Sharp – Clapton: ‘Tales of the Brave’

You thought the leaden winter
Would bring you down forever
But you rode upon a steamer
To the violence of the sun

 

Sharp – Clapton – Cream – Mighty Baby – Tiny Tim

“I have never been shy about cutting things up if I had a good idea. To me it was worth the price of a book for the idea it expressed, the interconnecting of different worlds. I could put a Gauguin figure in a Van Gogh landscape, make the composition work, and also say something about their relationship.” Martin Sharp

Martin Ritchie Sharp (21 January 1942 – 1 December 2013)was an Australian artist, underground cartoonist, songwriter and film-maker.

Sharp made contributions to Australian and international culture from the early 1960s, and was called Australia’s foremost pop artist.

In 1966 Sharp published a selection of cartoons in the book Martin Sharp Cartoons. “Swinging London” was a mecca for young artists, writers and musicians

Clapton – Cream

His friendship with Clapton led to the commission to design Cream’s Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire cover albums

“I visited the Speakeasy Club in London one evening (1967). I saw a girl I knew, Charlotte, who was sitting at a table with two young men who I didn’t know. Being alone I asked if I could join them and I was made welcome. I remember that there was a discussion about a controversial article which had appeared in The Idealist concerning the assassination of President Kennedy. I gathered that the young men were musicians and as I had just written a poem which I thought would make a good song, I mentioned this fact, and one of the musicians replied that he had just written some music. In grand show business tradition I wrote the lyrics on a paper serviette and gave them to him with my address. I was sharing a studio off the Kings Road Chelsea with the photographer, Bob Whitaker, at the time. I was pleasantly surprised when the musician, who turned out to be Eric Clapton, arrived at the studio with a 45 r.p.m. record with ‘Strange Brew’

on the A-side and my song, “Tales of Brave Ulysses” on the B-side.” Martin Sharp

And the colors of the sea
Blind your eyes with trembling mermaids
And you touch the distant beaches
With tales of brave Ulysses
How his naked ears were tortured
By the sirens sweetly singing
For the sparkling waves are calling you
To kiss their white-laced lips



Soon after I moved to a nearby studio in “The Pheasantry”, Kings Road, Chelsea, and needing someone to share with I asked my new friend if he would care to share the space and experience. Chelsea was an exciting place to live and Eric agreed. (David Litvinoff, a well-known and extraordinary character in the music and art world had found the studio.) It was a perfect place to work and live.

Charlotte eventually moved in with Eric. Later we were joined by my girlfriend, a Finish model called Eija Veka Aho, and a young friend from Melbourne, painter and filmmaker, Philippe Mora, and his girlfriend, Freya. David Litvinoff worked in Tim Whidbornes’ studio downstairs… Anthony Haden-Guest had a flat there…Germaine Greer was writing “The Female Eunuch” in a room there… there were photographic studios…it was quite a special and creative building…it was called “The Pheasantry” because in the old days the land had been used for breeding pheasants for the King’s table”. Martin Sharp

“Eric asked me to design the cover for “Disraeli Gears”. I loved record cover art and was very happy to do it. I commissioned my ex-studio mate, Bob Whitaker, to take some photos which were used in a collage on the back cover. I believe the photo used on the cover was a publicity shot that I got from Eric. I was using fluorescent paints at the time. It was the height of psychedelia”. Martin Sharp

And you see a girl’s brown body
Dancing through the turquoise
And her footprints make you follow
Where the sky loves the sea
And when your fingers find her
She drowns you in her body
Carving deep blue ripples
In the tissues of your mind

“Some of the ingredients in the cover are made up from Victorian decorative engravings. It was done in black and white first and then painted with fluorescent colors. I tried to capture the warm joyful liveliness of Cream’s songs”.  Martin Sharp

The tiny purple fishes
Run laughing through your fingers
And you want to take her with you
To the hard land of the winter

Ford the gatefold sleeve for Cream’s third album; the double LP Wheels of Fire (1968), he won the New York Art Directors Prize for Best Album Design in 1969.

“I later went on to design the cover for “Wheels Of Fire” for Cream and also for Ginger Baker’s “Airforce”, a band called Mighty Baby…Jeannie Lewis’ “Free Fall Through Featherless Flight” and a few of my own releases of Tiny Tim, “Chameleon”, “Keeping My Troubles To Myself”, and “The World Non-Stop Singing Record.” Martin Sharp

 

Mighty Baby

 

 

 

Tiny Tim

One of Sharp’s great obsessions has been his idol, Tiny Tim, best known for his song ‘Tiptoe through the tulips’. Sharp first saw Tiny Tim at a Charity Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1969, encouraged by his flat-mate Eric Clapton. Sharp has revered Tiny Tim ever since, seeing him as a collagist like himself, but using songs rather than images. Tiny Tim and Sharp collaborated on a number of projects, including concerts in Australia and a film Sharp has been working on for over 20 years.

 

 

“Martin Sharp’s Street Of Dreams” is an amazing and magical look at the one-and-only Herbert Khaury (a.k.a. Tiny Tim), as well as a look at Sydney’s own Luna Park and the infamous Ghost Train fire (an incident which killed seven people). An almost decade long labor of love, Martin Sharp provides an inside look at pop music’s most eccentric and sincere performer, long after fame and fortune (and Miss Vicki) had left him. He was more than a musician, or an entertainer. He was a direct link to the music of days gone by, and in Martin Sharp’s words “The Eternal Troubadour”. To call him anything else would be ignoring the fact that he poured both his heart and soul into every performance, be it for ten people or ten thousand. However, Tiny Tim wasn’t without his fair share of personal demons.

 He constantly struggled with a love for alcohol and an obsessive passion for women, and there are many instances where both his desires and devotion to Jesus seem to present a man with mental instability. But it is these imperfections, combined with his ever-present humility and overall good humor, that fully round out the man and make him all the more believable and human.

 

 The film, while mainly focusing on Tiny Tim, also covers the story of Sydney’s Luna Park and the controversy of the Ghost Train fire. The film is tied together with video footage of Tiny’s 1979 attempt to break the World Professional Non-Stop Singing Record (a record he would later break again in the same year this film was completed), as well as footage of the time he spent as an entertainer at Luna Park. This particular edit was aired May 24th 1988 in Brighton, England. After the film was shown Tiny began his third and final World Professional Non-Stop Singing Record. There are several people to thank for this, and they would be Martin Sharp, Esteban Rincon, and the administrators of the Tiny Tim Facebook fanpage. Without Martin Sharp’s love and adoration for Tiny Tim, almost two decades of the singer’s life would have been lost to history. Martin Sharp first saw Tiny Tim perform at The Royal Albert Hall in 1969. After seeing him perform, Martin Sharp would go on to record many of Tiny’s on and off stage performances, his first recording being from 1974 at the Newcastle West Leagues Club. He continued to produce and support Tiny Tim well into the early nineties, and in 2007 re-released two of Tiny Tim’s albums he produced (“Chameleon” and “Wonderful World Of Romance”) as well as a compilation of previously unreleased studio and live performances titled “Stardust”

 

This period in London and his work with Oz brought him international renown.

As well as his Oz artwork and his famed album covers for Cream, he produced famous posters of musicians—Bob Dylan, Donovan and his classic ‘exploding’ Jimi Hendrix poster, based on a photo by Linda McCartney. These and other works like the poster for the “Legalise Pot” rally are keynote graphic works of the period and originals are now highly prized collector’s items.

He also designed at that time a controversial poster titled “Rasputin & his London Popes” for an antique shop in Barcelona run by a young Spanish photographer named Alexis de Vilar.

Her name is Aphrodite
And she rides a crimson shell
And you know you cannot leave her
For you touched the distant sands
With tales of brave Ulysses
How his naked ears were tortured
By the sirens sweetly singing

 

The tiny purple fishes
Run laughing through your fingers
And you want to take her with you
To the hard land of the winter

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5 comentarios to “Sharp – Clapton: ‘Tales of the Brave’”

  1. Bravo a stellar tribute to Martin Sharp

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