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.
A recap. Between 23rd July and 31st August 2008, the first exhibition of Andy Warhol’s record cover art was shown at Piteå Museum, Piteå, in the north of Sweden. The exhibition was entitled “Happy Birthday, Andy Warhol” as it coincided with what would have been Warhol’s 80th birthday on 6th August 2008.
One month later, my friend Tomas Ersson, visited me and I told him about the exhibition and he mentioned that he had recently read an article in a magazine where a Swedish musician told a story about how Andy Warhol had designed the cover for a single by the band he had been in as a 15-year-old. Unfortunately, Tomas could not remember where he had read the article, but he promised to try to locate it. A few days later he mailed me the article and my hunt for the RATFAB single started.
I lost the article but have always credited Tomas with being the one who tipped me off on the existence of the cover. He has recently helped find the article again and here is the link: http://cafe.se/tomas-alfredsson/
The article is in Swedish and, coincidentally was published on Andy Warhol’s birthday, 6th August 2008, in the Swedish magazine Café. The article is actually an interview with Tomas Alfredsson, a Swedish film producer. At the end of the interview he was asked whether it was true that Andy Warhol had designed the cover for a single by the band in which he had been the drummer.
Here’s the text where he explains how Warhol came to design the cover.
TAW: “Till sist måste jag fråga om det är sant att Andy Warhol gjorde skivomslaget till ditt gamla rockbands enda singel. TA:– När jag var i 15-årsåldern var jag trummis i ett band som hette Ratfab, Roland And The Flying Albatros Band. Vår basist, Calle Häggqvist, hade en mycket originell farfar, Arne Häggqvist. Han bodde i en liten tvåa i Fruängen med sin stora konstsamling och anordnade litterära salonger i källaren. Arne var svensklärare, översättare, skribent och förläggare. Han introducerade Sartre på svenska, var ett socialt geni och lärde känna många intressanta, märkliga och berömda människor över hela världen. Han skrev Största cocktailboken, som mig veterligen fortfarande är den största cocktailboken. Arne var också konstexpert och skrev den första boken om hur man värderar konst.
TAW: Och han var vän med Andy Warhol? TA: – Han hade träffat Hemingway och Salvador Dali och översatt Dalis böcker. Och så kände han Andy Warhol. Varje sommar sålde Arne en tavla ur sin konstsamling för att finansiera en resa åt honom och barnbarnet Calle. Den här sommaren skulle de åka till New York och träffa självaste Andy Warhol på The Factory. När vi i bandet fick höra det här sa vi till Calle: ”Du måste fråga om han inte kan göra vår logotype!” Och när Calle satt där med Warhol så frågade han faktiskt. Warhol sa: ”Det kan jag väl göra.” Han tog fram ett Andy Warhol-brevpapper och gjorde några olika förslag som han signerade.
TAW: Hur såg de ut? TA: – Han skrev vårt bandnamn med fetkrita och så signaturen under. Vi blev alldeles febriga av det här och trodde att det skulle kompensera våra brister som musiker, vilket det förstås inte gjorde. Men vi tryckte i alla fall upp en singel och en t-shirt. Och det är ju angenämnt att få vara i sällskap med Velvet Underground och Rolling Stones, även om innehållet i vårt fall inte är lika rafflande som utsidan.”
Here follows a translation:
TAW: Finally, I have to ask if it is true that Andy Warhol designed the cover to your old rock band’s only single?
TA: When I was about 15 i was the drummer in a band calleed Ratfab, Roland and the Flying Albatros Band. Our bass player, Calle Häggqvist, had a very original grandfather, Arne Häggqvist. He lived in a little two-room flat in Fruängen with his huge art collection and organised litterary solons in the basement. Arne was a Swedish teacher, translator, writer and publisher. He introduced Sartre in Swedish, was a social genius and became acquainted with many interesting, remarkable, weird and famous people all over the world. He wrote “Största Cocktailboken2 (The Biggest Cocktail book), which is, as far as I know, still the biggest cocktail book. Arne was also an art expert and wrote the first book on how to evaluate art.
TAW: And he was a friend of Andy Warhol?
TA: – He had met Hemingway and Salvador Dali and translated Dali’s books. And he knew Andy Warhol. Every summer Arne sold a painting from his art collection to finance a trip for himslef and his grandson Calle. That summer they were going to New York and would meet Andy Warhol himself at The Factory. When the band got to hear of this we told Calle: “You must ask if he can make us a logo!” And when Calle satt there with Warhol, he actually asked him. “Sure I can.” He produced an Andy Warhol letterpaper and made a few suggestions that he signed.
TAW: What did they look like?
TA: – He wrote the band’s name in pastel and signed underneath. We were totally wild because of it and thought that it would compensate for our musical shortcomings, which, however, it did not. But we pressed a single and a T-shirt. And it was cool to find ourselves in the company of Velvet Underground and Rolling Stones, even if the contents in our case wasn’t as exciting as the outside.”
So, that’s the whole story. Thanks again Tomas Ersson for coming up with the goods!