John Samson/Steve Jolliffe

Catalogue No.


Music from the original John Samson 1975 documentary film. Composed by Steve Jolliffe.

John Samson (1946 - 2004) was a truly great documentary maker. He must be as I’ve been obsessed with his work for many years. Educated first at Glasgow School Of Art (circa 1963) and then finally in the art of film making at The National Film And Television School in Beaconsfield - he headed there in its opening year of 1971 having made a short film that got him a scholarship.

It was at the NFTS that Samson met Mike Wallington, who was to become his right hand man and eventual producer; together as a quite brilliant team they made a handful of inspiring, entertaining and hugely prescient films about important, overlooked, unseen and marginal fringes in society.

Tattoo (1975) Exploring the rather clandestine world of tattooing in the UK. Dressing For Pleasure (1977) Exploring the rather clandestine world of festish in the UK. Brittania (1979) A film about railway enthusiasts and a steam train restoration. Arrows (1979) The life of dart player Eric Bristow. Drag Ball (1981) An unreleased film about the annual Porchester Hall Drag Ball. The Skin Horse (1983) BAFTA winning film about The Outsiders Club, a dating agency for disabled people.

The subject matter in all films was always unusual for the time, and Samson managed to navigate his way with compassion, interest and subtlety, immersing himself in the chosen scene and producing moving, fascinating and sometimes darkly amusing situations. His documentaries also do not rely on traditional voiceovers, with stories, facts and narrative threads being dictated by the subjects.

I’ve tried for a long time to find the music for a couple of his early films (there was actually an original 7” for Arrows) - so far this is the only unreleased soundtrack I have found. This one was written by Steve Jolliffe, who met Samson at the NFTS. Joliffe was the resident composer and had a room at the college complex where he could work on scores for the fledgling film makers. Jolliffe was and still is a multi-instrumentalist and prolific composer who had met Edgar Froese at the Berlin Konservatorium in the late 1960s and played in an early incarnation of Tangerine Dream. He toured with blues rock outfit Steamhammer, before hanging out at the NFTS, making this recording (and many others) and eventually rejoining Tangerine Dream in the late 1970s. Jolliffe still writes, records and releases today and once I;d made contact with him we traced the original Tattoo master tape to a box at his brother’s house. Musically it’s charming, slightly folky, a touch baroque, there’s a whiff of prog too, and it perfectly suited this early documentary about the art and desire of tattoos. I only wish it was longer. But the film is only 16 minutes long. Seek it out if you can. Try and find all the Samson films, they really are a joy.

As well as featuring intimate footage of tattooed people, the film also includes a rare and very early interview with Alan Oversby (better known as Mr Sebastian), a seminal character in the development of tattoos and body modifications worldwide - it was he who eventually was to tattoo and pierce Genesis P-Orridge.

The images for this vinyl release were all found in Mike Wallington’s Tattoo documentary research folder from 1974, and were photos sent in to Mike and John by people who wanted to feature in the film. Most answered an advert in Time Out, and others included people from my home town of Aldershot where tattooist Bill Skuse and his wife, Rusty (the most tattooed woman in Britain at the time, and featured in the film) were based. His parlour was situated at the back of the arcade where we all used to lose all our pocket money in the slot machines.



Steve Jolliffe - keyboards, flute, sax
Geoff Jolliffe - bass guitar
Julian Furniss - guitar
Mick Kirby - drums