Sunday, March 02, 2008

a ROCKIN' great poster for the Clapton-Winwood NYC concert (with an automotive trail, of course)

(above) poster by John Van Hamersveld,
now, what about that airplane / sculpture / hood ornament??
(above) the original UK album cover front
concept by Bob Seidemann and Stanley Mouse, photo by Seidemann
(above) the gatefold version, produced in the UK by Polydor
(above) inside the gatefold; the photos would be referenced
when the controversial album art (front) was replaced by "the band cover"
(above) hmmmm, "spaceship built by Mick Milligan" . . . could be
(above) side A
(above) side B
(above) Blind Faith live, possibly Hyde Park, 1969

(above) promo picture, 1969
(above) 1953 Olds hood ornament,
its nose was referenced by John Van Hamersveld in his reconstructed plane

(above) a better shot of the '53 Olds ornament, showing its gorgeously proportioned nose
(above) as to the rest of the Van Hamersveld plane,
we know it couldn't have been from a 1955 Chevy ornament (too elongated a tail)
(above) a-HA!! must have been the '56 Chevy hood ornament
photo copyright Susan Isaakson
(above) another view of the '56 Chevy full hood and ornament
(above) Boyd Coddington's beautiful '56 Junkyard Dog
RIP Boyd (he passed away this past week)
(above) one of the reference photos taken by Van Hamersveld,
striving to get the angle, profile, and highlights correct (but the nose would be replaced)
(above) a second photo, getting closer

(above) Van Hamersveld's first rough
(above) a first re-work, into Van Hamersveld-style

(above) thinking about color, and getting the registration down
(above) merging the plane into elements of the overall composition
(above) pre-press at the printer; here showing two color variants
(above) eight-color separation
(above) the poster's state-of-the-art printing press
(above) a first print on the wall, at the printer
(above) John Van Hamersveld, with Eric Clapton's merch manager, at the JVH studio
(above) completing the full cycle . . . beautiful, inspiring poster art
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Artist John Van Hamersveld recently completed his poster for the just-held Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It features the plane that appeared on the first (and only) Blind Faith LP in 1969. In fact, the reunion of Clapton and Winwood is tantamount to a Blind Faith reunion, so there's been huge excitement in the rock world over this.
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The plane itself is a bit of a mystery. As part of the original "topless girl" album art, It could be what the album credits say it is, "spaceship built by Mick Milligan," or maybe (and in my mind more likely) a 1956 Chevy hood ornament either revisited by Milligan or the ornament purely itself. Let me explore both aspects . . . the album art, and Van Hamersveld's rendering of the poster.
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BLIND FAITH is the self-titled album by the British supergroup Blind Faith, which consisted of guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton (Yardbirds, Cream); drummer Ginger Baker (Graham Bond Organization, Cream); keyboardist/vocalist Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group, Traffic); and bassist Ric(k) Grech (Family). The album was recorded February 20 - June 24, 1969. It was released in August of that year, to an intense buzz surrounding the band itself. The LP went to #1 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart in both America and the UK, and peaked at #40 on the Black Albums chart as well (an unusual achivement for a rock band).
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In June, 1969, Blind Faith debuted in London's Hyde Park before (reportedly) 300,000 fans, then toured briefly in Scandinavia, then went on a US tour from July 11 (beginning in Newport, RI) to August 24 (ending in Hawaii). When the band played Madison Square Garden in New York City, the concert turned into a riot in which Baker was mistakenly struck on the head by a police club and Winwood's piano was wrecked.
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The album was recorded somewhat hurriedly, as side two consisted of just two songs, one of them a 15-minute jam. The album and the group are well remembered for two classic hits, Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home," and Clapton's "Presence of the Lord."
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Much controversy ensued from the album's cover art. The art direction is cited as by "Vartan;" the cover design as by Stanley Miller (aka Stanley Mouse) and Bob Seidemann; and the cover photo (and inside photography) by Seidemann.
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As you can see above, the cover featured a topless pubescent girl holding in her hands either a sculpture of a fantastic airplane (which some critics and many members of the public perceived as phallic) or a classic American car hood ornament re-conceived in photography. The US record company (ATCO), in response to the intense criticism the first art received, re-released it almost immediately with an alternate cover showing a photograph of the band on the front.
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The cover art was created, primarily, by US photographer Bob Seidemann, a personal friend and sometime flat-mate of Clapton's, known for his photos of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. I say "primarily" because Seidemann's flat-mate at the time was Stanley Mouse, who'd come over from San Francisco having created great psychedelic concert posters for the Fillmore Auditorium and Avalon Ballroom shows beginning in 1966. When Seidemann was given the album assignment by Blind Faith's manager, Robert Stigwood, he discussed the opportunity at length with Mouse. And herein hangs a tale.
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The oft-told story is that Seidemann approached a girl reported to be 14 years old on the London Tube about modeling for the cover, and eventually met with her parents. But she demurred and the model he actually used was her younger, freckly sister, who was reported to be 11 years old. Her modeling fee, according to Seidemann, was "a young horse purchased for her by Stigwood."
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Bizarre rumors fueled the controversy, including that the girl was Baker's illegitimate daughter or that she was a groupie kept as a slave by the band.
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Seidemann titled his image "Blind Faith," and Clapton and the other bandmembers liked the name, which became the band's name (the band was yet un-named when the artwork was commissioned).
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The band name never appeared on the actual album cover print, only on the removable plastic wrapping. It was Clapton, according to Seidemann, who made that decision. This had been done several times before in rock, by the Rolling Stones for their 1964 debut album, by The Beatles for their 1965 album RUBBER SOUL, and by Traffic for their self-titled 1968 album.
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The Blind Faith album art composition was simple, but it spoke of mystery as well. The superimposition of the model's head against the sky, and the tilted horizon line, "betray a kind of 1960s psychedelic vibe" according to http://www.sleevage.com/, and "Stanley Miller's design coupled with Seidemann's photo produce symbolism and metaphor all over the shop." Seidemann himself felt the overall image was one of "innocence propelled by blind faith." Another interpretation is that Seidemann's vision was "to showcase human achievement born in the hands of a child," and another is that the airplane cum spaceship symbolized "a modern or futuristic approach to music and life."
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You can read Seidemann's full account at www.bobseidemann.com/blind_faith_doc.html.
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But since this is a blog about cars and rock, my concern is with the 'spaceship' or 'hood ornament' aspect, and here is the relevant information from Seidemann's account:
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"[On] only a thread of an idea, something I couldn't see, something out there just beyond my vision, an impulse rippling through the interstellar plasma, I stumbled through the streets of London for weeks, bumping into things, gibbering like a madman. I could not get my hands on the image until out of the mist a concept began to emerge. To symbolize the achievement of human creativity and its expression through technology, a space ship [would be] the material object. To carry this new spore into the universe, innocence would be the ideal bearer, a young girl, a girl as young as Shakespeare's Juliet. The spaceship would be the fruit of the tree of knowledge and the girl, the fruit of the tree of life."
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Then came Seidemann's line . . . "The spaceship could be made by Mick Milligan, a jeweler at the Royal College of Art."
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But was it? The credits on the original UK Polydor pressing (shown above) indicate this. But it would have been extremely expensive to render a (silver) spaceship in a relatively short time to make the art deadline, and especially as the generally miserly record label would have been on the hook. More likely (perhaps) is that Seidemann's flat-mate, Miller (aka Mouse) advised him that the spaceship he envisioned actually was very similar to a 1956 Chevrolet hood ornament. Mouse would have known--as you, dear reader, know from reading this blog and the book itself--because he was a car guy, the hands-on airbrush-wielding illustrator from the Autorama circuit, who painted on-demand a zillion Chevies on t-shirts for the public. Of course he would have remembered those classic pre-space-race hood ornaments, and between the two of them they might easily have found such an ornament in a London junkyard (there being no eBay at the time). Or, maybe this specific hood ornament was used as a model by the jeweler (although he would have had to rework the eagle-head nose on the Chevy ornament). See further comments below from Clapton's merchandise manager.
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Fast forward to John Van Hamersveld's poster. Here he clearly didn't have the luxury of commissioning a silver spaceship from a jeweler or using the actual sculpture said to have been used. Instead, his plan was to match the (ornament) on the album cover. Van Hamersveld, like many artists, visits car shows to snap reference photos. And he used the internet and friends' image collections and found objects to obtain the best reference materials for this project.
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The combination he found best was to use the nose of a 1953 Oldsmobile hood ornament and couple it to the body, wings, fins, and tail of a 1956 Chevy hood ornament. It likely was not a 1955, though similar, as that year's ornament had a much longer tail and higher fins.
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Nigel, Eric Clapton's merchandise manager, just confirmed in e-mail to John the following: "Well, actually the plane used on the album cover was hand-made by a jeweler in London out of silver for Eric. As we do not have the original, I gave John the closest [indicator] I could find to have a scale reference to use for the drawing. I'm certain that the original plane was copied [by the jeweler] from a 1956 Chevy hood ornament, as notably the wings and tail on the '56 are close to [the jeweler's] sculpture."
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Nigel, I hope I've interpreted your comments correctly!
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What you see above is Van Hamersveld's process. "The word 'design,' Van Hamersveld e-mailed me, "means 'to conceive and plan out in the mind.' The nose came from the [1953] Olds and the wing and such from the [1956] Chevy. But in the process I had to create my drawn plane in abstraction, then apply it to the poster communication. There were two color variations and the direction went to the colorful one. A solution."
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The Clapton-Winwood poster may already be available at http://www.post-future.com/. Many are numbered in a first/only edition, and others are signed. Note that Van Hamersveld is celebrated as the artist who did the original poster for the "Endless Summer" movie; many historic rock concert posters for the Shrine Auditorium for Pinnacle Productions; and art directed several hundred classic albums including creating the Stones' EXILE ON MAIN STREET. More recently, Van Hamersveld handled the Cream reunion posters for Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden. Fair warning though: these are large, gorgeous, inspiring, and extremely collectible.
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For those who weren't there, here's a setlist for the Monday show provided by Paul Getchell, a poster collector who was:
Had to Cry Today
Lowdown
Forever Man
Them Changes (honoring Buddy Miles, who just passed away)
Sleeping in the Ground
Presence of the Lord
Glad/Well Alright
Double Trouble
Pearly Queen
Tell the Truth
No Face
After Midnight
Split Decision
Ramblin' On My Mind (EC solo acoustic guitar)
Georgia On My Mind (SW solo Hammond organ)
Little Wing (by Jimi Hendrix)
Voodoo Child (also Hendrix)
Can't Find My Way Home
Dear Mr. Fantasy
Crossroads (encore)
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Also of note: Bob Seidemann has had a lifelong fascination with airplanes, and from the late 1980s through the 1990s he took a series of 302 aviation-themed photographs entitled "The Airplane as Art." A collection sold at Sothebys on October 12, 2000 for $236,750.
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Throughout Clapton's career he has maintained some concern about what Blind Faith represented as a band, as if it were "super Cream." For instance, following the Hyde Park concert debut, Clapton thought the band's playing was sub-par (they were under-rehearsed) and that the adulation given them was undeserved. He was sensitive that many crowds of fans would applaud for nearly everything, and was thus reluctant to tour as if it were simply a Cream repeat. He wanted to move forward as an artist, and not simply replay commercially-driven blues and Cream-created classics forever. Many of his concerns were shared by Steve Winwood, who faced similar pressures and was moved to form Traffic in 1967, out of the Spencer Davis Group. In the purest sense, Blind Faith was a pioneering fusion of rock with blues, and even could be considered a development towards UK-invented heavy metal brought to full life by Black Sabbath in roughly the same timeframe. But Clapton himself would next join-up with Delaney and Bonnie, then move into Derek and the Dominoes.
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Ginger Baker did not join Clapton and Winwood at Madison Square Garden. Grech passed away in 1990. There is a DVD of the London Hyde Park concert, released by Sanctuary Records.
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Most all rockers immediately bought the album the day it was available. But here's another version of that moment in time, from a blog by Eugene Scott:
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"I was fourteen when a rumor spread that a naked girl graced Eric Clapton's newest band's album cover. Naturally my best friend and I went shopping. In the record store the storeowner kept shooting suspicious glances our way, slowing our treasure hunt considerably. It all felt very subversive, exciting, and controversial. Artist Bob Seidemann had sparked a worldwide controversy with his photograph of a young teenage girl. He titled it "Blind Faith," thus the name of Clapton's new band. There she stood, her tiny breasts in full view, naked and innocent as Eve in a park of mowed grass, holding a shiny silver airplane. It was artsy, not sexy. And I didn't possess the maturity or interpretive skills to understand the message: the Garden of Eden juxtaposed against modern technology. I didn't understand the picture or the fuss; I didn't buy the record. But by today's 'Victoria's Secret' standards, "Blind Faith" was tame. Nowadays, what kids have access to in modern movies, TV, music, magazines, and the Internet is vastly more provocative, accessible, dangerous, and difficult to interpret than what youth faced thirty years ago. [You might say] parents now operate alone and on blind faith when dealing with modern culture [and how to help interpret it and filter it appropriately for our kids]."
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My take? Well, it's all about tits, isn't it? About discovering things your parents didn't tell you about. And that, certainly, is rock and roll at its finest. The dark side. The other side. Cream, Traffic, Blind Faith, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, (and in my particular case, the Grateful Dead). Paint it black, you devils!
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Huge amounts have been written about Clapton, Winwood, and their bands, but this is particularly informative: http://www.pxdrive.com/album/BLIND+FAITH_pictures_sygbpic/
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to read more about Boyd Coddington's "Junkyard Dog" 1956 Chevy, go to http://56classicchevy.com/boyd-coddington-junkyard-dog.html
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and for good descriptive material on the 1955-1956 -1957 Chevies themselves, with their pioneering Harley Earl designed elements, go to http://www.56classicchevy.com/

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Anonymous said...

For years I have thought that the "Rocket" the girl is holding on the original Blind Faith album cover is a combination of the front of the 1956 Buick (I owned one) hood ornament morfed with the wing tips of the 1955-1956 hood ornament.
I came across this blog and wanted to bring my thought about this to light.

lakeman144ks
An Old Fan

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