The late Martin Sharp needs no endorsement from me – his work is celebrated now even by the ‘straight’ graphic design institutions who ignored him then – but I still want to write an appreciation. His iconic posters covers for OZ magazine and his album sleeves for Cream (Disraeli Gears, and Wheel of Fire), made him world famous, as well as a focal point of the London underground scene. His artwork is created using a range of techniques – some newish in the 1960s – like flourescent paints and inks, cheap Xerox copies, Letraset and Letratone (rub-off Ben Day tints) – but Sharp’s essential talent was in his draughtsmanship and his drug-fueled imagination. Anyone who had taken acid on a tiny bit of blotting paper around this time could recognise and identify with Sharp’s brilliant mixed-media photo-montage. He was completely unafraid of appropriation and mixed photographs by his friend Robert Whitaker (The Beatles photographer), colour prints of art from the past, ideas from Escher, Muybridge, speech bubbles from comics, word-play and psychedelic colours to create piercingly appropriate image/mandallas of the then present.
In his wikipedia entry, Sharp in quoted on his Disraeli Gears sleeve:
“Some of the ingredients in the cover are made up from Victorian decorative engravings. It was done in black and white first and then painted with fluorescent colors. I tried to capture the warm joyful liveliness of Cream’s songs. I later went on to design the cover for “Wheels Of Fire” for Cream and also for Ginger Baker’s “Airforce”, a band called Mighty Baby…Jeannie Lewis’ “Free Fall Through Featherless Flight” and a few of my own releases of Tiny Tim, “Chameleon”, “Keeping My Troubles To Myself”, and “The World Non-Stop Singing Record.”
see also: Michael Organ: http://sixtiessharp.blogspot.co.uk/
This double-album came out in that delightful period when you carried significant LPs about with you as a kind of badge of membership of the cognoscenti – just as having long hair on men, belled trousers, full-length Afghan sheepskins, skinny-rib t-shorts and paisley jackets..(etc), these things were part of the I.D. parade of unfolding Sixties culture. But for art students and designers the Sgt Pepper album had an even greater significance – the cover was designed by Peter Blake – one of the great British Pop-Art pioneers (along with Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton), and WHAT’S MORE it contained references to many of the cult heroes of recent times – and these included a leading icon of the Beat movement (William Seward Burroughs); Mystics (Alastair Crowley, Mahavatar Babaji, Sri Yuckteswar, Lahiri Mahasaya); an Electronic-Music composer (Karlheinz Stockhausen); several Film Stars (Mae West, W.C. Fields, Tom Mix, Huntz Hall, Tyrone Power, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire, Johnny Weissmuller, Marlene Deitrich), avant garde and music-hall comedians: (Lenny Bruce, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, W.C. Fields, Issy Bonn, Tommy Handley), a footballer (Albert Stubbins); communist-theorist (Marx),; scientists (Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, Dr Livingstone); writers (George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Stephen Crane, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Terry Southern, Dylan Thomas, Edgar Allen Poe, Aldus Huxley; some cool artists (Richard Lindner, Wallace Berman, Richard Merkin, Simon Rodia, Stuart Sutcliffe, Larry Bell, Aubrey Beardsley) and some rockstars – Bob Dylan, Bobbie Breen, Dion (of the Belmonts) – and a few others!
Having a pictorial code of Beatles counter-culture heroes to discuss was like a cult book – not since Bob Dylan’s first album, not since the Tom Lehrer L.P.s, since Christopher Logue’s Red Bird, or John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, or Stockhausen’s Gesang der Junglinde, since Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde double-album, had Long-Playing records been so cool.
Thanks Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, John, Paul, George and Ringo, and George Martin – and Michael Cooper who took the Edwardian uniform pictures. Inspirational!