Sunday, September 9, 2007

Another influence







I was just a year or two too young to appreciate The Beatles, (to tell the truth I still don't care for them very much). When they hit the scene I saw them mainly as yucky dudes my older sister Susan went wild for and I still kind of I think of them that way. That said, even then I could appreciate what they meant to their fans and it irked me to see cheap 'parodies' on TV, such as Bob Hope wearing a Beatle wig and going "Yeah, yeah, yeah..." It seemed like everyone from the Beverly Hillbillies to the Flintstones did some sort of spoof and they all sucked IMO. Parodies are usually best by people who actually understand the thing they are ridiculing... (like Eric Idle's THE RUTTLES) but I digress...

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the "Fab Four" I still count HELP! as one of my favorite movies (because it is just plain funny to me in a pre-Monty Python way) and I never got over my fascination with the comic book insert in the sleeve for THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, which is where these images come from. The artwork is very trippy (just like the TV special it is based on, although I have never seen it). The comic makes very original use of color and design and is quite stunningly drawn, featuring expert caricatures of the Beatles in the many roles they apparently play in the show, and also the many bit players who share the screen with them. There are photo stills in the booklet also and the caricatures are not only well drawn, but dead on to the last. There are so many different techniques in every image too--straight inking, painting, patterns, tonals; sets, props and even people abstracted into BG elements... (note the almost subliminal silhouette of the driver in the "Wendy Winters" panel). For all the volumes written about The Beatles, I have never heard anyone ever comment on this artwork and have also never been able to learn anything about the artist credited (one "Bob Gibson"), but it has the manic flow of a Mort Drucker movie satire in MAD magazine, along with some very cool use of color. It also hints at "underground" comics, but was probably very slightly before them. It seems to owe more to "Laugh-In" style mainstream ideas about psychedelia than to Robert Crumb anyway, but the artwork is undeniably nifty. At any rate, I have never seen anything quite like it before or since, and although I call it an "influence" it is really more of a fascination. My few attempts to make similar drawings weren't particularly successful, but I may still do something like it someday.

I know this will be very familiar to artists of a certain age, but it might be new to those of the "post-vinyl" generations. There is no facsimile in the CD of the album (which I bought to my chagrin and discovered) and I think the only way you can see it is to pick up the original in a used music store. I will say that isolated and enlarged the artwork loses some of its punch and the best way to see it is the way it was printed in the original format (these are just images from the first page). One last note I have to make is that the text and dialog was all featured below each panel, and that freed the artist up to fill each frame, which he does with a vengeance. There is scarcely any unused space in any panel and the hectic compositions feature distortions of scale and design that are very unique. Details such as a green-faced (dead?) Charles DeGaulle lying on the floor of the bus, and the guy appearing out of Ringo's aunt's handbag are something to marvel at. It seems that pretty much anywhere he can cram in some incongruous detail he does.

Much has been written about the animated YELLOW SUBMARINE, but I find this little comic more entertaining by a long shot. If anyone out there knows anything about Bob Gibson or any other tidbit of information about it, give me a holler!

I should also add my many thanks to my sister Susan, whose obsession with those "yucky dudes" made it possible for me to see this incredibly cool comic! Rock on, Susan!

Click to enlarge. Also all artwork is copyright protected by somebody or other. (According to the original album that would be: NEMS ENTERPRISES Ltd.)

18 comments:

Rogelio T. said...

Bob Gibson also used to occasionally do illustrations for The Beatles Book Monthly
and he also illustrated The True Story Of The Beatles (1964).

Bruce said...

How's it going, Will?

Were you talking about the folk singer? If so, I found this Wiki article on him. It will be more than I can ever tell you, that's for sure.

BTW, I had recently done a post on Ub Iwerks on my blog, in case if you're interested.

Will Finn said...

thanks rogelio t! i will look into these other titles.

thanks bruce i will check out the ub piece soon. been mostly swamped lately, tho i did scan some more syverson stuff this past wkend...

John Musker said...

dear will:
how the hell can you not like the beatles?
your fan
(despite this)
john musker

Will Finn said...

hi john
what can i say? chalk it up to the vast will finn mystique...

if its any consolation, i dug the monkees for a while a few years later...

your fan too

wf

ANTONIO CUESTA CORNEJO said...

Hey! Cool works here! I love it!

JohnK said...

I loved that Magical Mystery Tour art too, Will.

And I do love the pre-hippie Beatles, even though they ruined the world.

Will Finn said...

hey john, wouldn't it be cool to animate this stuff?

and like i said, i respect the beatles, even though i had pretty much o.d.'d on them via my sister. back in the days of the single-phonograph household, headphones were a luxury we couldn't afford and i guess me and my siblings made each other thouroughly sick of each others' music because of it. i'm sure they hated listening to my disney albums ad nauseum.

Uncle Phil said...

where'd the monty tribute go? .. awesome drawings btw. super fun and you nailed his character.

Will Finn said...

uncle phil--monty will be back. i wanted to re-write the text. (fussy, aren't i?)

Tom said...

It always struck a false note when people like Gary Moore ridiculed the Beatles music. "This is Spinal Tap" was, after "The Rutles" the second attempt to parody rock music done by people who actually understood it.

Mike Gillett said...

Speaking of doing 'Beatles' parodies without knowing or respeciting the group/music/culture...

I can remember watching "Petticoat Junction" back in the sixties and "they" had the three sisters (Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo and Billie Jo?) perform as a female, long-haired, hippy-dippy 'Beatles' 'take' - as 'the Ladybugs' ( - doing the '5th Dimension's' song "Up, Up and Away", I recall... not sure why not a 'Beatles' tune. Must be that the writers didn't know the difference). As I recall, Uncle Joe and the crew wasn't much thrilled to have the 'wild' 1960s invade the Shady Rest.

Will, do you remember watching the "Mike Douglas Show" as a kid in Auburn? How about the week that John Lennon and Yoko Ono was co-hosts? Or when Alice Cooper or 'Kiss' were on as guests. Mike Douglas was about as 'hip' as a lamppost and for him to have 'rock' stars on was always painful... to watch him and his usual guests interact with someone they obviously had no clue about or care to. Alice Cooper trading insults with "Columbo" for instance. Check out YouTube for Gene Simmons chatting with Mike and Tootie Fields. It is so icy cold and awkward!

Neat illustrations, by the way! Great and eclectic stuff on your site here, friend. Always a treat to check and see what is new!

Tom said...

That week John and Yoko co-hosted the Mike Douglas Show was in spring, 1972. Two things pop out looking at those shows today: the glacial pace of the program and ordinary people, not celebrities, making up a good part of the guest roster.

Will Finn said...

wow, i do remember that mike douglas week, and it seemed very incongruous for john and yoko to show up there, but i guess everybody was game. i think the venue was so square that even my lennon-loving sister didn't even watch more than a bit of it...

i was more of a merv fan myself...

mike---get us some drawrings up on that site of yours soon, won't you please?

Mike Gillett said...

Will, I've taken it for a test drive. Go to my site to check out an old drawring I used as a Guinea Pig. Seems not as clean as what I see on your site. I tried it as a jpeg and a gif and as a png... what might I do differently?

Merv Griffin, yeah. But do you remember Dick Cavett? Or did you ever see Joe Franklin out of NYC?

Craig D said...

I, too, loved that MMT "storybook" as a 12 year old (and beyond!) The TV special was a let-down, compared to the comic.

So, another MONKEES fan comes out of the closet, eh?

RFarmiloe said...

Will,

I have the VHS set of John and Yoko on the Mike Douglas show...it's a great week, pal!! I'll loan the set to you....maybe you'll become at least a John Lennon fan! Great artwork!! (yours is nice too.......I guess)

-Rick

Joan said...

I have always liked these illustrations in the Magical Mystery Tour booklet: very fresh and stylish, with a kind of simplicity that I find typical from some of the best cartoons from the 50s and 60s.

Of course to fully appreciate the booklet artwork, I can't even think of what the CD version can be! Like in so many other jewels of LP design, the big vinyl gatefold sleeve is the real, good, stuff.