Monday, May 8, 2017

The Fool

George Harrison + Fireplace
1967: Were one fortunate enough to drop by George Harrison's digs in Surrey, the eye would be drawn to his fireplace, opulently decorated with spritely-colored scenes of lush reclining figures and drooping vegetation. The same fauna and flora bustled over the guitars and drums of Cream, and a similar style is apparent on the dream-like covers of the new LPs by The Hollies and The Incredible String Band. Should you wonder where Procol Harem got their scarlet performing clothes or what Marianne Faithfull was wearing as she rushed through airport customs, the source was the same: The Fool. Many people know the work of The Fool Design Collective, even if they couldn't tell you the names of the individuals involved. The accelerated career trajectory of Dutch artists Marijke Koger and Simon Posthuma took them from a hippie enclave on the isle of Ibiza in 1966 to London and work for The Beatles throughout 1967, thanks to a distinctive brand of rainbow-hued psychedelia. Marijke Koger explained that the name "The Fool" was chosen after they met Alistair Crowley-obsessed blues singer Graham Bond who introduced them to the Tarot deck. Posthuma adds that "Arcana Zero (The Fool) represents truth, spiritual meaning, and the circle which expresses the universal circumference in which gravitate all things."

Marijke Koger opened her first boutique, The Trend, in Amsterdam at the age of 18 with her friend from school, Yosha Leeger. Around that time, she met Simon Posthuma. Soon the trio moved to the Spanish island of Ibiza. Simone Postuma was the painter and Marijke Koger was the graphic artist, while Josje Leeger designed and made clothes.

Koger, born in 1943, started painting and making her own clothes in her early teens. She dropped out of school at the age of 15, and went to work as a graphic artist at various advertising agencies in Amsterdam. She started her first boutique, The Trend in Amsterdam, at the age of 18 with her friend from school, Yosha Leeger. Around that time, she met Simon Posthuma. Soon after, the three moved , first to Ibiza, and then, after receiving a grant from Von Palland Foundation, to London. The year was 1966. In London, they met Simon Hayes of Mayfair Publicity who took interest in their work, and introduced them to many of his rock star clients. He also brought in Barry Finch as an informal manager. In a short time, The Fool were designing stage clothes for The Hollies and Procol Harum. Later, they were commissioned to design tour program covers and clothes for Cream as well as to customise their instruments. In 1966, Graham Bond - organist and lead singer of Graham Bond Organisation, introduced Marijke to Tarot, which became an important influnce on her work. It inspired the name for the group, The Fool. Indeed, Tarot, alongside Art Nouveau will prove to be the biggest infuence on The Fool's work (as well as a vast intake of LSD, of course). Meanwhile, the word about The Fool was spreading. Their graphic designs were receiving a lot of attention.

The illustrations The Fool Design Collective did for Saville Theatre, which belonged to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, brought them to the attention of The Beatles themselves. John Lennon and Paul McCartney came round one evening to Marijke and Simon's place, and were mesmerized by the psychedelic paintings on their armoire.

One of the first projects the Beatles undertook after forming their Apple Corps company was the Apple boutique, opened on Dec. 7, 1967 at 94 Baker Street in London. The Beatles were such fans of  The Fool Design Collective work, that they commissioned them for the new Apple Boutique. The Fool were supposed to design everything; clothes, interior of the shop as well as the exterior. They engaged several dozen art students to paint a huge psychedelic mural across the entire front and side of the store. 

McCartney initially described the shop as "a beautiful place where beautiful people can buy beautiful things." Pete Shotton managed the store with Pattie Harrison's sister Jennie. Invitations to the grand opening, on 5 December 1967, read "Come at 7.46. Fashion Show at 8.16." John and George were the only Beatles that attended. The only drink available that night was apple juice. All in all for The Beatles, the group created the short-lived mural for the Apple boutique on Baker Street (removed based on traffic distractions), the decoration on John Lennon's piano, George Harrison's Mini Cooper and the inner sleeve for the Sgt. Pepper album. The gatefold interior of the album was going to incorporate a Fool painting but Robert Fraser apparently persuaded the band to replace this with the familiar group photo.

Apple Boutique eventually closed in July 1968 – after merely seven months, during which it had lost nearly £100.000. To maintain the spirit of the store, The Beatles decided to give away all the remaining stock on the last day. As Ringo remembers: "We went in the night before and took everything we wanted. We had loads of shirts and jackets – we cleaned a lot of stuff out. It wasn’t a sale, we just gave it all away and that was the best idea." Paul adds: "The nice thing was that we weren’t too fussed when it didn’t work out. It was great: giving the clothes to people who showed up on the day.

The Fool themselves (and their decor) appear in the Beatles-produced feature film, Wonderwall (1968). The film's synopsis is as turned on and tuned in as We Love You, Alice B. ToklasLondon is truly swinging by ‘67. Inside his cramped Landsowne Road apartment in SW11, absent-minded professor, Oscar Collins (Jack MacGowran), discovers a hole in a wall in which he can view, unseen, the wild antics of a hip photographer (Iain Quarrier) and his collection of beautiful, drugged-up models, including the alluring Penny Lane (played by Jane Birkin). As he strips away more bricks, mortar, and even his ceiling, to get a better view of the couple's love-ins and hash-fuelled "happenings," he discovers Penny is far from happy and he is soon forced to enter his "wonderwall" in order to save her life… It is a visual world that emulates The Fool. (The film's soundtrack was George Harrison's debut solo album, Wonderwall Music, and was the first release for Apple Records. The recording sessions took place at Abbey Road and at Ravi Shankar’s studio in Bombay, India, with The Remo Four's Colin Manly and Tony Ashton, as well as Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr involved.)

Given all this sudden visibility, it's surprising The Fool wasn't more in demand for album cover designs. The Beatles clothes on the "All You Need is Love" world broadcast are Fool creations. Of their album covers, the one for The Incredible String Band is probably the most well-known. The work they did for Evolution by The Hollies led to a collaboration with Graham Nash on an album by The Fool (and session musicians) in 1968 that was quickly forgotten. The collective split up in 1969 with Marijke Koger and Simon Posthuma relocating to California. The two would release several more singles and two more LPs, these too, all but forgotten.

1967: If one were fortunate enough to visit London in the Summer of Love, the whole thing, kit and kaboodle, was designed by The Fool.