Ray Lowry: Cartoonist best known for his work in the rock music press

Although best known for his distinctive and often rather surreal cartoons for Punch, Private Eye and many other publications – especially in the rockmusic industry – over the past four decades, Ray Lowry also worked as a journalist, illustrator, designer and oil painter.

He was born in 1944 in Cadishead, near Manchester, the youngest of three sons of Jack Lowry, who was employed at the Irlam Steelworks, and his wife Vera (who died when Ray was 16). Lowry left Urmston Grammar School at 15 and started work in an advertising agency in Manchester. He was self-taught as an artist, his first cartoon being published in the Manchester Evening News around 1967.

There then followed a period working in St Ives, Cornwall, and London before he had some cartoons published by the underground magazines International Times and Oz. He turned professional cartoonist in 1969 – contributing to Punch (for which he later also drew covers), Private Eye and Mayfair – and later also drew for The Guardian, Manchester Review, Mojo, Vox, Arena, Tatler, The Big Issue, New Society, Time Out, The Observer, City Fun, The Independent, Loaded and The Spectator, among other publications.

Lowry was particularly well known for his work in the music press, notably in the 1970s and 1980s for New Musical Express, for whom he drew (from 1977) the weekly strip “Only Rock ’n’ Roll”. He also worked occasionally as a music journalist – including (for NME) the first British interview of Cyndi Lauper – and wrote and illustrated a monthly column for The Face for three years. In addition he made a half-hour promotional video with the grunge-rock band Gaye Bykers on Acid and designed the cover for their album Drill Your Own Hole (1987).

Lowry first met the punk rock group The Clash at the Electric Circus in Manchester in 1976, where they were appearing as part of the Sex Pistols’ infamous “Anarchy Tour”. Lowry became friends with the group and was subsequently invited to accompany the group as “War Artist” (in lead singer Joe Strummer’s phrase) on their 1979 tour of the United States.

Lowry later designed the iconic record sleeve for The Clash’s third album, London Calling (1979), illustrated the 1997 bookARiot ofOurOwn: Nightand Daywith The Clash by the group’s road manager Johnny Green (with the journalist Garry Barker), and he also contributed in 2006 to The Clash – Up Close and Personal, aDVD and book set which tells the story of the 1979 US tour. Writing of Lowry’s jokes about the music industry, Simon Frith described him in New Society as “a jaded rock ’n’ roll fan... cynical and angry... Lowry’s real hate-figures aren’t businessmen but the Sunday Times bourgeois pop person”. His other drawings often featured the juxtaposition of historical andcontemporary images, combining, for example, Nazi rallies and Hollywood, estate agents and the Napoleonic Wars, the raising of Lazarus and electrical repairs (“Sorry, He doesn’t do toasters”), and variations on the Titanic and Hindenburg disasters. He had a distinctive, energetic and sketchy style produced using a Gillott nib with Indian ink and wash, signing his work “RLOWRY”, in capitals.

In addition to his cartoon work he was a keen and prolific painter in oils – notably urban landscapes of Manchester, as well as abstract and pop art – and shortly before his death he had completed a series of colour images inspired by the ill-fated 1960 British tour by the American rock ’n’ roll stars Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.

This formed part of a major retrospective exhibition of all aspects of his work – the first ever – at the See Gallery in Crawshawbooth, Lancashire this year.

Examples of his work are held in the Prints and Drawings Department of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent and elsewhere, as well as in the personal collections of music and arts celebrities such as Damien Hirst, Patti Smith and the late John Peel. In addition to the See Gallery retrospective he held one-man shows at the Gallery Downstairs, Burnley and the Cartoon Gallery, London, and examples of his work appeared in Punch 150 at the Royal Festival Hall in 1991, Private Eye Times: 1961-1996 at the National Portrait Gallery in 1996, Private Eye at 45 at the Cartoon Museum in 2006, and elsewhere.

He produced three collections of cartoons – Only Rock ’n’ Roll (1980), This Space To Let (1986) and Ink (1998) – illustrated The Penguin Book of Rock &Roll Writing (1992), Rock Talk (1994) and Funny Talk (1995), and designed the cover for Elvis –TheNovel (1996) by Robert Graham and Keith Baty.

Of medium height and slight build, Lowry was clean-shaven with formerly curly brown hair, and spoke quietly with a strong Lancashire accent. Fond of his local Boddington’s beer, he was also very much a part of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle that featured in much of his work and was, in the words of his friend and fellow Lancashire artist, Liam Spencer, “a kind of punky, maverick, Renaissanceman”. A keen amateur photographer, he also enjoyed walks in the Lancashire countryside with his dog Barney.

Mark Bryant

Mark Bryant Raymond Lowry, cartoonist, designer and painter: born Cadishead, Lancashire 28 August 1944; married (one son, two stepsons); died Waterfoot, Lancashire 14 October 2008.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam