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Thread: Fred & Judy Vermorel

  1. #1

    Default Fred & Judy Vermorel

    I'm kind of intrigued by this pair, who seem to occupy a shadowy (esp. Fred) presence on the edge of pop culture. Neither has their own Wikipedia entry and online pics are hard to come by.

    The first time I came across them would have been in the early '80s, when they wrote a cash-in book about Adam & The Ants. Haven't got it anymore, but remember a pic of them at the back, with Fred looking really sleazy, and some blurb stating they were working on a book about "an incestuous couple" (great fun asking my mum what that meant).

    Most online content seems to focus on his two Kate Bush biogs, which I think someone here (STN? Eden?) whole-heartedly recommended as being enjoyably batshit, but I sadly haven't got round to reading either (I've never even found copies available) . There are some truly bizarre archived forum threads out there - one *supposedly* started by Steven Wells, speculating on him having a secret demon lovechild with Kate and similar nonsense - though, by all accounts, he did seriously stalk her to the extent of lobbing a brick through her brother's window and narrowly missing the bloke's baby.

    From what I can gather - he goes to art school with Malcolm McLaren in the 1960s, ends up in Paris during the '68 riots, ends up marrying Judy and knocking out books on the Pistols, Malcolm Poynter, etc. Then gets involved in McLaren's 'Chicken' mag stunt (before getting cold feet/a jab of conscience and blowing the lid on it), writes a few more books and was apparently involved in some failed project to launch a film called 'Millions Like Us' featuring Throbbing Gristle and seemingly 99% of the '70s London music scene.

    Anyway, not quite sure what the purpose of this thread is. From what little I know of them, they seem kind of mysterious and genuinely funny, albeit possibly enshrouded in myths and bullshit. Any further reading recommendations? Ever met them? Any thoughts?

  2. #2
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    I think they released a 12" on Factory Records.
    Their sex pistols book was the first 'grown-up' book I ever read. I think FV lectures at Kingston Uni now - I periodically Google them because I find them a bit fascinating. I'd imagine Eden will be along in a moment with better insights.
    I'm putting kids to bed so will engage more thoroughly later.

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    The second Kate Bush biography - The Secret History of Kate Bush: (And the Strange Art of Pop) - is genius - a radical dismantling of pop biography with a long brilliant section that's like a manifesto or a vision of what pop is and how it works

    Starlust, composed out of fan letters found at various record companies + interviews with obsessive fans, is a mind-blowing glimpse into the psycho logic of the fan/star "relationship".

    There is a later related book, mostly composed of fan culture ephemera and newspaper stories with some commentary, called Fandemonium, which is also very good.

    But i think Vermorel's masterpiece is Vivienne Westwood: Fashion, Perversity, and the Sixties Laid Bare. It's as much about McLaren as Westwood (although her story is well told in an imaginary interview weaved together from magazine quotes and half-remembered ancedotes stemming from Vermorel’s long association with the couple). It really comes alive though in the central section: a wonderfully vivid memoir of Sixties London, when Vermorel and McLaren were art-school accomplices, packed with fascinating digressions on topics such as the semiotics of cigarette smoking and the atmosphere of all-night art cinema houses. The book as a whole is a sort of autopsy on the Sixties’s impossible dreams and analysis of its perverse psychology, mixed with a triangular love story that's ultimately rather poignant - for despite Vermorel's having broken with McLaren many years earlier and Westwood having long split up, they are both clearly obsessed with - indeed besotted with - the incorrigible Malcolm. Viv says something like, "a world without Malcolm would be like a world without Brazil".

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    (this is all from memory, so some specifics might be wrong, but hopefully you will get the gist)

    Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam and the Ants was the first album I bought, on cassette, from Woolworths when I was 11 or something.

    A few months later, down the road in WH Smiths I spotted a large format book about Adam and the Ants and started reading through it in the shop. I took it all in my stride despite the fact that it was mainly about the anarchistic tendencies of pirates, tribalism in native american Indians, and Nietzsche.

    The first time I read about Nietzsche was aged 11 in WH Smiths in a book about Adam and the Ants by Fred Vermorel. And it seemed like a completely normal thing.

    Since then he's been one of those people I periodically think about and am just amazed at his output really. How did stuff this subversive get published with decent production and distribution?

    Some quick highlights:

    The books about celebrity and fans are truly amazing and really get to grips with the sexual intensity of it all (and the barely repressed psychopahty in some cases) - decades before "celebrity culture" became a thing. There was also a TV programme they did about all this which I remember watching as a teenager which was also amazing.

    A Gary Numan book which was apparently "generated by computer". I.e. garbled text in a cut up style.

    The Sex Pistols book which is remarkable for two things: lots of first person accounts of the early days (Sophie Reid's diaries and also interviews with the band member's parents which are incredible) and then in the later edition a whole bunch of stuff about situationist groups like King Mob.

    Fashion and Peversity - includes Vermorel's account of Paris 68 iirc and also the theory that McLaren's genius was a result of undiagnosed tourettes.

    Kate Bush - I barely know how to sum this up but one of the two Kate Bush books includes several chapters about her family history in Saxon(?) times in Essex and one of her relatives dying drunk in a ditch. There is also a truly fantastic documentary about la Bush which features Fred outside her old house explaining that he would sit on the fire escape at night and listen to her moving about. Somewhere deep in usenet (maybe the bit that Martin mentions) there is someone alluding to Fred Vermorel having an affair with Kate Bush and being the Father of her son. Also rumours about a restraining order.

    Kate Moss - essentially a biography slagging her off which also features Fred sneaking into her tent at Glastonbury and taking a DNA sample.

    Also more recently a truly weird Youtube video featuring what is apparently the driveway to J K Rowling's house?

    I think Vermorel was also involved with the fracas that the Slits had with Throbbing Gristle when they played the London Musicians Collective.

    He is working on a book about the unsolved murder of Jean Townsend:

    I think he resists people trying to find out too much about him and has been quite hostile to people who have in the past. I think the thread allegedly started by Steven Wells followed a spat between them. So tread carefully.

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    An argument with Anarchists "the nitwits of the left" https://libcom.org/libray/vermorel-may-68-paris

    More deadlinks to a long gone site but archive.org might be your friend iirc http://factoryrecords.org/fred-vermorel.php

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by PiLhead View Post

    But i think Vermorel's masterpiece is Vivienne Westwood: Fashion, Perversity, and the Sixties Laid Bare. It's as much about McLaren as Westwood (although her story is well told in an imaginary interview weaved together from magazine quotes and half-remembered ancedotes stemming from Vermorelís long association with the couple). It really comes alive though in the central section: a wonderfully vivid memoir of Sixties London, when Vermorel and McLaren were art-school accomplices, packed with fascinating digressions on topics such as the semiotics of cigarette smoking and the atmosphere of all-night art cinema houses. The book as a whole is a sort of autopsy on the Sixtiesís impossible dreams and analysis of its perverse psychology, mixed with a triangular love story that's ultimately rather poignant - for despite Vermorel's having broken with McLaren many years earlier and Westwood having long split up, they are both clearly obsessed with - indeed besotted with - the incorrigible Malcolm. Viv says something like, "a world without Malcolm would be like a world without Brazil".
    Ok, I'm sold. That sounds superb.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by john eden View Post
    A few months later, down the road in WH Smiths I spotted a large format book about Adam and the Ants and started reading through it in the shop. I took it all in my stride despite the fact that it was mainly about the anarchistic tendencies of pirates, tribalism in native american Indians, and Nietzsche.

    The first time I read about Nietzsche was aged 11 in WH Smiths in a book about Adam and the Ants by Fred Vermorel. And it seemed like a completely normal thing.
    Yep, that's the one I had. Unfortunately, I was a bit younger so I think some of the in-depth stuff on African drumming rituals and obscure religious sect the Adamites was wasted on me. I do remember some cool drawings of big-breasted pirate women, though. And yeah, that quote, "We did a song called Nietzsche Baby which went over everyone's head..."

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