Posts Tagged ‘Paul McCartney’

21. GERRY BARAD and PAUL McCARTNEY

March 4, 2010

After DEF LEPPARD we need to go back aways to meet GERRY BARAD and to learn a lesson from PAUL McCARTNEY

First though I need to say a quick ‘HELLO’ to Lucy who’s just gone back to Australia.

HELLO LUCY!

 

There were of course other projects I worked on during the LEPPARD years and many of them involved working with the Canadian merchandising company BROCKUM – run in Europe by the inimitable and legendary Gerry Barad, who became a great friend and mentor. He was a whirlwind of energy, very very funny and a formidable force in the industry – constantly pushing the boundaries of merchandise production. As disillusionment set in for me (with the demise of vinyl) I was looking for a new creative outlet to express my talents. When I first met Gerry we immediately hit it off. We recognised we both had similar, if demanding, philosophies of how things should be done. I wanted to experiment with new formats to stretch my creativity and Gerry needed someone to help him design innovative merchandise to entice the biggest artists in the music industry to sign with his company. Over a period of many years he and I worked with GUNS’N’ROSES, THE ROLLING STONES, AC/DC, BON JOVI, METALLICA and many others. His initial introduction to such musical heavyweights led to work with many of them on different projects – probably the most prolific being METALLICA who I worked with on albums, tours and DVD’s for over a decade.

Gerry introduced me to PAUL McCARTNEY in 1989 – someone else I’ve worked with over many years since, including the design of the lavish 3-DVD Box Set ‘The McCartney Years’ as recently as 2007.

Gerry was as brilliant as ever. I was a little nervous (who wouldn’t be?) but as I’ve said before – I had work to discuss which makes situations much easier. Gerry and I were waiting in Paul’s dressing room during rehearsals for his first tour as a solo artist. His last tour had been with WINGS, ten years previously in 1979. Linda McCartney looked after us – she was always wonderfully gracious and hospitable – while we waited for Paul to arrive. I sat on a sofa patiently whilst Gerry paced the room psyching himself up for the meeting. Paul arrived and Gerry swung into action immediately – talking furiously as he continued to wear out the carpet. Paul looked at me, raised his eyes to the ceiling, winked and smiled. He obviously knew Gerry well. Gerry sat down next to me. ‘Paul, ’he said. ‘This is Andie Airfix. His artwork is so good – if you were dying, you’d want some of it in the same fucking room. Trust me.’ Paul burst out laughing. It was plain-sailing after that. Gerry’s enthusiasm, confidence and crazy sense of humour was inspirational and his commitment to providing his clients with the best and most innovative merchandising was second-to-none.

During that same project PAUL McCARTNEY taught me an invaluable lesson – one which I never forgot and have endeavoured to practice throughout the whole of my career …

There are serious logistical problems working on world tours, particularly with tour programmes. The obvious problem is that there are no live photographs of the tour when it opens. Dress-rehearsal photos can often be used but the timing has to be spectacularly well-organised to print in time for the opening night. The McCartney tour was heading for Japan at some point – a huge fan-base for McCartney – and I was asked to design a special concert programme for the Japanese dates. (In Japan, 90 per cent of audiences buy tour books, compared to an average of between 15 and 30 per cent in other territories.) The text had to be in Japanese. I don’t read or speak Japanese, unsurprisingly, so the typography process required serious organisation. Each title, heading, and piece of text was translated and given a number relating to each page and the sequence it had to appear in. This was 1989 and therefore each of the 48 pages had to be created on boards, pasting each piece of text onto the relevant page in the correct order. I could have designed something simpler I suppose but the challenge was impossible to resist. I did a lot of research into the layouts of Japanese magazines to give the layouts authenticity. To give you an idea of the complexity …

The McCartney management hired a gaggle of top photographers for a week (imagine the cost?) to provide live photos of the tour to include in the Japanese large-format  programme. This was pre-digital so all photos were on film. I was sent over 4,000 transparencies to select the best for the book. It took nearly two weeks to work through them and make a selection to show Paul at our next meeting. At the end of the two weeks, as much as I adore him, I never wanted to see a picture of Paul McCartney ever again. I had a call from his  manager. ‘How’s it going?’ he said. ‘How are the photos?’ ‘They’re good,’ I said, ‘but after my conversation with Paul about exactly what he wanted – I’m not sure what he really wants is there.’ There was an excrutiating silence. I could feel I was on dangerous ground and sensed anger. ‘You can’t tell him that.’ ‘Tell him what?’ I said. ‘That the pictures aren’t good enough.’ ‘I actually said they were good,’ I replied, ‘but what he really wants to see isn’t there. That’s something different. If he asks me what I think – I have to tell him – that’s my job.’ The ‘instructions’ I was given were very clear – I should keep my opinion to myself.

I had my meeting with Paul and the first question, predictably, was ‘So … what do you think of the photos?’ I took a deep breath. ‘There are some great pictures,’ I said. ‘Do you remember the conversation we had about what I wanted?’ said Paul. ‘Of course I do,’ I said, realising exactly where we were going. ‘And …?’ he said. ‘There are some great pictures,’ I repeated. ‘The tour book wil be fabulous – trust me, but … you’ll be disappointed – there aren’t any of the gritty, sweaty shots you wanted, at least not any that are good enough to use.

Paul sat down on the sofa and spread his arms across the back of it. ‘I HAVE seen them you know, or a lot of them – before they were sent to you. Everyone has been telling me how brilliant, fantastic and exciting they are. I wasn’t quite so enthusiastic, but thought perhaps I’d missed something. The terrible thing was – I began to doubt my own judgement. Thank you. My disappointment was justified wasn’t it?’ ‘Probably,’ I said, ‘but I suspect the photographers were given a different brief, if they were given one at all. I guess if we’d had our conversation before the shots were taken I would have thrown in a few ‘suggestions.

I began to doubt my own judgement.’ That honest revelation hit me so hard. Many famous ‘stars’ work with people who constantly want to please them, who want to avoid confrontation – for obvious reasons. I have to say, the photo-incident was a one-off experience with McCartney – he surrounds himself with people confident and talented enough to be honest with him. What most ‘stars’ want is to be challenged on occasions. The lesson about the photos is clear. In potentially difficult work circumstances like that one – always, always, say what you really think – that’s why you’re there. You never know what goes on in the complex politics behind the scenes. Avoid getting involved – it’s none of your concern, nor should it be.

The Boy still Rocks! … Glastonbury 2004 …

Another thing …

… People often ask me ‘Do you meet the artists?’ It’s situations like the one with Paul when I realised – it’s essential. No-one can brief me as well as the artist and there are questions I need to ask which are very important, questions no-one else would think of asking. A manager or ‘go-between’ can always tell me what an artist wants (or an interpretation of it more likely) but rarely do they tell me what the artist doesn’t want – one of the first questions I ask at an initial meeting. People are often unsure of what they want – but are more confident disclosing what they dislike. On many occasions, finding out what people don’t want or like provides more clues on how to approach a project than being told what people think they want.

One of the most stressful jobs I ever worked on was for THE ROLLING STONES – precisely because there was not the opportunity to meet them all together. More on that later but enough to say on the next morning after I’d delivered the final piece of artwork, I woke up to find half my hair on the pillow – literally. It was an egotistical nightmare.

Speaking of egos … we’re about to head to LA, and the HOLLYWOOD BOWL to work with THE MOUSE. You don’t believe a mouse has an ego? – think again. Check out TEAM DISNEY HQ

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