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?
*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 …
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.