With a pomade-sculpted quiff, the teenage protagonist in London-based filmmaker Karan Kandhari’s deadpan short goes through the rituals of a rockabilly fan’s rite of passage. Captured in 16mm, the 1950s-inspired adolescent played by Oliver Parsons awkwardly shuffles into his first dance, and is intimidated by the Osaka Black Lightning gang before finally procuring his own majestic quiff. “I find quiffs funny. As a sort of display of masculinity they are the most delicate, temperamental things,” says the director, whose Flight of the Pompadour is part of A United Howl, a trilogy of short comedies that explore misfits and loners. “There was a constant battle on set to keep them erect as they were melting under the lights. I had a quiff for many years but it started to rule my life so I hung up the comb. I now look like a bum, but at least there's no grease on my pillow.” To continue our ode to the dedication of musical tribes, NOWNESS asked Jonathan Wingfield to reflect upon his misspent youth.
He was always there on a Sunday. Religiously. Right outside the tube station. Flared jeans, hippy waistcoat, lithe torso, burning joss sticks, hair down to his arse, rainbow headband, patchouli oil, Flying V guitar, no shoes or socks. Playing widdly-widdly psychedelic synth. With his toes.
Lost in his own world. Making the most terrible music you could possibly imagine. He was supposed to be wigging out in Woodstock in 1969. Not in Camden High Street in 1988. I called him Camden Frank, on account of him looking vaguely like Frank Zappa. He was the most exotic thing I’d ever seen. Although he wasn’t the reason I went to Camden on Sundays, looking back now, he should have been.
I was only there in search of an identity. Punks, goths, rockabillies, skinheads… Camden did all the uniforms. Even as a 14 year old, I could tell the wild-eyed leather gang sprawled out on the Lock were just part-timers. Pastiching someone else’s rebellion. McPunks. But Frank was the real deal. Out of time. Out of step. Out of synch.
Just recently, Camden Frank drifted into my thoughts for the first time in 25 years. This happened, somewhat incongruously, during a conversation I was having with Victoria Beckham. “When did you first come up to London?” I asked her. “Like, properly come up, you know, without your gran.”
“I’ve always loved London, it’s such an inspiring place” she replied, simultaneously deflecting the question and sounding like a foreign exchange student. There was a short pause. “I’d come up to Camden market on a Sunday,” she suddenly blurted out.
Hearing her utter the words “Camden market” suddenly made me feel an extraordinary—and, frankly, delusional—connection with her. In my mind, she too must have crossed paths with Camden Frank. I like to imagine it all sunk in, too. Into Victoria’s teenage mind, just waiting to be channeled into something meaningful. Not so much in the Spice Girls, but maybe Victoria’s solo work, or perhaps the eponymous luxury fashion label.
These days, of course, Camden’s all Amy Winehouse murals and Union Jack Britpop guitars. But where’s Frank? Where’s his statue? Well, I’ve just found him on Google. All I did was type “hippy + outside + camden + tube + station”. A ‘style icon’ if ever there was one.
Polite note to the Sartorialist—hands off Frank, he’s mine.
Jonathan Wingfield is the Editor-in-Chief of System and a regular contributor to NOWNESS.
The Boy: wardrobe by YMC. Osaka Black Lighting Gang: jackets by Lewis Leathers.