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 TheBeatles 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.
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.
This first edition is autographed on the flyleaf:
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.
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 & Friends “Strawberry Songs” from 2012,
and Volkwin‘s “Mit anderen Augen” CD from 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.
A design that harks back to Voormann’s Revolver art.