on D-Day. Caen was a vital objective for several reasons. Firstly, it lay astride the Orne River and Caen Canal; these two water obstacles could strengthen a German defensive position if not crossed. Secondly, Caen was a road hub; in German hands it would enable the enemy to shift forces rapidly. Thirdly, the area around Caen was relatively open, especially compared to the bocage country in the west of Normandy. This area was valued for airfield construction. On D-Day, Caen was an objective for the British 3rd Infantry Division and remained the focal point for a series of battles throughout June, July and into August. The battle did not go as planned for the Allies, instead dragging on for two months, because German forces devoted most of their reserves to holding Caen, particularly their badly-needed armor reserves. As a result, German forces facing the American invasion thrust further west were spread thin, relying on the rough terrain of the back country to slow down the American advance. With so many German divisions held up defending Caen, the American forces were eventually able to break through to the south and east, threatening to encircle the German forces in Normandy from behind. The old city of Caen - with many buildings dating back to the Middle Ages - was largely destroyed by the battle. The reconstruction of Caen lasted until 1962 and today, little of the pre-war city remains.
John Squire's original One Love artwork had to be reworked due to fears that it resembled a swastika. He did later create a piece entitled 'Swastika' (2005), part of a series commissioned by Aesthetica magazine in Spring 2005. Other references to Nazi Germany are evident in his work (see the reference to Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will on Marshall's House) such as the 2006 works, 'The White Rose' and 'The Beheading Of Sophie Scholl', the latter of which takes on the shape of a guillotine. Sophia Magdalena Scholl (1921 - 1943) was a member of the White Rose resistance movement in Nazi Germany, convicted of treason and executed by guillotine. Her last words were "Your heads will fall as well." At the age of twelve, Scholl - like most of her classmates - joined the Bund Deutscher Mädel, the female branch of the Hitler Youth; however, her initial enthusiasm gradually gave way to criticism. The arrest of her brothers and friends in 1937 for illegally participating in the German Youth Movement left a strong impression on her. She had a talent for drawing and painting, and for the first time came into contact with a few so-called 'degenerate' artists. An avid reader, she developed a strong interest in philosophy and theology. This was her alternative world to National Socialism. In May 1942, after spending six months in the National Labor Service, Scholl enrolled at the University of Munich as a student of biology and philosophy. Her brother Hans, who was studying medicine there, introduced her to his friends. Although this group of friends was eventually known for their political views, they were initially drawn together by a shared love of art, music, literature, philosophy and theology. In the early summer of 1942, Sophie participated in the production and distribution of the leaflets of the White Rose. She was arrested on 18th February 1943, while distributing the sixth leaflet at the University of Munich. In court on 21st February 1943, Sophie was recorded as saying "Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did." The following day, Sophie, her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst were found guilty of treason and condemned to death by head judge of the court, Roland Freisler. They were executed by guillotine in the Munich-Stadelheim prison only a few hours later. The execution was supervised by Dr. Walter Roemer, the enforcement chief of the Munich district court. Prison officials emphasized the courage with which she walked to her execution. Her last words were "Die Sonne scheint noch." ("The sun still shines.") In February 2005 - one year prior to Squire's related works, - a movie about Scholl's last days, based on the transcripts of her interrogations, 'Sophie Scholl - Die Letzten Tage' ('Sophie Scholl - The Last Days') was released.
Top left: Members of the White Rose organization in 1942, (l-r) Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.
Top right: Monument to the Weiße Rose in front of the Ludwig-Maximilian-University, Munich.
Second row (left): Writing for New Statesman Magazine in December 2004, Squire joked, "I'd rather play a round of golf with Josef Mengele than suffer another video installation (if you've seen one desperately naked individual cavorting on a carpet of ball bearings you've seen them all) but it takes all sorts." Josef Mengele (1911 - 1979) was a Nazi German military officer and physician who performed murderously sadistic experiments on people in Block 10 of Auschwitz. Mengele saw the camp as a human laboratory, one which allowed him to pursue any idea he had, no matter how bestial or inhumane. He personally selected over 400,000 people to die in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. After the war, he escaped Germany and lived covertly abroad until his eventual accidental death in Brazil, which was later confirmed using DNA testing on his remains. One chilling quote attributed to him was "The more we do to you, the less you believe we're doing it".
Second row (right): Column of 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion M-10 Wolverines roll through downtown Magdeburg, Germany, April, 1945.
Third row artworks (l - r, all 2006): 'The White Rose', 'The Beheading Of Sophie Scholl', 'Rasputitsa', 'First Impressions Of The Magdeburg Sewage System' and 'Forced To Dance To The Sound Of Howling Dogs.' I would propose that the last of these artworks relates to the ghastly death of Pierre Seel's lover, Jo.
Fourth row: Given the strong World War II influence on Squire's 2006 artworks, I would propose that 'A Sixth Of The Earth' (left) is entitled in reference to the proportion of the Union of Soviet Socalist Republic in relation to the Earth's land area. One would imagine that 'She Hid In A Huge Ornately Carved Wooden Cupboard' (middle, 2006) relates to Anne Frank's attempt to hide from the Nazis. On the morning of Monday 6th July 1942, Anne Frank and her family moved into their hiding place. Their apartment was left in a state of disarray to create the impression that they had left suddenly, and Otto Frank left a note that hinted they were going to Switzerland. The Achterhuis (a Dutch word denoting the rear part of a house, translated as the 'Secret Annexe' in English editions of her diary) was a three-storey space, entered from a landing above the Opekta offices. Two small rooms, with an adjoining bathroom and toilet, were on the first level, and above that a larger open room, with a small room beside it. From this smaller room, a ladder led to the attic. On the right is a reconstruction of the bookcase that covered the entrance to the Secret Annexe, in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Between Anne's bed and the rear window, was a cupboard built into the lower part of the wall. In this, Anne kept her prized possessions, including a pair of red high-heeled shoes bought for her by Miep Gies, one of the Dutch citizens who helped hide Anne.
Bottom row: One would imagine that the 2007 artwork, 'Carbon Monoxide' (encaustic, wool and silk on canvas, 20" x 16", bottom left) takes its name from the use of the deadly gas in Nazi gas chambers (bottom right shows a gas chamber at the Stutthof concentration camp).
Another work by Squire from 2006 is entitled 'Rasputitsa'. The rasputitsa (which translates as 'mud season') is the twice annual flooding of Belarus, western Russia and Ukraine. Russia's winters are well known as a great defensive advantage in wartime, and the rasputitsa has played a crucial role in its history. During the Second World War, the blitzkrieg of Germany was almost wholly halted by the mud that left even the most powerful tanks unusable. 'First Impressions Of The Magdeburg Sewage System', also by Squire in 2006, relates to the former burial site of Adolf Hitler; when Russian forces reached the Chancellory, they found the Führer’s body and an autopsy was performed using dental records to confirm the identification. To avoid potential for the creation of a shrine, the remains of Hitler and wife Eva Braun were moved numerous times, then secretly buried by SMERSH (a Soviet Union counterintelligence unit formed in 1943) at their new headquarters in Magdeburg, East Germany. In April 1970, when the facility was about to be turned over to the East German government, the remains were reportedly exhumed from the parade ground in Magdeburg, thoroughly cremated, and the ashes finally dumped unceremoniously into the town's sewage system.
Top: For a TateShot video feature in 2010, John Squire discussed his admiration for Patrick Heron's 'January 9 1983', before detailing the creative process for his own watercolour, 'Study for Celebrity' (second and third rows). "I discovered that in some cultures, the five-pointed star is linked to immortality. This is a three-pointed star but it got me thinking that the immortals in our society are celebrities. I don't know who this is yet. It might be Lindsay Lohan or Rudolf Hess, you never know." We see the synonymity of immortality and the five-pointed star in our culture today, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One of Squire's Celebrity artworks from 2011 was named after an artist who has made a career from celebrity artworks, 'Elizabeth Peyton' (ink & oil on canvas, 90cm x 70cm). Among Peyton's collection of work is a portrait of Ian Brown (from his Roses days) and one of John Squire (from his Seahorses days).
Bottom: Rudolf Hess (first row, second from left), in the defendants' box at the Nuremberg Trials. Hess was a prominent Nazi official acting as Adolf Hitler's Deputy in the Nazi Party. On the eve of war with the Soviet Union, he flew solo to Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace with the United Kingdom, but instead was arrested. He was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to life in prison at Spandau Prison, Berlin, where he died in 1987. One of John Squire's artworks from his 2011 Celebrity series was given the title 'Magda Goebbels' (ink & oil on canvas, 90cm x 70cm), named after the wife of Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. The artwork's name probably stems from the discernible swastika shape at its core.
Pennie Smith captured a Second World War plane in an impromptu Stone Roses photo session, after Squire took an interest in the aircraft.
Top: "We were driving from a soundcheck to the hotel when John Squire spotted a Second World War plane parked on a roundabout. He wanted a look, and I got a shot." Pennie Smith quoted in Alexander E. Proud, Rock 'n' roll years 1960 - 2000: the photographers' cut (London: Vision On, 2000).
Bottom: Air Force Lockheed F-104G Starfighter (FX45 of 10 Wing), Belgium.
Squire's 'Heat, Light, Death & Industry' artistic series draws from the horrors of Auschwitz.
'Transportation' (18 gauge Steel, 8" x 17", 2008, top) and 'Wedding Rings' (Encaustic on Board, 16" x 12", 2009, second row), from John Squire's 'Heat, Light, Death & Industry' series of work. "So 'Wedding Rings' is up there because I was watching a programme about a woman who had been arrested and she was scheduled for transportation to a Death Camp but because of the allied bombing, the organisation broke down and she survived the bombing and wasn't transported. It struck me that that word had such different meanings, you know, it's a word that when I heard it, it hit me between the eyes that I'd not really thought of it that way. I think about buses and trains and moving people around in a fairly benign way." (John Squire speaking to Saatchi Magazine, 2009). The fourth row shows a U.S. soldier in May 1945, inspecting thousands of gold wedding rings that were taken from Jews by Nazis and stashed in the Heilbronn Salt Mines. The photograph in the fifth row shows the main entrance to extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. 'Glasses Crutches Brushes Prostheses' (Lead Sheet, 10" x 7", 2009, third row) makes reference to the possessions that were taken away from people as they arrived at Death Camps such as Auschwitz (rows six to eight). 'Clothes Shoes Hair Luggage' by Squire also takes its title from here.
Hiroshima and the onset of the Cold War
John Robb's The Stone Roses And The Resurrection of British Pop: The Reunion Edition reveals details of two previously unknown Stone Roses songs - 'English Electric Lightning' and 'Mr Shy Talk' - the latter of which, Ian Brown jokes, was probably about Gareth Evans: "works his finger to the bone but never turns his mind on, he don't know... the children know him as Mr Shytalk, he wears a frown he wears you down."
Lightning F.3 in 1964. The English Electric Lightning is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft of the Cold War era, noted for its great speed and capabilities as an interceptor. It is the only all-British Mach 2 fighter aircraft and was the first aircraft in the world capable of supercruise.
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. After six months of intense strategic fire-bombing of 67 Japanese cities, the Japanese government ignored an ultimatum given by the Potsdam Declaration, calling for surrender. By executive order of President Harry S. Truman, the U.S. dropped the nuclear weapon 'Little Boy' on the city of Hiroshima on Monday 6th August 1945, followed, three days later, by the detonation of 'Fat Man', over Nagasaki. Hiroshima was a city of considerable military importance, containing Japan's Second Army Headquarters, as well as being a communications center and storage depot. The Second Coming artwork co-opts symbolic artefacts of the twentieth century. At the top left of the collage, there is a stopped clock from the Hiroshima atomic bombing by the United States, on 6th August 1945. The clock belonged to Kengo Futagawa, 59 years old at the time, who was crossing the Kannon Bridge (1,600 metres from the hypocenter) by bicycle, on his way to do fire prevention work. At the point of impact, he jumped into the river, terribly burned, and later died, on 22nd August 1945. The above photo of the clock was part of a series of photographic work, entitled 'Hiroshima', by Japanese artist Hiromi Tsuchida (1939 - ). In the year marking the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, The Stone Roses performed at Miel Parque Hall, Hiroshima, on 20th September 1995.
Top left: The Second Coming cover artwork, an impenetrable collage of painted-over images, pasted on sewn-together rectangles of cloth. For the back cover of the album, the reverse of the artwork (fixed by wire) was photographed. Note that the Hiroshima clock here has an ammended time of 8.05am; Squire made numerous alterations to the collage for fear of being sued by the respective owners of those images.
Top right: 70,000 people were killed immediately, leaving only eerie shadows on the walls behind them from the intense heat of the blast. Others died from severe burns or radiation poisoning soon after. The final toll, including those who have succumbed to radiation-induced cancers and similar diseases, stands at somewhere between 90,000 and 166,000.
Second row (left): The clock, stopped at 8.15am, marking the point of impact of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.
Second row (right): A section of the Second Coming artwork, prior to ammendment, showing the time as 8.15am. Redemption Song by Bob Marley - covered by Ian Brown during the Second Coming sessions - contains the lyric, "Have no fear for atomic energy, 'cause none of them can stop the time."
Third row: A John Squire artwork from 2006, 'Oppenheimer' (left), is titled after J. Robert Oppenheimer (centre), a scientist whose name has become almost synonymous with the atomic bomb. Oppenheimer was scientific director of the Manhattan Project, the World War II effort to develop the first nuclear weapons, at the secret Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico. Oppenheimer lamented the weapon's killing power after it was used to destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (6th August) and Nagasaki (9th August) in 1945. "We knew the world would not be the same... Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." On the back of the Second Coming inlay (right), beside the '3', there is a blurred image of the immediate aftermath of a nuclear explosion; this artwork on the back is a blowup of the bottom right hand corner of the front. To the right of this mushroom cloud on the Second Coming artwork is the Cuban national flag (this flag later adorned the front cover of Manic Street Preachers' single, The Masses Against The Classes (2000), a mark of the band's socialist political ideology). The Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. Intermediate-range ballistic missiles were placed in Cuba by the Soviet Union, with a range of 2,200 miles, capable of striking any location in the U.S., except Alaska and one small corner of the Pacific Northwest. On the subject of flags, the Malaysian and French flags are also visible on the Second Coming artwork.
Bottom left: The mushroom cloud 20,000 feet above Hiroshima, after the dropping of Little Boy.
Bottom right: The Fat Man mushroom cloud resulting from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rises 60,000 ft into the air from the hypocenter. Between 60,000 and 80,000 people were killed. Six days after the detonation over Nagasaki, on 15th August 1945, Japan announced its surrender to the Allied Powers. The following month, on 2nd September, Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender, officially bringing to an end the Pacific War, and therefore World War II. Germany had signed its Instrument of Surrender on 7th May 1945, ending the war in Europe.
Here, Squire explains the unsatisfactory finish to the final Second Coming artwork:
"It wasn't supposed to be that dark, that was a mistake. I got a little carried away with paint, I got distracted - I put it on, went for a piss and it had dried. I was hoping to wipe off a lot more than I managed to. It was a nightmare, it took ages to make. I made the material by sewing rectangles together, I was gonna make a shirt but I got bored, dumped it. Recycled it by dipping it in wood glue and draping it over a board. The band's lawyer, John Kennedy, said that if the album was successful I'd be sued to the hilt by any number of people...so we had to go into a Photoshop facility in Manchester and slightly change every image - to the detriment of the piece for me."
(John Squire speaking to Select Magazine, November 1997)
"He died grinning on live TV..."
'John F. Kennedy' (ink & oil on canvas, 183cm x 183cm) by John Squire. "I see him as the first reality TV star, with the election debates, the assassination, the funeral... they were all very public." (John Squire speaking to Mark Radcliffe about his new solo art exhibition, 'Celebrity', in June 2011, BBC Radio 6).
A lyric from Ten Storey Love Song - "No breach in the wall that they put there to keep you from me" - is evocative of Cold War era Berlin. In August 1961, a wall was built, dividing (Communist) East and (Capitalist) West Berlin. Bye Bye Badman was written from the perspective of a protestor in Paris, May '68; this Ten Storey Love Song lyric could be written from the perspective of two lovers suddenly separated by the abrupt construction of the wall. Many East Germans went to desperate lengths to gain entrance to West Germany while it was still physically possible in the summer of 1961. The most surreal incident caught on video was the tug-of-war that developed over one lady, with the East German police trying to drag her back through the window of her border tenement, while West Berlin firemen tried to pull her safely to the street below. To cheers from the onlooking crowd below, she eventually reached the Western sector. Others were not so fortunate, and lost their lives in their desperation to cross the border.
A breach is made in the Berlin Wall, as crane workers start to dismantle the structure near the Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin, November 1989. One television commentary on the fall of the Berlin Wall contains the following sentence, notably close to Squire's lyric: "One man is pointing to the very spot where they will make the first breach." Squire's lyric has precedent in "Heroes" by David Bowie. Immersing himself in Cold War Berlin, Bowie was inspired to write this song by periodically spotting two lovers meeting by the Berlin Wall: "And the guns, shot above our heads. And we kissed, as though nothing could fall." The Otto Mueller (1874 - 1930) painting, 'Lovers Between Garden Walls' (1916) may also have been prominent in Bowie's mind.
Hiroshima and the Berlin Wall were referenced closely together on The Seahorses' Sale Of The Century, a journey through the twentieth century.
Hiroshima, non-dairy creamer
And a chunk of the Berlin Wall
Hiroshima and the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolically bookended the Cold War (though neither, technically, were its first or last acts).
In the first Love Spreads video, John Squire can be seen spray-painting the CND symbol. Formed in 1957, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is an anti-nuclear organization that advocates unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, and for international nuclear disarmament and tighter international arms regulation, through agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It opposes military action that may result in the use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and the building of nuclear power stations in the UK.
'No Longer Did We Worship', from Squire's 2008 Noise series, features extracts (underlined below) from a British Broadcasting Caliphate documentary series by one of its favoured sons, Adam Curtis, a fundamentally discredited kook.
Left: Adam Curtis, The Trap (2007). The title of the John Squire artwork, 'No Longer Did We Worship' (2008, right) is extracted from the reflection of Government Economist Robert Kavesh in Episode 1 of this Curtis documentary: "No longer did we worship at the shrine of no holds barred capitalism." The narrator then moves on to coverage of the warnings of economist and philosopher Friedrich August Hayek and his 1944 work, The Road to Serfdom (this book is the title of another John Squire artwork from his Noise series). In its use of politics to plan society, the West, Hayek warned, was on "the road to serfdom". The documentary continues: "The only way of avoiding disaster was to go back into the past, back to a golden age of the free market, where individuals followed their own self interest, and government played little or no role." Professor James Buchanan's comments on politicians and bureaucrats who preached the idea of public duty, whom he described as zealots, is the source of "thought they knew what was best for us": "We're safer if we have politicians who are a bit self-interested and greedy than if we have these zealots. The greatest danger, of course, is the zealot, who thinks that he knows best or she knows best for the rest of us."
The ultimate political goal at the heart of our age is the idea of individual freedom.
"I believe that freedom is the future of all humanity."
(President George W. Bush)
In Britain, our government has set out to create a revolution that will free individuals from the control of old elites and bureaucracies. A new world, where we are free to choose our lives, not be trapped by class or income into predestined roles.
"...To liberate Britain, from all the old class divisions, old structures, old prejudices...
"...To liberate the individual..."
(Prime Minister Tony Blair)
And abroad, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Britain and America have set out to liberate individuals from tyranny. For those leading it, it is just a first step in a global revolution for democracy.
But if one steps back and looks at what has resulted, it is a very strange kind of freedom. The attempt to liberate people from the dead hand of bureaucracy has led to the rise of a new and increasingly controlling system of management driven by targets and numbers.
While governments, committed to creating freedom of choice in all areas, have actually presided over a rise of inequalities and a dramatic collapse in social mobility. The consequence has been a return of the power of class and privilege.
And abroad, the attempt to create democracy has led not just to bloody mayhem, but a rejection of the American-led campaign to bring freedom. And it has summoned up an anti-democratic authoritarian Islamism. This in turn has helped inspire terrorist attacks in Britain itself. In response, the government has dismantled long-standing laws designed to protect our freedom.
This is a series of films about how this strange paradoxical world came to be created. It begins in the dark and frightening days of the Cold War and it will show how what we have today is a very narrow and peculiar idea of freedom that was born out of the paranoia of that time. It is based on an image of human beings as selfish, isolated and suspicious creatures who constantly monitor and strategise against each other. The films will show how politicians and scientists came to believe that this idea of human nature could be the basis of a new type of free society. But what none of them would realise was that within this dark and distrustful vision, lay the seeds of a new and revolutionary system of social control. It would use the language of freedom but in reality it would come to entrap us and our leaders in a narrow and empty world.
Adam Curtis, The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom, Episode 1: "F**k You Buddy" (11th March 2007)
Episode 2: "The Lonely Robot" (18th March 2007) opens with the narration: "...But what resulted was the very opposite of freedom. The numbers took on a power of their own, which began to create new forms of control, greater inequalities, and the return of a rigid class structure based on the power of money."
John Squire's Skunk Works Project was named after a Californian-based weapons systems plant, where the U-2 spy plane was developed for the US government. In 1955, the Skunk Works received a contract to build a spyplane known as the U-2, with the intention of overflying the Soviet Union and photographing sites of strategic interest. A U-2 plane flown by Francis Gary Powers was shot down during a surveillance mission over the Soviet Union on 1st May 1960, causing great embarrassment to the United States.
Top: Entrance plaza at the Skunk Works in Palmdale, California.
Bottom: A U-2 aircraft similar to that shot down in 1960.
The My Lai Massacre, referenced on The Seahorses track Sale Of The Century, was a mass murder conducted by a unit of the U.S. Army on hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians, mostly women and children, on 16th March 1968, in the hamlet of My Lai, during the Vietnam War. When the massacre became public knowledge in 1969, it prompted widespread outrage around the world and significantly reduced American support at home for the war in Vietnam.
SP5 Capezza burning a dwelling.
'Sea.Cav.', the artwork for The Seahorses' You Can Talk To Me release, is based on the 1st Cavalry Division Association badge of the US airborne division, formed on 17th July 1944. The division took part in the Vietnam War and feature in Apocalypse Now, a 1979 American epic war film directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, and Martin Sheen. The Vietnam War was a conflict between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and its allies (National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China) fought against the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and its allies (United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea). America kept a watchful eye on the conflict until the Gulf Of Tonkin incident of 1964, when she ceased her advisory role to the South Vietnamese government and upon direct order of President Lyndon B Johnson, moved to targeting military installations such as naval dockyards and military airfields. Her alliance with the south proved to be disastrous and America evacuated the country in 1973; two years later, on 30th April 1975, South Vietnam capitulated.
Top left: 1st Cavalry Division Association badge.
Top right: Apocalypse Now.
Second row (left): A John Squire artwork from 2007 is entitled 'Tim Page's whore sold me a camera' (paper, wax and oil on canvas, 10" x 8"). Tim Page is an English photographer who made his name during the Vietnam War. On the right is Page's photograph of Raquel Welch at Freedom Hill, 18th December 1967, and below this is a shot by Page of an exhausted combatant. Page does not shy away from the drug culture he was involved in during his time in Vietnam, devoting a large amount of his book 'Page after Page' to the subject. In 'Dispatches', Michael Herr wrote of Page as the most 'extravagant' of the 'wigged-out crazies running around Vietnam', and the photographer, in part, provided inspiration for the photojournalist played by Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.
Penultime row (left): In 2007, John Squire entitled a work of art 'Arc Light' (oil on canvas, 20" x 16"). Operation Arc Light was the 1965 deployment of B-52F Stratofortresses as conventional bombers from bases in the US to Guam, to support ground combat operations in Vietnam. By extension, Arc Light, and sometimes Arclight, is the code name and general term for the use of B-52 Stratofortress as a close air support (CAS) platform to support ground tactical operations assisted by ground-control-radar detachments of the 1st Combat Evaluation Group during the Vietnam War. There is a brief reference to 'Operation Arc Light' by Captain Willard (played by Martin Sheen) in Apocalypse Now. As the river boat (PBR) carrying Willard is moving up the coast to rendezvous with the air cavalry escort, they hear the rumble of a B-52 strike in the distance. When the character Chef asks what is going on, Willard replies, "Arc Light, B-52 strike."
Penultime row (right): Three B-52s drop 1,000 pound bombs on Communist targets, 25 miles from Bien Hoa Air Base, in 1966.
Bottom left: A U.S. Army M.P. inspects a Soviet AK-47 recovered in Vietnam, 1968. A John Squire artwork (bottom right) from 2007 is entitled 'Cuerno de Chivo' (glass, 12" x 8"). This is a Mexican slang term for an AK-47, the literal meaning of which is 'goat's horn', in reference to the curved magazine clip that the armament uses. The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62x39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. Design work on the AK began in 1945, the final year of World War II. A year later, the AK-46 was presented for official military trials; and, in 1947, the fixed-stock version was introduced into service with select units of the Soviet Army. On this theme, a John Squire artwork from 2007, 'M105' (oil on canvas, 20" x 16"), is named after a 1½ ton US Army trailer.
Guantanamo Bay (2002 - present)
Squire's 2005 artwork, 'Figure In Orange' (oil on canvas, 6' x 6'), showing a hunched figure clothed entirely in orange in claustrophobic surroundings, could represent a Guantanamo Bay detainee.
Detainees upon arrival at Camp X-Ray, January 2002. After the Justice Department advised that the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp could be considered outside U.S. legal jurisdiction, the first twenty captives arrived at Guantanamo on 11th January 2002.
In The Seahorses era, John Squire had a fondness for military attire, as did several of his musical influences - particularly, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Jimmy Page and David Bowie.
Opened at 293 Portobello Road in 1966, I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet was a clothing boutique which achieved fame in 1960s Swinging London by promoting antique military uniforms as fashion items. Seen here (top left) is the iconic military attire of Jimi Hendrix, who served for a year as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division. John Lennon's army shirt (top middle), purchased in a local Salvation Army in the West Village, was his favourite in his New York days. He wore it for the 'One to One' concert on 30th August 1972, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Featuring Sergeant stripes on each side and various additional patches, it is a standard infantry shirt used during the Korean War.
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