Archive for December, 2009

A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS

December 24, 2009

Here’s a Christmas card for you …

and, if you haven’t read the last blog – ‘THE HIMALAYAS – Beyond Imagination’ – check it out as an inspirational snow story to lead you joyously into the next decade …

‘Trust in the process of Life.
Everything you need is always taken care of.
You are safe.’

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The Himalayas – Beyond Imagination

December 20, 2009

I mentioned in DEF LEPP – Part Three that I’d tell you how something extraordinary blew me away, something that defied human imagination …

Luti, my dog, was neither pet nor wild animal but she was an animal I could walk around with. She was an ideal companion and protector on long walks in the mountains, and visits to remote areas where dogs patrolled village perimeters, aggressively challenging strangers who arrived unannounced. Walks together in the spring and in summer, before the monsoon season drowned the valley in an unbelievable quantity of water 24/7, were wonderful experiences. I realised quickly that the best policy was to allow Luti to take me for walks. She led me into valleys that seemed impossible to reach; she found passes between mountains I thought were inaccessible; she saved me from getting completely lost on numerous occasions, always insisted I began my return journey with enough light to follow the paths back home to Vashisht and literally saved my life on two dramatic ocassions. She took me to extraordinary places I’d never have found without her sense of adventure or her geographical knowledge of the area. Luti was my guide-dog. Though obviously not blind, (I’m sure she questioned that fact several times as I stumbled clumsily around the valley following her), I was in serious need of guidance and protection.

She’s in this picture – somewhat camera shy, bless her.

Luti ran up the stairs to my balcony one Spring morning, barking furiously. She careered up and down the balcony, knocking things over then standing by the steps, wagging her tail and looking back at me wild-eyed. She’d obviously found something and wanted desperately to share it. I hastily grabbed water, bread, my staff and a jacket, and followed her through the village onto the steep path which led to Adrian and Jamie’s house. She was delirious with excitement, running round and round me, barking crazily and nearly tripping me several times.

Luti, calm down. I’m coming. What have you found?

She jumped up against me, her paws on my chest, licked my face, and ran off again down the path. When I caught up with her she swerved off to the right into a spruce wood. She vanished for a while and the next time she barked, I could see her high above me, standing on a rock overhang. I couldn’t find the way up to her so she ran back down the steep slopes and guided me up through the dense woodland. Although, with the welcome arrival of Spring, most of the snow had gone – on the higher slopes and in the shadows of trees and boulders, it still lingered stubbornly. It was a slippery path, the climb proved more difficult than it looked, and when I emerged from the wood onto the top of a spur, I was exhausted and bruised from numerous tumbles on packed ice.

Where the spur joined the mountainside, high cliffs rose on each side of it and Luti stood at the narrow entrance of a small gorge which sliced through the cliffs. A river torrented out of the gorge and within a few yards poured into a massive fissure in the rocks, disappearing from sight. I looked out over the edge of the spur and could see the river re-emerge from a cave several hundred feet below. Still barking insanely, Luti leapt into the gorge and disappeared again. Intrigued, a little apprehensive, but more excited than anything, I followed her through the split cliff-face. The sound of rushing water was deafening – a thunderous roar which was exhilerating and unnerving. After a hundred yards or so the narrowl gorge opened out into an open circular area of flat ground, two hundred yards in diameter, surrounded on all sides by more towering cliffs. What I saw ahead of me literally took my breath away.

In my wildest imaginings I could not have invented the natural phenomena I witnessed in that extraordinary place. The sun, directly overhead, bathed the open circular area in brilliant sunshine, but the brooding cliffs around me were cloaked in deep shadow created by overhanging rocks all along the cliff-tops. At the top of the cliffs, directly in front of me, two large boulders funnelled a cascading deluge of water out over the cliff edge. A graceful arc of foaming white water curved into the air and fell a hundred feet into a large water-pool. Around the pool water-soaked grass and flowers sparkled in the sunlight. The waterfall, also illuminated by the sun, shone dazzlingly white against the shadowed cliffs. Nature at its most glorious can always provide astounding surprises. In that enchanted arena she bestowed one of her most astonishing. I had never seen anything like it before and have seen nothing like it since. As the white water plummeted down to the rock pool the descending droplets of fine spray, falling steadily on each side of the waterfall – turned into snowflakes.

Under a perfectly cloudless sky ­– it was snowing. Above the snow-covered rocks in the pool and the snowy banks around it – dozens of iridescent circular rainbows shimmered in the billowing spray.

I lay down on the warm grass, mesmerised by the falling snow and the rainbows. Luti – content now she had shared her discovery – stretched out on the grass, rolled onto her side, and yawned. She wagged her tail, yawned again, rested one of her front paws on my leg and closed her eyes. The sun moved slowly across the bright circle of blue sky above me. Features on the cliffs behind the waterfall slowly appeared as details were illuminated – florescent pink and magenta flowers growing out of glistening moss growing on the spray-drenched cliff-face, banks of white flowers dripped with water and unearthly colours were revealed. The cliffs behind me grew darker as shadows deepened. The shadow of the cliff-top crept across the grass towards me. The pounding of the waterfall seemed to recede, to become a distant roar, a soft drone, and eventually it disappeared altogether. I drifted into a soundless world where my vision was charged with an intensity that was almost hallucinogenic, and where everything appeared to move in a surreal liquid slow-motion. I floated, hovering between sleep and wakefulness where reality and imagination blur.

After a couple of hours Luti barked. It was the bark which meant only one thing – it was her command to take me home.

Coming Next ….

December 18, 2009

DEF LEPPARD – Part Five.

Due to a very busy week (including a jaunt to Lapland to visit Santa) the next blog will be posted on Monday.  Stay tuned. &ie

17. DEF LEPPARD – Part Four

December 11, 2009

DEF LEPPARD – Part Five 
… posted January 14th – 

CLICK HERE 

 

Once again thanks for your comments and e-mails. Some of them about Steve were very touching, especially the one from Lorelei ...

Hi Andie, Thank you for your beautiful reflections of your time spent with Steve. I can obviously relate to your sharing of feeling the need to look after him – as I did for over six years. We were blessed to have known him and to have loved him … Steve was loved by so many people … ’

We move on now on to the ‘Hysteria’ singles, an exhibition of DEF LEPPARD art and vinyl in London, the wonderful Juan (the ultimate DEF LEPPARD fan), and a competition to win a large Edition Print of your choice …

People often ask me if I feel nervous or intimidated meeting the Famous. Rarely, and there’s a simple reason. I was in Paul McCartney’s dressing room on the opening night of his first tour in well over a decade. He was generous enough to meet a number of people who were waiting outside his door to meet him. This poor woman, when she came in, was so nervous she was visibly trembling and opened her mouth several times to speak – but the words just didn’t happen. She was mortified. She’d won a competition to meet him and had waited over twenty years to be face to face with her idol. She just didn’t know what to say. What DO you say to Paul McCartney? That’s exactly the reason why I don’t get nervous – I have something to talk about – the project we’re working on. I have to discuss something that’s important, something to focus on that’s not about me or who I’m meeting – there’s a common ground which allows relationships to develop naturally.

I met DEF LEPPARD many times – at Joe’s house in Ireland, in Ibiza at recording sessions, at rehearsals for a tour and in numerous dressing rooms when they were on tour. They were great times but we had work to do and that was a responsibility we all took seriously. As Pete Burns said – ‘It’s an album sleeve, NOT a cure for cancer,’ – but, in the context of creativity and careers, there was a lot at stake. Relationships tend to be intense and you have to get to know people pretty well to get the best results and reach the right decisions. By the time ‘Hysteria’ was completed there was a mutual respect between the band and I which allowed us to push the boundaries of vinyl even further.

The ‘Hysteria’ singles.

I had this idea, when I discovered that the record companies intended to release ‘at least four singles’ from the album, of dividing the album sleeve design into four sections to use on the covers of the four singles. Later I discovered there could be more singles and possibly different song releases in different countries. There was only one way to go – use NINE sections to create a huge 3-foot square version of the album sleeve. ‘Hysteria’ was the first time I had to create artwork for CD’s and I realised the new format could be the death-knell for vinyl. It was a defining moment for me. I hated the CD format, its size, its limited packaging possibilities and most of all I hated how it would destroy a medium I loved – vinyl. I changed direction at that point – we’ll come to that soon – but I knew for the ‘Hysteria’ singles I had to come up with something that had never been done before and would probably never be done again.  The idea was a defiant celebration of 12” vinyl before its anticipated demise. It became a serious mission and I was determined to do whatever it took to get the idea off the ground.

To design a ‘set’ of singles before the first one was released was a real challenge – especially not knowing how many there would be or what they would be – but I knew the idea was good. If there were problems we’d find a way to make it happen. I showed the band the idea and they loved it. We decided that the ‘missing’ sections not allocated to singles should become part of an Edition Box Set when the last single was released. With massive support for the idea from Peter Mensch, he persuaded the record companies to go with the idea despite the huge cost of production. It is hard now, in our digital download age, where designs only stretch to pixel widths, to imagine a market where the importance of of vinyl allowed inspirational ideas to flourish and where the production of singles could be so extravagantly experimental.

I didn’t realise it at the time but I’d taken on a logistical nightmare. Not only were songs released in different territories in a different order and with different release dates – in different territories the single’s sleeve-art was not even the same size. (You would think, wouldn’t you, that 12” and 7” singles formats would be consistent? – but they weren’t.) There wasn’t a huge difference but enough to mean each division into nine sections had to be re-figured to suit each territory – to make sure they all fitted together perfectly. Earlier I told you how I had no idea where that ‘screaming head’ came from but, believe me, there were times I thought it was some kind of weird premonition of how I would actually feel (and look!) during the project. (see NB at end of blog to get to grips with the release complications)

I was involved in an exhibition early this year in London, celebrating the history of vinyl and, for the first time, I actually put all nine sleeves between two sheets of clear perspex and displayed the giant album as the centre-piece of the show. It looked fantastic …

Ok … it’s FanTime …

During the exhibition at the A&D Gallery (more on the gallery when the Blog enters the bizarre and hilarious world of the WALT DISNEY Corporation) a new benchmark was set to define ‘Serious Fan’ – Juan is loyalty and dedication personified. I met him at the gallery and he had a wonderful story to tell …

Juan lived in Madrid. He saw the exhibition advertised but there were only a few days left to get to England before the show closed on the Saturday. He was working so couldn’t leave until Saturday morning. He phoned his English friend who lived in London to ask if he could stay with him for the weekend, bought a plane ticket and flew to London. So …. Juan arrived and said to his friend … ‘I have to go to this exhibition.’ … ‘Where is it?’ said the friend … Juan checks on the website. ‘Chiltern Street, West One,’ he says … ‘No’ says his friend, ‘you’re confused Juan – Chiltern Street is where I live. That’s where you are now. Where’s the gallery?’ … Juan double-checks. ‘Chiltern Street. West One.’ he confirms. Impossible to believe but the only friend Juan had in London lived ten doors away from the exhibition. It doesn’t get better than that does it? What are the chances of such a co-incidence? Nada. It’s people like Juan who are the key to maintaining what I believe my work is all about – being true to the loyal fans and inspirational enough to impress new ones. Here he is …

With that in mind we get to …

THE COMPETITION.

FIRST PRIZE:
A poster edition of  your choice (16 x 20ins) and 5 cards
SECOND PRIZE:
A mounted edition of your choice (image: 11 x 15.5ins) and 5 cards
THIRD PRIZE:
A mounted edition of your choice (image: 8 x 11ins) and 5 cards

What are your best fan stories? I’m not only talking about Def Leppard fans – but other performers’ fans too. The best 10 – the weirdest, funniest and most impressive will be posted on a special blog in January when the winner is selected. Whoever wins can choose a 16 x 20ins edition of their choice from my website. Here are just two of them … both new – after such great reactions from the ones on last weeks blog which showcased original drawings and sketches from my archives.

THE JUDGES …

All entries will be judged by a team of eminent professionals – high-flyers in the music industry – who will decide on the winner with objectivity, clarity and with a deep sense of responsibility … Oh sorry – what I meant to say is that the winner will be chosen by me, my Blogmeister Ricky and that weird couple Max and Rewa down the pub. Think of our team as Simon Cowell but with a more generous spirit and a much better sense of humour.

Comment’ your story on the blog or e-mail me from my website.
Make sure you state which Edition you would like to win.
Competition ends 20th January 2010.

One more DEF LEPPARD to go – ‘Adrenalize’ and ‘Euphoria’ … then we will begin working on World Tours (THE ROLLING STONES, GUNS’N’ROSES, PAUL McCARTNEY and others) with the enigmatic Gerry Barad.

DEF LEPPARD – Part Five 
… posted January 14th – 

CLICK HERE

See Monday’s post for details of some stuff  I’ve released from the archives to auction in London next week (including a few rare DEF LEPPARD originals and a painting I did in 1996 of MICHAEL JACKSON). In a couple of days, I will post the Indian story I promised you about Imagination. 

Stay well … keep your eyes peeled for a flurry of blogs next week … &ie

NB:
It did my head in just reading these stats (supplied by Mark from the DEF LEPPARD fan club – thanks Mark). It’s no wonder I had to ask Mark for the configurations – I just couldn’t remember. Now I know why!

1  2  3
4  5  6
7  8 9

1 = no single available
2 = Hysteria
3 = Love Bites
4 = Armageddon It
5 = Animal
6 = Women (US only)
7 = no single available
8 = Pour Some Sugar On Me
9 = Rocket (Europe only, but UK had different, non-segment sleeve)

The special limited 12″ edition of “LOVE BITES”:  the limited edition of that release had the 12″ sections of 1, 3 (Love Bites itself, obviously), 6 (since the UK did not have a release for “WOMEN”), 7, and 9 (some countries released this as “ROCKET”).

Nathan ‘Flutebox’ Lee and Beardyman

December 8, 2009

Before we get to DEF 4 on Thursday – could be Friday this week, it’s a biggie – by way of contrast try this …
I know many of you will have seen it, but for those of you who haven’t it’s still a classic. It’s 20 minutes or so but astonishing. How the  f… ?

16. DEF LEPPARD – Part Three

December 3, 2009

Blog responses were brilliant and very interesting. So many of you enjoyed seeing the original print-ready artwork – so there’ll be more of that later – and also requests from fans for an exhibition of that stuff has made me take the idea more seriously. What a discerning bunch DEF LEPPARD fans are. I also realised, out of all the comments and e-mails I’ve received over the last couple of weeks, more than half of them were from female fans. DEF LEPPARD have a huge fan base of women – Rock was no longer a boy’s-only territory. Sure, there were female followers of other bands in the 80’s and earlier but DEF LEPPARD’s appeal was broader and intelligent enough to include many more.

So … where were we? Oh yes – no album sleeve. ‘Animal Instinct’ had become ‘Hysteria.’ It only took a few days to convince Adrian to climb down from the parapet on the studio roof (the studio is on the top floor of a five-storey building) and to tell him we were all getting pissed off with our endless trips to the supermarket to buy him more Kleenex. He was fine in the end. The band did pay him for all his work so that was some compensation.

A few weeks before I’d met the band in Amsterdam I’d taken a photograph of a friend of mine and, as I clicked the shutter, he was distracted by a noise and turned his head very quickly to the right. The resulting portrait was one of those brilliant ‘accidents’ that often take you by surprise. If I sit down to invent an image, whatever I do is limited by – well – me. Experimenting with different techniques has always been inspirational and many of my ideas are the result of something unexpected appearing – not knowing what the outcome of an experiment will be. Engage in the ‘unknown’ and you’ll be constantly surprised.

(In-between this Def Leppard blog and the next, I’ll tell you about something that happened to me in India that totally blew me away – when I saw a natural phenomena my imagination couldn’t have invented in a million years.)

The headshot of Robert contained a double-image. Because he’d moved his head very quickly the camera, on a low shutter-speed, had recorded a full-on image of his face – but also his profile. I noticed that his left eye had moved to become his right eye in profile. There was something very disturbing about the overall feel of the photograph. It doesn’t sound like a huge step in designing the final sleeve, but it was. I had a direction to explore which I was very confident about. I still had no idea where the illustration would lead but I was very excited about the possibilities.

I also wanted something as a background which placed the head in a strange environment. I knew, by the time I got what I wanted, the head would show a primitive fear so I decided on total contrast – something futuristic. What I decided to do led me innocently into the bizarre (and hilarious) world of ‘computer graphics’.

We started here …

We have to remember it was the mid-80’s and using computers to create images was primitive to say the least. Each time-consuming (and expensive) process was so basic it was about as exciting as eating a warm lettuce sandwich. However, the end result was the thing and I was determined to learn something about the emerging digital world for the ‘Hysteria’ sleeve. I spent days drawing the design for the ‘circuit’, stretching my draughtsman’s skills to the limit with pens, ink and a drawing board. There was a company in London which professed to be on the ‘cutting edge’ of a new creative phenomena and I went to see them to explain what I wanted – to convert my drawing into something more futuristic. ‘No problem‘, they said.  I had an image in my head of the computer operator – a rather geeky character obsessed with perfection. Wrong. I returned with my artwork and met my ‘mentor’ who had just returned from an extended pub lunch (VERY extended by the look of him). He stumbled into the room, introduced himself and I followed him as he lurched off drunkenly towards the room that contained the state-of-the-art computer. The set-up was professional but resembled something put together by a lunatic inventor attempting to build a time-machine. There was a camera the size of wardrobe, TV monitors were scattered all over the room and a congestion of unrecognisable electronic instruments were connected together by miles of different coloured cables and wires. My drawing was photographed and somehow magically appeared on one of the monitors. The amazingly innovative procedure followed – we painstakingly coloured in the white areas of the circuit like children with a handful of electronic coloured pencils – ‘No that one should be blue, change that one to green, get rid of the red completely,  more yellow ...’ Eventually after several hours we had the image I wanted. The wardrobe was wheeled in front of the screen and the image was photographed. There was no way then to transfer the final image to another computer – what I was given when I left was an 8x10ins transparency of the screen we had created the image on. The pixelated texture within the circuit wasn’t designed – it was the result of photographing the TV monitor – but it was exactly what I’d hoped for.

At the same time, I worked on the the main image. When I began to sketch it out, using the eye as a focal point, the illustration began to take on a life of it’s own. I swear what appeared surprised and shocked me but wherever it came from I knew it was undeniably powerful and perfect for the sleeve. Although I still had to find a way to combine the illustration with the dazzling computer graphics (!) I showed the band the first draughts of the head and a resounding ‘THAT’S IT!’ was music to my ears. The level had been set and the required intensity of the rest of the design fell into place comparatively easily. There are so many disparate elements in the final sleeve – the head, the circuit, the demented title lettering, the band logo and the triangle – it shouldn’t really work, but it remains one of my favourites and most memorable I worked on. I completed the illustration, in coloured pencils, within two weeks and the final result was definitely not ‘laboured’. It’s worth mentioning here that historically,’Hysteria’ was the first album sleeve  to contain computer graphics.

STEPHEN MAYNARD CLARK (1960 – 1991)

It’s difficult to say much more about Def Leppard without writing about Steve Clark. The second major tragedy to befall the band was the death of their amazing lead guitarist. During the recording of ‘Hysteria’ Steve often showed up to rehearsals or recording sessions drunk. Alcoholism became a serious problem. In 1991, on a six-month leave of absence from the band, Steve was found dead at his home in London. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be accidental – a lethal mixture of anti-depressants, painkillers and alcohol. Steve lived in London, only a few streets away from where I live in Chelsea, and we often met in a small old-fashioned but wonderful pub called ‘The Cross Keys’ – so I knew him better than the other guys in the band. I really liked him and we became close in a haphazard, occasional kind of way. Steve had a generosity of spirit and a vulnerability which was very attractive, but something deeply troubling was never far from the surface. Whenever I travelled to meet the band Steve always took the time and made the effort to look after me – the perfect gentleman, always aware of nervous or uncomfortable situations. Whenever I met him in ‘The Cross Keys’ I always felt the need to look after him. It’s hard to explain why I felt that way and, despite his reputation for heavy drinking, he was rarely out of control when I saw him. I guess I just felt the need to protect him from a world he often found terrifyingly complicated and difficult to deal with. Away from adoring fans and where he did what he loved most – play guitar – he was usually quiet, sensitive and introspective, He obviously found it difficult to reconcile the two extremes. Don’t get me wrong, he was rarely miserable or depressed – we often had evening of non-stop laughter – but there was always a nervous undercurrent of someone who could easily be thrown off-balance. What I felt with him was a responsibility to help maintain the balance. There are people in all our lives we feel privileged to meet and Steve was right up there with the best of them in mine.

Here’s a video from 1988 which shows his distinctive style and incredible talent – just brilliant.

On a lighter note, for those of you who enjoyed the ‘sketches’ and original art, and loved the new edition, I’ve created another new one using various ‘working drawings’ created on the journey to the final sleeve. Check it out at my website for more detail.

Next we move onto the joy of the single releases from ‘Hysteria’. Can’t wait.

and finally for Part Three …

I Love Wednesdays …

December 2, 2009

 

In this complicated and pressured world most of us live in, we have to find time to abandon ourselves to doing something we love on a regular basis. No-one can find me on Wednesdays – I wander off for the day to write the blog. I allow chance to lead me on the day’s journey. I meet ducks and drunks, the young and the old, the funny and the serious and usually end up somewhere I’ve never been to before. It’s an excellent day, Wednesday.

Coming up on Thursday … 16. DEF LEPPARD – Part Three …

‘Hysteria’: creating the image and computer graphics driven by steam and operated by drunks; with Steve in Chelsea, and more original art you’ve never seen. See you then.