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Jubilee And Me: Artist Has Fond Memories of Rocket And Rainbow Gigs

Written by Chief Editor.

EJW readers may recall hearing about an auction of entertainment memorabilia at Bonhams in London. It was held earlier this month and included the original artwork for Elton's cover of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's song Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds from the Greatest Hits Volume II album. This was made by George Rowbottom, who has shared his thoughts about this project--and lots more--with Eltonjohnworld.com's Chief Editor. . . .
 
EJW: When you created the ‘Lucy in the Sky' scene, you were with Jubilee Graphics. How did this begin, and what were you doing prior?

GR: I went to art college in the UK and when I left pursued a career, with two fellow graduates, as a comedy writer and performer. This was before ‘alternative comedy’ had arrived in the UK. Our show was ahead of its time but we were signed to the same management company as Fleetwood Mac.

In London I started an animation studio in an historic Thames-side wharf and it was there that I met Roger Christian who became, at the time, my best mate. He introduced me to Caroline Boucher who was Elton’s in-house PR at Rocket Records. And it was Caroline who commissioned me and persuaded John Reid (Elton’s manager) to let me paint murals on the walls of Rocket Records.

Roger got the gig as Art Director on the original George Lucas ‘Star Wars.’ He won an Oscar for that movie. He also promised me a part in it playing an alien.  Talk about missed opportunities!

 Back to Elton--David Costa was working for him at Rocket as in-house designer. I was painting the walls. It was entirely left to me what I chose to paint and I do remember tackling a huge copy of a Maxfield Parrish work on one wall. Parrish was an American illustrator and painter who did really fabulous stuff.

Anyway David was called to fly out to LA to meet with Elton at the same time as John Reid Enterprises were producing and promoting an alternative Edinburgh Festival. Queen and Billy Connolly were appearing and with David gone they asked me to step in and do all the creative work for the Edinburgh event.

How could I refuse? And that really is the story behind Jubilee Graphics.

 EJW: Could you discuss some of the company's clients and assignments?

GR: When David returned John (Reid) thought it a good idea to set us up as a separate studio to do all the creative work for Rocket Records and its roster of artists.

As the Queen’s Jubilee year was fast approaching David thought it an appropriate idea to call the studio, which was in 101 Wardour Street, Soho - Jubilee Graphics.

We did work for other record labels and other artists. As you’ll know the record business is fickle and not all the acts that you do creative work and album sleeves for, in reality, ever taste success. I once hired an entire London Tube train for a band photo-shoot. Can you imagine the set-up and the expense  I can’t remember the band, needless to say nor can anyone else!

One outfit we did early work for - Queen - they were fairly successful.

We did Elton’s Greatest Hits Volume 2 which was released with a full-colour booklet insert with photos, lyrics and illustrations and that’s where my ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ comes from.

I don’t know where the idea for the cover shot of Elton’s 'Greatest Hits' came from. He was dressed in cricket whites with bat and stumps! Not really great for the US market but that’s what happened. The photo on the cover was set up in the studio. The photographer was Gered Mankowitz and the background was painted by me on glass and the whole thing put together (before computers) as a photo-compilation.

There was also Elton’s week-long concert at the Rainbow, in London, which was a major event he did with Ray Cooper in 1977. I seem to remember members of the Royal Family came along on the Thursday night and every night someone major would turn up and share the stage with Elton. I was there a number of times and remember Stevie Wonder and Kiki Dee showing up on stage with Elton.

Jubilee did the posters, advertising, programmes, tour jackets--in fact everything needed to promote the event. And, of course, Elton’s parties afterwards were fab.

A year later, Jubilee were commissioned to create the poster for the Knebworth Festival which was headlined by Genesis. I did the painting. In fact (should you ever get to see the poster) that’s me in a brown leather jacket leather and a Fender Stratocaster over my shoulder.

 EJW: What did you do after Jubilee closed its doors?
 
 GR: I worked for other record labels and some years later ran into Ray Cooper (who used to pop into Jubilee Graphics) again. He was involved with his friend George Harrison’s HandMade Films. Through my friendship with Ray I ended up with HandMade as my client doing all the creative work for their movies and working with the Monty Pythons.
 
George's paintings are available as Limited Edition prints. To view or purchase, visit www.buyartnow.com.au.