Rebel Rebel: How Mavericks Made the Modern World
By Chris Sullivan
A riotous history of people and things that broke the mould
Publication date: April 2019Buy
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Fed up with blandness? Bored rigid by the dull clock-punchers you work with? Sick of towing the line?
If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, Rebel, Rebel is the book for you. It’s a compendium of 60 pieces on outsiders, intended to remind us all that, in this age, where to kowtow is a pre-requisite, where doing what one is told is essential and turning up on time a must, that most of the people/things of lasting significance didn’t play by the rules.
Like a really good party, it’s got musicians (Charlie Mingus, Fela Kuti, Joe Strummer), actors (Louise Brooks, Robert Mitchum, Daniel Day Lewis), artists (Egon Schiele, Man Ray, Jackson Pollock), directors (Fritz Lang, Kenneth Anger, Wong Kar-wai), photographers (Horst, Weegee, David Bailey), DJs (Andrew Weatherall) places (Paris in the Twenties, Muscle Shoals), and things (sunglasses, Levis, the pork pie hat) all of them turning up for one reason: they want to do their own thing in their own way. Not all are heroes - James Brown was a wife-beating misogynist control freak with impossibly bad dress sense after the age of thirty, but by breaking all the rules of music he created a brand new fresh form called funk, and went on to influence more musicians than anyone on earth.
Some of the pieces are brand new, some have been published in magazines, but will appear here in their original form, with the life and energy previously cut out by lily-livered editors now fully restored by yours truly.
With your help, Rebel Rebel will be a fat, handsome paperback manifesto to keep you amused and inspired for years to come. Keep it in the smallest room.
It might help you achieve something, if only notoriety…
What makes me qualified to tell the story of rebels and mavericks?
Over the years, I’ve been a DJ, author, nightclub host, pop star, painter, style commentator, entrepreneur and fashion designer. In fact, I’ve always been proud of never having a ‘real job’.
As a teenager in Merthyr Tydfil in the early seventies, I was a ska-loving, moon-stomping suedehead, listening to David Bowie and Lou Reed or bowling up the motorway to catch the Northern soul sessions at the the Wigan Casino.
Then came the move to London and funk clubs, the punk explosion, studying art and fashion at St Martin’s. In the early 80s I was a regular at Billy’s and the Blitz and ran the club, Hell with Steve Strange and Rusty Egan. In 1981, I fronted the Latin funk band, Blue Rondo A La Turk. We were signed to Virgin and got a no 1 in Brazil.
I’m probably best known for opening The Wag Club in Wardour Street in 1983. I was founder, host, director and DJ for 18 years – a true home for outsiders and rebels – everyone from Prince to Lee Perry played live there. From the mid eighties onwards I’ve DJ’d in the best clubs and parties in London, Tokyo, New York, LA, Paris, Barcelona, Milan and Ibiza.
I’m also a journalist: first at The Face, then a columnist and stylist for Loaded and for four years from 2000, I was GQ’s style editor. Since then I’ve freelanced for The Times, Esquire, Telegraph, Independent, Guardian, and L’Uomo Vogue. I’ve written two books, the international best-seller, Punk (with Stephen Colegrave) and the definitive chronicle of club culture of the 80s, We Can Be Heroes (with Graham Smith), and a 9-part TV documentary series Gangs of Britain presented by my old chums Martin and Gary Kemp. My first film, Anarchy in the UK (a punk road movie) is in production with Hacienda films.
I still DJ weekly in London and pop up at parties and openings all over the world. When not gallivanting, I live in Maida Vale with my long suffering spouse Leah, ten year-old son Finbar and a cat called Tuesday.
It’s always puzzled me how or why Sam Cooke, that impossibly smooth skinned, supremely suave, Ivy League clad singer of sweet soul music, came to such a shockingly ignominious end. The personification of debonair and the natural successor to, Nat King Cole, it seemed as if butter wouldn’t, couldn’t and certainly shouldn’t melt in his mouth but, as events transpired, it surely must have.
Indeed, it was fifty years ago on Friday December 11th 1964 that The King of Soul, was found, by police, sitting, back against the wall, on the floor of a hotel apartment, naked, except for an over coat and one shoe. He had a lump the size of an egg jutting out of his crown while a 22-calibre bullet nestled in his chest having careered through his lungs and heart. The room, in the sleazy three bucks a night Hacienda Motel - known as ‘a prostitutes’ paradise’ - on Figueroa St. (between Watts and Compton), belonged to its manager - one Bertha Franklin, an exceedingly portly 55 year old black woman with a face like a slashed arse. Outside the sleaze bag flop house; a brand new red Ferrari sat empty except for a bottle of whisky and a copy of Muhammad Speaks (a Black Muslim periodical) on its seats. The car had belonged to Sam Cooke. He had no use for it now. He was dead as a plate.Read more...
The White T-Shirt
The humble T-shirt was intended – by its designer or designers unknown – as utilitarian military wear, and was initially doled out to replace the sweaty wool undergarments of US Navy submariners in 1913. Soon after it became US forces PE issue and in 1920, “T-shirt” entered the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
That year, the University of Southern California stenciled “Property of USC” on its PE-issue T-shirts to stop football players misappropriating them to wear off campus. It didn’t work. The epidemic further spread after Life magazine displayed a soldier in a T-shirt printed with the Air Corps Gunnery School’s logo on a 1942 cover. The first recorded sloganeering T-shirt, proclaiming “Dew-it-with-Dewey” accordingly emerged for 1948’s presidential election, and in the early 1950s, Sam Kantor of Tropix Togs in Miami printed Mickey Mouse T-shirts for Disneyland Corp.
As the printed T-shirt evolved, the plain variety became hip. GIs attended US colleges sporting their army issue, and the plain T-shirt, like the chino and sweatshirt, was adopted by their younger beatnik acolytes. Elsewhere, it was purely a work shirt regarded as unsuitable for anything else. No surprise, then, that East Village hepcat Marlon Brando should wear a T-shirt on Broadway in 1947 and then on film in 1951 – as the blue-collar, belligerently coarse Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. A hugely divisive style statement, T-shirt sales still totalled $180m by 1953. Brando upped the ante, wearing one as a biker in The Wild One, while James Dean, as troubled and defiant teenager Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, struck a chord with his white T-shirt, blue Lee 101Z Riders, engineer boots and iconic red windbreaker. The T-shirt now suggested danger, drugs, gangs and insubordination, which was all that most self-respecting teenagers could wish for – and the gang connotation has never really gone away. In 2010, Philadelphia Senator Anthony Williams identified “white-T culture” as a major source of power among the city’s white-clad, corner-hanging crims. “We’re penetrating the veil of silence,” he said.Read more...
“Louise Brooks was the most seductive sexual image of woman ever committed to celluloid and the only unrepentant hedonist, pure pleasure seeker I have ever met and this comes over in her films,” remarked eminent critic, Kenneth Tynan, who spent two days interviewing her in 1978. “And when men bored her she left them and when Hollywood bored her she left and went into retirement from which she never emerged.”
Primarily known for just two European masterpieces, Pandora's Box and The Diary of a Lost Girl, directed in Berlin by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Brooks made only 24 films during a movie career that began in 1925 and ended, with inscrutable abruptness, in 1938. At the time she was regarded as a second tier star but today, is more well known and admired than any of the huge Hollywood stars who overshadowed her, such as Theda Bara, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson and Lillian Gish, her failure having lasted much longer than their success.
A single minded maverick, she was one of the first, most famous and infamous, ‘flappers’ - brash young women who, in the 1920s, wore short skirts, excessive makeup, smoked, drove automobiles, listened to jazz and visibly flaunted their disdain for the days acceptable behaviour and sexual mores. Indeed, these attractive, reckless, style obsessed flappers girls were, not only perceived as, but certainly were a threat to a society where women were expected to be seen, not heard, obedient and servile – rather like a domestic/nanny with whom you had sex with when drunk and produced offspring with. Said flappers changed all that in a decade and, as such, were infinitely more controversial than rockers, hippies or punk rockers and caused even greater hullabaloo. “The social butterfly type… the frivolous, scantily-clad, jazzing flapper, irresponsible and undisciplined, to whom a dance, a new hat, or a man with a car, were of more importance than the fate of nations," wrote Dr. R. Murray-Leslie in 1920 in an article entitled, Too many Women. Is it the cause of Social Unrest? And undeniably, Brooks (who slept with both Garbo and Charlie Chaplin, but not at the same time) - with her short pioneering Bob haircut, flimsy dresses, flat chest, open sexual proclivity, baffling recalcitrance and passion for drinks, drugs and fags - was the unrivalled Queen of the Flappers. She epitomised the Roaring Twenties and led the way for female emancipation and subsequently the vote and is one of the biggest and most influential style icons of all time.
- 10th June 2020 zoot suit audio chapter
Here's the first of my audio chapters of my book Rebel Rebel . Few articles of clothing have caused riots that resulted in hundreds of arrests, scores of injuries and international headlines. And then again few have the history or social gravitas of the zoot suit- an item that, more than just a jacket and trousers, defined its wearer as part of a culture that, unafraid of the consequences, chose to…12th February 2019 David Bowie (Part II)
In the summer of 1978 Bowie played Earls Court and attracted the full retinue of Bowie freaks, many of whom had switched to full Westwood kit a few years before but now reverted back to Bowie circa 1975-77. After the show we went to Billy’s, a seedy basement club run by a Jamaican pimp. It was underneath The Gargoyle Club in Meard Street, Soho, a hooker-infested back…12th February 2019 David Bowie (Part I)
When it comes to music and style, contemporary or otherwise, only one person has dominated both categories during their own lifetime and that is David Bowie.
Frank Sinatra was a contender, but then he didn’t write his own songs. Others, such as Miles Davis or James Brown, certainly had the music, but they lacked Bowie’s diversity ‒ and lost the style plot for decades.
Bowie…22nd June 2018 shaded- the curious life of the common or garden sun glass.
SUNGLASSES – A HISTORY
It never ceases to amaze me how sunglasses, a thoroughly practical item borne out of necessity, became so massively iconic.
By all accounts the first notable man to use them, albeit in a primitive form, was the Roman Emperor Nero, who used tinted glass to watch his gladiators chop bits out of each other. Subsequently, Chinese magistrates in the 12th century used…13th March 2018 Richard Pryor - 'Sprinkle my ashes in about two pounds of cocaine. Then snort me up!’
‘Rumours of my death spread as far as New York newspapers,’ remembers Richard Pryor. ‘It’s a bitch to be watching the nightly news and see the motherfuckers talking ‘bout you in the past tense!’
News of the great comedian’s demise had at this point spread throughout the civilised world, even pervading the sanctity of the man’s own bedroom. He recalls his housekeeper walking…6th February 2018 Robert Capa- Perhaps the greatest war photographer that ever lived
In 1938 the UK’s Picture Post magazine described 25-year-old Robert Capa as ‘The Greatest War Photographer in the World.’ During his career he covered five armed conflicts in 10 countries, left 70,000 negatives and left behind an extraordinary record that told not only of the darkness of war but of the human condition.
‘I worked with Capa a lot,’ wrote writer and former…27th September 2017 Iggy
Prior to this interview, the last time I saw Iggy Pop was in October 1981 when he stayed at my flat in Kentish Town. He’d ended up there because he’d been having regular sex with a rather attractive New Yorker friend of my then American girlfriend, Holli, who was staying with us at the time. Iggy didn’t want to go to a hotel because he’d played a gig in Marseilles a few nights before…3rd April 2017 The Zoot Suit -More Than Just a Jacket and Trouser...
THE ZOOT SUIT
Few articles of clothing have caused riots that resulted in hundreds of arrests, scores of injuries and international headlines. But then again, few have the history or social gravitas of the zoot suit. More than just a jacket and trousers, it’s an item of clothing that defined its wearer as part of a culture that chose to stand outside of accepted society, unafraid of the consequences…3rd January 2017 Levi's 501 xx - the Rebel Yell.
The Levi's 501 XX jean is the most iconic garment ever produced. Never has an item of clothing inspired such adoration, commanded such high prices or been the chosen mufti for so many global arbiters of taste from Clark Gable to Marilyn Monroe to Johnny Depp. It is a totally unique product. It is a true style statement. It is one of the all time great sartorial classics.
But, even though the 501…25th October 2016 Allan Heyl .. South Africa's biggest bank robber
'The reason I am making this recording is to explain how we actually went about committing these robberies,’ says Allan Heyl, once South Africa's most wanted man. ‘There were rules: no shouting, no flashing guns, no planning and no designer violence. It was not Tarantino. In fact, the outstanding feature of all the robberies was that they went off so calmly that they were actually mundane…27th September 2016 Brilliant Chang : The first Celebrity Cocaine Dealer.
“Chang dispensed Chinese delicacies and the drugs and vices of the Orient,” reported The Pictorial News in 1922. “He demanded payment for his drugs in kind.” The rag went on to further advise its women readers, “who retained sufficient decency and pride of race”, that they turn down “this fellow with lips thin and cruel, tightly drawn across even yellow teeth.”…31st May 2016 Bootsy Collins....Master of Funk.
BOOTSY COLLINS: TOUCHING BASS WITH THE MASTER OF FUNK
by Chris Sullivan
Amiable, engaging and very much not full of shit, Bootsy Collins is all that and more. The psychedelic, Funkadelic legend played bass on such landmark James Brown cuts as Soul Power and Sex Machine and was a leading member of the P-Funk (Parliament and Funkadelic) collective.
Now he's bringing music to a new generation…15th January 2016 In memory of David Bowie - a radio show
In case you missed me on Soho Radio earlier this week, you can listen again to my 2 hour radio show dedicated to David Bowie here. There's interviews with Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and Clive Langer (the producer of Absolute Beginners), plus lots of music from the great man himself.
Only 17 pledges left until we're fully funded. Tell everyone you know.2nd December 2015 LEMMY AND ME......
AND OF COURSE THERE IS THE LEMMY INTERVIEW OV ER TWO BOTTLES OF JACK AND A GRAM OR TWO OF BILLY WIZZ.19th November 2015 Jacques Mesrine- The Greatest Bank Robber that ever lived ?
At around mid day on November 2ND 1979, a BMW, driven by well dressed man pulled up behind a covered lorry at a set of traffic lights in Porte Clignancourt, a busy Parisian quarter. Within seconds the lorries tarpaulin was pulled up and a gang of men opened fire on the car, killing the driver and severely injuring his lady passenger, girlfriend, Sylvie Jeanjacquot. No gangland assassination,…10th November 2015 Here's a little taster...
I am finding new pieces all the time, lurking in some off file where they shouldn't be...this is one such example...
Here’s a sample :
The above photo taken at 5am after a 24 hour session shows Rhys in fine fettle, Charlie Breaker ex-gangster, bare-knuckle boxer and purveyor of parts, Howard Marks and yours truly.....
Howard Marks and Rhys Ifans in Alicante on the set of Mr. Nice
Before…7th October 2015 The Rebel Rebel pub crawl
The idea for this Soho pub-crawl emanated from those marvellous folk at Unbound, yours truly being rather reticent about such shenanigans, but in for a penny in for a hangover. This tour of the square miles hostelries will hopefully hit all my old haunts (basically Soho’s finest ale houses) and begin in The Coffee House on Beak St., move onto the Sun and 13 Cantons, whizz across to the Blue Posts…22nd September 2015 new additions
Just found some new chapters lurking in my hard drive including in depth interviews with Anita Pallenberg, Bruce Weber and Adam Ant ..........
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