Category Archives: Klaus Voormann

Klaus Voormann’s Career Review–“It Started in Hamburg”.

Klaus Voormann celebrated his 80th birthday on 29th April 2018. He has given his many fans a belated birthday present in the form of a book reviewing his more than 60-year career as a graphic artist. He calls the book “It Started in Hamburg” and is available from his website.

Klaus Voormann‘s career started at art school where he obviously developed a special interest in record sleeve design, making–as he states in “It Started in Hamburg“–with a fascination for the cover art of Blue Note Records. The book features a number of mock ups of record sleeves by jazz artists including Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Guiffre, Sonny Stitt, Bob Cooper and Bud Shank.

Voormann was truly the right man in the right place in 1960s Hamburg. Together with Astrid Kirchner he stumbled on The Beatles playing Hamburg’s Star Club, befriended them and showed one of his record cover designs to John Lennon. He played in the German group The Eyes, designing the cover of one of their singles and designed the cover for British band The Typhoons‘ German release of The Ventures hit “Walk Don’t Run“.

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The Eyes “She / Peanut Butter” single cover drawn by Klaus Voormann.

In 1962 he was asked to design the covers for a series of twenty jazz EPs called “Pioneers of Jazz” on Deutsche Grammophon’s German subsidiary Coral Records. At about the same time he drew the cover for an LP entitled “Ver nie in Bett Programm gemacht“, said to be a recording of a radio programme.

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All twenty of Coral Records series “Pioneers of Jazz” released in 1960 with cover illustrations by a young Klaus Voormann.

Voormann moved to London in the mid sixties. In March 1966 John Lennon phoned him and asked him to design the cover for The Beatles’ album “Revolver”, for which he was to win a Grammy. Besides graphic design, Voormann continued his musical career joining Manfred Mann‘s band in 1966 when Paul Jones left and Mike D’Abo took over the role of singer. He designed the cover for the band’s 1966 album “As Is“, released in October that year.

It Started in Hamburg” summarises Voormann‘s career. The 221 pages are divided into two sections: open the book one way and the text is in English. Turn the book over and you can read it in German. However, there does not seem to be any duplication of pictures. A few of Voormann‘s early attempts at producing jazz covers (see above) are included along with thirty-four of his published covers. There are pictures of the covers of ten of the “Pioneers of Jazz” series, along with one of the two Bee Gees covers (“Idea“)he designed and details of how cover art for The BeatlesAnthology” series came about. The limited edition comes with a USB with excerpts from Klaus’s film “Making of The Beatles “Anthology” artwork”, and little additions like an original drawing from the serial “Revolver–Birth of an Icon” and some film negatives.

His poster design and the design for his recent book “Revolver–Birth of an Icon“, about the design of the cover for “Revolver“, are also represented. His graphic self portrait and portrait of John Lennon remind me of some of Chuck Close‘s portraits, graphically breaking down their faces.

It Started in Hamburg” is an important addition to any collection of Klaus Voormann’s art–my copy of the limited edition of turned out to be No. 3/80. I offer my sincere congratulations to Klaus on his 60 years of art and music. May he continue for many more!

Liam Gallagher “As You Were”.

All collectors have a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or why would anyone want to collect 3,000 egg cups or 200 china elephants, stamps or, indeed, records? Well, I admit that I may have more than just a touch of OCD…

Last summer (2017) I heard that Liam Gallagher would be releasing his first solo album on 6th October 2017. I used to be an Oasis fan and had a really nice collection of Oasis stuff, including signed albums, rare promos and several other rarities. But they all went when I sold the bulk of my record & memorabilia collection. So–in theory–I wasn’t interested in a Liam Gallagher album. BUT. Unfortunately, I read the press release and saw that there would be a special limited edition, white vinyl LP that included a single-sided 7″ single and memorabilia, and–wait for it–an A5-sized Klaus Voormann portrait of Liam.

Now I was in torment. Did this qualify as a Klaus Voormann cover? Should it be included in my collection of Voormann covers and posters? After three months of agonising I decided I’d get the package and see.

So it arrived a couple of weeks ago.

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The limited edition of “As You Were”.

Inside the front cover was the 7″ single in a non-removable pocket. and inside the back cover was the LP in a card cover equally stuck to the outer read cover. Opposite was a pocket containing the CD in a poster sleeve, some reproduction concert tickets, a page of Gallagher writings and the VOORMANN print.

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Klaus Voormann’s portrait of Liam Gallagher.

The CD includes three bonus tracks not on the LP. The poster cover is nicely designed.

The inside of the CD cover shows 24 Polaroid photos that immediately reminded me of an Andy Warhol photo session.

The album hasn’t had particularly great reviews and I certainly hear shades of Oasis in the songs, but they don’t (yet) seem as memorable as Oasis’s early albums.

So I have added the portrait of Liam to my Klaus Voormann collection.

In Search of That Elusive Record Cover.

My collections of artists who have designed record covers seem to grow and grow. There always seems to be another cover to add to them. However, eventually I find that I have got as far as it seems possible to go and my collections just need that one elusive cover that I just cannot find.

My biggest collection is of Andy Warhol’s cover art. I have a broad view of what to include in it and have collected bootlegs, CDs and a few magazine covers, so that I currently have over 200 “Warhol covers”. However, there are still gaps that I suppose I never will fill. The main one is the NBC box set “Night Beat” – a promotional set of three EPs for a 1950s radio show – only one copy of which is known to exist. There is also a Japanese EP of Mendelssohn’s “Scherzo” with Warhol’s drawing of angels on the cover. Again, only a single copy has so far come to light. There are a couple of other albums that it may, one day, be possible to find. I’ll keep you posted on those.

I thought my collection of Peter Blake’s record covers was complete until I was tipped off about a 1983 cover for a recording of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue/An American In Paris” with a beautiful Blake painting. Luckily that was easy to find. So now I’m only waiting for him to produce his next cover.

I once had a complete collection of Damien Hirst’s record and CD cover designs. However, when I sold my main collection, I wasn’t careful enough to check what went and what stayed, with the result that the promotional booklet for The Hours’ “Ali in the Jungle” with its 3″ CD disappeared along with four of the band’s limited edition 7″ singles. At least I have been able to replace these, but the promo booklet has eluded me.

Again, my collection of Banksy records and CD covers is only missing one very rare item; the promotional 12″ single by The Capoeira Twins. A couple of copies have come up for sale recently, but way over my budget!

I thought that my collection of Klaus Voormann’s record cover art was complete with about seventy-four covers. I was mistaken. Klaus designed a cover for a jazz LP in the early sixties with artwork in the same style as his covers for the Pioneers of Jazz series of EPs on the Coral label.

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The Klaus Voormann’s cover for a German jazz album.

Unfortunately, no one can read the title. Could it be “Wir nie im Bett Programm gemacht”? That’s the nearest I can get to deciphering it. And I have asked Klaus, but he doesn’t remember the artist or the title. I’ve shown the picture to German dealers, but none has seen a copy.

Then I have a collection of record and CD covers featuring supermodel Kate Moss. I got started on collecting Kate Moss covers as I already owned Dirty Funker’s “Let’s Get Dirty” 12″-ers (both first and second versions) and Damien Hirst’s “Use Money, Cheat Death” single sided 12″ with his portrait of Kate with half her face dissected away. Kate has a musical background having cooperated with Primal Scream on their remake of Lee Hazlewood’s “Some Velvet Morning” and there are two 12″-ers that feature Kate on the covers. And also with Babyshambles while she and Pete Doherty were a couple.

Bryan Ferry used Adam Whitehead’s photos of Kate on his 2010 Olympia album and on the limited edition 12″ singles and remixes taken from the album. However, one single, “Heartache by Numbers” apparently didn’t make it onto vinyl, though I didn’t know this initially and spent some considerable time searching for a copy, obviously without success.

So collectors, it seems that completing one’s collection of a particular artist is well nigh impossible. But it is the unfinished collection that still provides a challenge. Will I ever find these missing covers?

Klaus Voormann & Revolver’s 50th Anniversary.

Klaus Voormann has a greater claim to being the fifth Beatle than most. If I had to rank the contenders, I’d put Brian Epstein on the top of my list, followed very closely by George Martin and then, probably, Klaus at number 3. After all, he knew them and became friends with them in Hamburg. He lived for a while with Ringo and George and was the one John phoned when The Beatles needed a cover for their seventh, at the time unnamed, album that became “Revolver“. Later Klaus played on many recordings with individual Beatles (including George Harrison‘s “The Concert for Bangladesh“) and was a founder member of the Plastic Ono Band. So other “contenders” for the title of the fifth Beatle such as Pete Best or Murray the K (Murray Kaufman, born February 14, 1922 – died February 21, 1982) don’t come close.

Quite apart from being an accomplished musician, Klaus Voormann has pursued a successful career as an illustrator. He is a master at portraying The Beatles as they were in the sixties and has produced posters of Lennon and McCartney in the Abbey Road canteen, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The latest set of Beatles portraits appeared on the covers of the August/September 2016 German music magazine “Good Times“. This issue had five different covers.

The magazine contained an interview with Klaus on the 50th anniversary of “Revolver” and each magazine included an A2 poster of the cover portrait.

There was even a promotional brochure that pictured all five magazine covers.
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While researching Klaus‘ book “The Birth of an Icon-Revolver 50” (see my previous post on this) I stumbled across another of his books that I had previously missed completely. In 2005 he published “Four Track Stories“, an illustrated paperback describing The Beatles‘ time in Hamburg.
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This first edition is autographed on the flyleaf:
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I ordered my copy directly from Klaus‘ website and it arrived in less than a week. There was a discussion about the shipping cost and Klaus refunded the shipping together with an autographed postcard with a personal message:

In our mail exchanges I asked if he knew of any record or CD covers that he had designed that were due for release and he asked which covers I already had. So I mailed him my list of 80 of his of his record covers with an apology that I only had 78 of them. So far he hasn’t replied about any new covers in the pipeline.

More Klaus Voormann – Revolver’s 50th Anniversary and Some CDs I Didn’t Know about.

This has really been a great week for me as a collector of Klaus Voormann‘s record and CD cover art. German musician Volkwin Müller has either read this blog or seen my list of Klaus Voormann‘s record covers on Rate Your Music and informed me of two recent releases of his–both with cover art by Klaus–that weren’t on my list. So, a big thank you to Volkwin. The CDs are Volkwin Müller & FriendsStrawberry Songs” from 2012,

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Volkwin Müller’s “Strawberry Songs” CD with Klaus Voormann’s portrait of John Lennon.

and Volkwin‘s “Mit anderen Augen” CD from 2016

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The cover of Vokwin Müller’s CD “Mit anderen Augen” with Klaus Voormann’s portrait of him.

But the greatest thing was the arrival of Klaus Voormann‘s new book “Birth of an Icon-Revolver 50“. Well, The Beatles‘ “Revolver” album was released (in the U.K.) on 5th August 1966 and John Lennon asked Klaus Voormann, friend of the Fab Four since their Hamburg days and in 1966 living in London and playing with various bands including the Mike d’Abo fronted Manfred Mann, to design a cover for their new record. This book tells the story in comic strip form of how Klaus Voormann came to design the cover which earned him a Grammy.

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Klaus Voormann’s new book celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of “Revolver”.

Two of The Beatles‘ record covers have won Grammys for their design. First was Klaus Voormann‘s cover for “Revolver” and then the album that followed it “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“, which earned Peter Blake and Jann Haworth Grammys for their joint design. Klaus Voormann has been nominated for a Grammy one further time–for the design of his “A Sideman’s Journey” box set. He was narrowly beaten by Rob Jones‘s and Jack White‘s design for the White Stripes‘ box set “Under the Great Northern Lights“.

The “Birth of an Icon-Revolver 50” book is a beautiful production with many photos and text in English and German. It can be ordered from Klaus Voormann’s site http://www.voormann.com.

While researching the book, I discovered the August/September 2016 number of the German Magazine “Good Times” which has five cover variations of portraits of The Beatles by Klaus Voormann:

Thus Klaus Voormann (born 29th April 1938) is still going strong at the age of 78. May he long continue to produce great record covers.

Two “New” Klaus Voormann covers

I thought I had already collected all the records and CDs with cover art by Klaus Voormann – but apparently not! Some time ago I saw an advert for a Harry Nilsson album called “Flash Harry” that I had not previously seen. The advert showed the rear cover and at the lower right was an approximately 5 cm square line drawing of Harry Nilsson signed Klaus Voormann. I finally got hold of a copy this week.

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Klaus Voormann's portrait of Harry Nilsson.
Klaus Voormann’s portrait of Harry Nilsson.

Last month an Ebay seller advertised a CD by a Japanese band named GLAY. Voormann together with his son Max had designed the cover art at what I considered to be an exorbitant price. Luckily cheaper copies were available at Discogs.

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GLAY’s “Music Life” CD cover.

A design that harks back to Voormann’s Revolver art.