Friday, 28 July 2017

John 'Patrick' Byrne : Album artwork





John Byrne was born in 1940 in Paisley. He grew up in Ferguslie Park housing scheme and went to St Mirin's Academy. After he left school his first job was mixing powdercolour for the designers at A F Stoddard, carpet manufacturers, in Elderslie. The slab boy left after a couple of years to study at the Glasgow Art School specialising in drawing & painting. In his final year he won the Bellahousten Award for painting and travelled to Italy for six months. Despite his undoubted talent John found breaking into the art world difficult and decided to send a small picture of a man in a panama hat in the faux-naïf style (affectedly naïve) to the Portal Gallery in Mayfair. A perpetual joker he claimed this was the work of Patrick, his father, an untrained painter. To Byrne’s surprise the gallery asked to see more of 'Patrick's' work. He sat down and painted another half-dozen in the 'naive' style and the result, was a one-man show at the Portal Gallery, London in 1967.







A year later Byrne was commission to paint the cover for the Beatles new album entitled Dolls House. For inspiration he took the artwork from Alan Aldridge’s book The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics. The album was retitled Double White and issued with the famous all white cover. Byrne’s artwork was later used on the Ballads compilation released in 1980. The Beatles: "De Mooiste Songs" (The most beautiful songs) was also released on Dutch Parlophone in the same year with a similar cover.







The Humblebums was a Glasgow based folk duo of Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey. Later Gerry Rafferty joined them to make a trio but Harvey left soon after. Gerry was a fellow Paisley Buddy and good friend of John Byrne who he asked to produce artwork for the cover for their new album, The New Humblebums in 1969. Gerry and Billy included a track written by Rafferty entitled Patrick on the album dedicated to Patrick. The lyrics begin.

"Patrick my primitive painter of art/You will always and ever be near to my heart")





This would cement the beginning of a long working relationship between Byrne and Rafferty who later completed several of the singer’s solo albums covers and together they co-wrote several songs.










In 1971 the artist was also commissioned to paint an album cover for Donovan entitled HMS Donovan. He also animated a cartoon movie called Old Fashioned Picture Book, inspired by HMS Donovan and including three songs from the album. The movie was scripted by Alan Bennett but only a short length pilot was ever made and the full film never was finished.









When Gerry Rafferty left the Humblebums to pursue a solo career he released his debut album, Can I have my money back” with sleeve artwork designed by John Byrne. John also helped co-write the track "One Drink Down" with Gerry Rafferty which features on the album.







John Byrne was commissioned to do the artwork for Billy Connolly’s first solo album in 1972, entitled Billy Connolly Live! The singer,comedian had then only a small cult audience in Glasgow.





In the same year Gerry Rafferty team up with school friend Joe Egan to form Stealers Wheel with Roger Brown, Rab Noakes and Ian Campbell. They signed for A&M Records and before they started to record their first album Brown, Noakes and Campbell were replaced by Paul Pilnick, Tony Williams and Rod Coombes respectively. The cover for the new album was a John Byrne original. Closer examination reveal the name 'Stealers Wheel' carefully embedded eight times in the design, in addition to the large lettering in the bottom left-hand corner. The album was a critical and commercial success with the hit single "Stuck in the Middle with You", on the album. By the time the first album was released Rafferty had left the band to be replaced by Luther Grosvenor.









Gerry was persuaded to return to Stealer’s Wheel and continued with Joe Eagan as a duo with backing musicians as needed on tour and in the studio. The second album Ferguslie Park was released in 1974 and once again the artwork was by John Byrne .











The band released their final album Right or Wrong (1975) which prominently featured sleeve designs by John Byrne. It also included an inner sleeve.















The collaboration between artist and singer continued and when Rafferty released his City to City solo album in 1979 it had a portrait of himself, painted by John Byrne on the cover. The album included Baker Street which featured the distinctive saxophone solo played by Raphael Ravenscroft. The success of Baker Street and other tracks as singles established Gerry Rafferty as an International success. The exposure further enhanced John Byrne’s bludgeoning career as artist, and playwright. When the single was released it had a sleeve (cover) with Byrne's artwork.















The Night Owl album was also released in 1979 and again had the sleeve emblazoned with a John Byrne original. By now Rafferty’s albums were instantly recognised by the distinctive artwork of his friend, John Byrne.











The last Gerry Rafferty album to feature the artworks of John Byrne before there was a reprise came in the 1980 release of Snakes and Ladders. The album was less commercially successful than the previous releases and Rafferty was beginning to musically change his direction. His next release was the introverted Sleepwalking (1982) which instead of a cover painting and hand-lettering by John 'Patrick' Byrne, featured a simple, stark photograph of an empty road stretching to the sky. The single from the album Royal Mile was released in a sleeve by John Byrne artwork.



















It was Another World, the ninth and final studio album by Gerry Rafferty that again featured the artwork of John Byrne. The front cover is entitled Dark Victory and rear booklet back cover Pensive Angel. The album was released in 2000 on the Icon Music label to good reviews. The single All Souls was released in a sleeve designed by John Byrne.











Byrne's artwork featured on the compilation albums One More Dream: The Very Best of Gerry Rafferty which was released in 1995: the Days Gone Down: The Anthology: 1970–1982 (2006): and Gerry Rafferty & Stealers Wheel: Collected (2011). This would come as no real surprise as by this time Byrne and Rafferty's collaboration was inseparable.











To commemorate the works of Gerry Rafferty, Barbara Dickson, his friend and a admirer, recorded some of his songs in 2013. The front cover was painted by John Byrne.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Middle of the Road (Sally Carr)



The Electrons were formed in 1964 and consisted of brothers Ian and Eric McCredie (formerly of The Dominos) and drummer, Ken Andrew (former The Talismen Beat Unit). They later changed their name to the Douglas Boys and backed Glasgow singer, Jan Douglas. In 1967 Sadie Carr (stage name Sally Carr) joined the group as a replacement lead singer when they were Part Three, Sally stayed and the group became Part Four. Latin American numbers featured heavily in their live act and their management encouraged them to reflect this in their name, Part Four became Las Caracas in 1967. For the next three years, the group toured the UK and in 1968 they appeared in ATVs talent show, Opportunity Knocks with Hughie Green.



The band did very well winning many of the heats but despite their popular appeal no interest was shown from recording companies. Sally, Ken and Eric turned professional in 1969 and Ian joined them a year later. The band had plans to move to Argentina, but delayed their decision to play on a cruise ship to the Caribbean. A new name was necessary and Ken thought of Middle of the Road, all agreed and the band was launched. On route to South America the band hit a hitch whilst in transit in Italy. Left stranded and penniless they worked the local restaurants. The group was heard by an RCA, A & R executive, who invited them to Rome for a recording test. Things went well and they recorded three songs Yellow River, I can't tell the bottom from the top and Jesus Christ Superstar. The company liked them so much, they included these recordings later on their first album.



At first MoR were used to back Italian pop singers including Sophia Loren.



The record did well in Italy and was the first of many film themes to be recorded by the group. RCA Italiana teamed the group with Italian producer, Giacomo Tosti in 1970 who found Chirpy cheep cheep which was written and recorded by Lally Stott. When the band heard it at first, they expressed reserve but Sally soon convinced them it was a good idea. Copious supplies of Bourbon were available in the studio when the song was recorded but on its release it went to Number one in many countries including the UK.



C4 stayed in the UK hit parade for 35 weeks and sold 8 million records world-wide elevating Middle of the Road to the third most popular recording artists in the Billboard Charts in 1971. Writers, Mario and Giosy Capuano joined the production team who produced a string of International hits. “Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum," their second single was used in a Fiat promotion for the launch of the Fiat 127. Car and single did very well.



"Soley Soley," was produced by Giacomo Tosti and penned by Spanish songwriter, Fernando Arbex, with lyrics co-written by Sally. The song was recorded in Madrid and got to Number 2 in the UK charts.



Despite their fame on the Continent and obvious commercial success, Middle of the Road was not promoted in the UK. The band toured nonstop around the world for the next two years and visited Brazil, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The next single Sacramento, reached the top ten charts in most of Europe, including many of the East European countries like East Germany, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland.



Together Samson and Delilah, Yellow Boomerang and Talk of all the USA, sold over 2 million copies in Europe alone.











Neil Henderson (former Bay City Rollers) joined the group but by the mid seventies, the band was beginning to lose their mojo, and tastes in popular music were changing. Abba who once were the warm up band at MoR gigs, were now in the ascendancy. MoR changed labels but despite serious attempts to reconfigure their musical style, the band had no further success. A marketing war between Ariola and the giant RCA Corporation ensued and old recordings not previously released prevented their new works from impacting. Eventually Sally left to the band in 1977 to follow a solo career. A year later Ken left while Ian and Eric continued to exploit what was left of the Middle of the Road’s reputation. In 1981 Sally and Ken returned to MoR for a short time to re- record and perform their old hits. In 1991 they were back together again for a German TV gig and enjoyed a renaissance on the European nostalgia circuit. The band is still together as, Middle of the Road featuring Sally Carr, with originals, Ken Andrew and Neil Henderson. Shug Devlin (keyboards) and Phil Anderson (guitar and vocals) complete the lineup.





Worth a listen:
Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep (1971)
Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum (1971)
Soley Soley (1971)
Sacramento (1972)
Samson and Delilah (1972)
Talk of all the USA (1972)
Yellow Boomerang (1973)
Kailakee Kailako (1973)