My White Bicycle (1967), poster by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. Too risqué for EMI.
In what passes here for spare time I’ve been working on a private project that concerns events in London during a single week in 1967. I won’t elaborate for now but the research has been fun, and has led down byways where it’s easy to get lost in a profusion of historic detail. The International Times archive is a great time-sink if you want to see London’s psychedelic culture evolving from one week to the next. Oz magazine covered much of the same ground but in broader strokes; IT being a weekly paper was the closest thing the underground of the time had to a journal of record which means you’ll find things there which weren’t reported anywhere else.
International Times, Volume 1, issue 13, 19/05/1967.
A brief item about a poster for the debut single by Tomorrow caught my eye, the artwork being an early piece by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat (Michael English and Nigel Waymouth) who we here discover were briefly known by another name:
MY WHITE BICYCLE
EMI join the long and growing list of those self-censors who still believe that the younger generation are going to continue to support them. The above poster for the Tomorrow record, MY WHITE BICYCLE, was rejected by EMI on the grounds that the titties might provoke “complaints from certain organizations…” So Jacob and the Coloured Coat (Mick English and Nigel Weymouth [sic]) put on their crocheted boots and manufactured a poster design from every phallic image they could. Subliminal pornography triumphed where open indecency had failed and the prick within sustains where the exposed breast falters.
Tomorrow were one of the first British psychedelic bands. My White Bicycle is their most memorable song but the rest of their self-titled debut album still holds up today. Ace guitarist Steve Howe became a lot more famous in Yes a few years later, while drummer Twink was in a host of bands in the late 60s and early 70s, Hawkwind included. My White Bicycle sounds superficially like a typical piece of psych whimsy à la Pink Floyd’s Bike (both songs were recorded at Abbey Road) but according to Twink there’s an anarchist subtext:
“My White Bicycle” was written out of what was actually going on in Amsterdam. One of the owners of Granny Takes a Trip, Nigel Weymouth [sic], had gone there and come back with a Provos badge which he gave to me. They were kind of like a student anarchist group that believed everything should be free. In fact, they had white bicycles in Amsterdam and they used to leave them around the town. And if you were going somewhere and you needed to use a bike, you’d just take the bike and you’d go somewhere and just leave it. Whoever needed the bikes would take them and leave them when they were done.
What would have been dismissed as pure utopianism now looks like prescience when bike-sharing schemes have become a reality. As to the redrawn poster, there’s a copy here which is described as very rare, hence its absence from other Hapshash galleries. Not really as phallic as the IT report implies; Aubrey Beardsley got away with a lot more priapic subterfuge in the 1890s when the strictures were also more severe.
My White Bicycle (1967), the replacement poster by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat.
On the same page of IT there’s a brief announcement that The Beatles will have a new album out in June, something entitled Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That album also gave EMI a headache with both Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and A Day In The Life being accused by “certain organisations” of promoting drugs. If the record company could have seen the greater headache that was coming less than ten years later from Malcolm McLaren and his King’s Road scallywags they might not have been so uptight.