Archive for October, 2009

9. THOMPSON TWINS – Part Two

October 29, 2009

Working in the music industry in the 80’s guaranteed strange and surreal experiences time and time again. One of the first with the THOMPSON TWINS was visiting their squat in south London for a party. We arrived and there were a dozen fans camped in the garden, trying to catch a glimpse of their newly-acquired idols. There were no curtains on the windows and I remember being advised to crawl on the floor underneath windows to avoid being spotted by the youthful, exhuberant poparazzi outside. Inside – as the party got more and more out of hand – everyone forgot to duck under the windows and the evening was puncuated constantly by loud cheers from the enthusiastic encampment. What made it funnier was that Alannah had insisted we all raid her dressing room to find fancy dress. I don’t suppose the fans ever knew whether they’d seen Tom, Joe and Alannah or not – unable to distinguish them from the endless stream of weirdos strutting, stumbling and lurching across the brightly lit windows wearing pompadour wigs, masks, hats and strange outfits. They cheered enthusiastically anyway whoever and whatever they saw. Bless.

The period working for TT was an extremely creative one in the music industry. Vinyl was still the predominant format (although CD’s were beginning to appear) and 7 & 12 inch singles were a crucial ‘tool’ to promote albums. Pete Winkelman at Arista  recognised the value of collectible limited edition singles and both of us loved the Picture Disc format. The No 1 album –‘Into The Gap’ – was released in 1984 and I came up with a design for a single release that Pete loved. He wasn’t convinced it would work but I’d done my homework and talked to the manufacturers.

Again, I can’t stress how important it is to communicate with manufacturers and suppliers. Including them in the design process often inspires them to stretch the production process to its limits – often finding solutions a designer would never think of and also offer new processes which could be used for future projects. Also great ideas in design isolation often don’t translate in practical terms. Better to get constructive advice than piss people off with prima donna demands! In order to avoid disappointment at the final result – pre-empt possible problems. (Back to Christopher Hunter again – ‘… always imagine what could go wrong. It usually does – so prepare …’)

‘Take Me Up’ was the single from ‘Into The Gap’ and my idea was to create 3 picture discs which ‘jigsawed’ together.  Maps and map symbols were the theme for the album and as soon as I realised a world map neatly fitted into the right proportions required to produce the 3 interlocking discs the design process began …

blog tt 3 disc

I’ve had the three discs framed (coming up for auction in December at Bonham’s) and most people don’t believe, until close inspection, that they are PLAYABLE 12 inch vinyl discs.

It’s also important to note here that although the logo was essentially the same as ‘Sidekick’ the 3 colours were changed for ‘Into The Gap’ and there were new configurations of the different elements. Ideally logos should be open to development – especially with bands who are constantly developing musically. It also helps distinguish between different projects …

4 twins

Then came ‘Here’s To Future Days’. I  still love the cover photo for this – the child is very disturbing – and once again the logo was adapted. It had to be more low-key‘ so it didn’t detract from the photo by Rebecca Blake.

Future days

Excuse me.’ said the aggressive customs officer at Heathrow. ‘What’s in your bag?’

I took a deep breath, knowing my answer was guaranteed to make him think I was taking the piss bigtime. ‘ A crown, a sceptre, and a large stuffed fish.’ I said, deadpan. He stiffened. ‘Empty it,’ he said, barely containing his anger.
I emptied the contents of the bag onto the table – a crown, a sceptre, and a large stuffed fish. It was one of those glorious moments when I thought ‘I love my job,’ and I smiled like a demented conjurer who’d performed a trick to wind him up. The guy, already prepared for a serious confrontation, literally froze. His brain refused to engage with what his eyes were telling him. He looked at me then at the table and then back at me. His eyes and brain still hadn’t connected. ‘YOU!’ he shouted, the volume of his voice taking him by surprise, ‘Yes, you Madam – I want you to empty your bag. NOW.’ The poor woman behind me, the object of the guy’s frustration, was clearly shocked by his aggression but put her bag down next to mine. That was it. He utterly blanked me. I collected my stuff and rejoined the photographic crew I’d travelled with back from a photo-shoot with the THOMPSON TWINS in Paris. Happy Days.

There will have to be more Twins stories but for now we move on.

My partner Michael decided in 82 to pursue his passion for painting. At first I was nervous of going it alone but friends insisted it was just what I needed. They were right and the transition was fairly seamless. It is obvious, I know, but I was given the opportunity to develop an individual approach as a person and a designer.

I met Peter Mensch who fronted one of the biggest management companies in the US – Q Prime.  Whilst working on artwork for DEF LEPPARD (SEVERAL chapters on them soon)  I was asked to work with another band who could not have been more different. It was 1985 and the comparatively new ‘disco scene’ was creating more nightclubs than had ever been seen in London. It’s hard to imagine but there were very few large dance venues before then. I went to a live gig which was being recorded for radio. I’d heard DEAD OR ALIVE but I wasn’t prepared for the powerful vocals and hi-energy performance of the charismatic lead singer who challenged every definition of masculinity. I’d been invited to work with PETE BURNS and couldn’t wait to meet him.

WHAT a voice!

Advertisements

Sir Ludovic Kennedy

October 24, 2009

HEROES: Sir Ludovic Kennedy (1919-Oct 2009)

Writer and broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy dedicated his illustrious investigative career to exposing miscarriages of justice with notable success. As a result of a long campaign (Kennedy contended that Timothy Evans was innocent of the child murder at 10 Rillington Place) Evans was posthumously pardoned. The scandal helped in the abolition of the death penalty in the UK. Other cases he studied reversed the ‘guilty’ verdict of Derek Bentley and the Birmingham  Six.

RECOMMENDED READING:
’10 Rillington Place.’
‘All In The Mind – A Farewell To God.’

8. THOMPSON TWINS – Part One

October 22, 2009

In 1985, late at night in a hotel room after several glasses of wine, two very strong-willed women were debating whether it was possible to break into the British Broadcasting Corporation to steal the Master Tape of a television performance broadcast earlier that evening.

One of them eventually persuaded the other it might not be such a good idea to storm the BBC.  On the extremely popular ‘Wogan Show’ the nation watched  GRACE JONES perform the wonderful ‘Slave To The Rhythm’. Miss Jones believed she’d made a huge mistake in her choice of wardrobe and was determined to retrieve the tape to destroy it. In fact, watching the clip now, it’s a brilliant performance and perfectly represents how fabulously extreme she could be. Make sure you watch the ‘reveal’ at the end of the performance – she looks Amazing!

Thank God she didn’t but I often wonder what would have happened if she’d actually attempted to retrieve the tape. The mind boggles. She may have got away with it – simply by scaring to death anyone who tried to stop her. She was FIERCE!!

Her sometimes co-conspirator (and potential sister-in-crime that night) who eventually persuaded Grace not to raid the BBC, was ALANNAH CURRIE of the THOMPSON TWINS. Like Grace Jones, Alannah’s reputation for being ‘difficult’ preceded her. When I first met Alannah, to work on the TT ‘Quick Step and Sidekick’ album it was immediately obvious why she had such a reputation. She was not ‘difficult’ at all. Basically as an intelligent woman in the music industry, predominantly populated with egotistical men who yearned to be guitar heroes, she didn’t take shit from any of them. She knew what she wanted, was clear what the band needed and refused to be derailed or intimidated by patronising individuals who thought they knew better than she did. The ‘difficulty’ was the men felt threatened by someone very much in control of a career she could skillfully orchestrate better than they could. What made it worse was that Alannah didn’t give a fuck what those people thought of her – and they knew it – which only compounded their view that she was arrogant and intractable. Like she cared?

Back to Grace for a second. Today Alannah told me she ‘was hugely in awe of her – she was lifeline of female trouble in a sea of boring white males.’ Perfect.

Fortunately there was someone who appreciated Alannah’s candour and vision and was equally determined to ensure THOMPSON TWINS were successful.

As art director and promotional guru at Arista records, PETE WINKELMAN’s enthusiasm for projects was incomparable. If he had belief in an artist he gave it 100%. He recognised how huge THOMPSON TWINS could be and gave them the undivided attention they deserved. There was a problem though. Everything submitted by designers for ‘Quick Step’ had failed to impress the band. They needed a strong and unique graphic identity and nothing had come close.

Pete Winkelman called me, we had a meeting and hit it off immediately. I recognised his genuine commitment to find something the band were totally happy with at all costs. He recognised my approach to design was not restricted by formal training – therefore I was capable of finding a left-field solution to the problem. Our connection was undoubtedly enthusiasm for what we did and neither of us relied on precedents to influence our approach to a project. (It has always astonished me – and it’s happened on several occasions – when I have been given a brief to replicate a particular graphic style which has proved successful. Why would anyone want to present themselves as a clone of someone else in a market that thrives on originality?)

Anyway … Pete showed me all the photographs, taken for the album sleeve, which had been rejected by the band. There was nothing good enough and certainly little that was dynamic. I took half an hour out (always a good idea), sat in a cafe and tried to figure out what was missing – then I had an idea. I sped back to Arista and asked to see the photographs that had been rejected by the photographer. I’d realised that the photographer may have dismissed photographs for the wrong reasons. An album sleeve is not just about a photograph – it’s about a combination of elements – something I’d learnt on SECTOR 27. I did find what I was looking for in the reject pile. I could see why the picture had been rejected – the band were weirdly off-centre and Joe had been cropped in half on the left of the shot. However, it was a great picture and I could see that the addition of graphics would make it work. It also inspired the design for the logo … one which I still think suited the band perfectly.

tt logo

Creating the logo, using the same colours as the basis for the graphics and using the border so Joe’s image wasn’t falling off the edge of the sleeve, everything fell naturally into place. The quirkiness of the photo was retained and the ‘empty spaces’ of the original image were no longer empty. The end result looks effortless and balanced.

Quick Step

DESIGN OBSERVATION 2

Check out photos that have been rejected. Your criteria for what can make a photo work are different to a photographers. Alternatively – work WITH the photographer before a shoot.

to be continued ….

Essential viewing: THOMPSON TWINS

‘Love On Your Side.’ WATCH HERE

‘We Are Detective.’ WATCH HERE

‘You Take Me Up.’ WATCH HERE

Essential viewing: GRACE JONES

‘Private Life’. WATCH HERE

‘La Vie En Rose’. WATCH HERE

‘Pull Up To The Bumper’. WATCH HERE

‘Walking In The Rain’. WATCH HERE

For those of you who haven’t seen an earlier feisty and furious Grace on ‘The Russell Harty Show’ when she threw a wobbly and attacked Harty with her handbag – WATCH HERE.

JAN MOIR – HEARTLESS OPPORTUNISM

October 17, 2009

I shouldn’t be but I still am – shocked by the gutter press. Having written about Tom Robinson only a few days ago – someone who intelligently challenged injustice, inequality and prejudice, I found it incredible, nearly 30 years later, that journalistic ignorance can still be so virulent.

Jan Moir’s article in the Daily Mail yesterday was an example of the worst kind of  journalism. She writes reasonably well and her words are carefully chosen. What is disturbing and insulting (especially to the young man’s family) is that she could possibly believe her words would appeal to anyone other than the prejudiced, the intellectually challenged and the homophobic self-righteous.

To write the words in a national newspaper the day before Stephen Gately’s funeral is repulsive and cruelly insensitive to put it mildly. I doubt, in her ‘controversial’ zeal, it even entered her head how hideously inappropriate her timing was.

Genuine ignorance can be forgiven. ‘Considered’ words that express prejudice so vehemently, cannot.

Phrases like ‘effectively smoked out of the closet’ and the tragic story (in her view) – ‘spun into nothing more than an unfortunate mishap on a holiday weekend – like a broken teacup in a rented cottage’, are bad enough …

To say, ‘Healthy and fit 33-year-olds do not climb into pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up’, is worse. Not only is it insulting to those who have experienced such a tragic death – it is blatently not true.

The mind that conjures phrases like ‘Let’s be honest, the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy’, and Stephen’s death ‘strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’, only compounds the depth of Jan Moir’s deeply-flawed understanding of the issues involved.

Not satisfied with insulting Stephen’s family, expressing Neanderthal views, kicking in the teeth those who have tragically lost 33-year olds  and ladling her homophobic prejudice on all of us who read her vile diatribe, her article ends – plummeting to unimaginable depths of pretentious ignorance – with her final flourish …

For once again, under the carapace of glittering hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see.’

My God, where did this woman appear from? Worse still, the editors of the Daily Mail allowed such an article to be printed.  The ‘journalist’ denies today she is homophobic. She may genuinely think she isn’t but I’m afraid the words you use Madam tell us something very different. The ‘oozing’, ‘seeping’, ‘sleaze’ resides, whether you like in or not, inside your own confused mind.

I was never a huge fan of Stephen Gately, but no-one, NO-ONE, should be subjected to such monstrous, pitiless and deeply-insensitive scrutiny from someone so heartless and opportunistically vindictive.

If you won’t apologise, Jan Moir, then I will – on your behalf – to Stephen’s family and friends and all those you have so unnecessarily distressed in their time of grief.

Please add your voice to the thousands who have complained so far – HERE

STEPHEN GATELY 1976 – 2009

Stephen+Gately
complain HERE

7. TOM ROBINSON and SECTOR 27

October 14, 2009

Before we get to SECTOR 27, I must start by thanking those who ‘commented’ on the last Blog – especially ‘the man himself’, Tony Tobias …

‘This is getting to be a vital link to the past of ‘The Worlds End’ I was privileged to play a small part, having owned two Noseagents. Customers, friends really, were from all walks of life, Barry Sheen, The Rolling Stones, dear wonderful Freddie Mercury, who used to stand in the shop in full drag, Adam Ant, Marianne Faithful, The Sex Pistols, Georgie Fame, David Bowie, and many other wonderful people, and the great woman newspaper scribe, Sue ‘the floating tenner’ Carrol, were frequent visitors. How I loved all you guys, and everyone else, I am what I am because of all of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to rediscover the past.” Love, Tony.

(The Cat, by the way, was The Professor, so-called because distinctive marks around his eyes looked like a pair of glasses. His name perfectly encaptures the Beast’s deranged and fierce(!) intelligence.)

Like Tony, I believe The World’s End Community was (and still is) something very special. As our Course moves into the 80’s, the 90’s and beyond, it always plays a pivotal role in my life and work. We will return to it many times I’m sure, (including how LARS ULRICH of METALLICA managed to devastate the Australian staff who worked at THE CHELSEA RAM), but now we are heading into Graphic Design for the music industry …

Back in the early 80’s it was a fascinating and exciting world to be involved in – not just with the artists and musicians but with record companies, promoters and merchandisers willing to take creative (and financial) risks to promote original and eccentric design ideas. One in particular, Pete Winkelman – then art director and promotional genius at Arista Records, now chairman of MK DONS – was wonderfully supportive of some pretty crazy ideas. More of him later when we reach THOMPSON TWINS and the fabulous FUZZBOX.

SECTOR 27
NEW Sector-27

As I said it was Tim who introduced me to Tom Robinson. Although I’d had a little experience in sleeve design, Tom was the first commercially successful artist to hire SATORI to create an album sleeve for his new band – SECTOR 27. It’s quite odd looking back at the sleeve now but it’s one I’m still proud of and, in many ways, the brief for it is still relevant today. It was 1980 and the terrifying world of BIG BROTHER in George Orwell’s ‘1984’ loomed large. Tom was a politically-motivated musician – ‘Glad To Be Gay’ was hugely influential when it was released.

He was a committed anti-racist and gay activist with a fierce intelligence. Meeting him for the first time I remember his earnest charm was totally sincere. There was also an endearing contradiction in his character which was very appealing. The rage of his concerns was balanced with a genuine need to please. I believe his success as a communicator and commentator was partly because of that apparent dichotomy. His fragility combined with his serious commitment to revealing injustice in the world made him convincing and believable. As a musician the same applied. Beneath his clean, sharp image and brilliant songs was a ‘disorientating tension’ which took you by surprise. I liked Tom very much and he taught me a great deal about social awareness and politics in general. What I learnt from him was how to present well-informed arguments which were never patronising or self-righteous.

Tom was acutely aware of the growing surveillance culture in Britain and he wanted the album sleeve to be a defiant, positive statement – one which celebrated the triumph of Innocence and Exhileration over the Grey and Faceless which threatened to undermine and sabotage it. In words it sounds somewhat heavy-handed but the final sleeve portrayed something more intuitive.

The sleeve design can be split into three distinct areas; the graphics, implying harsh corporate control; the photograph portraying an anonymous bleak cityscape and the happy innocent child who defies the impersonal environment she inhabits.

For those of you not interested in the graphic process you can skip the next paragraph …

1980 was Pre-Computer obviously so each of the three elements had to be created separately. The starting point was the SECTOR 27 logo and it’s dynamic shape and positioning. After that the other elements were roughly sketched into position. On our way to BLITZ one morning I photographed the buildings as we emerged from the underpass in Holborn, deliberately shaking the camera. The chosen image was blown up to a 20×16 print and the graphic version of the underpass exit was drawn with Rotring pens (remember those anyone?). We hired a photographer and studio to photograph the Chinese girl and proceeded to ‘treat’ the image to give it movement and vibrancy. Colour Xerox was something I was experimenting with at the time and I’d found a wonderful shop where the owners encouraged artists and designers to experiment with their colour Xerox machines by allowing them on a Saturday morning to hire a machine by the hour rather than paying for each print. This meant that experimenting was not prohibitively expensive. It was amazing how many prints you could do in an hour if you were organised! Fooling the Xerox machine was the challenge – to get it to produce effects it was not designed for. Manipulating images then was the remit of photographic re-touchers. It tended to be a time-consuming and expensive process. To print an image on acetate and tracing paper, to run an image through the Xerox machine several times, to change images as the machine scanned the four process colours produced some astonishing ‘accidental’ results. I exhibited a series of ‘paintings’ constructed using the results of those revelatory Saturday mornings.
timewallTimewall‘ by Andie Airfix, 1980

DESIGN OBSERVATION 1: Get Your Hands Dirty.
Don’t rely only on computer programs alone to create interesting imagery. However ‘clever’ Photoshop and however expertly it’s used it will always be 2-dimensional – however seductively it attempts to convince you otherwise.

Finally ….. more Tom Robinson …

NEXT  … THOMPSON TWINS and THE ENTHUSIASTIC GURU

To the World’s End

October 9, 2009

Skip to the last 5/10 mins for Mr Tobias and his extraordinary proboscis!
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “To the World’s End“, posted with vodpod

6. MR TOBIAS’S SWEET SHOP

October 8, 2009

You will notice a new header. As our course progresses, relevant SATORI designs or influences will regularly punctuate the stories. The relevance of this one will become apparent when we move to one of the most enjoyable jobs Michael and I ever did.

To start with, SATORI had its fingers in lots of pies, unsure of which direction to take. We did graphics for a couple of cool fashion labels, painted a Californian mural on a massive wall at a restaurant called Pacific Plaza in the West End, worked with Christopher again at a club called Madisons in Camden Lock and on various projects which were fun and challenging.

A highlight of that period – and a labour of love – was designing and painting the shopfront for our local newsagent. ‘Mr Tobias’s Sweet Shop’ is an intrinsic part of World’s End’s colourful history and Tony Tobias was its technicolor proprieter. Outside the shop on Kings Road (a little down the road from Vivienne Westwood’s ‘Seditionaries’) was a sign which read ‘UNDER JEW MANAGEMENT’. Inside the shop was an insane Community Centre for schoolchildren, misfits and waywards, animals, locals in general, and the elderly sometimes ‘resting’ with a cup of tea. It was almost impossible to leave Tony’s without a smile on your face.

Inside the door were half a dozen crisp boxes. If you were local you avoided one of them at all costs. If you weren’t and decided to fish out a packet of Salt and Vinegar from its box you were in for a surprise. Inside it lived The Biggest And Grumpiest Cat On Earth (I can’t remember his name – are you out there Tony?). He didn’t like being disturbed and if you didn’t get bitten you’d almost certainly receive a hefty swipe from a paw the size of a dinner plate.

The Tony Tobias Fan Club ranged from 9 to 90, had immensely different life styles and philosophies and probably, in our ludicrously litigious and protective Nanny State, be regarded as an evil gathering which would inevitably cause long-term, irreparable, psychological damage to all involved. Exactly the opposite was true of course. Children had respect for different generations, potential social problems were often solved by discussion and humour and many practical problems (particularly for the elderly) were solved by the pool of skills the Community Circus provided. Broken bicycles were repaired in exchange for fixing a broken window, legal advice was given in return for painting and decorating, baby-sitters were easily found in emergencies and if someone was ill Tony was probably the first to know and care would be organised. It was not uncommon then (it still happens) to see someone taking dinner across the road to a neighbour who was bedridden. *

One day I learnt the true meaning of the phrase ‘Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover’. It was early in the morning and the Sweet Shop was heaving – kids on their way to school, builders buying newspapers, the odd scream erupting from Salt and Vinegar and a woman (probably in her eighties) at the front of the queue was fishing for change in her purse. Tony reached below the counter and held up, for all to see, the centre-fold of a gay magazine, making hilarious comments on it. The photo was about as explicit as a photo of a muscular naked man could be and Communal Embarrassment for the old lady rippled around the shop. People coughed, turned away, and tried vainly to become invisible. A few expressed outrage and others left the shop unable to cope. If they’d waited a moment or two however, they would have seen the old lady look up from her purse, aware of the uncomfortable silence and stare at the centre-fold. ‘Blimey,’ she said, ‘I wouldn’t mind that between two slices of bread!’

The structure of the double shopfront was essentially Victorian – an excess of moldings, decorative cornices, pilasters and protruding blocks of wood surrounding the shop name facia. It was an ideal canvas on which to paint an extravagance of colour. It was a Sweet Shop after all so Michael and I took a box of Liquorice All-sorts from Tony and headed off to our local DIY paint-mixing store. We got back, laid out the tins in a row, opened the lids and nearly threw up. Shocking Pink, Lime Green, Lemon Yellow, Electric Blue, Tangerine and Chocolate Brown is not your average architectural colour combination but they perfectly reflected the larger-than-life character of the shop. The project took weeks longer than it should have done – extended tea-breaks in and outside the shop were essential and, unable to resist the opportunity, with Tony’s help, work often turned into Laurel and Hardy street theatre where ladders, planks, ropes and paint-tins took centre-stage in scenarios devised to play practical jokes on innocent passers-by. Of all the jobs I’ve ever done it was undoubtedly one of the funniest and if work can be as enjoyable as life outside work – what can be better?

Mr Toby facia plain

*Joy of joys … I didn’t expect to find it (I’ve looked before) but there it was – recently posted! There was a documentary about the 31 bus and at the southern end of the route (World’s End) was TONY TOBIAS’S SWEET SHOP. Tony features heavily in the last 10 minutes of PART 2 and watching it you will see exactly why he deserves his reputation …

watch here

One more mention of Country Cousin. One of the staff there became a life-long friend and a local neighbour twice. It was Tim who introduced me to Tom Robinson and the chance to design an album sleeve for his new band – SECTOR 27. It took several years after arriving from India to get to SECTOR 27 so, although it’s taken a while to get here, the characters on the way have all contributed to the journey.

Next … DEFINITELY(!) SECTOR 27 as well as PETE BURNS and the THOMPSON TWINS.

5A. ADDENDUM 1 – ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

October 2, 2009

A brief interlude for those of you who love Christopher Hunter …

Astonishingly, Michael was arrested at Country Cousin for burglary and accused of stealing £17,000.00 from the club safe. CC was broken into – a hole smashed through the front door. When M and I arrived the following morning to open up the club (with keys!), Michael left his fingerprints on the door not realising, until too late, what had happened. He was arrested and charged with burglary two weeks later, accused of smashing down the door and stealing the 17 grand in cash.

Christopher was outraged. He immediately insisted he be a defence witness at the Crown Court. With the dramatic conviction of Spencer Tracy in the courtroom drama ‘Inherit The Wind’, Christopher totally destroyed the prosecution, charmed the judge and convinced his Audience (sorry – Jury) to believe Michael was not only the son he’d never had, but also the most trustworthy individual on the planet and that he would give him the cash from that night’s takings to deposit in the bank the following morning. Job done. La Hunter took us both for a magnificent lunch at ‘The White Elephant’ after we left court to celebrate.  Despite threats we received from the idiots in charge of the case who’d been made to look like – well – idiots, nothing ever came of them. (Christopher told us he’d made ‘a couple of phone-calls’.)

As I said Christopher trusted us completely. We only fucked up once – but spectacularly I’m afraid.

We had dined on the ‘Captain’s Table’, feeling as we usually did that we were on some weird celebrity ocean liner. At 2 in the morning Christopher leant over between Michael and I and whispered, ‘Ms Bassey is a little the worse for wear boys. I’ve ordered a car. Would you be kind enough to accompany her and make sure she gets home safely’. We drove down Kings Road to Eaton Square. SB swanned up the steps to her house, keys in hand, and M & I sped back to Country Cousin. Two days later we arrived at CC and Christopher was waiting for us at the top of the stairs leading up to the club. He was holding up a newspaper. Front Page. Headlines. ‘SHIRLEY BASSEY ARRESTED.’ We were mortified – Christopher was livid. ‘How the FUCK did this happen?’ he said.

It could only have been seconds after Michael and I turned back into Kings Road when a police patrol car cruised round Eaton Square. Apparently a woman in a sequined evening gown was having some difficulty aligning a very small piece of ridged metal with the impossibly small aperture it was supposed to fit into. They probably weren’t prepared for the head-on hurricane that hit them when they intervened but the ensuing confrontation led to a brief stay at the local police station for SB – and unfortunately, enough headlines to create a short novel. However, once we’d explained how diligent we thought we’d been, Christopher graciously forgave us and fortunately we remained Favoured Randoms at High Table.

COMING UP next ….
Sector 27

5. HEROES

October 1, 2009

hero
I haven’t mentioned Michael. We worked together on sets at Country Cousin. We became close friends, spending days working there and evenings enjoying the dramas and the entertainment CC constantly provided. Christopher often invited us to join his table of invited guests. We were both youthfully eccentric, entertaining if prompted and people enjoyed our company. Christopher loved to introduce ‘randoms’ to his table to join the rich, the famous and the influential. Michael and I were amongst his favourites and always had a ball. Christopher trusted us both implicitly, knowing we could handle ourselves and be discreet enough to keep the gossip to ourselves.

(For those who would like a couple more La Hunter stories – an additional blog will be posted very soon – Michael arrested for burglary and Shirley Bassey, well …)

By now I’d learnt the fundamentals of graphics. Modern students would hardly recognise the tools of the trade. Computers were still a decade and a half away so then it was paper, pencils, Letraset (who remembers that?), drawing boards, original illustrations and layouts covered in overlays and print instructions. These days a designer is artist, typographer, proof-reader and production and print manager. Not then, and in many ways, the design process was better for it – less of the ‘Jack Of All Trades’ and more a group of knowledgeable individuals working together – pooling specialised expertise to experiment with new techniques – or to break the rules to find original solutions to design ideas.

When Country Cousin (inevitably!) went bust and Christopher moved on to overspend on a new venture, Michael and I decided to contact a few people who’d offered us work during our sojourn at CC. (At first we’d refused – we were having a ball there, thank you very much.) We contacted Brendon who ran a successful club in Covent Garden. He hired us to re-vamp the club style, creating a logo, letterheads, menus, and fliers. Michael and I formed SATORI – which is still the name of my primary design company.
image
In Soho, BILLY’S was a venue frequented by a group of theatrical individuals who loved the music of Roxy Music and David Bowie. Rusty Egan (later of the RICH KIDS) and Steve Strange decided the Covent Garden club Michael and I now  worked at was the perfect venue to host a weekly gathering for those who inhabited BILLY’S. The club was BLITZ and it’s flamboyant denizens became known as the BLITZ KIDS.

The BLITZ KIDS were, in many ways, social misfits – bored by Punk, most of them uninterested in the developing Disco scene and all determined to create a serious alternative to both. It would be easy to accuse them of an obsession with fashion, (it WAS pretty extreme –  outlandish clothes, deliberately androgynous – excessive make-up for girls AND boys), but at the heart of their distinctive spirit was a serious love of music.

To give you an idea of the extreme fashion at BLITZ, I went one Thursday with a friend of mine who was determined to get to the club despite the fact half his head was covered in bandages from a nose operation – he was beaten up – his eyes were hardly open the bruising was so bad, his arm was in plaster still and he struggled to move around the club with a crutch. A passing BLITZ KID looked at him horrified then said ‘Outrageous outfit darling – absolutely outrageous. I LOVE it.’

Rusty Egan, Steve Strange, Billy Currie and Midge Ure formed VISAGE, Billy Currie and Midge Ure went on to form ULTRAVOX, SPANDAU BALLET performed their first gig at BLITZ, Boy George was the cloakroom attendant (CULTURE CLUB and DEPECHE MODE debuted at a spin-off club called THE REGENCY and many of the Blitz Kids became part of the emerging phenomena that became the NEW ROMANTICS. The Kids were an incredible melting pot of developing talent and found their expression in music, art and fashion (one – Carl Teper – went on to be a distinguised British Judge!). Pete Burns (much more of him later – I did artwork for him for years, starting with the sleeve design for the disco smash, ‘You Spin Me Round’), Martin Degville and Tony James (SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK – well yes?), all of SPANDAU BALLET, Leigh Bowery (Boy George played him in his celebration of the Blitz Kids in the West End musical ‘Taboo’), Isabella Blow, Philip Salon and John Galliano all frequented BLITZ on a regular basis. David Bowie also visited on occasions – his songs ‘Heroes’ and ‘Ashes To Ashes’ were anthems for the NEW ROMANTICS. (Mick Jagger was once turned away by Steve Strange – Bowie was cool, Jagger was not at the time.)

More than 25 years later I realised how fortunate we were to be involved in such an amazingly creative scene, but when things progress effortlessly I believe there are reasons. Being ‘in the right place at the right time’ can’t be a manufactured ambition. It happens when you’re ready for it.

COMING UP … Sector 27 (at last) ‘Pete Burns Walking On Cars’, ‘Axl Rose Throws A Wobbly – And Tables’, ‘Under Jew Management’ and ‘The McCartney Files’.

AND don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!