Photography by Mr Michel Comte
Styling by Mr Dan May
Mr Aldridge has been on quite a ride. Positioned at the very forefront of the graphic art scene in the Sixties and Seventies, his distinctive album covers for the likes of The Beatles and Mr Elton John helped define the mood of a generation. As the art director for Penguin Books during the same period, he is often credited with reimagining the humble paperback as a popular work of art. Now 68, the father of eight (we're impressed), shows no sign of slowing down.
To an outsider how would you describe your work?
I'd say it's hell's-a-popping-psychedelic-surrealism...
You've been described as one of the greatest illustrators of the 20th century. In your opinion what has been your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement has been my kids, but outside of that, putting The Beatles book together in nine weeks - pulling that off was pretty hard and it's been a monumental success for me.
You've worked with everyone from The Rolling Stones to Mr Elton John - can you describe a few career highlights?
Oh my gosh, that would have to be when I was at the showing of The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus at a tacky little rented cinema. I sat with The Stones and watched it. At the end when the lights went up, this little man stood up and freaked out and said: "We're going to have to shoot the whole frickin' thing again." It was Allen Klein, their manager. It turned out that nobody touched the project for about 30 years.
Your work in the Sixties and Seventies defined a whole era of graphics. Were you aware at the time the weight your work would have?
No, when I was made art director of Penguin Books - I just took to it naturally, I think. We were doing something like one hundred book covers a month, commissioning artists and photographers and, as for myself, I just gave every job my best shot and people started using the word 'genius' and I had to look it up... I was a pretty green kid.
Mr Aldridge worked closely with Mr Elton John on the surrealist cover art for his 1975 album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
THE COVER KING
As the art director of Penguin Books from 1965 to 1967, Mr Aldridge helped infuse the paperback with an air of covetability, a quality it holds on to even today
THE ARTIST AT WORK, 1969
After leaving Penguin, Mr Aldridge set up his own graphic design firm, INK, taking on high-profile projects with The Beatles and Apple Corps
This 1969 book cover, from The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, still stands as one of Mr Aldridge's most famous works
STILL GOT IT
In recent years, the artist has been involved with countless illustrative projects including art directing and illustrating the cover art for Incubus' studio album, Light Grenades
Looking back how has the style of your artwork changed over the years?
Well, it's changed with the computer because once upon a time the colouring was a personal process between myself and an airbrush artist called Harry Willock. Now I simply draw the black and white lines and then hand them to Photoshop - there are these brilliant kids around and they get done that way.
How come you have ended up in LA?
I've lived here since 1980. I came here with Elton John during the time I was working on the album cover for Captain Fantastic. We flew to California, got a deal with Universal instantly, and I had a suite next door to Warren Beatty's in The Beverly Wilshire. It was a pretty incredible time; 24-hour limo service and all the booze I could drink, so I stayed for two-and-a-half years until finally the project collapsed and I moved back to London. A while later I got a call from CBS and they wanted me to write and develop an animation project and I came over and they gave me a big cheque to come up with some ideas, so I set off trying to make a living writing movies.
Who has been the most stylish man you have ever worked with or encountered?
Without a doubt, Germano Facetti, who was the guy that discovered me. I was just a raw kid mooching around pubs, he was art director of Penguin Books. I used to go to this place called the Graphic Workshop in the evening and ponce off free coffee - and he took me under his wing and he went around London taking me to meet Alan Fletcher and Francis Bacon. Francis said to me one time when we had an exhibition together that I was the only artist he'd ever known that didn't know how to draw a straight line. I liked that.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a project called Fee Fi Fo Fum, which is an interactive game for children. It's my first interactive game and the technology is mind-blowing.
And finally, talk us through the designs you have created with the cool swimwear brand Orlebar Brown.
My daughter, Saffron, introduced me to Adam Brown, the founder. He chose from a large catalogue of work the designs he thought would work best for the project. They were pieces that were created in the Sixties and Seventies - primarily for The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics and some for a children's book.
Orlebar Brown by Alan Aldridge swimming shorts will be exclusive to MR PORTER for the next four weeks
CHECK THESE OUT...
- Alan Aldridge Face of Utopia Embroidered Bulldog Swimshorts
by Orlebar Brown
- Alan Aldridge Giggling Guru Bulldog Swimshorts
by Orlebar Brown
- Alan Aldridge Third Eye Trip Embroidered Bulldog Swimshorts
by Orlebar Brown
- Alan Aldridge Sticky Lips Bulldog Swimshorts
by Orlebar Brown