Today I start a new and (hopefully) continuing scrubbles.net feature in which new books which fall under the “pop culture/art/design/retro goodness” umbrella are reviewed. Our first subject is Mingering Mike: The Amazing Career of an Imaginary Soul Superstar from Princeton Architectural Press.
The story behind this book really started in late 2003, when Washington D.C. deejay and record collector Dori Hadar found a cache of unusual LPs during a vinyl hunting trip. The records weren’t records at all but intricately drawn artworks representing the works of one “Mingering Mike” — a mythical Soul/R&B performer whose career encompassed dozens of works on several different made-up labels. Hadar took photos of the albums and shared them in the Soul Strut forums, and his findings became the talk of the internet. As the story spread among crate-diggers, then bloggers, then the mainstream media, everyone wanted to know the identity of the enigmatic person behind these appealingly funky folk art creations. Eventually Hadar located the man — and the whole fascinating journey of these pieces, from their creation to their rediscovery, is told in this book.
I think one of the main things that initially attracted me to these pieces is how they express the need to project oneself onto the things you enjoy. This guy found so much to identify with in his favorite musical performers that he attached this stylin’ alter ego to it, building an intricate world around him in the process (that’s the way I interpret them, anyhow). Adding to the charm is the fact that he used whatever was at hand — scraps of cardboard, children’s tempura paint, ball point pens. The pieces are clumsy and childlike, obsessively detailed and situated in a quintessential early ’70s world of afros, Nixon-era social issues, and kung-fu movies. Mike’s album art, sketches and poems are lovingly presented here in large format alongside text telling where he was at that time, and why he abruptly retired Mingering Mike in the late ’70s. It’s a fascinating story that overlaps between the worlds of music and outsider art. There’s even a nifty Mingering Mike discography in the back!
Mingering Mike: The Amazing Career of an Imaginary Soul Superstar will be released May 1st. Pre-order at Amazon.com here.