Alwyn W Turner

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Rejoice! Rejoice!
Britain in the 1980s

It was an era of mass unemployment, riots, royal weddings, Greenham Common, the Falklands War, the miners' strike, Live Aid, Wapping, entrepreneurs, yuppies, Clause 28, the poll tax...

When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979, she promised to bring harmony where once there had been discord, but Britain in the 1980s was a deeply divided society. After the crises that had brought the country to a standstill in the previous decade, a war raged over the direction of the nation.

Thatcher's vision clashed with those of Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and the SDP, but theirs were not the only voices. For the conflict did not stay confined to Westminster, but spilt over into a cultural war with police chiefs, comedians, pop stars, even the Church of England, all making their contribution.

At stake were the souls of the great population boom of the early and mid 1960s. The future lay in the hands of the most populous generation in British history. Would they buy into the deregulated, free-market, patriotic agenda of Thatcherism, or the anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-war attitudes of the new left?

From council house sales to championship snooker, from global warming to acid house, Alwyn W. Turner's Rejoice! Rejoice!, the sequel to the acclaimed Crisis? What Crisis? Britain in the 1970s, explores 1980s Britain's spectrum of social discord from high politics through to low culture. Norman Tebbit, Edwina Currie and Roy Jenkins rub shoulders with Ben Elton, Inspector Morse and Stock, Aitken and Waterman in this superbly intelligent account of the making of modern Britain.

Listed as one of the Books of the Year in the Sunday Times and New Statesman
BBC History Book of the Month

'this splendid book' – Sunday Times
'terrifically entertaining' –
Daily Telegraph
'entertaining, insightful and wide-ranging' –
Daily Mail
'indispensible' –
Mail on Sunday
'resolutely entertaining' –
Metro
'a vivid and enjoyable guide to these turbulent years' –
BBC History
'dazzling overview of a demonized decade' –
Mojo

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Britain in the 1980s

by Alwyn W Turner
published by Aurum Press, 2010


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Crisis? What Crisis?
Britain in the 1970s

now in paperback . . .

The 1970s. Strikes, power-cuts, three-day weeks, inflation, Paki-bashing and the dead left unburied. Or, seen from another perspective, it was a period dominated by Morecambe & Wise, glam rock, detective fiction, club football, Get Carter and The Good Life.

Actually, of course, it encompassed both those visions, and more. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Wealth inequality was at a record low, but industrial disruption was at a record high. These were the glory years of Doctor Who and Coronation Street, but the darkest days of the Northern Ireland conflict…

In 1978 London Weekend Television launched a new series, The South Bank Show, announcing that it would cover ‘the consumed arts – cinema, rock, paperbacks and even television.’ It was an acknowledgement that if you wanted to understand modern Britain, you had to look at popular culture. Crisis? What Crisis? follows that lead, telling the story of Britain in the 1970s through the soaps and sitcoms, the music and movies, the fiction, fashion and sport of the time. And it adds one crucial ingredient: politics considered as one of the consumed arts.

This is not an insider’s account of the crises that wracked Britain in that decade. Rather it is the consumer’s version, a world seen through the eyes of the mass media, in which Enoch Powell, Margaret Thatcher and trade union leaders jostle for space with David Bowie, Hilda Ogden and skinheads.

In researching this book, Alwyn W Turner spoke with many of the key players in the era, from Tony Benn to Norman Tebbit, from Shirley Williams to Zandra Rhodes, and from Dennis Skinner to David Van Day. He also watched hundreds of hours of British TV and films from the era, including more episodes of George & Mildred than is medically advisable.

Listed as one of the Books of the Year in The Spectator
Publishing News Book of the Month

'This is a masterful work of social history and cultural commentary, told with much wit.' - Mail on Sunday
'This vivid, brilliantly researched chronicle' -
New Statesman
'This is an adventurous and enjoyable reassessment of a much-maligned decade' -
BBC History Magazine
'entertaining and splendidly researched ... an account that displays wit, colour and detail.' -
Financial Times
'Turner's narrative is quite compelling ... This is about as far away from sober, stuffy history as you can get and deserves a wide readership.' -
Publishing News
'Concise, cogently argued and leavened with a dry wit.' -
Daily Express
'An ambitious, entertaining, alternative history of the 1970s.' -
Time Out
'The book is sharp and often funny ... eclectic, not to say eccentric.' - Guardian
'Turner combines a fan's sense of populism with a keen grasp of the political landscape' - Metro

Crisis? What Crisis?
Britain in the 1970s

by Alwyn W Turner
published by Aurum Press, 2008


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My Generation
The Glory Years of British Rock

On New Year’s Day 1964, the first edition of Top of the Pops was broadcast on BBC Television.

The timing could hardly have been better, coming just as British rock and roll entered its greatest and most influential period – within three months, the Beatles were occupying the top five positions in the American singles charts, and their international success was followed by a host of other groups, including the Rolling Stones and the Dave Clark Five, who were both featured on that first programme.

Over the next decade virtually every major rock, pop act and soul act from Britain and America appeared on the show, and were captured by the camera of the official stills photographer, Harry Goodwin. He recorded the changing imagery of the era, as music progressed from beat to protest, from Motown and psychedelia to heavy metal and glam rock.

My Generation tells the story of the music that provided the soundtrack to the Swinging Sixties and the recession of the early-1970s, and includes classic images of the biggest names in rock history: from the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd to Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart and David Bowie.

'Well written, but Goodwin's pictures carry the day. They're beautifully reproduced.' - Record Collector
'Excellent' - Daily Telegraph
'This fascinating book' - Grafik
'The must-have coffee table book for pop pickers of all ages' - Harrods Magazine

My Generation
The Glory Years of British Rock

by Alwyn W Turner
photographs by Harry Goodwin
published by V&A Publishing, 2010


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Halfway to Paradise
The Birth of British Rock

In 1954, just weeks after the end of rationing in Britain, Bill Haley and his Comets broke into the charts with their single ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’. Over the course of the next ten years the country was transformed completely as it moved from Austerity to the Swinging Sixties.

A crucial part of that development was the music that soundtracked the nation’s evolution. Home-grown artists like Lonnie Donegan, Cliff Richard and Adam Faith emerged from the shadows of the American stars (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly), and laid the ground for the British invasion that was to sweep America and then the world.

For nearly two decades Harry Hammond was Britain’s leading showbiz photographer. Starting in the late-1940s, his camera captured the definitive images of virtually every leading British musician, as well as those of visiting Americans. From Tommy Steele to the Beatles, from Shirley Bassey to Dusty Springfield, from trad to r&b, he shot them all. In the process, he caught too the early days of British rock television.

Drawing on this invaluable archive, Halfway to Paradise tells the story of Britain’s embrace – and ultimate domination – of rock and roll, from the skiffle craze to the arrival of Merseybeat.

Listed as one of the Music Books of the Year in The Observer

'Pin-sharp, richly-toned pictures which captured the slick-hair-and-shiny-suit sexiness of it all to perfection ... a balanced and factual commentary by Alwyn W Turner ... this is a book to treasure.' - Record Collector
'Insightful text ... high-quality black-and-white images.' - Mojo
'A sumptuous book ... The splendid text from Alwyn W Turner links the magnificent pictures of Harry Hammond.' - Liverpool Daily Post

Halfway to Paradise
The Birth of British Rock

by Alwyn W Turner
photographs by Harry Hammond
published by V&A Publishing, 2008


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The Biba Experience
now in paperback . . .

Born as a small boutique in 1964 just as London started to swing, its upward mobility followed a path diametrically opposed to that of the society around it. As the amphetamine rush of optimism wore off, and the country found itself heading inexorably towards the come-down of the three-day week, Biba – now filling all seven storeys of the old Derry & Toms store with own-brand produce – provided the escapism that Britain craved.

Drawing on Art Deco, Nouveau, Victoriana and the golden age of Hollywood, it was more than just fashion: it was a whole world, a lifestyle choice. At the height of the store’s glory, the committed shopper could buy not only a new wardrobe, fully co-ordinated from head to toe, but also a complete range of cosmetics and soft furnishings, together with the washing powder to care for her clothes, and food for both herself and her pets, all presented in the distinctive Biba packaging. Alternatively she could just hang out, either lounging in the shop-windows (Biba didn’t do window-displays), or sipping cocktails upstairs amongst the flamingos that lived in the Roof Garden, or in the Rainbow Room, where on a good night there might be a live performance by the likes of the New York Dolls, Liberace or the Manhattan Transfer.

It was not so much a department store as a theme park devoted to elegantly wasted decadence.

And then it crashed and burned. In 1975 the unacceptable face of capitalism (which was definitely not wearing Biba eye-shadow) turned its gaze on Biba, decided that it preferred the real estate to the fantasy, and closed the shop down. And so the dream ended. Unlike its contemporaries, the likes of Virgin and Habitat, Biba fulfilled the rock & roll promise to live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse, and is consequently remembered with a fondness almost unique in the world of retail.

This lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced book is intended for those interested in fashion and graphic design of the Sixties and Seventies, from a creative and historical standpoint, plus the huge number of people who remember Biba from the period with enormous affection.

Listed as one of the Fashion Books of the Year in the Sunday Times

'A must-buy for anyone seeking inspiration or a gentle reminder of a creative legend' - Vogue
'A beautifully crafted history of the look and style of a bygone era' -
Radio 2
'A vivid pictorial chronicle of one of the most evocative names in British design history' -
The Independent
'An essential reference for understanding the quirky and pioneering label' -
The Times
'A sumptuous and carefully researched book' -
The Scotsman
'Although well illustrated, this is essentially a book to be read' -
Sunday Times
'Brings the whole experience vividly back to mind' -
Daily Telegraph
'Turner's sharp and intelligent account is full of telling detail, and he evokes the atmosphere of the shop beautifully' -
The Art Book

The Biba Experience
by Alwyn W Turner
published by Antique Collectors' Club, 2004
revised edition published 2005
paperback edition published 2007

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paperback
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also available . . .
Welcome to Big Biba

Big Biba, the final flowering of Barbara Hulanicki’s legendary Biba store in London, was a shop like no other, before or since. It was a fabulous fantasy palace that brought the indulgence of Hollywood to the world of retail. Big Biba lasted just two years before it fell victim to recession, but the legend of what the Sunday Times called ‘the most beautiful store in the world’ continues to enchant both its former habitués and those who came to it too late.

Welcome to Big Biba is the first book dedicated entirely to this dreamland, with over 150 colour photographs – most published here for the first time – of the store and of the products and graphics created for the various departments, from bathrooms to ball-gowns, from cosmetics to colouring-books.

Designed by Steve Thomas, who designed Big Biba itself, and with text by Alwyn W Turner, author of The Biba Experience.

'Welcome to Big Biba is an exceptional production, with an authoritative text - including a good deal of contemporary comment - a wealth of photographs, superbly "period" design and generous reproduction of primary source material.' - The Art Book

Welcome to Big Biba
by Steven Thomas & Alwyn W Turner
published by Antique Collectors' Club, 2006




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Cult Rock Posters 1972-82

From glam through punk to new wave, this collection of over 200 rare rock posters from the 1970s celebrates a decade's music and design.

David Bowie's satin, tat and lipstick were the essence of glam, the spirit of punk was embodied in the rips in the Sex Pistols' Union Jack, while the Ramones posing in the New York streets shouted urbanism and decay. The posters speak directly to the viewer, communicating the style and content of the music. Many are now iconic images: the haunted, sunken-eyed Lou Reed on the front of Rock & Roll Animal, the lightning-struck face of David Bowie on Aladdin Sane, the power and anger in London Calling's smashed guitar, Adam Ant's white stripe and piercing eyes in Kings of the Wild Frontier, and Johnny Rotten's psychotic stare.

These dazzling artworks are presented here together for the first time, accompanied by an entertaining and insightful commentary by pop-culture aficionados Alwyn W Turner and Roger Crimlis. With the aid of personal interviews with stars, artists, photographers and fly-posting mafiosi, they reveal the unknown stories behind the posters featured and chart the music that inspired a generation.

This book is for anyone who has ever Blu-Tacked a poster to their bedroom wall.

'A winning rumination on a golden period of pop' - Mojo
'All the great images from the punk, new wave and glam era and a scholarly commentary on why all this mattered so much' -
The Times
'The definitive review of the decade's music graphics' -
State of the Art

Cult Rock Posters 1972-82
by Roger Crimlis & Alwyn W Turner
published by Aurum Press (UK) and Billboard (US), 2006
and by Blues Interactions, Inc in Japan, 2007


UK edition
US edition
Japanese edition
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Portmeirion

The Times called Portmeirion ‘the last folly of the Western World’ while the Guardian saw it as ‘a giant gnomes’ village’. For eccentric architect Clough Williams-Ellis, the man who designed and built the resort, it was ‘propaganda for seemliness,’ a statement of how planned development could enhance rather than destroy its environment.

And for the quarter of a million visitors a year who make the trip to this Italianate village in North-West Wales, it’s quite simply one of the most magical places on Earth.

Published to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first opening of the resort, Portmeirion brings together for the first time all the elements that have made the name famous worldwide: from the pottery to The Prisoner, from the gardens to the genius of Clough himself.

'A splendid book with all the right people contributing' - Sir Roy Strong, Country Life
'fascinating ... erudite ... handsomely illustrated ... engaging ... an attractive, highly accessible book' -
The Art Book

Portmeirion
edited by Alwyn W Turner
published by Antique Collectors' Club, 2006


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Magic Gardens
The Underwater Art of Susan Williams-Ellis

Susan Williams-Ellis was one of the most celebrated British designers of the second half of the 20th century, the co-founder of Portmeirion Potteries and the creator of that company’s hugely popular Botanic Garden range of tableware.

Running throughout Susan’s long life was a fascination with the world of the sea, and it is this interest in marine life that is celebrated in Magic Gardens. Susan had long wished to produce a book of her underwater art, a project that sadly remained unfulfilled at her death in November 2007.

The series of pictures of tropical fish that form the centrepiece of the book began in the mid-1970s, at the height of the success of Portmeirion Potteries, and continued through to the end of the century. Well into her eighties, she was still travelling the world, still snorkelling with drawing-pad in one hand, china pencil in the other, sketching the world beneath the waves.

Also included is a selection of rare works from the early years of Susan's career that reflect her longstanding interest in sea-life.

Magic Gardens
The Underwater Art of Susan Williams-Ellis

text by Alwyn W Turner
art direction by Thamasin Marsh
published by Portmeirion Ltd, 2008


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Military Bands

For 250 years military bands have occupied a unique role in the British Army, supporting the soldiers, serving in the ranks during wartime and acting as a point of contact with a wider society. At the peak of military music in the late-19th century, there were more than 150 bands in the Army, attracting audiences of tens of thousands to open-air concerts. A hundred years later, the figure was down to just 29 bands and falling.

A three-volume series by Gordon Turner (formerly Director of Music of the Royal Signals) and his son, Alwyn W Turner, traces the history of every band to have served in the British Army. A further volume tells the story of the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall, founded in 1857.

'This sumptuously illustrated chronicle of everything you ever wanted to know about British military bands . . . this exhaustively researched book' - The Times
'This book is fascinating . . . a must for anyone interested in military music and its history.' -
Winds magazine

The History of British Military Bands
(three volumes)
by Gordon Turner & Alwyn W Turner
published by Spellmount Ltd, 1994-97

The Trumpets Will Sound
by Gordon Turner & Alwyn W Turner
published by Parapress, 1996
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also available:

Rough Guide to RockAs SutchTributeSound the Trumpets, Beat the Drums