Sunday, 17 February 2008

Kings of Neon

There's something about neon signs. I snapped this one on Friday night inside the Soho Pizzeria in Beak Street, where you can eat American Hots whilst listening to hot Americans or a silky girl leaning-up against a grand piano. Or the silky girl sitting opposite you. Just the right medium for the legend 'Live Music'. The sign reminded me of the neon we saw all over London at one time; the imaginative use of it on Piccadilly Circus instead of the current blanket coverage that makes it look like Tokyo. I remember standing by Eros and staring up at the Guinness clock with a moving pendulum, signs for Wrigley's, Bovril and Schweppes Tonic Water. And further out from the nightlife dazzle, the gable ends of London telling us repeatedly to 'Take Courage', a message that I once liberally took to heart. By the look of the London skyline at night, say from a railway carriage, there's still a few old but bright words out in the dark, maybe with a dead letter here and there. Still flickering to life whenever the lights are put on, but completely forgotten by current occupants and bill-payers. Do they use much electricity, or is it negligible like fridges, or my outside lightbulb I keep forgetting to switch off? Cue eco warriors.

2 comments:

A F-A said...

Really nice! I so agree: the colours and forms create memories of the adverts themselves, but when they are so dense and intense, like Tokyo or Hong Kong, they merely irradiate the skyline so that the impact is often not the "product" but the city itself. On my Route 66 journey, I loved the onset of dusk in dusty mid-West towns, when Art Deco-like 30's motel signs clicked on, beckoning weary travellers to the comforts within. I am sure that it was the semiotic impact of the signeage that often sustained the businesses rather than the (sadly, now often seedy) accommodation! But despite this association with Americana, I was stunned to read that the first neon sign was (allegedly) sold to a Paris barber!

Diplomat said...

yes - i think we've done semiotic now. Have you ever stayed in a motel with vibrating beds ? The last one i came across was at-least thirty years old and ran for half an hour for a quarter