“Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel"
In 1965, I left the sleepy suburbs of Harrow to study at the London School of Economics, 4 years after Mick Jagger. In the first year, I was assigned a top floor room by central admissions overlooking Parliament Hill Fields and a few doors along, we often partied with a group of nurses. They moved and I moved with them to a mansion flat in Warrington Crescent London W9.
From my school days, I had met an Iranian girl, Lynda, who's father had fled when the Shah fell from grace and she had ended up working for a music management company, Blackhill Enterprises. She introduced me to some art school students, one of which had set up a screen print shop in Piblico, printing posters and fabric.
Dave Humby of Square One needed help and I provided it, moving the posters to hang on pegs to dry before he could afford a drying rack. He produced for Big O Posters among others and the first design I helped print was “Let him that is without sin….jail the first stone”, from the original Dutch design.
The print itself was three colour, black, red and green and commemorated the jailing of Mick Jagger following a drug raid in February 1967. The Times editor, William Rees-Mogg wrote at the time the now famous headline butterfly / wheel quote to criticise the authorities for a gross over reaction, spurred on by the antics of the News of the World.
The other occupants of the Warrington Crescent flat I stayed in all worked as apartment cleaners, one was owned by Andrew Oldham, the Stones manager and they often returned with arms full of the bands unwanted clothing, the basis of our collective wardrobe.
Another poster for Big O was ‘No Cream’ following Ginger Baker and the bands breakup in 1968. Again I was the super stacker and Dave did the squeegee bashing.
This all leads to the one poster I still have a copy of. This was designed by Dave following the release of the film Easy Rider in 1969. Dave had lost his best client, Laura Ashley, who he printed the long silk scarves for. Her husband had visited the print shop, seen us at work and, in true capitalist mode, decided that he could set up a better arrangement and save money. Their subsequent move to Wales resulted in a blossoming of her ability to raid the V&A for design ideas.
The move to Ganton Street, around the corner from Carnaby Street facilitated more space and customers on the doorstep. In the middle of all this, I graduated in International Monetary Economics with no student loan and a white FX3 taxi but that is another story.
“America, Like it or Leave it” was a modification of a well known ‘redneck’ bumper sticker with oblique reference to the anti Vietnam war movement. The phrase “Live like an American” in the flag itself is particularly ironic at this time with the ‘Minutemen’ sacking of the US Congress but the music in the film was fabulous. The Byrds, Jimmy Hendrix, The Band and Steppenwolf were all run straight, replacing Crosby Stills Nash and Young because Dennis Hopper didn't like the laters devotion to stretched limos.I think the royalties for this lot far exceeded the cost of the whole film.
The GAS tshirt design reproduced from the poster, captures the blocky screen print style of the original without the inky thumb prints of the originals.
In the new print shop in Ganton Street, along with the posters and letter packs printed by Rod with tin legs on a small litho machine, the first prints in the UK were made on t shirts, The Silver Surfer I think.