As a heraldic artist and designer I have over the 34 years or so of my professional career worked on some very interesting commissions. One of these is the album cover that I designed and painted for the British rock group, Jethro Tull.
I had been a fan since I was about 14 years old and loved the way the band combined folk style riffs with rock but what really attracted me to their music was the subject matter and lyrics of the songs, in particular the folk and mythological references. Anyone who has heard Coronach the theme song from ‘Blood of the British’ or the album ‘Songs From The Wood’ will understand this. Ian Anderson is simply a genius and his originality knows no bounds.
In 1987 I was four years out of art school and living in Somerset. A telegram arrived from Chrysalis Records asking if I would phone John Pasche who was Creative Director at their offices in London. Intrigued, I made the call and he said that Ian Anderson wanted an quasi heraldic style album cover. For a minute I was stunned, and said, ‘As in Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson?’ he confirmed this and said Ian wanted a black cat, a Kelpie and a reference to the ‘bearded man’ the rest was up to me and could I do some sketches and bring them to London the following day. I drew out most of my ideas in a sketch book on the train journey. To cut a long story short the CD chose one of my sketches and asked me to work it up with more detail and then in a few days I was to go to CTS recording studios in Wembley to Show Ian. He gave me a tape of the songs on the new album and I listened to them on my Walkman on the way home.
Back in Somerset I excitedly drew up the chosen idea and then took it to Wembley. I walked into the recording studio where Ian Anderson was doing post production sat at a sound desk. The first thing he said was, ‘With a name like yours I imagined a huge beard and a kilt’, I asked how he had found my work and he said it was in a book of heraldry and I seemed to be the only one who was still alive. He was particularly attracted to my asymmetric designs and I showed him the chosen design but he wasn’t happy and so he got one of his assistants to go out and get some Indian food. Whilst we were waiting I was leafing through my sketches produced on the train and he said, ‘what was that?’, he took the book from me and found the sketch – ‘This is more like it, lets work on that as the basis’.
I spent the next few hours eating Samosas and working on the sketch, whilst he continued working on the album but every so often he would come over to watch me sketch, he had just got a black kitten which was feisty, we included it and I said I had always liked the idea of the Hooded Crow which features in his songs and his trade mark Flute had to be included. Ian wanted a ‘Celtic’ feel to the coat of arms and so I designed the helmet to look like a Chieftain with a Celtic style crown. After a few hours I showed him the design and he said, ‘That’s it’. So we said our farewells and I headed back to Somerset to begin work on the finished painting and produce the calligraphy and other elements to be used in Marketing. I was also asked to produce a design for a Tee Shirt.
A month or so later I received some complimentary Cd’s and a phone call from Ian thanking me for an outstanding job. It was such a high for me you cannot imagine. The funny thing was that I didn’t know it but it would also have a profound affect on my life in the future and make for an amusing encounter in my local Pub.
The Pub. I was talking to some friends about art and said I had done this album cover back in the day called, ‘Crest of a Knave’, I get a tap on the shoulder and a guy I knew who loved VW camper vans called Ben said, ‘Did I hear you right, did you say you did the cover for Crest of a Knave?’, ‘Yes mate’, I replied, he looked a little wigged out and then said. ‘Mate you have just gone up to God status!’ evidently he had every piece of merchandise from the album, funny thing was I had known Ben for about three years.
The Love of my Life. I joined social media in 2009. Added all kinds of people as you did back then. At that time I was looking to have a new website designed but hadn’t really said anything to anyone. I posted the Crest of a Knave cover art one day and a lady and fellow artist commented on it. It seemed as a young girl she had jumped and bounced all around her room pretending to play her flute like Ian Anderson. We struck up a conversation and I found out she designed websites! Jump forward and we have been happily married for some years now. Who would have thought that in 1987 in Somerset I was painting something that would eventually lead me to my soul mate in America, Thanks Ian, I owe you one!
Andrew Stewart Jamieson