Posts Tagged ‘World’s End’

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

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2. CHRISTOPHER HUNTER

September 9, 2009

Actually, perhaps designing my first album sleeve may be a little premature in terms of how my design experience developed into an extreme sport. We need to go a little further back …

After living in the Himalayas for 2 years (that’s a whole other story) I arrived in London in the glorious summer of 1976 with two dozen paintings I’d carried back overland from India. Seriously culture-shocked and barefoot still, I moved in with friends who lived on the borders of Chelsea and Fulham. It was, and still is, a community I love.

Then it was full of drug dealers and gangsters, terraced houses, children playing in the streets and a crew of local characters with more stories to tell than the Ancient Greeks. It’s still pretty much the same though it’s probably the kids in the street selling drugs, some of the terraced houses are inhabited by a more sophisticated breed of gangster and the characters are even more extreme, though often too ‘out of it’ to tell their stories.

I noticed a couple of weeks after I’d moved into the Lots Road area and made friends with the gangsters (obviously, you would wouldn’t you?) that a new club was opening inside what is still The Furniture Cave on Kings road. (The club is now the appallingly suburban Crazy Larry’s.)

There was a sign outside the entrance to the club which said ‘COUNTRY COUSIN, Supper Club, Restaurant and Gallery’. I nipped home to collect a few paintings. ‘Give it a go’ I thought. I met the owner – a wonderful and (I realised later) very well-connected restauranteur called Christopher Hunter. He’s probably the only true anarchist I’ve ever met. He did whatever he liked (you really don’t want to know) and his friends who filled the club were the likes of Danny La Rue, Freddie Mercury and Shirley Bassey. ‘Darling’ he said ‘I love your paintings. I need an exhibition when we open. The walls are yours’.

To give you an idea of why I loved Christopher so much is easily explained through one incident. I arrived at the club one morning and Christopher was sitting alone in an ocean of empty tables, his head buried in his hands. ‘Why Chris, what on Earth’s the matter?’ I said. ‘Dear boy,’ he said, taking both my hands in his, ‘some awful awful news. My bank account’s in credit. I’m spending my own money!’ I looked at him and he was genuinely devastated. ‘Come on,’ he said ‘we’re going out to buy a red convertible Mercedes sports car.’ And we did.

What is this to do with design you might well ask. As the stories keep coming, you’ll see, you’ll see.

Being the place it was, Country Cousin needed staff who could deal with the arrogant rich, could flatter the famous, humour the terminally drunk and, at all times, be themselves. They were an amazingly flamboyant and intelligent bunch – confident, beautiful and irrepressibly energetic. They enjoyed themselves hugely and their good humour was infectious. That was Christopher’s skill. No matter how potentially successful his ventures might be, he knew he needed to oil the machine with talented individuals as important as his personal vision of The Great Life.

I practically lived at CC for nearly two years and quite early on Chris asked me if I would join the Country Cousin Family as it’s resident designer. ‘Chris,’ I said, ‘I have no experience at all in design. I wouldn’t know how to start’. He laughed at me. ‘Darling, darling,’ he said, ‘If you really want to do it, there are people out there who will show you how. Learn, dear boy, learn.’

Where next? Probably meeting the astonishing diva – Holly Woodlawn

5th September 2009. Serendipity.

As I sat writing this blog at a Fulham riverside pub, a white-haired older gentleman approached me. He wore a wide-lapelled very smart pin-striped suit, a pink silk tie and the same colour handkerchief blossoming out of his top pocket. ‘What are you writing?’ he said. ‘About Chelsea and Fulham in the 70’s’ I said. He sat down and told me about his past, living in the Fulham area. He was 78. ‘My friends used to call me Al Capone’ he said with a twinkle in his eye. ‘Now because of the alcohol I consume – they call me Alka Seltzer’.