Rock History

Cover Story “Evolution” by Karl Ferris

By Michael Goldstein

Subject: “Evolution” – an album cover design produced by photographer Karl Ferris for the cover of the 1967 recording by The Hollies titled “Evolution“, released on Parlophone Records (U.K.) and distributed in the U.S. by Epic Records.

One of the “British Invasion’s” most-popular bands, the Hollies began (as did most acts at the time) doing covers of early rock, blues and R&B tunes. As they grew musically (and finalized their core line-up), they soon added original tunes that focused on their unique vocal harmonies (featuring Allan Clarke and Graham Nash), Tony Hicks’ ringing guitar work and Bobby Elliott’s innovative drumming.

Throughout the 1960’s, the band landed in the U.K. Top 20 charts nearly 20 times, but they didn’t have a hit in the U.S. until 1966, when they broke into the Top 40 with “Look Through Any Window”, followed soon after by the Top 10 hit “On A Carousel”, “Bus Stop” and “Stop Stop Stop”. While the Hollies focused on keeping pop listeners happy, other top British acts began to experiment with more studio-based psychedelic sounds and records “that made a statement”.

Graham Nash, in particular, thought that it was time to explore their more trippy side, and so their next album would begin taking them in that direction. Released in the U.K. in June of 1967 on Parlophone Records, Evolution reached #13 on the British charts, driven by the record’s fan-friendly mix of psychedelics (“Headed for a Fall”) and great pop (“Carrie-Anne”).

gnash0615.jpgOriginal band members Allan Clarke (guitar/vocals), Graham Nash (guitar/vocals), Tony Hicks (various stringed instruments/vocals) and Bobby Elliott (drums) were joined by new bassist Bernie Calvert in their effort to take their sound into new and exciting directions. Let’s pick up the story now as cover photographer Karl Ferris recalls what happened next –

In the words of photographer Karl Ferris (interviewed in June 2007) –

“In the summer of 1966, The Hollies had asked me in to design a front album cover photograph for their new LP, Evolution, with which they wanted to break from their ‘Pop Beat’ sound into something more psychedelic. During the Hollies recording sessions at Abbey Road Studios which I attended, the Beatles were also there recording the Sergeant Pepper album and John and Paul dropped in to hear some Hollies tracks and invited us over to hear some of their new tracks, which we did, and were duly blown away by the revolutionary music.

To begin the process, I listened to the music that they were recording and got an image of them pushing through a membrane into ‘the Psychedelic world’. I took a studio shot of them pushing out their hands and the lead singer pointing through clear plastic. Over this, I superimposed a shot of William Morris ‘Art Nuevo’ wallpaper with an illustration and some ‘Love’ lettering drawn by my girlfriend, Anke.

This combination created the image of the Hollies ‘pushing through to a new wave of music style and consciousness’. I worked with the design collective The Fool (lead by Simon Posthuma) on this, and they did the lettering, the back cover design and created the group’s fantastic costumes.

When it was released early in 1967, the music magazine columnists raved about the cover photo, saying that it was the first ‘psychedelic photo’ cover they had seen anywhere.

I then started to be approached by other major Pop stars who’d seen Evolution to do their promo shots and album covers. A month later I was invited to the ‘wrap party’ for Sgt. Pepper, during which I was asked if I wanted to shoot some 16mm film of the happenings there, which I did. Everyone was there, all the London Rock elite: The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, Donovan, Marianne Faithful, The Who, The Fool and many others. At one point we all stood in a large circle beneath a hanging mike and sang an ‘Oom’ mantra which was double-tracked with a long extended note that Paul was conducting and had the London Philharmonic’s 77-piece orchestra play while I filmed it. This recording was used as the final note on the song ‘A Day in the Life’. The camera and film were placed in a box and I didn’t see it again for 35 years, until I recently saw it on The Beatles Anthology DVD set and recognized some of the footage I shot.

Later, apparently Jimi Hendrix saw the Evolution cover and said to his manager Chas Chandler that he wanted something similar “psychedelic” on his Are You Experienced album when it was to be released in the USA, as he was not happy with it’s UK cover “which he said, made him look like a fairy” so he sent Chas off to contact me…”

This, as you might figure, will be the subject of an upcoming “Cover Story”… 🙂

About Karl Ferris –

karl_1967.jpgKarl Ferris is known as “the Innovator of Psychedelic Photography”. A photographer to the “British Rock Elite” – Eric Clapton, Cream, Donovan, The Hollies and Jimi Hendrix – Ferris was invited as their personal photographer to create their “Images”. He was given an insider access to the “Experience” that defined the 60’s and the world.

As a World War II baby who grew up in Hastings, England in the 50’s, Ferris learned two things that would later affect his life, the first being the history of Hastings, conquered by the Normans in 1066. This peaked an interest in this medieval period of history and Karl would find himself bicycling around Norman castles and fantasizing about battles, knights, chivalry and heraldry. The second thing he learned was an appreciation of art, having a showing of his early paintings at the Hastings Museum. He later went on to study at Hastings College of Art focusing on the Pre-Raphaelite style of painting which would later influence his psychedelic photography of the 60’s.

After school and with dreams of traveling to India, Ferris signed up as a steward on a P&O liner that went to Australia via India. After returning to England he served two years with the Royal Air Force for his National Service (Conscription) as an aerial photographer. During this period he became friends with a fellow conscriptee, who was a member of a Liverpool Mersey Beat group, and he was introduced for the first time to this type of music. He was invited back to Liverpool to see a new group – The Beatles – who were appearing at the Cavern Club and was introduced to them. He was then hooked on the “Beat” music from which the Beatles took their name.

After his military service, Ferris immigrated to Vancouver, Canada working as an assistant to master photographer Harold Nygard. From him, Karl learned the skills of composition, form and texture. He also began an involvement in the “Beatnik” lifestyle and began hanging out in “coffee bars” listening to poetry readings and the progressive jazz of such artists as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, John Coletrane and Ornette Coleman. He shot his first music subjects at these gatherings for local newspapers and magazines. He also began to take fashion shots of girl friends and models, building up a portfolio. Nygard told him that he had a real talent in this and should return to London where the Mod Fashion scene was going on.

In 1964 Karl returned to England and the happening Beat scene. Ferris received commissioned work as a fashion photographer for the teen magazine “19” and later for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, French Mode and Marie Claire. These commissions brought him to such locations as Paris, Cannes, Munich, Ibiza and Morocco. When he wasn’t working, he would join into the “Scene”. After meeting up (and eventually dating) Denmark’s top superstar model of the time, Karl was introduced to a pop group called the “ The King Bees” who invited him to sing Rolling Stones cover songs with them, so he began touring in and around Copenhagen doing this.

He eventually returned to England for a “shoot” offer with Vogue. The Beatles had just released Rubber Soul and Karl had the chance to meet up with their official photographer, Robert Freeman, who encouraged Ferris to experiment with different styles of images – which he promptly did – in his unique psychedelic style. On a trip to the Spanish island of Ibiza he met and began shooting “The Fool’s” (Simon and Marijke) innovative psychedelic fashion designs, which were eventually printed in the fashion section of The London Times. This was the first time such psychedelic photography and fashions had been seen anywhere. He and the Fool were then invited to come to London to shoot some more “Psychedelic” fashion features.

From this Ferris received many commissions. He also began working on “Psychedelic Happening shows” combining projections of colored liquid and photographs over freeform dancers. The likes of Paul McCartney, Graham Nash, Eric Clapton, T Rex, Pink Floyd and John Lennon dropped by and began participating by playing music with these shows. Ferris was also invited to do a stage light show for Pink Floyd, which is believed to be the first one ever done in England, in 1966.

Ferris met with Jimi Hendrix in 1967 through Chas Chandler, who had “discovered” Hendrix. Karl received the compliment of a lifetime when Hendrix remarked to him, on seeing his portfolio, “You‘re doing with photography what I’m doing with music – going far out beyond the limits”. Hendrix then asked Ferris to be his photographer and to re-shoot the UK version of the album Are You Experienced for the US market.

Karl began experimenting using a giant Nikon fisheye lens and secret infrared film that had just been released by the military, who had used it for U2 plane spying. He created the famous photograph used for Jimi’s first US record album cover, which he also designed, and his images appeared on all three U.S. album covers released during Hendrix’s short life – Are You Experienced, Axis Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland. Karl also created the album cover images for Donovan – Gift From A Flower To A Garden, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, For The Little Ones and Hurdy Gurdy Donovan and for The Hollies’ Evolution. During the years 1967-69, Karl was one of the preferred photographers to the British Rock elite, shooting also many PR photos for them.

In 2003 Ferris began his quest to re-visit a time in music that defined a generation, creating “The Ferris Experience” Happening. He exhibited the famous record album cover photographs and a psychedelic multimedia video and slide show in Vancouver, Canada, at The Exhibitions Gallery. It was be the first time in 35 years that such an exhibition had been unveiled. In 2005, Karl’s “Happening” show and photo gallery exhibit began a tour of major cities in the USA, starting with the San Francisco Art Exchange and continuing in Toronto and other cities in 2006.

Also in 2006, Karl and his team began production on a major filmed documentary called “Revolution” which is scheduled for a 2007 release (to coincide with the 40th anniversary of “the Summer of Love” in 1967). ‘Revolution’ explores, through interviews with many of its key instigators, the ground-breaking cultural and social transformation of the 1960s, looking to find the roots of what exactly changed during that period. To what extent is our society and culture today a product of those changes? What remains to be done today to complete the revolution? ‘Revolution’ will serve as a legacy and historical document of the era from which future generations will gain a better understanding of the 1960s through first hand accounts by those that not only experienced it, but also helped to shape that revolutionary era.

The film will uncover the culture of 1960s psychedelia as a symptom and part cause of this cultural shift. The film is narrated by Peter Coyote, film star, political activist and a former San Francisco street mime!

Also in 2007, books of his Hendrix and Donovan photographs (including DVDs) will be published.

Karl and his buddy Willie Nelson – Maui, HI – Feb. 2007

To see all of Karl’s works in the RockPoP Gallery collection, please click on the following link:

About “Cover Stories” –

Our weekly series will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.

Every Friday, you’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.

We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.