Sunday, September 9, 2007
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.)