Peter Blake and Pop Music, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester

Pop goes the artist – with a little help from his friends

The jukebox is like a magnet – every visitor to Peter Blake and Pop Music at Pallant House in Chichester heads straight for it. "Oh, it's got 'Hound Dog!'", chirrups a woman in her seventies, who starts to dance, right there on the gallery floor, as the robotic arm picks the 45rpm disc and plops it on to the turntable of the Rock-Ola Princess. She might have chosen "Peggy Sue" or "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie …"(flipside, "Don't Dilly Dally, Silly"), but it had to be Elvis, and she'd sought out an attendant to turn the juke box back on: "It got overheated earlier …".

The Princess, property of a Pallant House curator, is not only the accidental star of Peter Blake and Pop Music, it provides the soundtrack for Blake's life, and, therefore, his art. At 15, he discovered his father's extensive collection of swing records: music and visual art aligned were to became his calling card. His timing was impeccable. With his receptive ear and attraction to all things American, as an art student in search of his own style in the Fifties, as an established artist in the Sixties, he seems to have fallen repeatedly into jam.

In 1960, he recalls, he met "the Liverpool song group" the Beatles. Seven years later, he created the Sgt Pepper album cover for which he is most widely known – but he was not the first choice: Paul McCartney was warned that the original design by the collective The Fool was too psychedelic, and suggested a new commission. Enter Blake – with his then wife Jann Haworth, whose joint role in the enterprise tends to be overlooked. Neatly, her Cowboy, a trophy in Pallant House's outstanding permanent collection, has hightailed it into the Blake show, for now.

Blake has loaned his copy of the Sgt Pepper screenprint to the show and explains how possibly the most famous album cover in the world was put together. The 70 cut-out figures included regular Blake motifs – Max Miller, James Dean. The assemblage was set up and shot in a day. The next morning, the piece was broken up "somebody else took most of it", and Blake salvaged only eight figures. The project cost a walloping £2,868. Blake was paid £200.

The magpie artist cannot help collecting. In 1982, A Museum for Myself, an arrangement of objects that mean something to him, included signed photographs of the Beatles, Talking Heads and George Formby, and 470 shells in a bottle. He asked Paul Weller to bring his own memorabilia for his Stanley Road cover. Result: a bus ticket, Millais' Ophelia, a picture of John Lennon. Is it possible to step anywhere in the pop world without falling over a Beatle?

Blake, now 80, helpfully documents the process of making art, and reveals himself to be an amiable collaborator. His notes to his printer, beautifully written in an italic hand, are punctuated with the word "please". Brusquer by far was Francis Bacon, refusing to cooperate on The Who's ninth album, Face Dances, in 1981. "I told you on the telephone that I could not do this portrait for the sleeve," he snaps. "I have left the £50 in the envelope." Others were less stand-offish: David Hockney, Howard Hodgkin and Patrick Procktor (see Charles Darwent, page 55) were among the 16 artists who got stuck in on The Who cover. You sense that people not only want Blake's services, they also want to perform for this facilitator, ringmaster, band leader – the Sgt Pepper of art.

Peter Blake (01243 774557) to 7 Oct

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering