Posts Tagged ‘rock’n’roll’

50. LOU REED – ‘Life-Changer’ (1942-2013)

October 29, 2013

At the end of the night, he (Lou) told us we’d been such a crummy audience we didn’t deserve an encore. and he didn’t do one. That I decided was a true rock’n’roll star.”
– Neil Gamen in The Guardian.

There is nothing to say and everything you want to about Lou Reed.
This album sleeve sums it all up for me …

lou reed

I never met Lou Reed (though loved his music and attitude) but I did meet Holly Woodlawn, the ‘he was a she’ in Lou’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ …

… “Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”
He said, “Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

Holly Woodlawn

When I say I ‘met’ Holly Woodlawn – it was rather more than that.

Holly was one of the stars in the Warhol Factory in New York. If Lou Reed hadn’t brought her additional fame by including her in his song, then Holly probably wouldn’t have developed the extraordinary cabaret act she brought to London in the late 70’s. If she hadn’t come to London I wouldn’t have met her – I happened to be working in the place where she would be performing – the innovative ‘supper-club’ Country Cousin on the Kings Road.

I noticed she had her eyes on me during day-time rehearsals for the opening night but didn’t think much about it. After her late-night performance that night though – I was ‘summoned’ to her dressing room. She curled her finger and I was, quite literally, ‘hooked’. She insisted I become her escort for her two-week stay in London. There really was no choice – she was extremely persuasive. I thought it could be fun.

It was more than fun. There followed two weeks of hilarity and wonderful times. I met her manager and entourage, had dinner with her friends, hit the newly-emerging night-club ‘scene’ springing up all over London, danced the night away as she continually shocked, enlivened and challenged those whose lives we unsuspectingly swept into. I cruised around town getting into serious mischief with the explosive diva that was Holly Woodlawn and it was one of the most precious, entertaining and exhilerating experiences of my life.

essential Lou Reed

If it wasn’t for Lou Reed  – those extraordinary two weeks would never have happened. Lou Reed changed my life. I’m convinced there are many, many others who would say the same thing. He not only changed lives directly but indirectly too – through the diverse and left-field challenges he continuously presented to us in his music and in his own life.

Thank you Lou Reed. Thank you a million times over.


SPIN DOCTOR WHO – Essential viewing right here!

August 5, 2013

Hoped as much – but now confirmed … the brilliant PETER CAPALDI is the new DOCTOR WHO.


As always it’s a hard act to follow. Expectations are huge. Matt Smith was a radical choice too – an unknown actor (then!) but he brought physicality, lunacy and vunerability to the role and made it his own. Capaldi is a daring gamble for sure and Christ knows what he will bring to the role. It’s hard to imagine MALCOLM TUCKER delivering such acerbic horrifying insults as THE DOCTOR


but then, of course, we know better when we watch other performances by CAPALDI. From the horrific outbursts of Malcolm Tucker we witness this heart-breaking and dramatic outburst of emotion in one the best BBC dramas on TV this year, (also starring the exquisite Ben Wishaw, Dominic West and the amazing Romola Garai). This is Capaldi as the Head of News when he finds out his daughter is dead – the powerful performance still astounds and shocks me.

WATCH THIS: Randall Brown in ‘THE HOUR’

Interesting choice then.

From a DOCTOR WHO fan, who really did hide behind the sofa and have nightmares when the Daleks first appeared in 1963, I wish you the best of luck, Mr Capaldi. I get the feeling we’re in for another extreme regeneration.


THE ROLLING STONES visit the Airfix Lounge – ‘Skippy’

July 1, 2013

Seems appropriate … after Glastonbury and Hyde Park

to remind you I created an edition for the Airfix Lounge launch in May …

blog master

I called the Dog ‘Skippy‘, inappropriate as it was – the design of a monstrous rabid dog fronting a Rolling Stones tour. The logo was for the brilliant ‘Urban Jungle‘ tour in 1990. I was commissioned to re-design all the elements of the ‘Steel Wheels‘ tour when it arrived in Europe. The band felt the corporate look which dominated Steel Wheels in the US needed to be much more ‘edgy’ for the European leg of the tour.

Much more on ‘URBAN JUNGLE‘ – PART ONE & PART TWO from blogs in 2012. They give an insight into working with The ROLLING STONES and there are some hilarious stories including serious embarrassment at the launch party for the tour in Rotterdam. Still makes me cringe after over 20 years.

Check out the website

2013 Airfix logo new col

to see the ‘Skippy’ edition and more
– including two editions Lars Ulrich described as ‘AWESOME!’
– the METALLICA ‘NINJA’ Stars, of course.

More very soon – I feel I need to catch up on some of the STORIES! and introduce you all to …

Archive logo grey red

Now THERE’s a Pandora’s box that needed opening. some of it I’d almost forgotten about. I love the older artworks with the colour instuction overlay – amazing what you find …

SABBATH tyr front



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.



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

14. DEF LEPPARD – Part One

November 19, 2009

Well, first I have to say it’s brilliant so many DEF LEPPARD fans have checked out the blog already, even before we start. So … here we go …

Where to start – the music, the Rock’n’Roll stories, the band’s unswerving loyalty to Rick Allen, drunk with Steve Clark in Chelsea, the artwork, meeting the band in Ibiza, touring, watching ‘Spinal Tap’ with them all (hilarious), diamonds in Dublin’s Cartier, the ‘Terror Twins’? I guess I’ll just dive in and see where memories lead me … I did promise ‘diamonds in Dublin’ so I’ll definitely get there this time.

I did remember something that happened a few years ago which catapulted me dramatically back to the very early days working with the band. I can’t remember exactly when it was but I know it was the first time I’d met up with the band since an event which radically changed the political world we now live in. I met Joe first and he said, ‘It’s really weird Andie … when 9/11 happened…’ ‘I know,’ I said, ‘I thought the same as soon as I saw it.’  ‘PYROMANIA’, we both said in unison.

Iconic sleeve design by Andie Airfix

Nearly 20 years earlier, I met with Peter Mensch of Q Prime who managed DEF LEPPARD. Peter was the young protege of Cliff Burnstein, the founder of Q Prime – it was then, and still is, one of the best and most influential management companies in rock history. Peter’s brief for ‘Pyromania’ was refreshing and he was obviously excited by the challenge of the project. ‘The thing is,’ he said, ‘DEF LEPPARD are different to your average heavy rock band – the sleeve needs to reflect that. We’ve all had enough of tattoos, terrible pictures of half-naked women riding motorbikes and fire-breathing monsters – it’s all too cliched now. We need something different – more modern.’ ‘How – different?’ I said. ‘We need to go back to basics,’ he said. ‘We need to redefine the image of heavy rock.’

No challenge there then. I stumbled out onto the street in Earls Court, London – very aware of how important the project was. Not just for me (it was potentially a defining moment in my career as a designer) but, in terms of responsibility, it was an important step in the band’s rise to stardom. I realised I had to create an extraordinary image and present it in an original way. There were some things I couldn’t mess around with though; it WAS STILL ROCK’N’ROLL and with that comes important values that cannot be ignored or diluted – the anarchy, the sheer energy of the ‘in your face’ music and it’s ability to rocket emotions into overdrive. Crucially whatever I came up with had to reflect the energy of a generation rebelling against the Establishment. No matter what people say, it WAS different 25 years ago, and music, especially rock’n’roll, was one of the few mediums where you could express how fucked off you were, revelling in the company of like-minded people who defiantly held up two fingers to the status quo. Long live Rock’n’Roll.

Ok, a short diversion here (you should be used to them by now) but it’s relevant. I was in Washington in 1971, (yes I am that old) and I was there to add my voice to the millions who were objecting to the war in Vietnam. Think of the million who gathered in London demonstrating against an illegal and mis-judged war in Iraq – but on a much bigger scale. A state of seige existing in the Capital and the Nixon administration were so threatened they brought in 10,000 Federal troops, 4,000 paratroopers were on ‘War Alert’ at an airforce base 15 miles outside Washington, 5,000 DC police were deployed and 2,000 National Guard patrolled the streets. Government tactics involved low-level helicopter sweeps over the crowds (terrifying), the use of tear gas, actual combat assaults on those surrounding the Washington monument, and thousands of troops controlled all roads in and out of the city. The largest mass arrest in US history was the apprehension of 12,000 protesters, most of whom were detained in a football stadium without food or water. Luckily I managed to avoid arrest and attended the massive protest concert which brought the demonstration to an end. Music, once again was a common language which brought focus to the event, uniting disparate groups of people in a common cause. It was an exhilerating experience and a defining moment in US history. It was not the only factor in Nixon’s decision to bring home the troops from Vietnam, but it sure as hell woke up America to the to the error of participating in a war that couldn’t be won.

PYROMANIA’. So there I was sitting in Battersea Park, London, watching ducks laugh (they so do don’t they?) thinking ‘What would really freak people out as an image?’ Inspired by the title, and stretching the concept to its extreme, I tried to envisage what would constitute an attack on our materialistic world that would be totally unacceptable. An attack on a skyscraper was what I came up with. The ‘sight’, aimed at the building, emphasised the attack was a deliberate action. I’ll get to the details of design later but the point here is to give some background to the concept behind the sleeve design. It’s weird looking at the cover now, in the context of 9/11, but even without that context it remains a powerful image that is both subversive and terrifyingly aggressive.

On a lighter note. The ‘Terrible Twins. Dublin. Diamonds. Steve and Phil were legless in Dublin and they decided it would be fun to head for Cartier and spend some money. Cartier were not prepared for the 2 lunatics, off their heads, who tumbled into their precious, expensive environment, flaunting a fistful of credit cards. It must have really pissed them off to have to politely deal with the dangerously unknown quantity lurching around the shop. They started to buy stuff and the assistant they were dealing with was smugly confident that at some point the credit cards would explode. I can’t remember whether it was Phil or Steve, but one of them asked the hapless individual, ‘Where are the fuckin’ diamonds? We want big diamonds.’ At this point the assistant thought his time had come, but as each sale was processed the card delivered a resounding confirmation of the sale. The boys decided to push the limits, but as the diamonds got bigger, and prices became astronomical, each sale was processed. With their bags of goodies, the Boys left the shop and headed home.

If the assistant’s world was thrown into chaos and insanity he couldn’t deal with that day, he must have thought at least the shop had made a fortune. Not to be I’m afraid. Realising the next day that their impromptu extravagant spending spree had made them the beneficiaries of  ‘fuckin’ rubbish we don’t want’, Steve and Phil went back to Cartier and told the assistant exactly that and dumped their treasure trove on the counter, denying the poor bastard the only consolation he had for the ordeal he’d suffered the previous day. The small fortune they had given Cartier was retrieved and the Twins sauntered out of the shop. Pure genius. Pure Rock’n’Roll.

I think that’s probably enough for this time. Next week I’ll explore the ‘Hysteria’ phenomena, my times with Steve in Chelsea and the stratospheric rise to fame of one of the most successful bands in the world. I may throw a few random short blogs into the mix in the meantime.

Watch this space.