Authors: Jordon Mooney & Cathi Unsworth
Publisher: Omnibus Press
Mooney highlighted the essence of her own journey after a meeting with noted artist, Andy Warhol, “…take someone like myself: I’m not tall, I’ve never been slim – you can make something else that catches people off guard. Make something better. I think the imperfections of people are just as important and what you make of them.”
If you could ever append the title of ‘audiophile’ to a book, then this would be it. Defying Gravity is a story direct from the source and, as such, is 100% pure as primary material. Its importance is obvious because Jordan Mooney was right at the centre of the entire movement.
The 448 pages of text and images within might not be the history of punk and its aftermath but it’s a history. More importantly, it’s a first-hand history and, as such, is a very personal account replete with personal bias, personal experiences and a very focused and precise narrative path. During the narrative, you hang on for dear life as the chaos ensues, fame is sought and won, lives are enriched, ruined and lost, blood is let, careers are made and dashed and too many end their tales in sadness.
“Vivienne designed a T-shirt saying ‘She’s dead, I’m alive, I’m yours’ that went on immediate sale at Seditionaries. She explained at the time, ‘You care about some people more than others, more about Sid than Nancy.’ She was also aware that the general public would probably find it distasteful, ‘and I did it for that reason too, because I like to upset people.’ As well as this, she made a Sid Action Man with a Swastika vest, laid him in a little coffin and put him on display in the shop. Whatever you think about this now, it fitted right in with the times. This was the season that would become known as the Winter of Discontent.”
‘Nancy’ was Nancy Spungen, American girlfriend of ‘Sid’ Vicious, bass player in The Sex Pistols punk rock group. The above text refers to her death in New York’s Chelsea Hotel as a result of a knife wound. ‘Vivienne’ was and is Vivienne Westwood, famed clothes designer while Seditionaries was the shop formerly known as Sex, some say the centre of the birth of punk.
For this new book, this shop largely serves as a hub around which the story of punk, its many and varied casts of characters revolves.
Jordan was famed for her no compromise fashion sense. She was an iconic punk mannequin for the media but also a direct and sometimes fearful individual when approached in person.
We learn of her family and her lively background, her dancing skills and ambitions, a fearful accident, her singularity in terms of fashion, the early fixation on David Bowie and her gradual and close association with Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McLaren who managed the Sex shop but also the band, The Sex Pistols.
We also follow Jordan as she becomes a friend of director Derek Jarman, her involvement in the contentious film, Jubilee, her meetings with Andy Warhol, her management and musical involvement with the band, Adam & the Ants and a whole lot more.
Defying Gravity itself is so honest, it’s almost raw while the involvement of Unsworth as her editorial guide is a good one because she stays invisible.
Whether it was Unsworth or Jordan who decided upon the editorial design is uncertain but I enjoyed the flow of Defying Gravity. Jordan talks from a first person point of view but, at regular points throughout, a wide selection of famed personalities interject, as if their faces emerged from a cloud floating at the side of Jordan’s head, to comment as if in real-time conversation. In addition, mini-profiles are printed for many who fulfil walk-on parts in the story.
Defying Gravity is not just a great book – and it is a great book – it is a real page turner. More than that, it is an important resource in the story of punk. In short, it is a 100%, stone cold, 24 karat classic. Buy it or regret it.
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