November 4, 2020
He played with the Fab Four in Hamburg, inspired their moptops, drew the famed Revolver cover, and gigged with Yoko Ono. As his illustrations are published, the great musician relives his fabulous escapades
In September 1969, the bass player and artist Klaus Voormann, who had recently left Manfred Mann, received a phone call from John Lennon. There was nothing unusual in that. Voormann had known the Beatles for nine years and was part of the band’s tight inner circle. It was Voormann’s own band, Paddy, Klaus and Gibson, that Lennon and George Harrison had attempted to go and see live on the night they were famously dosed with LSD at a dinner party. Ringo Starr was already at the gig and was noisily confronted by his lysergically altered bandmates claiming that the venue’s lift was on fire. A year later, he had designed the Grammy award-winning cover of Revolver.
The issue was more what Lennon wanted him to do. Lennon had whimsically agreed to perform live at a rock’n’roll revival festival in Toronto at two days’ notice and was trying to cobble together backing musicians to play as the Plastic Ono Band. Eric Clapton had agreed to play guitar, but Voormann took more convincing, on the not-unreasonable grounds that headlining a festival with a new band who hadn’t rehearsed didn’t seem like one of Lennon’s more inspired ideas.