Lyrical Substance Deliberated

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Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds from Yellow Submarine (1968).

The advent of spring invariably gets me listening to favourite psychedelic songs, and this year has been no exception. Earlier this week I was idly wondering how many songs there are that follow the Beatles’ lead in telegraphing their drug metaphors by using the initials L-S-D in their titles. Wikipedia’s page for Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1967) relates John Lennon’s oft-repeated claim that the initialism in the title was a coincidence, and the song itself is really a bit of Lewis Carroll-like whimsy. This might be credible if works of art only ever carried one meaning but they don’t, of course, and the song is both a piece of Lewis Carroll-like whimsy as well as being a pretty obvious paean to the drug experience: “Climb in the back with your head in the clouds / And you’re gone”. Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit (1967) was similarly ambivalent with mushrooms/pills replacing acid.

Among the many things birthed by the enormous success of the Sgt Pepper album, a small flurry of songs or instrumentals have imitated Lennon’s initialism for their titles. The ones that came immediately to mind are detailed below, and they make a curious group. If anyone knows of any others—there must be others…—then please leave a comment.

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Burning Of The Midnight Lamp/The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice (Aug, 1967).

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s B-side not only alludes to LSD but also to STP. The song itself doesn’t go very far before collapsing into freakout mode.

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The Trip (1967).

Not a song but included here for that “Lovely Sort of Death” tag. Written by Jack Nicholson! With Dennis Hopper as the acid dealer! See the trailer here, then watch the whole film here.

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Lost Soul In Disillusion (November, 1967).

Hard to imagine anyone in London would have heard this in 1967. The Power of Beckett were a Montreal garage group who only released two singles. Lost Soul In Disillusion turned up years later on compilation albums.

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Void City

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Friends & Relations Vol. 3 (1985) by Hawkwind.

Unless you assiduously collect everything you’ve ever worked on—which I don’t—you occasionally have to rely on the web to remind you of something you created years ago. This Hawkwind album is a good example, being one of the last releases by the band to use a piece of my artwork. (And I’ll quickly note that the accompanying type design was nothing to do with me; my design suggestions were always ignored, hence a growing frustration at that time with album cover work.) The album itself was the third in a series of odds and ends compilations gathering stray tracks by, yes, friends and relations of Mr Brock and co. Subsequent CD reissues used different packaging so the original vinyl is the only place you’ll see this illustration.

The reason I don’t have a copy is that the record label never sent me anything so unless Dave Brock put something in the post I had to buy them myself. (This happens more often than you’d expect.) I evidently didn’t think this one was worth it even though I much prefer the artwork to many of the earlier things of mine that were used. The drawing was a couple of years old, being inspired by the track Void City on the Choose Your Masques album from 1982. Void City is an atypical piece of electronica which I liked for its resemblance to some of the higher level synth pop and industrial music that was around in the early 1980s. 1982 to ’84 was the height of my JG Ballard obsession so Ballard is also a slight influence here. I had in mind his 1981 novel Hello America, which takes place in a post-apocalypse United States. And there’s also a trace influence from one of my early pieces of writing, a mercifully unpublished splurge of intense prose influenced by the New Worlds school of speculative fiction in which someone wanders around a vast and almost completely depopulated city. Looking at this drawing now it seems emblematic of my loss of interest in doing any kind of science fiction art; it also no longer seems futuristic. I produced my last album cover for Hawkind, The Chronicle of the Black Sword, in 1985; in January 1986 I started adapting HP Lovecraft’s The Haunter of the Dark. This took me out of the public eye for a few years but it was a more rewarding place to be for many other reasons.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Hawk things
The Sonic Assassins
New things for July

Hawk things

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The Barney Bubbles revival continues with news of Space Ritual 09, a concert dedicated to BB by ex-Hawkwind members at the Roundhouse, London on March 8th. The headline band is a new version of Hawklords, notably sans Dave Brock who controls the Hawkwind name and hasn’t been too happy recently with Nik Turner’s revisionist activities. Quarrels aside it’s good to see them honouring Barney’s memory and the Roundhouse is the place to do it, being the venue where Hawkwind played a very stoned set in 1972 as part of the Greasy Truckers concert.

All of which had me searching in vain for a double-page ad from the NME for Hawkwind’s Urban Guerilla single; you can see the ad in a smaller vertical version on the original Barney Bubbles post. I was hoping to find the full thing and scan it for display here but it seems to have gone astray for the time being. As it was the search turned up these photocopies of some later Bubbles Hawkwind ads created for the band’s UK tour of winter 1973/74. A pair of typically meticulous ink and Letratone renderings and also another example of what you might call Barney’s interactive design since these instruct the reader to glue the masks to card, colour them in then cut them out and wear them to the gig. David Wills has featured some other examples along these lines, including this cut-out doll birthday card. Did anyone ever try wearing these masks? And if so, is there photo evidence?

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The Sonic Assassins
Reasons To Be Cheerful, part 2
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer

The Sonic Assassins

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Searching through discs for scans of Jim Cawthorn art turned up this comic strip curio from a November 29th, 1971 issue of UK underground magazine Frendz. Cawthorn and writer Michael Moorcock present rock band Hawkwind as musical superheroes and although this is done largely as a promotional piece for that year’s new album, In Search of Space, the Sonic Assassins tag was one which stuck, becoming almost a secondary name for the band in later years. The name Void City also recurred later as the name of a track on the Choose Your Masques album. It may have been around this time that Cawthorn painted special T-shirt designs for Hawkwind; up to 1980 Dave Brock was still wearing his Baron Meliadus shirt on stage.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Jim Cawthorn, 1929–2008
Design as virus #7: eyes and triangles
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer

Design as virus 7: eyes and triangles

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Continuing this occasional series. The above motif is the Golden Dawn‘s Wedjat or Eye of Horus emblem as reproduced in the hardback edition of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, an “autohagiography”. Crowley was under discussion here a few days ago and the eye in a triangle symbol can also be seen on the sleeve of the single featured in that posting, forming a part of the seal of the Ordo Templi Orientis, the occult order which Crowley joined in 1910. Crowley’s use of the eye in a triangle caught the attention of writer Robert Anton Wilson and the first part of his Illuminatus! trilogy (written with Robert Shea) is titled The Eye in the Pyramid. That latter symbol appears on the reverse of the American dollar bill, of course, and some of the conspiracy theories surrounding that usage are explored in the novel. Wilson went on to make the eye in a triangle something of a personal symbol and his obsessive use of the motif caught my attention in turn when I began reading his books.

All of which leads us to Hawkwind and a person whose name keeps turning up on these pages, designer Barney Bubbles.

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Hawklog cover (detail) by Barney Bubbles.

The booklet which BB designed for Hawkwind’s second album, In Search of Space (1971), featured a version of the dollar bill symbol on its cover. This is the only eye in a triangle design I’ve seen among Barney Bubbles’ work although he was so prolific there may well be others. When I began producing my own significantly inferior Hawkwind graphics in the late Seventies I incorporated eyes in triangles partly as a way of avoiding having to draw hawks all the time but mainly because of Robert Anton Wilson. BB had already established a precedent and it so happens that the eye in the Golden Dawn/Crowley version is the eye of a hawk-headed Egyptian god.

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