Former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe denies allegations of attempted murder and of having a relationship with male model Norman Scott.
Jimmy Carter succeeds Gerald Ford as the 39th US President.
Apple is incorporated.
On TV, the mini-series Roots became a worldwide success and led many from the black community on journeys to discover their own beginnings.
The Pompidou Centre is opened in Paris.
The Commodore PET, the first home computer, is produced.
Star Wars opens in cinemas and later becomes the highest grossing film at that time.Elvis dies, aged 42.
Elvis found dead in his lavatory at Graceland
In 1977, two new designers were welcomed into the Fontana fold. The first was Francine Lawrence: a tall, elegant and very attractive figure who brought with her much laughter and devilment. Next was Ashted Dastor, who was shorter and had a penchant for winding Francine up with what today would provoke an instant reprimand. But Francine gave as good as she got, taking no prisoners in the process. We were all wildly different personalities but somehow got on well.
The lovely Francine Lawrence who went on to be the first Art Director of Country Living and later became its editor
By this time, I had a fantastic range of designers, illustrators and photographers collaborating on Fontana’s work, which regularly featured in design magazines and annuals. But within the publishing industry, dark clouds were beginning to form. Many of the traditional independent houses were being bought up by large conglomerates. At Collins/Fontana, there were boardroom rumblings.
A new sales director arrived at Fontana in the shape of the broad smiling (rather too broad) Matt Wotherspoon. One of his first questions to me was “Why don’t we have foil blocking like the other paperback houses?” My heart sank. And I thought “The enemy is now within”. Up to this point, I would just have had a conversation with Mark Collins or the editors about the covers, and I had an instinct for what a commercial cover was for many of the mass-market authors Fontana had on its extensive list. But now there was to be a formalised process, and the abettors would be Matt Wotherspoon and his cohorts. It was the first time I had doubts about my future.
Me in my top floor studio at the Collins/Fontana offices
Meanwhile, back in my little top-floor studio nest, I would have tidying purges – much to the horror of my assistants. And it wasn’t unusual to find us all repainting the walls to keep the space looking bright and fresh, as I have always been passionate about creating a good work environment.
Me and editor Tim Shackleton at one of our regular Friday afternoon parties.
The now-regular Friday afternoon parties continued, with Francine embracing them wholeheartedly by bringing in food to add to the mix, supplied by the various editors that would pitch up. And we’d all eat and drink our way into the night in great merriment and mischief.
Punk band The Clash releases their debut album.
1977 was also the year of punk, which for some became a mantra if not a religion. Punk was seen as a new broom to sweep away the excess of the self-congratulatory groups that populated the charts at the time. But spitting on and abusing the audience never struck me as an evening’s entertainment. And anyway, my musical epiphany happened back in the early ’60s in the sweaty Marquee Club while watching Sonny Boy Williamson wailing on his harmonica – that really was a eureka moment.
I gave the wonderful illustrator Arthur Robins the entire Gerald Durrell series to illustrate. Durrell loved the illustrations.
Above just a few of Arthur Robins illustrations for the Gerald Durrell series
Meanwhile, Bugsy Malone was published, along with a comic book version illustrated by Graham Thompson. My association with Alan Parker and David Puttnam led me to work with both of them. David phoned to ask me to design the identity for his new production company, Enigma. This was in the days when his sartorial trappings consisted of a white Margaret Howell shirt, Levi’s and a leather flight jacket. Not quite the Savile Row double-breasted outfit he now wears in the guise of Lord Puttnam. Back then, he had his whole film career ahead of him.
The sumptuously visual The Duellists directed by Ridley Scott 1977
David asked me to meet him at the offices of RSA, where Ridley Scott was piecing together The Duellists, his first feature. I had been asked to design the title sequence. I’d taken along a whole storyboard of ideas that were to be mini-films in themselves. I showed them to Ridley. He showed me some rushes of various edited sequences, and I quickly realised that I needed to dump everything I had suggested. The film was sumptuously visual and the last thing it needed was me trying to be Saul Bass. So I went for utter simplicity, which worked perfectly.
So, all in all, 1977 was a good year. But I was getting itchy feet, and 1978 was to heighten that feeling. To be continued.
Here are a few Fontana covers produced that year…
Designed and illustrated by John Gorham
Illustrated by Alun Hood Designed and illustrated by Mike Dempsey Illustrated by Barry Fantoni Illustrated by Tony Meeuwissen
My films for that year:
Julia directed by Fred Zinnemann 1977
The Man Who Loved Women directed by François Truffaut 1977
Annie Hall directed by Woody Allen 1977
Close Encounters of the Third Kind directed by Stephen Spielberg1977
Just a month or two ago Michael Wolff and I met with David Abbott to discuss a joint project.
David being David took us to his favourite Italian restaurant, where they knew him well and made sure he had his favourite corner table with no overhead lighting (something that he hated).
He was witty, charming and as elegant as ever, immaculately turned out right down to his shiny brogue shoes.
That’s how we will both remember him.
Here are some heartfelt thoughts from Michael…
When a genius dies it leaves a gaping empty space. Without any doubt the sudden death of Dave Abbott leaves such a space inside me. My heart stopped and my brain ached on hearing the shocking news that he has left us.
Before I met Dave I never realised that brilliant writing can only come from brilliant thinking. Ever since I met Bill Bernbach I understood the power of language, but it was Dave who inspired me to relish and cherish the elegance, simplicity and courageous thoughts that guide the hand of great writers.
Photography, illustration and writing have long spanned the space between art and commercial communication. There have been, still are and will always be many imaginative and great photographers, illustrators and writers. But great as great can be, it’s only genius that can produce magic and it was magic that Dave’s writing always brought to us.
Dave was one of the most generous, elegant, helpful, modest and inspiring people I had the good fortune to encounter during my working life. Today I feel a boundless sense of loss, sadness and emptiness, and I can only wonder if we will ever see another to equal him.
More on David Abbott Here an interview I had with him a few years back:
In August 2011, I posted a piece about the Radio Times. Little did I know what a rumpus it would cause. I had compared the current Radio Times presentation with that of its 1969/81 predecessor. My point was simple. Back then, Radio Times was an intelligent, witty, innovative and beautifully designed magazine using the wonderful creative talent of the period. It was diametrically opposed to the current publication, which is a banal, commercially driven, trivial, personality-chasing rag with TV listings bolted on.
To read that original post and the very lively debate that followed in the comment section, check out the link at the foot of this post.
The man responsible for what I called the ‘golden days’ of Radio Times was its then art director David Driver: a man with printers’ ink coursing through his veins.
He has spent his entire creative life devoted to the editorial world. This journey started in 1963, when he was commissioned to illustrate a spread in Queen magazine by the great late art director of Town,Tom Wolsey.
David Driver’s own prowess as an illustrator equipped him with a remarkable ability for discovering, commissioning and nurturing real talent.
In fact, Driver’s early days were mostly spent as an illustrator. After his initial Queen debut, he produced illustrations for Town, Vogue and Woman’s Mirror before
being hired by the latter as assistant art director in 1965. In 1967, he moved on to Observer Magazine to join their
freelance team, where he worked on special features including the Gunpowder plot and the Thames’ flooding.
1967. Driver commissioned these beautiful illustrations by Adrian George for the Observer Gunpowder Plot feature below. They are reminiscent of Milton Glaser and Heinz Endleman of the same period
Ever moving onwards and upwards, Driver joined Clive Irving Associates / Cornmarket Press, where he designed The Times Saturday Review – the first time that a British newspaper targeted Saturday as a potent publishing day. Still keeping his hand in as an illustrator, he worked on the BBC Publications magazine Nature (below).
In 1968, he was to art direct Welcome Aboard: a pocket-sized in-flight magazine for BOAC. It was beautiful and innovative, and Driver showed his panache for the creative commissioning of
illustration. These are real gems of the 1960s and were the precursor to what Driver would later do on Radio Times. But before that, he squeezed in some Penguin covers and the redesign of Harper’s Bazaar, including art directing three complete issues.
2 Penguin cover designer and illustrated by David Driver in 1968
In 1969, he arrived at the tobacco-laden atmosphere of Radio Times’ Marylebone High Street offices, which had
The BBC’s Marylebone High Street offices in 1936 and home of the Radio Times from the 1940s. The BBC has recently sold the building to a developer, who will convert it into luxury flats.
been there since the 1940s. Driver was about to take on the project that would make his name as one of Britain’s great editorial art directors. His task was to oversee the dramatic evolution of a listings magazine that had hardly changed since its inception but had a legacy of commissioning supreme illustration talent. Driver was acutely aware of this and was determine to continue to build on that legacy. He remembers those early days in the Marylebone offices: “The design/picture department was semi-open-plan but had intimacy, as did all the editorial offices. The delightful clatter of typewriters was very present – we loved them. Given its long-time occupancy, the history of the journal was evident and the atmosphere was warm and affectionate… So many of the staff, particularly in the programme pages department, had been at Radio Times before the Second World War. Their advice and knowledge provided me with great support, of course. I collected illustrations from Radio Times when I was a very young boy. So joining the magazine in 1969 was a dream realised.”
A John Lennon spectacled David Driver in 1975
One of the many inventive word/picture features, diagramatically illustrated to give the reader a greater understanding of complex issues.
He held the position of art editor for 12 years, during which he was responsible for an astonishing body of work, building up a coterie of the country’s most talented illustrators. His work was witty, inventive, surprising, educational, informative, funny and beautiful.
Among the many regular contributors was Peter Brookes and Nigel Holmes who always added supreme craft and conceptual thinking to Radio Times information spreads.
And for anyone who has worked on a weekly magazine, you will know how demanding it is, let alone keeping up a high creative standard. But he, along with creative collaborators Robert Priest, Derek Unglass and Claudine Meissnerdid, and the creative industry applauded him with numerous awards, including a handful of D&AD Silvers and the coveted D&AD Black Pencil for, as described in the 1976 D&AD Annual:
“In this and past years, consistently raising the standards of editorial design, with special reference to the unique integration of visual and written elements to form a journalistic totality.”
During Driver’s time, he also produced special Radio Times publications on Dr Who, War & Peace and the 50th anniversary of the BBC. He left Radio Times in 1981.
Part 2: will cover David Driver’s work after his period at Radio Times. Exclusively, this blog will premiere illustrations from a project that he has been working on for the past decade.
To read the original and highly controversial piece on Radio Times click here.
The craft of filmmaking encompasses so many areas that support one another in the creation of the whole. But at the heart of the process are the script and the performances. If these two are compromised, it doesn’t matter how good the cinematography, set design, locations or editing is – it will not be a good outcome. Conversely, the latter four could be mediocre but you could still end up with an impressive film.
I have been a lover of cinema since childhood, when my mother would take me each week to see the latest double feature at our local Odeon. It was an escape from our daily existence living in the drab backdrop of Dagenham, where every working-class boy was destined to work at the Ford Motor Company and every working-class girl would be married by the age of 18 and pushing a pram around nine months later. The two exceptional escapees of dull Dagenham were Dudley Moore and Sandie Shaw – both lived just a few streets from me. I would dream of escape too but, in the 1950s, cinema was my solace.
The Past directed byAsghar Farhadi 2013
But I digress. Last week, I went for the second time to see Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, and it really reinforced my belief in pure cinema. This film, like his earlier A Separation, was as near to perfection as you can get in its story telling, assured direction and astonishing performances. Everything was perfectly balanced from the opening shot to the very last. Asghar Farhadi did this without one moment of sentimentality, nudity or musical interjection – an unusual thing in this overly hyped age of excess.
The performances’ throughout The Past are sublime
By contrast, two other films that I experienced recently were the complete reverse to the perfection of The Past. Exhibition has been much lauded by critics, with The Guardian awarding it no less than a five-star rating. So I went alone with very high expectations but found it to be the most tedious and pretentious film I have seen in years.
There is a lot of this sort of thing
Apparently, director Joanna Hogg was still writing the script when shooting started and cast two non-actors for the leading parts at the last minute. Boy did it show.
After seeing it, I went out of my way to read the reviews, as I felt I’d missed something and was completely alone in my view of the film. On BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, Julia Peyton-Jones (co-director of the Serpentine Gallery) said of the performance by conceptual artist Liam Gillik (who played H in the film): “I happen to know him and felt he was just perfect in the part. He had a wonderful stillness that was so effective.” Well, in place of ‘still’ I would put ‘wooden’. The Telegraph said: “Total artistry”. The Guardian said: “a masterful cinematic enigma”; even the freebie Evening Standard rated it as “akin to Polanski’s Repulsion” (now that really was a film).
The only similarity with Roman Polanski's 1965 Repulsion is the fact that the drama all takes place in a claustrophobic house.
Sometimes I think these reviewers are infected with critic’s hysteria – the ‘emperor’s new clothes’ effect.
The plot of Exhibition (if you can call it that) is as follows: two extraordinarily dull artists, D and H (they don’t have names), live in a house designed by architect James Melvin. They worship this house, are highly protective of it and are seemingly imprisoned, if not isolated, in it. There was lots of coming and going; noisy sliding doors opening and closing; removing of shoes; and endless climbing and descending of the heavily featured ‘architect-designed’ circular staircase, all juxtaposed with some exceedingly amateurish dialogue, sex scenes
The earth doesn't move it the sex scenes
and embarrassingly bad ‘performance art’ moments from D with much dreadful-looking underwear while exciting herself on a chair. In other scenes, she is seen lying prostrate cuddling a wall or in a creative frenzy, wrapping masking tape around her partially clothed body while precariously standing on a chair...
D having one of her 'crazy' performance art moments and the most embarrassing scene in the film
(Grace Jones did it much better)...
Meanwhile, we had a lot of extraneous noise throughout from an over-active sound designer who wanted to underscore the fact that London is a noisy place full of police sirens, road drills and refuse lorries – as if we didn’t know that. And there were the ‘arty’ moments: a held shot of a duvet snaking backwards and forwards in a pseudo American Beauty plastic bag moment, along with endless shots of windswept trees. London can be tranquil too, really – far more atmospheric and meaningful in Antonioni’s Blow-Up.
I left the cinema so angry at paying for such a dreadful experience.
The exceedingly double dull The Double
The other film I went to see was Richard Ayoade’s, The Double, which has also been highly rated by many critics. After 45 minutes, I walked out. It was utter style over substance and highly derivative of Wes Anderson but without his brilliance. And there were wasted performances from a number of extremely good actors, including Sally Hawkins. I am not even going to bother to describe it.
Exhibition in the hands of, say, Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future)
A real performance artist and the considerable writing and directing talent of Miranda July in The Future 2011
would have had a great script, wonderful performances, humanity and real humour. But in Hogg’s hands, it was sterile and soulless – just like the house it featured. Perhaps she thought that in order to convey the boring existence of a protagonist, you have to bore your audience to death? Having seen Hogg’s earlier film Archipelago (2007), which is marginally better but equally dull, I should have trusted my instinct and saved my money.
Thank God for real filmmakers of the quality of Asghar Farhadi, who still make cinema a worthwhile experience.