Teddy Boy Power – Take Two !

Hello again from Moscow ! This month we’re gonna continue the story of a very rare rock’n’roll project. Last month I told you about an Art Project dedicated to the culture of the Teddy Boy. Let me remind you briefly the background:

Vadim Shapovalov and Sergey Shakhov are part of the famous Russian psychobilly band “Stone Faces”. Vadim is lead singer and songwriter with the band. Sergey is not a band member of the Stone Faces, but is involved in the promoting of the group, especially logos and artwork for their music albums. But their musical passions extend beyond psychobilly. Together they have produced an art collection of Teddy Boy miniature sculptures. Last month you saw some of the photos from this display and this month you can see some more. It really is a fantastic collection of rock’n’roll mini-sculptures. As I advised last month, it came to pass as the result of the collaboration between Vadim and Sergey and their specialisms. Vadim is a professional sculptor and one of Sergey’s main hobbies outside of his work is painting war historical miniatures. 

Last month Sergey told you about his role in the project and also his own personal rock’n’roll story. This month it’s the turn of Vadim. Over to you, Vadim:

I have been modeling sculptures all my life – this is my profession. For 30 years of work in this field, I have mastered different styles, but I didn’t have to deal with sculptural miniatures, although I had always got a crush on this type of sculpture and wanted to try myself in it. This style requires some specific skills and some experience with relevant materials. Therefore, before starting work, I needed expert advice. My old friend Sergei Shakhov was that expert. He has extensive experience in creating and painting sculptural miniatures. Sergei answered all my questions, and gave me some links to a useful video in this sphere. 

As for the composition theme, I had no doubt that it would be Teddy Boys from the very beginning. As a rule, military themes dominate at the miniature exhibitions. But I have long been interested in the history of civilian costume; in particular the sub-culture costumes, among which the Teddy Boys occupy a special place for me, since their culture is the most unbending and untainted by any “collaborations” and “experiments”, which some celebrities call “development”. In general, I think the original Edwardian Teddy Boy costume is perfect. It still does not seem archaic, like one from the dressing room of some film studio. At the same time, with all its conservatism, this costume does not look boring. It has many details – the ties, vests, socks, shoes, let alone such things as tie pins, watch chains, cufflinks, by the changing of which the owner will always look fresh and elegant, but not flashy. I decided to reflect all these undoubted advantages of the Teddy Boys’ costume in sculptural miniatures. 

In addition, I tried to focus on the wearers of these costumes themselves, reflecting on those “thugs terrorising the city” from the articles of English newspapers of the 1950s in their images. It is clear of course that not all Teds were thugs, but public opinion affected them. So I set to work and it took quite a long time, due to production of sketches and my lack of experience in working with miniatures. That’s why I asked you so many questions, Richard, regarding the details of the Teddy Boy costume. I concerned all these details during modeling – collars, the number of buttons, the length of the jacket tails and the flaps of the pockets. The website www.edwardianteddyboy.com has also been of great help to me, both with information and photographs. After the polymer clay figurines were ready and baked in the oven, I started to think about painting them. I had some experience gained while working in a mock-up workshop. However, my experience in painting figurines is nothing compared to the experience of Sergey, who is a real master in this matter. That’s why I asked him to paint my miniatures. Since Sergey was well aware of who the Teddy Boys were, I was sure that he would do everything as it should be and would pay due attention to details. And he did !

My interest in the Teddy Boys culture goes back to the Stilyagi sub-culture. Your readers, Richard, should know who Stilyagi are, since you have mentioned them more than once in your articles [Richard’s note: the Stilyagi was a youth movement in Russia that originated in the 1950s. They played an iconic role in the history of the youth culture of the country].Though in the USSR they never mentioned Stilyagi in a positive context and I saw their images only in the form of caricatures, I still had some kind of subconscious sympathy for them and the very silhouette of their costume – a spacious jacket, tight trousers and shoes on a thick sole – I really liked it. I remember drawing such characters in school notebooks. When I found out that in Britain, there were Stilyagi called Teddy Boys, I had a strong interest in this culture. However, there was no way to satisfy this interest. The information was very sketchy; so was my knowledge of the Teddy Boys in those days (early 1990s). The situation changed only with the introduction of the internet, when I was able to fill in all my knowledge gaps. Here I mention the site www.edwardianteddyboy.com again, where gorgeous photos are combined with excellent articles. Richard, I will especially highlight an article by your friend Brian Rushgrove, called ‘Birth of the Edwardians’. We call such articles “fundamental”; I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the culture of the Teddy Boys.

I don’t remember exactly where and when I first saw a photo of Teddy Boys. I think it was some kind of book by a foreign author about sub-cultures, but I remember very well the effect of this photo. The famous Anthony Burgess, in his novel “The Doctor Is Sick”, described the Teds as “youths, simian-browed with horror-waxwork faces, but their clothes and coiffures by contrast most civilised”. I didn’t read these lines at that time, but it was the combination of chic costumes and completely hooligan faces that made a strong impression on me. In general the image resembled our Stilyagi, who were appealing to me, although at that time (early 1990s) I was a front man of a punk band and looked appropriately different !

I got acquainted with the right music for the first time in my childhood, although it was not rock’n’roll at first, but the Twist ! We had a huge tube radio phonograph at home, and when my parents played a record of Muslim Magomayev (a Soviet singer who gained world fame as a performer of opera parts and who in the early 1960s sang Twist songs with his powerful voice), I, as they told me later, sat under the phonograph and pounded on the switching bands, as if it was a piano; a kind of small Jerry Lee ! By the way, when I first saw Jerry Lee Lewis on Soviet TV, I was simply shocked. It was powerful ! I was already studying in high school, it was the late 1980s. And my introduction, so to speak, to Rock was when I was about 13: It was AC/DC, just like for Sergey, but the song was different for me – “Hell’s Bells”. In general, AC/DC was very popular in the Soviet Union at that time – everybody listened to them.

Both in the past and now, I have the same favourite Russian rock’n’roll bands – Mean Traitors and Crazy Men Crazy. However, the former now play completely different from their early works and the latter now only gather once a year. In the second half of the 1980s and early 1990s, the Russian rock’n’roll band Mister Twister had great authority: Though they are still performing now, they have not released anything new for a long time.

In 1989, in my native city of Orel, I organised my first band. It was a punk group. I think even if we had wanted to play something else at that time, it would still have had to be punk, because none of us really knew how to play ! Except for the guitarist that is, who knew a couple of dozen thieves’ songs (called blatnyak in Russian). For the two years of our existence, we managed to perform three times in public (concerts were a rarity in our dullsville city) and even recorded a few songs. In 1991, I became a member of the band called the Severe Silent Scoundrels (Surovye Mrachnye Negodyai in Russian). 

Thankyou, Vadim ! The story of the rock’n’roll band the Severe Silent Scoundrels is a wild and frenzied one. Vadim will tell you all about it, plus even more about his rock’n’roll journey, next month !