Once upon a Saturday afternoon in 1987 a 17 year old Psychobilly sat on the 632 bus, his hair stuck up in an outrageous quiff, his leather jacket battered, his jeans ripped, a Marlboro hanging from his mouth and a newly acquired copy of the 1984 album "Stampede" by The Meteors in his hands.
As he sat examining the sleeve of his new acquisition (in a way that only people over a certain age will remember) he read the immortal words, , "Cheers to Lal Hardy for providing the tattoos". He decided that day, that one day, he'd get himself to London to get tattooed by the same guy as The Meteors' lead singer, Paul Fenech.
Well, that never happened but....
...thirty years later, an email arrived via his website asking if he'd be willing to accept a copy of Lal Hardy's new book and do a review for it. I didn't need asking twice.
So enough of the preamble...Tattoo: An Illustrated Miscellany, is it any good? You bet your arse it is!
I have to admit, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, books filled with great tattoo work are ten a penny and I wasn't sure that I'd be impressed with yet another, even if it did have Lal Hardy's name on it. To my joy, I found that that is exactly what "Tattoo: An Illustrated Miscellany" isn't.
So what is it, exactly?
Well, it's difficult to be exact about a miscellany because...well, it's a miscellany. The best way I can describe it is that, it's a tattoo museum in book form, if you love tattoos, love history and find fascination in curiosities then you will love this book. I find myself guilty as charged on all four counts.
We begin with a foreword by Essex University's heavily tattooed Dr Matt Lodder. Dr Lodder is, in his own right, a fascinating guy and one of the world's leading authorities on the history of tattooing and, as such, is the perfect person to introduce us to Lal Hardy's new book.
The rest of the book is a treasure of previously unpublished photographs of tattoo related collectibles, artifacts, equipment and novelties gathered together by Lal and other collectors of tattooing history such as Dutch Master, Henk Schiffmacher (AKA Hanky Panky) among others.
Everything you can imagine is in here and a good few things you wouldn't have imagined. Of course, there are tattoo machines and a variety of tools used to apply tattoos before the advent of electricity. There are toys, flyers, fan cards, cigarette cards, and badges. You will find autographs, a collection of old "lick and stick" tattoos from bubble gum, (I even remember applying some of them back in the day) and there are even instructions on how to tattoo your chinchilla.
All of this is neatly divided into short pictorial chapters, each with a short introduction or anecdote from Lal Hardy. I have spent hours slowly and carefully poring over the pictures, each of which has a usually fascinating explanation of what it depicts or why that particular item should be considered historically important to the tattoo world.
I can't overstate how much I love this book, the quality of the finish is superb, it not only looks good, it feels good in your hands. The written parts of each chapter are just long enough to keep your interest and not long enough to have you abandoning it half way through to look at the pictures....and it is the pictures that had me enthralled throughout and to which I keep returning.
If you have any interest in tattoos, tattooing and how the art got to where it is today you should get yourself a copy before you do anything else.
As for me? I'm off to buy a chinchilla !
Tattoo: An Illustrated Miscellany by Lal Hardy yours for a measly £20.