What's Nostalgia Got To Do With It? —
Mementoes From The Trash Bin Of History
Vol. I, Issue I - April 2010

Number One, 1964
William Burroughs Special
Martin Leman, Editor
No discernible price but if I had to guess I’d say 2 quid, or a tab of acid

Sometimes you get sick of words. And sometimes you get sick of clothes. Then, you take off your clothes, and you pick up Arcade. Arcade doesn’t have many words. It does, however, have lots of pictures. They’re all in black and white, but still.

Sometimes, when you are naked, there are many words you could use to try and explain Arcade, a little, almost-square British mag-thing published in the 60s early 70s. But since you are sick of words you will use just one: drugs. Martin Leman, the editor of Arcade, is today best known for his exquisite paintings of cats (I nude Googled him.) However, back in 1964, before he started painting exquisite cats, it’s clear he dropped acid and made Arcade with his friends Jane, William, Mike, David, Stan, Geoff, Ron, and Rufus. How do I know this? Because this one time my boyfriend dropped acid and then drew a bunch of pictures of brain planets and hairy creatures with weird mouths and sent me text messages that were like “Famout the car ride. I need cramif. Arrange.” and if I took all that and put it together it would look pretty much exactly like Arcade.

For instance: Ron. Ron drew a picture in Arcade (he actually drew four total in this issue) of this big-haired lady in sunglasses with an upside-down, un-readable sign coming out of her mouth. ITALIA is stenciled over top the sign. A handwritten question is printed vertically along the sign’s edge: “it’s a big vulgar though isn’t it?” Then, on the next page, Martin drew an airplane and some Mods in suits fixing each others’ hair. And then there are many words:


The words continue after this. The absence of clothing does not help me to understand.

Also: William Burroughs. This, the first issue ever of Arcade, is, after all, the William Burroughs Special, as the cover proclaims. Inside, there are three paragraph-sized pieces by Burroughs, ordered from least to most crazy. “The Border City” is opposite a very nice print that Martin made of Nazi bomber planes. In this story, “[p]eople rain on The City in home-made gliders and rockets whistling through the air burst out in flares. Balloons drift down out of faded violet photos.”

The next Burroughs’ story, called “The Danish Operation,” protagonizes a bloated and monstrous half-dead sea thing doctor with a “soft boneless head.” The other main characters in the story are Mister D The Agent and Johnny, although Johnny might actually refer to something called “life jelly” instead of to an actual person. In the end, “The doctor goosed a young waiter and the scalpel disappeared up his ass. He pulled an indelible pencil from the waters [sic] fly and signed his bill on the waiter’s cuff ‘as you say.’”

The final Burroughs’ piece, called “The Cut,” is a more gibberished version of “The Danish Operation,” as if he had literally cut up this story and rearranged the words: “You’ll love him talked Life Jelly. It sticks and the doctor grows on you like Johnny.”


Then, there are the boobs. For instance, the eyeglasses/eyeball/circles/nipples/boob motif collages on the insides of the front and back covers, made by Geoff. Then too the peephole pictures that Mike took, in which up-close shots of ladies’ boobs from different angles are framed in circles and ordered in neat rows. Geoff also did a peephole montage toward the end which features one prominent pair of tatas in the center (in this photo, the lady is squeezing her boobs and wearing a long string of pearls). Positioned in peep holes all around the boobs are various characters of political and cultural significance. The only faces I am able to identify are Castro, Mao Tse-Tung, and Mickey Mouse.

My favorite piece in Arcade, whether I’m wearing clothes or not, is the word-lite essay in stanzas called “Tom Burrows Club Swinging Champion Of The World 1894-1908.” Basically, the essay is a list of the places, lengths of time, and dates where Tom Burrows, an old-time Aussie strongman, waved bowling-pin-esque clubs in various whimsical formations around his body: “Alhambra Music Hall / Cape Town 1897 / he swung for / 36hrs, then / 40hrs, then / 42 hrs.” His longest stretch of pin swinging was at the Empire Palace of Varieties in Johannesburg. He swung pins for almost three days straight, 66 hours and 15 minutes. This little ditty is accompanied by 14 cartoon panels in which a mustachioed Burrows is shown swinging starry clubs around his head, under his legs, in a pinwheel, and behind his back. (But could he have done it nude? We’ll never know.)

The overall vibe of Arcade is Monty Python meets Andy Warhol meets nudie mag circa 1923. It’s kind of like the book thing that the really whacked-out druggie kid who might be a genius made once in high school. Like that, except with political cartoons about race relations in the U.S. and South Africa. Also, the druggie kid is obsessed with Dr. Who. The pages are thick paper and the printing is done in thick black ink. All the text is typed on an old typewriter, and it usually has typos.

The ads on the back of Arcade are for Oxfam (three clip-art pictures of pokey-ribbed little kids with the words “OXFAM please give” scrawled in black pen) and for a place called dodo, open 10-6 but closed Monday. The catch phrase, accompanied by a clip-art hand and clock: “time to buy super junk.”

But back to Martin’s exquisite cats. These quaint, cartoonish paintings—a fitting gift for nearly any elementary school teacher—seem strange, if not downright dispiriting, as the evolutionary end-point of the man who 35 years ago edited the British Empire’s premiere tweaker-friendly nudie mag lit journal. I mean, Martin, what happened, man? You’ve been described as “the most sophisticated of naïve artists,” but I’m guessing this is just a nice way of saying you’re burnt out. Your nude lady paintings, featured next to your cat paintings on your website, might have salvaged some of that spark, some of that Burroughs’ joie de LSD—Martin, they might have redeemed you—but instead the nude ladies wind of looking like the cats: hairy, misshapen fruit, but not in an interesting way. Time to put my clothes back on, I guess.

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