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  • Writer's pictureKeith Chagall

Grammy Museum Honors Klaus Voorman

Updated: Nov 28, 2017

Grammy Museum honors Klaus Voorman’s on the 50th Year Anniversary design of The Beatles’ landmark recording Revolver by Keith Chagall, Pop Music editor, Century City View

Imagine such a magical night at Grammy Museum March 8, 2017 when they honored the iconic Klaus Voorman, designer of the Beatles' timeless Revolver album 50 years ago!!. He won the 9th Grammy Award for Best Album cover design which changed the way album/CD cover designs were created going forward – till now. Klaus was there in Hamburg from day one which began auspiciously enough from a lovers quarrel that drove Klaus in 1961 to take a long walk through the seedy part of Hamburg called the Reeperbahn, replete with characters from some imagined German Scorsese film noir.

Klaus heard this music coming from within a rough trade bar he would never have imagined seeing let alone actually entering. But in he went and saw the young Beatles rocking out as knife fights and drunken brawls abounded. Something special was happening up there on that stage: something truly liberating; so compelling that along with his girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr and a small group of arty existential friends, whom Lennon nicknamed the X sees, they began visiting the club and word began to spread. Soon a small army of art students all came under the musical spell of the Beatle muse and symbiotic energies connected, which went on to change history!

The resulting influences touched all areas of "The Beatles' leather look.” Mod hair styles, were cut by Astrid who also photographed those early black and white pictures with moody half shadows. All elements were key image precursors of the Beatles’ style that culminated with the historic "With The Beatles" album cover released in November 1963. This was the birth of the 60’s.

Fast forward to 1964, Klaus moves to England and is welcomed to stay at their apartment in London during the height of UK Beatlemania. Taking meetings at ad agencies armed with just a portfolio of his work, he landed a Vogue magazine layout on red hot British model Twiggy. The 60’s were off and running. Cool pop art, fashion, clothing, photography, and film led by the brilliance of the Beatles star shine, and timeless inventive song and groundbreaking studio techniques. Imagine!

By 1966 the Beatles had begun a new creative phase for pop songwriting and pushing the envelope bounds of what could be done with the recording process, embarking on what would become the landmark all-time great album, Revolver. So John Lennon calls up Klaus and says, we need an idea for this new album and if you can think of it you have the commission to design it. So come by the studio and give a listen to the rough mixes. Mind you the world had not yet heard "Eleanor Rigby,” "Tomorrow Never Knows,” a George Harrison sitar laced raga, "Got to Get You Into My life,” "Good Day Sunshine,” Yellow Submarine,” or "Taxman”!! All songs were destined to become classics but were not yet entered into the pop lexicon.

Sitting inside studio 2 at Abbey Road, Klaus is blown away by what he hears!

Nothing like it had ever been recorded. Klaus went off and meditated about the LSD, and marijuana drenched imagery and other worldly sounds and he was struck by the thought of hair – and lots of it. Drawn in ink and enhanced with a collage of fragmentary black and white snippets of pics the boys had given him, carefully intertwined with the hair and faces, he added an effect to each of their eyes.

When the day came to show the boys, there was no power point presentation, no fancy cardboard mock ups. No, he had a piece of paper folded up in his jacket and opened it to reveal the finished drawing and collage. Silence!!! Then he heard weeping at the back of the room, realizing it was Brian Epstein the thought occurred to Klaus, if Epstein isn’t digging his art this opportunity is lost.

Brian comes forward and says this album is very new and experimental and finally someone has captured the feeling of this work which will give every fan a perfect visual companion as to what’s inside the cover. Klaus is overjoyed. The rest is history: 1967 Grammy Award Winning Best Album Cover. The album is now voted the best of all time by Melody Maker and Rolling Stone magazine. Of All Time!!! Imagine that…

Klaus has remained lifelong friends with them all. I was struck by his humility, kind soulful spirit which by the end of the hour and a half interview, revealed clearly to this writer as to why John, Stu, Paul, George, and Ringo loved Klaus as a brother and best mate that never diminished during all their lives. Hearing him recount never before told stories of those early days, heyday days, and last days, including a heartfelt recollection of his last visit with George Harrison was a most moving moment for Klaus and all in attendance. Among the notables were the legendary host of the highly rated Breakfast with The Beatles, heard on Sirius and 95.5 FM KLOS radio show, Chris Carter, Van Dyke Parks, genius lyric songwriting collaborator with Brian Wilson during the Pet Sounds era. GOLDEN time people!!!

Mgr. Keith Putney, and of course Grammy host, Scott Goldman who was excellent. Shout out to the amazing Crystal Larsen of the Grammy museum. A splendid time was guaranteed for all. The GRAMMY Museum staff were great!

Many people don't know Klaus played bass guitar on classic recordings and timeless hits "Imagine,” with John Lennon, George Harrison’s "My Sweet Lord,” Ringo’s "Photograph,” "You’re Sixteen,” Harry Nillson’s "Can’t Live if Living is Without You,” Carly Simon’s "You’re So Vain,” Manfred Mann Band and numerous others.

Try this, he was a designer for Porsche autos! His life has been a movie like Zelig incredible journey and still very much with it at 77 years young.

Imagine indeed!

Keith Chagall

Pop Music Editor

Century City View News

March, 2017



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