The Week In Arts: Perhaps it's payback time for Peter Blake...

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The Independent Online

I couldn't resist a wry smile at a recent front page report in The Guardian. It concerned Sir Peter Blake's complaint at the Hay literary festival that he had been paid only £200 for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover back in 1967, and ought to have it topped up. The paper said that the iconic album sleeve had been designed by Blake and "his then wife".

I couldn't resist a wry smile at a recent front page report in The Guardian. It concerned Sir Peter Blake's complaint at the Hay literary festival that he had been paid only £200 for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover back in 1967, and ought to have it topped up. The paper said that the iconic album sleeve had been designed by Blake and "his then wife".

His then wife was and is an artist, and did and does have a name. The Guardian once would have been the first to deplore neglecting to give a female artist a name and defining her only by her artist husband. Times have changed.

The artist in question, Jann Haworth, a noted member of the Ruralist school of painters in the Sixties, has probably given enough wry smiles to last a lifetime over the way she has been written out of the Sgt. Pepper script over the years. In fact, she made a notable contribution, with the 3D figures on the cover very typical of her work at the time. She has also told me that the old lady and Shirley Temple figure in the foreground were hers, though I note that Sir Peter spoke at Hay about how Shirley Temple was chosen because she was a childhood heroine of his - so I don't think I'll intrude on that one.

But what of the central point that Sir Peter is making? Should an artist, or in this case artists, who create a work that later becomes iconic receive a retrospective top-up on what now looks a very paltry sum?

Well, those who demand such things should be aware that (to coin a phrase from the stock market) the value of creative works can go down as well as up. I've yet to hear an artist or architect, playwright or director, give back some of their fee following an early closure or critical assault.

There are precedents, however, for rewarding people late in life for their youthful strokes of genius. Sir Cameron Mackintosh used his Nineties production of Oliver! to give a generous fee to its composer of nearly 40 years before, Lionel Bart, even though Sir Cameron was under absolutely no obligation to do so.

In the case of Sgt. Pepper, the CD seems to be constantly reissued on new formats. Super Audio is currently seeing reissues of classic albums, and no doubt there will other formats appearing in the very near future. Sir Paul McCartney could use one of these reissues to look again at that £200 payment.

Top it up, Sir Paul. It's only fair. But be sure to divide the new payment between the two artists involved in the original design. That's only fair, too.

This town ain't big enough for all his shoes

I am delighted that Morrissey has chosen Sparks to headline the first Saturday of his Meltdown festival on London's South Bank tonight. I made an annual prediction throughout the Nineties that the Seventies band would make a come-back, but I kept being wrong. They remained resolutely unfashionable.

Now, thanks to an excellent new album, Lil' Beethoven, and the championing of Morrissey, the brothers Ron and Russell Mael are in vogue once more. I shall, though, watch Ron Mael a little warily tonight. I had always assumed that his on-stage persona of mad staring eyes was an act, and he was a perfectly normal chap. However, I learn that he has 120 pairs of shoes in a range named after his basketball hero, Michael Jordan. They weren't actually worn by Jordan. They don't actually fit Mael. They just have the Jordan brand on them. There must be a song in that somewhere - or a psychology seminar.

Britten's Children

A fascinating TV programme last weekend called Britten's Children looked at the close relationships between Benjamin Britten and young boys, many of whom appeared in his operas. One was the actor David Hemmings, interviewed shortly before his death last year. Hemmings and every other of "Britten's Children" interviewed retained huge affection for the composer. Hemmings even admitted to sharing Britten's bed because he was scared of the dark. It was a tale of innocence and Britten remains this country's most revered opera composer. Yet if he were alive now he would be hounded by the News of the World and there would be protesters outside performances of Peter Grimes.

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