The day had started, unusually for me, by David Tang telling me an unrepeatable story about Henry Kissinger; and after a bizarre sequence of events – involving Princess Michael of Kent, Burt Bacharach and a prospective meeting with the son of an oligarch – had ended with the graphic designer Alan Aldridge telling me how Lionel Blair had once put a smile on Eric Clapton's face.
We were onstage at Central St Martin's Cochrane Theatre, as part of a series of interviews with notable designers, and Alan was being engagingly indiscreet. Having told us all about working with Lord Snowdon ("I was alone in his house and the phone rang. 'Hello,' I said, 'Can I help?' 'Yes, is Margaret there?' 'No love, she's out. Who wants to know?' 'Her sister...'"), his frustrations with the Beatles ("At Apple it was difficult to get paid"), the saga of the cover and aborted film of Elton John's Captain Fantastic (Hollywood homophobia), he told about creating the sleeve for Cream's final album, Goodbye, in 1969.
Aldridge has always been something of an enigma, and even when he was riding high as the rock'n'roll designer du jour in the Sixties, always tended to let his work do the talking. But now he talks himself, and with great self-deprecation.
Cream had already split up when they came to release Goodbye, and couldn't stand each other, so he had to tell Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker they'd be photographed separately and glued together afterwards. When they arrived, they discovered that Aldridge was pulling a fast one, and that the only way the picture would work was if they were in the same frame together. Cue toys, drumsticks, Fenders and plectrums being thrown out of prams, and three of the world's biggest rock stars storming out of the studio. Frustrated beyond belief, Aldridge went outside for a cigarette, only to see Lionel Blair about to board a bus. As a last resort, the designer coerced Blair into the studio to try and convince the band to sit for the session. Remarkably, he did just that, and soon had them running around, posing and laughing like they were in the first flush of youth.
I have no idea if Lionel Blair ever worked with Henry Kissinger, but I'll let you know as soon as I find out.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'Reuse content