Those familiar with the quiet, upscale northeast Cincinnati community might think its musical interests fall more toward Streisand and Manilow than The Damned and The Sex Pistols. The political content and D.I.Y. approach to making unpolished music might have made British Punk a revolutionary musical form, but Madeira just doesn’t seem to be the kind of place that would care that much.
But there in the Madeira Branch library (7200 Miami Ave.), in a wall case in the long entryway corridor, is the display “The A-Z of UK Punk Rock and Post Punk.”
There are illustrated sleeves and vinyl copies of 7-inch British-release singles by The Clash (“[White Man] In Hammersmith Palais”), Joy Division (“Love Will Tear Us Apart”), The Fall (“Psycho Mafia”), The Mekons (“Never Been In a Riot”), The Adverts (“No Time to Be 21”) and more by The Buzzcocks, The Lurkers, The Damned, The Jam, Gang of Four and others.
Also featured are related books and wall text about the socio-musical movement and its attendant edgy graphic design that made the record sleeves and labels so visually striking. They are pointedly arty in an irreverent way — the label on the Clash’s single features a Roy Lichtenstein-like, Ben-Day-dot smoking gun, pointed toward the viewer, with a hand clutching the trigger.
Even the indie label names show a cheeky attitude, with forcefully blunt titles like Bright, A Step Forward, Fast and Factory.
The case’s rear wall is lined with colorful wallpaper, featuring a paisley design embellished with the head of The Sex Pistol's Johnny Rotten.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with Madeira, it’s because this display case is reserved for community use — and the collection belongs to Mark Harris, who lives with his family in Indian Hill, just across from the Madeira border. He is also outgoing director of School of Art at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning and an artist whose projects have incorporated or been inspired by music. English-born, he was a student at Edinburgh College of Art and London’s Royal Academy of Art during the Punk period, and had roommates in a band. (Two local artists, Terence Hammonds and Katie Parker, designed the display case’s backdrop.)
“I’ve been living here for seven years and I go down there quite a lot — my sons use the branch,” Harris says. “I thought it would be an interesting idea to put up this display, somewhat incongruous perhaps, to see what people thought about it. I’ve always loved the designs of the records — it was a renaissance for 7-inch record-sleeve design. This is a portrait of the period.”
Madeira librarian Mary Gehrich says this exhibit fits in well with the branch’s objectives.
“He approached me one day and it just sounded really unique and unusual — that’s the kind of thing I look for,” she says. “There are a lot of nonprofit organizations that have a standing reservation for certain months, like the Mineral Society. Otherwise, we have individuals who have collections. There are a lot of people out there who collect things. I try to keep it ever-changing.”
Harris at first wanted to use a second display case in order to put all his Punk-era British singles up at once. But the library is using that for a children’s-oriented display about dinosaurs. As a result, he has divided his exhibit into two parts. Punk records by groups with A-M names are up through this weekend; N-Z will follow from Monday until month’s end, with artists Ryan Mulligan and Chase Melendez doing the backdrops. (That will include The Sex Pistols.)
In September, the Madeira Historical Society takes over the display case — it probably will not have anything to do with British Punk.
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