A host of British artists and musicians have embraced their inner punk to produce a reinterpretation of The Clash’s 1979 London Calling album cover in honour of its designer and the band’s “official war artist” Ray Lowry, who died in 2008.
Tracey Emin, Nick Hornby, Billy Childish and Humphrey Simon are among 30 Lowry admirers to produce tributes for inclusion an in exhibition of his work due to open at the Idea Generation Gallery in London next week.
Manchester-born Lowry was, by all accounts, a true rock n’ roll fan who met The Clash at a concert in the late ‘70s. The illustrator, satirist and regular contributor to NME was quickly adopted by the band and was invited to accompany them on their 1979 tour, during which Joe Strummer dubbed him their “official war artist.”
“Within three weeks I had gone from a fan to one of the band’s intimate entourage. The first time I got behind the wheel of the minibus, with The Clash in the back, I felt a bit awestruck,” Lowry is recorded as saying. It was around this time that the band asked him to design the London Calling sleeve, for which he chose Pennie Smith’s photograph, (voted “the best rock ‘n roll photograph of all time” by Q magazine) and the soft focus pink and green lettering from Elvis Presley’s debut album.
“The London Calling album cover had to feature the infamous pink and green rock ‘n roll lettering. God made me do that...actually I had no idea it was out of focus. Half blind at the best of times and probably half pissed at that time, that simply had to be the one,” he said.
Lowry, who had no formal artistic training, was a keen advocator of further education. After his sudden death two years ago The Ray Lowry Foundation was set up in his name to provide financial assistance to talented students unable to afford further training. The launch of Lowry’s foundation coincides with the exhibition and sales of artists’ work will go towards it.