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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot