The Stone Roses

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Music has for close to fifty years been a key component of the jigsaw of my life. I have loved music since I was a child captured by the exotica associated with some fine recording artists including Three Bob’s, Dylan – see my earlier post here – Bob Dylan  – Marley and Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, The Eagles, The Doors, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones and Tom Waits.

In later years, and for the best part of quarter of a century, I earned my living in the Law, specifically Music Law representing some fascinating entrepreneurs, vagabonds and minstrels. It paid the bills and kept my music opiates topped up. I met some truly extraordinary people, who often lived complicated but wonderful lives devoted to engaging and entertaining others. Equally, I have met a fair proportion of consummate egoists, disinterested in those who don’t pander to them.

Simply put, music talks to my soul. It evokes memories. It causes the recall of sights, sounds and emotions.

Asked for my favourite song – that’s easy – U2’s “One”. I can rarely listen that complete wonder of a composition without tears in my eyes.

My favourite – what we used to call “Album” – being a collection of several songs that the artist (or their record company) has deliberately chosen to join together in some overall theme, concept or message. Honestly, again, that’s an easy one, the 1989 iconic debut album of the Manchester band “The Stone Roses” is simply one of the most complete and luxuriously beautiful bodies of work ever collected onto a 12” vinyl record, 4” digital CD or stream.

Depending on the format and country of release, “The Stone Roses” comprises a minimum of 12 recording that lasso a time, a mood and a vibe of the UK pre-BritPop explosion of the early 1990’s. Along with fellow Manc, The Happy Mondays, this album defined an era and is the soundtrack to the lives of me and many of my contemporaries.

Ian Brown (vocals) and John Squire (guitars) who had known each other from Altrincham Grammar School For Boys – somewhere I often played rugby on Saturday mornings in the late 1970’s – formed and disbanded several bands prior to being joined by Gary “Mani” Mounfield (bass) and Alan John “Reni” Wren (drums) to form The Stone Roses (Squire’s name), a guitar indi-rock band that sprung from the vibrant Madchester scene of the UK’s second city.

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Having composed and recorded songs for a demo, the band sent out 100 demo cassettes that featured the artwork of Squire, a very talented fine artist. This was followed by touring, further production and the release of some tracks to little commercial effect.

In August 1988 the band played Dingwalls in London in the presence of A&R representatives from South African owned label, Zomba and Geoff Travis one of the founders of the seminal indie, Rough Trade.

Rough Trade paid for some studio time and suggested Peter Hook bassist with New Order as a potential producer, when Hook was unavailable, Geoff suggested John Leckie a former Abbey Road award winning producer with an amazing production pedigree including Pink Floyd, XTC and Radiohead. The Stone Rose were signed to Zomba by Roddy McKenna and appeared on Andrew Lauder and Andy Richmond’s  Silvertone inprint. Rough Trade sold their tapes of “Elephant Stone” to Zomba.

Singles from the eponymous album were released in early 1989 and drew the attention of the all important Radio One. The Album, with John Squire/Jackson Pollock inspired artwork, was released on 2nd May 1989, went on to win the NME Reader’s Poll for Best Album of the Year. The Album is certified in the UK as triple platinum, notching sales in excess of 900,000 units.

To add a copy of The Stone Roses to your collection – click the link below the image:

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The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Legacy Edition)

Images used with grateful thanks – Sony Music and Ian Tilton/NME

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Braun Calculator

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Sometimes it’s not about doing the different but its about doing the similar only looking and functioning better.

I recently received a birthday gift from a very old friend, a Limited Edition white Braun Calculator. My pal has particularly good taste – obviously other than his clearly suspect taste in friends – and I know that he has championed, amongst other products, these perfect, stylish and durable calculators for years.

A little like the argument about why do you need a camera or a calculator when you have an IPhone? Surely they cover the same bases. Yes but no. Admittedly, you may need more than pockets or even a brief case to carry your choice of camera, calculator, Filofax – which, mark my words is about to see a resurgence supported by ‘back to basics’ and ‘digital detoxing’ Millennials – wallet, alarm clock and phone but there is something fun and creative in developing your portfolio of preferred items and relishing their use for their specialized task.

You are probably saying, Braun, don’t they make shavers, depilatory trimmers and hairstyling tools – and you’d be right. Originally, only available in black the iconic ET44 and ET66 Braun Calculator (the latter has an additional and very useful slide on protective cover) were collaboratively designed by Dietrich Lubs and Dieter Rams in 1977 and 1987, respectively.

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Dieter Rams, joined Braun in 1955, a German business originally founded by Engineer, Max Braun, who made radio sets in Frankfurt in 1921, and it comprises a beautiful and practical example of Rams’ lean design philosophy “weniger, aber besser” – literally “less, but better”. It is said that early Apple designers – Rams is known to have been a huge influence on Apple’s chief designer, Jonathan Ives – were so influenced by the look of the ET44 that the original IPhone calculator app, down to the yellow “equals” button, and the early incarnations of the IPod bore striking resemblances to the Lubs/Rams designs, including the ET44.

The ET44 and ET66 are not Rams and Lubs’ only iconic collaboration for Braun. From 1971, we also have the the charming and hugely tactile AB1A travel alarm clock, another exceptional example of function, great design and adherence to Rams’ simple design mantra. It’s almost a pleasure to wake up to its shrill chirrup!

If you’d like to add these beautiful, highly practical and iconic objects to your personal collection please click the AMAZON link below the image in the following gallery.

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Braun Calculator – White

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Braun Calculator – Black

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Braun Classic Square Travel Alarm Clock BNC002WHWH – White

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Braun Classic Square Travel Alarm Clock BNC002BK – Black

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Image credits – with grateful thanks – Braun AG and Zeon Ltd.

Clarks Desert Boots

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The Fast Show – a UK TV show from the mid-1990’s  – had a wealth of characters created by Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse – amongs others. One particular favourite was “Louis Balfour” – played by John Thomson – who was the oh so slightly pretentious presenter of “Jazz Club” with a catchphrase – when all else failed – of “Nice!”. You rarely got to see his feet but my bet is that he would’ve worn Clarks Desert Boots

See here a sample of Jazz Club The Best of Louis Balfour’s Jazz Club

Now you have to follow this, Louis was cut from a very similar cloth to a couple of Art Masters at my last school. They insisted on being called “Chris” and “Steve” as indeed I suspect they were their real names and as 6th Formers it seemed odd to continue with “Sir”. They wore corduroy jackets – in brown and country green – one with contrasting leather elbow patches – they had a penchant for practical Farah Hopsack trousers – don’t ask – and each had several pairs of iconic Clarks Desert Boots.

Quite what desert there were planning to cross in leafy Cheshire was uncertain but none the less these two were simply the coolest guys in the school.  “Steve” with his long hair even drove a late reg VW Beetle – click here to our previous post Volkswagen Beetle – an icon re-imagined – you can imagine he was already ice cool to me.

Assured not to be bitten by scorpions nor rattle snakes, Clarks Desert Boots to this day are an iconic and a highly flexible wardrobe essential that you can wear with jeans, moleskins or chinos and they will always look the part. Just avoid wearing in the rain – they are suede and, after all, are intended for deserts!

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C. & J. Clark International Ltd, (“Clarks”) was founded in 1825 by Quaker brothers Cyrus and James Clark in Street, (Somerset, England) where its HQ is still based – although manufacturing is now predominantly undertaken in Asia. Clark’s continues to be 84% family owned.

Since 1879 the Clark’s trade mark has been the distinctive Glastonbury Tor with the St Michael’s tower.

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The Desert Boot was launched in 1950 having been designed by the co-founders, James’, great-grandson, Nathan Clark, a serving British Army Officer based in Burma. It is said that the Desert Boot was based on the unlined boots made in the bazaar’s of Cairo for returning British Army Officers during the Second World War.

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Post War the Desert Boot saw adoption by the Mod Culture in UK, the Beatnik Culture in the US and were known to be a favourite of the Student anit-capitalist demonstrations in Paris in May 1968.

Why not be like Steve McQueen or Liam Gallagher and get a pair of Clarks original Desert Boots – please click the links below the images below to be directed to AMAZON – the two links show the full colour range available.

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Clarks Desert Boot, Men’s Derby, Braun (Cola Suede), 10 UK

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Clarks Originals Desert Boot, Men’s Derby Lace-Up, Brown (Brown Sde), 9 UK 43 EU)

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Images courtesy of C & J Clark International Limited

Brooks Brothers Shirts

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There is every possibility that it’s a sin. Not one of the Seven Deadly – the major ones – but a guilty pleasure that I, and I am certain many other men, equally enjoy…..wow where’s this going? Pull yourself together. I am talking about the sensual feel of a box fresh/pins still in or freshly laundered/well ironed, one hundred cotton shirt. Bliss!

In my view, the shirts made by Brooks Brothers are not only iconic, given their extensive heritage including the Original Polo Shirt – my very own is our featured image – but their fabrics are simply beautiful and each shirt is a complete joy to wear. 2018 see the 200th anniversary of the launch of this US style icon – some classic Americana – but what’s the story behind these remarkable products?

On 7th April 1818 Henry Sands Brooks, aged 45, opens H. & D. H. Brooks & Co. on the corner of Catherine and Cherry Streets in New York City as both shirt makers and merchants. By 1833 Henry Sands Brooks called upon his sons to assist him with the business. His eldest son, Henry, Jr. took the helm upon his father’s passing a year later. Heny is in charge until 1850, when younger brothers Daniel, John, Elisha, and Edward, assume leadership and change the firm’s name to Brooks Brothers.

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In 1849, Brooks Brother’s scored a first with the introduction of  Ready-Made clothing – a modestly priced alternative to made to measure tailored suits.

In 1850, Brooks Borthers adopted the Golden Fleece, the historical symbol of wool merchants, as their trademark which has remained their distinctive logo ever since.

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In 1865 a regular, Abraham Lincoln, was presented with a Brooks jacket with an embroidered lining bearing the words “One Country One Destiny” below a spread eagle. He wore the jacket at his second inauguration as President. He wore the same jacket two weeks later, on 14th April 1865, to the Washington’s Ford’s Theatre where he was fatally shot by, actor and pro-slavary activists, John Wilkes Booth.

In 1896 John E. Brooks the founder’s grandson was at a polo match in the UK when he saw that the polo players wearing shirts with disctivtive buttoned down collars. He told his colleagues in New York and the Button-Down shirt, a Brooks classic was born. To this day the Brook’s Polo Shirt includes the expression “The Original Polo Shirt” on its label.

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In 1915 Brooks Brothers relocatesd to 346 Madison Avenue – see below including a list of earlier locations prior to arriving on Madison – set in the heart of New York’s Universities and social clubs.

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Madison Avenue in the decades to come became the corporate homes to the advertising, illustration and marketing communities. It’s no surprise that Brooks Borthers have acted as costume advisors on and made suits for the “Mad Men” TV series set in the late 1950’s early 1960’s.

F. Scott FitzGerald was a very keen Brooks customer and drew heavily of his favourite stores in his writing. In this way Brooks effectively created Jay Gatby’s style for “The Gatsby Gatsby”.  Indeed the 2013 remake of the movie featured a cast entirely dressed in Brooks.

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From the mid-1920’s the Halls of the Ivy League were being dressed with Brooks shirts, striped Repp ties, khaki trousers and blue blazers in the definitive preppie style that I really like to this today and continues yes to be hugely popular.

During a slightly earlier era, the Ivy League students local to Bridgeport CT were throwing Frisbie tins – see our earlier post here – Frisbee

In 1946, Winthrop Holley Brooks, the great-great grandson of the founder sold the business to Julius Garfinckel and Company of Washington DC. The business is now owned and managed by the Italian “Retail Brand Alliance”.

The breadth of customers is truely fascinating – talk about voting with their feet! Whilst John F Kennedy loved their slimmer fitting suits, Andy Warhol, Richard Nixon and Clark Gable, apparently, shopped for clothes no where else. It is said that 39 out of 44 Presendients have chose to wear Brooks clothing.

Would you like to know more about the fastinating story of this American style icon? If so please click on the link below the image

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Brooks Brothers: Two Hundred Years of American Style

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Images from Brooks Brothers with grateful thanks

Vinyl Long Playing Records

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There are various examples of what may appear to be a reverse – or at least the application of a hand-brake – in the relentless progress of technology. One of the most interesting examples is the massive rise in the demand amongst a younger demographic for iconic Vinyl Long Playing Records or “LPs”.

Whereas the expectation may be for those in their twenties/thirties to want the convenience and portability of a clinical digital system – the instant hit of Spotify or similar – it seems that they may be eschewing binary for a more authentic sound.

My techie pals will tell you that the regular digital MP3 format used to store your music on your favourite streaming services or remote library is in fact phonically inferior to LPs – something about compression and EQ. Alternatively, the purity of the MP3’s digital format filters out the highs and lows of the authentic rattle and hum that seems to contribute enormously to the listener’s enjoyment of the LP format. Consequently, audiophiles are increasingly seeking out original or re-pressed vinyl LPs to enjoy on their turntables; the grooves of which are read by a stylus, amplified by the AMP and played through speakers or headphones.

See our earlier post about one of the finest turntables ever built David Gammon’s Transcriptors Turntable

Vinyl LPs, originally shellac, in the 1950’s became a recycleable plastic compound “PVC”,  appeared in a number of formats. The most popular was the 12” version that held an album’s worth of material – recordings of perhaps ten to twelve songs – on two sides that rotated on a turntable at 33 1/3 rpm. A smaller double sided 7” record that contained usually one, two or three songs  – a featured track or A side intended for the Top 40 chart eligibility plus a B side – that rotated at 45 rpm – these were called “Singles”.

In the clubbing years of the 1980’s, DJ’s called for extended mixes of Singles and these tended to be compiled onto another form of 12” – called an “Extended Play” or “EP” – that rotated usually at 45 rpm and contained several different mixes of the same song allowing the DJ to chose which to play or which to mix with other records on his deck – please see Dominic’s previous post here – Technics SL 1200 by Dominic Baker 

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Add these cool retro “Vinyl Rules” T shirts to your wardrobe – AMAZON links here

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Vinyl Rules Black T-Shirt (Red print)-XXXXXX-Large

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Vinyl Rules – DJ Mixing Deck Mens T Shirt – white – Adult Mens 50-52″ XXL 

Vinyl LPs are a flawed format with some serious drawbacks. They are prone to scratch, attract finger prints if mishandled – palms at 9.00 and 3.00 is ideal – and through static acquired dust in the grooves such that it was entirely possible to “wear out” your LPs. Premium versions were pressed in limited numbers and made for better audio quality yet inevitably more expensive.

When I worked in the UK recorded music business from the mid-1980’s I was invited to Hamburg for the Phillips’ launch of the Compact Disc (“CD”) then seen as the answer to all woes of the music business. Pre-recorded laser-read shiny discs with digital storage, that could have drinks spilit on them and easily wiped off. Initially, of course, they were “Play Only”.

Here is an excellent BBC Archive piece from 1983 that highlights not only some market resistance to CD from EMI but also that convenience is shown not to have won! CD Here To Stay?

The format was impressive but the Phillips presentation fell a little short of the parallel Sony presentation. You may recall that the development of the science behind the CD format was a collaboration between the two electronic giants and then gifted – in effect – to the World. A typically sedate presentation for the Northern German’s involved the playing of a Deutsche Grammophon recording of a Bach “Toccata” which did little to impress the leather jacketed crowd of A&R audience. Word has it that Sony’s presentation – in an attempt to prove the stability of the format and to funk it up for the industry audience – the CD player was flung from one side of the room to the other with no loss of quality! A triumph for the Chelsea Tractor in car market.

CD was a massive filip – pun intended – to the back catalogues of the giant record companies who’d been recording artists for many years onto initially, analogue tape and then digital tape. They saw the opportunity; if you had purchased the LP when it was first released then you were almost compelled to add it to your CD collection which grew to mirror – and eventually exceeded – your vinyl LP collection.

The size of the CD and its jewel case had a dramatic effect on the packaging both the format but the look. For more than fifty year the packaging of an LP – and its appeal on the record store rack – had developed, in line with the increasingly competitive marketing conditions, into an art form. The work of celebrated artists including Roger Dean – the man behind Asia and Yes covers – contributed materially to the sale of their products.

 

Imagine Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” without a black cover punctuated by a rainbow emerging from a prism.

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The extraordinary works of Peter Brooke and Jann Haworth – please see here our previous post –  Peter Blake and Jann Haworth – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” whilst its precise impact may be incalculable the importance of an album’s cover should not be underestimated. Interestingly, the 50th anniversary re-release of Sgt Pepper’s on vinyl became the top seller in that format in 2017.

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It is reported that Nielsen Music’s market report in late 2017 marked a year on year increase in vinyl sales of around 60% compared to a mere 40% increase in digital streams during the same period. In 2017, Vinyl LP sales accounted for 14% of physical music revenue in the US and that sales of turntables and accessories exceeded $1bn in the US.

So with the previously slowed down or defunct Vinyl pressing plants now back in  action, please allow me to offer some guidance to finding the most influential Vinyl LPs to play on your turntable – below each LP cover is an AMAZON link:

Bob Dylan – “Blood On The Tracks”

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Blood On The Tracks [VINYL]

David Bowie – “Ziggy”

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The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (2012 Remastered Version) [VINYL]

Bob Marley – “Legend”

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Legend [VINYL]

Bruce Springsteen – “Born To Run”

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Born To Run (Vinyl, 2014 Re-master) [VINYL]

Donald Fagen – “The Nightfly”please see our previous post here – International Geophysical Year

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The Nightfly [VINYL]

The Eagles – “Hotel California”

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Hotel California [VINYL]

Led Zepplin – “IV”

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Led Zeppelin IV [Remastered Original Vinyl]

Billy Bragg – “Life’s A Riot”

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Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs. S [VINYL]

Simon and Garfunkel – “Bookends”

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Bookends [180 gm vinyl]

The Stone Roses

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The Stone Roses [VINYL]

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Image Credits – with grateful thanks to BBC, The Washington Post, Roger Dean, Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, RCA, CBS, Island Records, Sony, Warners and Cooking Vinyl

Volkswagen Kombi

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No, you are definitely not sitting in traffic on the ring road around your local city, in your head, if you are over 40, there’s a Beachboys track playing, surfboards are stacked on the roof – having received a fresh waxing from Dr Zog’s – you can see the shimmering ocean ahead and your straight toothed friends are lounging on the vinyl seats behind you. If you are under 40, you are listening to some cool hip hop-raggae crossover, your tanned shoulders are graced by you sun bleached locks that blend seamlessly with your companion in her El Niño bikini.

So hand’s up who’s daydreaming? I am for sure …. Where in the World could you be? Santa Cruz (California (USA)), Tarifa, (Cadiz (Spain) or Surfers Paradise (The Gold Coast, Queensland (Aus)) – any of these and several thousands more. See our earlier post here – Morey Boogie boards

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And what are you at the helm of? A iconic Volkswagen Kombi (or “Bus” (USA) or “Camper” or “Campervan” (UK)), of course!

Ben Pon, a Dutch importer of Volkswagens, visited the Wolfsburg factory in 1946 and was inspired by quality of the VW stock and, in 1947, produced a sketch – see below – of a van which he shared with Volkswagen. Early prototypes were produced but had very poor wind drag figures but splitting the screen improved this somewhat and validated the reason to commence production.

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Introduced in 1949, the Kombi was an air-cooled rear engined van then known as the “Volkswagen Type 2”, the Beetle having been Type 1 – another passion of ours – see our earlier post here. Volkswagen Beetle – an icon re-imagined.

The standard Type 2 Kombi was built between March 1950 to then end of 1967 but a number of variants, including increasingly larger engines – between 1.1 litres up to 1.6 litres, were introduced including single-cab pickups and ambulances. The early T2 (later called the T1) model production was continued in Brazil until 1975, long after production ceased in Hanover in 1967.

Originally classified by the number of windows the Kombi vehicle had such as 21, 23 plus a panoramic roof of eight windows. Subsequently, international numbering has been based on the version from T2, T3, T4, T5 and T6 – which was launched in 2015.

The first sixty years of VW T1 to T3 history are shown in the following image:

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The height of the Kombi’s popularity was its role in the Hippy subculture movement of the 1960’s when version were heavily painted often by hand in psychodelic spirals, flowers  etc. Check out our earlier post on the Summer of Love – click here – Peace Sign and The Summer of Love

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The Type 2S introduced in 1968 heavily modified the earlier vehicle. After production of the T2 ceased in Europe it was produced in Brazil – at the Anchieta plant at Sao Bernardo do Campo (Sao Paulo, Brazil) – until December 31, 2013, due to the introduction of more stringent safety regulations in the country.

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There was a final production run of 1200 vehicles called “the Last Edition” see below that celebrated 56 years of Kombi production in Brazil. I have seen these final vans available on legitimate websites – imported as is – into the UK for around £42,000.

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So, for those of you who want to relive an epic era in a new version of a classic and iconic vehicle – your dream is complete. In addition, there are several businesses around the world who maintain and rebuild original Kombis whether for sale or for hire. Indeed, I know of one intrepid soul who rented with friends a Kombi for Glastonbury. A perfect temporary home and respite from the Somerset mud!

For all you young and old hippies – the perfect desk-top dreamer is this fantastic scale model of a 1976 Hippie image clad T2 – get one here by clicking below the image:

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PremiumX 1:43 Scale “Hippie 1976 Volkswagen T2 Kombi” Model Car

Shout out about your poassion with these VW Camper retro style T shirts – click the link below the image

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Mens VW Campervan Camper Retro camp Van Volkswagen Top T-shirt NEW S-XXL (Medium, Black)

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Mens VW Campervan T25 Camper Retro camp Van Volkswagen Top T-shirt NEW S-XXL (X-Large, Indigo)

Saving for your next surf adventure – why not get this wonderful VW Campervan Money box? Click on the link below the image

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VW Collection by Brisa VW T1 Flowers Money Bank

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Images with grateful thanks – Volkswagen AG