I was wandering the back streets of Glebe the other day, having attended (and recorded) October's edition of Tell Me A Story when I came across only the best doorbell ever. (It's not like I was randomly approaching doors of houses, casing joints - although I did note it was set into the high wall-with-solid-security-door surrounding the yard.) It's Mickey Mouse, in a classic vintage pose, cast in metal.
It was too good a doorbell not to photograph - even though I know, what with the dicky moustache, thick-rimmed glasses, t-shirt collection and hi-tops, this tendency to 'photograph random objects and blog about them' makes me an over-aged 'hipster', apparently.
But I couldn't just upload the image without actually saying something about it.
On first look, clearly, it could have been better executed: the actual button of the doorbell should have been one of the buttons of his lederhosen. Perhaps that was the original plan.
I decided to do a search for the 'original' image, hopefully to determine who the artist was. That proved a little difficult to ascertain: it may have been Les Clark, who was animating towards the end of the 1930s, or perhaps it was Ub Iwerks, who co-created the character.
No matter. What proved more interesting was the fact that so many variations on that classic image exist. The artwork has been interpreted and adapted, and many of those images have been collected on Pinterest.
This surreal take, for example, as though created from an elaborate doodle, takes the form of the artwork frequently produced by schizophrenics and hippies under the influence of certain chemical refreshments. (Nowadays this art is being reclaimed as a kind of therapy called - and trademarked - as 'Zentangle'. I shall rant about this down the track, rest assured. It will probably include a joke about someone else 'owning your doodle'.)
Then I found this more sinister variation. More '80s eccy than '60s LSD. Three buttons and scary tongue, it's with ear recursion, it's all a bit scary, really.
It makes a bit of sense that Mickey Mouse would be given the counter-cultural artistic make-over. On the one hand, it's rebellion: taking the symbol that may represent the commercial, conservative way of life reinforced by the military-industrial complex. Or whatever. But there's also that element of psychedelia that involves the LSD-userâs regression, to childhood. Hence the Victoriana and World War I chic that became all the rage during the swingin' 60s 'summer of love': the Beatles' Sgt Pepper costumes, Pink Floyd using the title of a chapter from Wind in the Willows as the name of their debut album Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It's what those twenty-something hip acid trippers were recalling from their childhood, rooting around grandma's house. (The American psychedelic equivalent of England's Victoriana was 'cowboys and indians' - a similarly seminal idyllic of regression.)
Speaking of Mickey Mouse in psychedelia, Aussie pop artist Martin Sharp seems to have snuck a Mickey Mouse reference into the artwork he created for the cover of the album Wheels of Fire, by the legendary Cream (which featured Sharp's UK flatmate, Eric Clapton, on lead guitar). It's either on the back cover or the front cover, depending on which edition you have:
The Mickey motif appears in the corner, bottom right. Here it is in detail:
Obviously not the same classic Mickey, but certainly a reference looming in the mix. And speaking of Mickey Mouse looming in the mix of juvenile hippie regression and music, consider 'Mr and Mrs Mickey Mouse' by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, who specialised in presenting that older genre of music to hip, swingin' '60s audiences:
Returning to the initial theme of the post, the adaptation of the image of Mickey Mouse in that pose, here's an example from the digital age: Mickey rendered in the RCA leads that connect your blu-ray or DVD player to your telly.
More traditionally, there are products bearing the image. Mickey's one of those blue-chip trademarks that has spawned an industry. And clearly, a cup you can one-shot the hottest coffee out ofâ¦
And having appeared on all manner of mass-produced items, it's no surprise that even Andy Warhol has had a go:
I did see that Mickey Mouse somewhere elseâ¦ Where was it? Oh yeah, on Psy's belly, flashing that Oppa Gangnam Smile! (Even though he was looking in the opposite direction, and had somehow lost his tail.)