Friday, 21 July 2017

Intermission – Imparting Automotive Passion that Propels Economic Activity – Jay Kay...Auto-Maton.

Jason Luis Cheetham was born at the very pivot-point when the 1960s ended and the 1970s began, and so it is only natural that much of his current car collection originates across these two decades.

He was born one of twin boys, his brother passing when only a few weeks old; so sharing a very rare personal happenstance with Elvis Presley.

Wikipedia relates the generalities of his background, professional and personal life, “hats and all”, but such a repetition is not the aim of this web-log.

Instead try to identify and interpret a few poignant and interesting observations regards the philosophy of his output.

A backdrop theme that emerged long ago was the way he and all in Jamiroquai were able to create seemingly simplistic but quite sophisticated 'funkadelic' musical composition and lyrical verse. And importantly use that performance platform to blend different strands of the macro (ie globally contextual) and micro (ie personal and lifestyle) interests.

As such Jay Kay become an enigmatic cultural totem in himself some time ago, and became intrinsic to the moulding of western consumer consciousness as the 21st century arrived and so implanting the sociological ideals for the century ahead. A major aspect of which has been the ability to increasingly meld the two historically antagonistic opposed ideologies of ecological mindfulness and conspicuous consumption.

It was twenty-one years ago in 1996 with the third album 'Travelling Without Moving', that cultural metamorphoses was seen to be underway. This when the band's endemically natural 'Buffalo Man' logo morphed into a Ferrari badge placed on carbon-fibre effect background.

Whether done in knowing or unknowing manner, that album cover itself acted as a cultural vehicle which helped set in motion the tremors of a new socio-economic idealism whereby eco-responsibility and luxury-opulance could be happily married, and moreover done so in a subtle manner via increased societal casualness with critically less apparent (hierarchical) social codification and artifice.

Thus some cornerstone albums, singles and music videos have been deliberately highly considered and constructed to present implicit reflections of the modern zeitgeist and its relative affect upon the human condition (eg 'Emergency on Planet Earth': ecological, 'Virtual Insanity': sociological, 'Automaton': technological), the big-picture issues that provide the philosophical pillars of the Jamiroquai brand.

Yet there is also a flip-side, one far more intrinsically human.

This invariably depicts Jay Kay as the archetype pop-star character in a pop-star world of luxury cars, personal jets, big houses, swimming pools, beautiful women, many apparent friends and seeming halcyon days. But critically unlike the use of such aspirational constructs in Hip-Hop, Rap and 'modern R+B' videos in which such items are used to display personal power, Jay Kay nearly always overlays the high-life visual upon lyrics about the very real shared human story of attraction, romance, love, relationship torment, loss, substance experimentation etc.

Thus, where a West Coast rapper might have deliberately worn a Rolex on his shirt sleeve (in the eponymous Agnelli style), Jay Kay instead “wears his heart on his sleeve” and in doing so reveals the quality of actually being self-effacing beneath the necessarily self-manufactured exterior.

So it seems only natural that those videos in which he bares his soul should also include his very well appreciated personal cars, which he visually transmits “on his own frequency”.

His personal car interest become known after the 1996 'Cosmic Girl' music video (from the album 'Travelling Without Moving') which included Lamborghini Diablo SE30, Ferrari F40 and F355.

But the breadth of that passion only really understood with what was a first true glimpse given by the TV series Fifth Gear's when the race-driver/presenters Vicki Butler-Henderson and Tiff Needell visited his home to purvey the likes of a Mercedes 600 Pullman, 300 SL Roadster and G-wagen, Bentley Continental S2 Mulliner Drop-Head, Lamborghini Miura, Ferrari 550 Maranello, FIAT 600 Abarth and Maserati A6G/54 (by Frua).

After 'Cosmic Girl' his individual cars took on their own music video guest-spots; done presumably because his creative life is so entwined, but also presumably to enable a rental fee from the overall video budget and to generate strong vehicle provenance as a cultural icon for improved future valuations of a vehicle.

In 'Cosmic Girl' - all about meeting a very rare type of girl, the three vying super-cars speeding through twisting roads, and in doing so provide the viewer with a proximity of the hi-energy felt when encountering that seemingly perfect person.

For 'Love Foolosophy' he compares the ethereal idea of love (indeed blind love) to that of the veneer of superstardom. This all too ironic analogy via knowing simulacra: driving along Corniche type roads in his Bentley S2 Mulliner convertible, wearing a mink coat and with supermodel Heidi Klum and Afghan dog on board.
The toss-away of the expensive coat depicts the comparative renouncement of materialism in recognition that the possibility of true love is superior to all else. Yet even with the best intention, the question posited is whether true love can actually exist, even with the best will, within the attractions of such a hedonistic and complex playboy environment? (where so much is social fakery to be part of the 'in crowd').

'Seven Days in Sunny June' sees a plethora of vehicles from hovercraft to monkey-bikes to a helicopter and the appearance of his yellow FIAT 600 Abarth. The lyrics recount the manner in which strong bonds of love can be formed through friendship for one person, but is not reciprocated by the opposite party. The setting is a hazy summer day filled with playful 'tom-foolery' and feel-good atmosphere, but marred by the disjointedness of what should be ideally a mutual feeling. Thus the theoretical perfection of riches and leisure is seen as at best a mere distraction.

'Feels Just Like it Should' interprets an 'acid trip' (or similar) with decayed urban visual parallels to the film Train Spotting (including 'the fall') and includes an imagined inner-world guide/tormentor.
He flips 'schizophrenically' between his real nerdy character and an imagined cool alter-ego when under the influence. With a 'trippy' reference to 'Love Foolosophy' he runs (akin to a dog) to catch a car, in this case the tail-fin of a specifically chosen immaculate 1962 Cadillac Elderado convertible (the year the Bentley S2 ended and intentionally aesthetically opposite). With a girl in the backseat and his guide/tormentor as driver he takes-on the imagined role of a dog, but his 'alpha-dog' relationship to the car and its occupants depicted by the registration plate of 'WUF' (one of many cross-referenced number plates in his videos). His sparking footwear reminiscent of a lyric line from 'Canned Heat', whilst other visual references reflect elements from the film 'The Matrix' (much cross-fertilised pop-cultural infusion also a mark). The 'trip' ends as his true nerdy self finds himself in a is thrown out of a brothel by his 'guide', who is actually a drug-pushing pimp.

'Black Devil Car' was reputedly written about his black Ferrari Enzo, anthropomorphism and relationship connectivity the central themes to the song. No video made as the song was less important on album track,  seemingly recorded like 'jam' session.

'Cloud Nine' was first publicised on the last episode of the recast (Le Blanc/Harris) Top Gear. Probably done so because the opening shots of the video filmed on a Spanish coast road are so auto-centric, the director deliberately creating visual shots reminiscent of those used in Steve McQueen movies.
The song and video recounts the remembered heartbreak of a past relationship, recognising that although his ex was beautiful, vivacious and funny (played by Monica Cruz) there was little substance beneath the high-lifestyle veneer and living in the moment. The video 'cuts' between a night-time red-lit beach-side bar and daytime of the road that leads to the bar.
Visual representation of the apparent initial commonality is brilliantly conveyed with the vehicle 'props' and cinema-photography. Jay Kay uses his own Ferrari 275 GTB/4 for road scenes and uses a colour matched Mercedes 280SE convertible (exterior and interior) driven by Cruz, highlighting the seeming strong match between the characters. However, the strikingly different bodystyles – architectural vs organic – highlights the true difference, as do their garments: her (affectational) formal status and glamour vs his 'nothing to prove' casualness.
The lyrics highlight that the man has moved-on to a better new relationship having been bitterly disappointed previously, that new relationship based on more than aspirational people, things and places.
The decision to never 'go back' is provided in a great visual ploy at the very end, when his Ferrari pulls up to the Mercedes, matching in colours and with the shot angle lining-up the chrome bumpers and chrome sill-strip of both cars perfectly, almost as if one. After a momentary pause, whilst remembering the reality of the matter, the Ferrari turns around and 'moves-on'.
(The video cross referencing continues with the cars' registration plates – AUTOM8 and COSMIC, both on California state plates, but filmed in Spain)

'Automaton' arrived in early 2017 and re-asserts Jamiroquai's focus on societal issues. It highlights the seismic impact of ever more immersive digital technology on the human mind and so behaviour and the world at large. Cyber-dehumanisation promotes the abandonment of public space and the physically interactive world, depicted as desolate and almost post-apocalyptic. Mental absorption of the digital world is all encompassing, but the warning is that this pre-ordained fixed world simultaneously depletes the person of true influence and so hollows-out the unconscious mind, as proactivity and creativity is subsumed to a reactivity devoid of complex humanity. Any truly creative person thus feels increasingly alienated from the world around them, related by the lyrical use of the book and film title 'The Man Who Fell to Earth'.
So a counter-culture need then to rail against and emphatically “over-ride” 'the machine'. This infers using the brilliance of the human mind to recognise highly powerful cyber-structures (eg 'suggested content') to beat the IT wizards that pull the strings of the human experience, who themselves are sat behind the corporate curtains.
Ultimately a one-man call for appreciation of the big-picture and the need for a mindful counter-balancing force so that humanity does not become a mass of automatons of the near all-powerful IT industry.

Throughout Jamiroqaui's video history it has been Jay Kay's use of his own cars (along with his renowned collection of hats, morphed into Jamiroqaui headgear) that has provided the all important additional personal touch, one which breaks down the typically existent 'fourth wall' between himself and audience.

And vitally, because of his upbringing as a singer's child, a strong sense of the absurdity of the music industry and pop stardom.

This well conveyed in the song 'High Times' illustrating the need for escapism from the psychological effects of extreme demands and exclusive rewards created by the wizards of music/entertainment industry. So swapping flash-bulb, paparazzi, luxury limousines for the anonymity of a utilitarian passenger van headed into the tropical rain forest.

Quite obviously, since “Emergency on Planet Earth”, Jamiroquai's 'eco-credentials' have snow-balled, 'Return of the Space Cowboy' re-affirming anti-hero stance that highlights the Earth's smallness and fragility in the breadth of boundless universe. The Buffalo Man logo deliberately used from the start to highlight the plight of nature if left to the outcome of man's ravenous commercial appetite for natural commodities, and specifically the devastating effects of deforestation on various increasingly endangered animal species.

(The Buffalo Man logo used to provide a kind of adopted tribal authenticity but critically to remind of the rapid decimation of the North American Buffalo in just a few decades during the mid 19th century, and its negative impact upon the great plains eco-system, the lack of manure to the thin top soil leading to the later dust-bowl effect).

That fascination toward the natural world has led to his raising awareness for conservation efforts toward a category of animals known as the Pangolins. Hardly known relative to the exposure of the big cats, elephants, whales etc, Pangolins are both forest and arid dwelling and very solitary, so very removed from popular consciousness but vital to biological diversity, since they in very few forms are the only sub-species of mammal with scale-plated coverings (formed from keratin).

The Pangolin name derives from Malaysian and described them as “the one who rolls-up”, this no doubt viewed as humorous and serendipitous to the man himself given the part 'roll-ups' have played in pop music for decades; from the unfiltered tobacco smoked by 'roadies' to the after-party 'pot' of band-members, groupies and friends.

In a world, indeed 'global village', that has become so devoid of true creativity in the arts and industry – true innovation over-shadowed by stylistic regurgitation - those who demonstrate themselves as both thought leaders and cultural creators ought to be better recognised, and indeed have more influence, than seems the case.

So whilst we live in a world where some music artists for good and bad reasons 'sell out' to big business (Apple Inc buying Dr Dre's 'Beats' a prime example), so arguably devaluing their cultural origins (as middle class 'Wiggers' think themselves 'straight out of Compton'), thankfully there are others with a different perspective. Because not born into inner-city poverty, they can see beyond the trappings and traps of great wealth, and so offer more meaningful 'food for thought', providing for cultural elevation.

The vehicles themselves used as multi-aspect cultural manifestations on and off screen, the car collection seemingly now more personal than ever before.

In our eclectic 'mash-up' modern age that seeks inspiration from all sources and proliferates the retro, never has the upper-class British restraint of the S2 Bentley been so well contrasted against the styling and colour excesses of a then futuristic Vignale-bodied Lamborghini Shooting Brake; whilst the detailing and bespoke colour combination of his Ferrari F12 Tour de France is the direct descendent of his 275GTB/4.

Moreover, he understands innate history and detail of much, absorbed like a sponge since childhood. If only all car collectors were as committed, creative and passionate in their endeavours. Historical appreciation and a curator's eye, are the hallmarks of a good collector, one who likewise invigorates a younger generation.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Intermission – Imparting Automotive Passion that Propels Economic Activity – From Auto-Maton to Auto-Patron.

This web-log will continue enjoy an intermission over the next month or so, before considering the future 'shape' of Brazil and the 'fit' of its automotive sector

This once the necessary socio-economic reforms have been implemented to better align the country with its global competitors, and so avoid the likelihood of a possible 'middle-income trapped' economy. Arguably Brazil sits in a prime position to enable yet another era of economic progress, as long as it can create and implement a new “Grande Vision”.

However, in the meantime the topical intermission continues.

In the spirit of old BBC televisual intermissions – wherein monochrome focus upon a potter's wheel allowed the viewer the space of reflection - the following depicts the efforts of two men who epitomise absolute passion for the symbolism, societal impact and history of the motor car.

Critically, as the notional 'advanced West' becomes increasingly weaned-off the mid 20th century 'Autopia', with ideals of eco-consciousness enabled by e-connected urban efficiency, so the remainder of much of the world, from Azerbajan to Zimbabwe, seeks to continue to replicate the best of the West's automotive glory days with mass mobility and consumerism, achieved via yet greater integrated globalisation.

The new and further planned trans-continental trade-routes in road and rail across Asia, Africa and Latin America in turn propel B2B and B2C activities, and so lifestyle and vehicular aspirations.

But whereas those long established major cities with present or expectant pollution problems in today's BRIC and Pioneer nations will invariably follow the ULEV and pure EV pathway (presently policy-propelled by China), the likely emergence of new suburbia spread over vast tracts of land look likely to eventually replicate the Los Angeles growth model of the 'decentralised' town; wherein suburb after suburb becomes gradually enmeshed.
To this end, with the expectation of “proper homes” with driveways and family cars, the numerous millions continue to seek their own 'automotive nirvana', from the freedom and excitement provided to the youth of tomorrow in righteously 'selfish' personal cars (that must also imbue perhaps a hidden social consciousness), to the deeply considered multi-functionality in drive-train, packaging and style required by 'multi-mode' families who must consider not only their own ecological footprint, but who will also seemingly need to be seen as very visible propagators of the “Eco-Century”.

To simplistically 'culturally animate' these opposing perspectives, investment-auto-motives depicts the similarly nick-named, yet counterpoint characters, of Jay Kay and Jay Leno.

Both men have become renowned regards their personal passions for cars and vehicles, however their on-screen depictions – music videos vs subject specials – could be said to relate the highly ethereal (that creates the 'mood space') versus the enormously tangible (informative if not indeed didactic).

So to follow.....from Auto-Maton to Auto-Patron