An insight into a lost art

Steve Hardstaff, album cover artist, poster designer and cartoonist

Steve Hardstaff, album cover artist, poster designer and cartoonist

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Steve Hardstaff, album cover artist, poster designer and cartoonist, and who worked with The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Half Man Half Biscuit, makes a special guest appearance at the launch of The Whitaker’s summer exhibition in Rossendale on Saturday.

The Wall of Sound and Vision, Posters of a Music revolution, features the private collection of Lancashire record producer Chris Hewitt, owner of Ozit Morpheus Records, and helps tell the story of the bands and people, some familiar, others less so, involved in the 1970s musical uprising in the North West of England.

The artwork uses archived posters from old venues, dance halls, festivals and discotheques, all long gone, from Manchester’s Electric Circus, Eric’s in Liverpool, The Deeply Vale Festival and Ribchester’s Lode Star Club.

“They were not made for any thought of posterity, but designed to be eye-catching bold statements, reminders for dates, that once gone, were quickly pasted over, or torn down on a derelict building,” said Hewitt.

“Part of their charm lies in the way they were made.

“Most of the hands-on techniques used in the production of many of these posters – like the Rabid Records poster featuring Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds, Jilted John and John Cooper Clarke – are almost lost in the digital era, with sign writing, screen printing and so on.

“In that era, many people relied on the posters, and the odd music magazine to find out who was on and where.”

There will also be many examples of Hardstaff’s work.

During the vinyl years, Hardstaff experimented with album packaging, producing what is claimed to be the first triple gatefold sleeve for the Strawbs’ 1972 release Grave New World.

For Half Man Half Biscuit’s debut album, Back in the DHSS, he used an exposed photograph of a youth’s face that he had found in the street and treated with fluorescent washes of pink and blue to make it look like a day-glo cover.

His art work for the group’s album This Leaden Pall – a grey depiction of buildings in the depressed Liverpool suburb of Halewood – was nominated in the top 100 album sleeves of all time by Q magazine.

An audience with Steve Hardstaff (£5). Saturday at 2pm followed by a gig in the Whitaker Courtyard with bands, punk poetry, food and drink (£3). Tickets from Rossendale Museum and Art Gallery. 01706 218858.