Music Feature

BOOK REVIEW: Or Glory

by Rosella Eleanor LaFevre
Photographer Horst A. Friedrichs' book about English motorcyclists is utterly gorgeous.

The people photographer Horst A. Friedrichs captured for the book Or Glory: 21st Century Rockers are not just defined by the music that started the rocker movement in the 1950s but also by their tattoos and reverence for retro clothes and hair styling practices. The book, released by Prestel Publishing, one of the world’s foremost publishers of illustrated books, opens with an interview with two Rock ‘n’ Roll DJs, Cosmic Keith and Sean Peschiera. This interview reveals the simplest history of Rock ‘n’ Roll music possible and there are many names that the average reader’s never heard. More eye opening are the narratives on rocker history from Mark Wilsmore, owner of Ace Café London, and Derek Harris, of Lewis Leathers. Wilsmore talks of the invention of credit giving a young generation the ability to buy fast vehicles (in 1950s England, this meant motorcycles) and thus a roadside entertainment culture was born. Harris refers to his company’s history as an outfitter for aviators and motorists and the company’s segue into motorcycle gear with the invention of the Bronx jacket, which young Englishmen rapidly feasting on pictures of Marlon Brando in The Wild One snapped up. And so you have the beginnings of this still relevant subculture. Friedrichs pictures of tattooed men and women with slicked back and pin-curled hair wearing leather everything and riding traditional English bikes are all striking and a good number of them haunt the viewer long after they’ve closed the hardbound volume. They are pictures to look at again and again. The only thing that’s missing is an explanation of the “59” insignias (this insignia means the wearer is a member of the 59 motorcycle club) and the phrase “Ton Up” (which got its meaning in the early days of motorcycling when going above 100 miles per hour was a great achievement). Or Glory is definitely one for your collection of coffee table books.

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