In the urban dictionary, the term a face, comes from the mods of the ’60s:- “Face is a good mod; someone with the right clothes, the right haircut and the right taste in soul music and ska. An especially good mod would be an ace face or, more properly, THE ace face.” Why remind us of this? because the term very much came back into our urban language and into popular parlance in the ’80s. The club scene which grew from the art-schools and the new romantics used the term, and it even ended up as a magazine title. A key Face at that time was Chris Sullivan, who ran the Wag Club. It was the hardest club ever to get into(as a punter): legend stated that if you queued, you never got in. You just had to walk up to the door, know the person on the door and walk straight in. If you were able to walk straight in you may well not have been an ace face, but you were certainly some kind of face for sure. The club was really a safe haven for mavericks London characters such as Philip Salon and Lee Bowery, where they could have a good night unharmed by bridge and tunnel meatheads. While at the Wag, Chris broke hip hop into the UK by showcasing the likes of Run DMC, Queen Latifah, Jungle Brothers, and Del La Soul. Prince used the Wag for an album launch, David Bowie filmed Jazzin for Blue Jean (Chris appears in the video) and he turned down Madonna’s people for her promotion of Holiday (“I didn’t like her or the music”). Many DJs started on built on their careers at The Wag, including Giles Peterson, Danny Rampling, Fat Tony, Princess Julia, Tim Westwood, Massive Attack, Paul Oakenfold, Pete Tong, Andy Weatherall, Jeremy Healy, Little Louis, Jellybean and more. Keith Richards famously told the Evening Standard that when he brought his wife Patty to London, he took her to the houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and The Wag. Chris has gone on to many things since then, including journalism and book writing, with his latest endeavour a book called Rebel Rebel: Mavericks who made our modern world. In order to understand the concept of being a maverick you really do need to be one yourself. Chris certainly is. His book is a celebration via thirty-four essays and interviews with some of the greatest individuals, malcontents and free thinkers of the last 150 years. It takes one to know one after all. Noted essays include such visionaries as Louise Brooks, Richard Pryor, David Bowie, Liam Gallagher, and Daniel Day-Lewis. But let’s make it clear, not all were ‘nice’ characters. Take James Brown, for example, a wife beater which is in no way excusable but as a musician, a genius who changed the very face of R&B and created a whole genre of Funk, which went on to influence so many other artists a list is almost impossible. The book celebrates the maverick qualities of the individual, which feel so lacking in our modern world. Those who stand up to be counted even when they don’t know how to count. The book has been described as an essential read for the left of field. It’s hard not to disagree and to be fair if you have read this far into this article you probably are more left field than you give yourself credit for. Chris very kindly answered a few questions just for us:- How long did it take you to choose the final people you wrote about in this book? About a year. Was there a much longer list? Much, much longer- I have about 300 written pieces that could have gone in. How do you identify with them; with any anyone in particular? I identify with all of them as each one did it their way and followed their own path and even though some might not have been the nicest of people (such as James Brown), they did leave a fine legacy. What is your writing process like? Haphazard, chaotic and disordered. What is the best part of writing for you? Being on my own and not having to answer to anyone. What is the hardest thing about writing for you? Deadlines that are so tight that it’s virtually impossible to keep up the standard I have to deliver then having someone cut all the good bits out. Which books have most inspired you over the years? Ringolevio -Emmet Grogan, English Eccentrics – Edith Sitwell, Pyrates Captain Charles Johnson. There are a lot of people (myself included) who were hugely influenced by going to the wag in the day you ran it. Why do you think that is? Perhaps I was just like one of the patrons. I was young and enthusiastic and had the conviction to try new ideas all the time and follow my gut instinct. What is the lasting legacy from the whole time period do you think? Believe in yourself and have a go. What is the most maverick thing you do now? I make Sunday lunch with mash, boiled and roasted potatoes.
published by Unbound Publishing.