THE MAN WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES
ALAN ALDRIDGE 1943-2017
In 2008 I wrote the following piece for the dust jacket of Alan’s extraordinarily beautiful and concise biographical retrospective: -
“In the mid-seventies Alan and I were inseparable friends. It was a curious collaboration of eccentricity and dangerous curves taken at an ever-increasing speed and joyous abandon. During this time I truly felt that I was rubbing shoulders with such an enlightened and extraordinary talent it would be beneficial to my own lesser scribble. His vision was, is and always will be a cherished fragment of time. He’s a brilliant soul, bountiful creator and a man of other worlds and time. I’m thankful he allowed me access to his eyes, his beautiful vision and inspired madness. It remains with me and I benefit from it all to this day.”
I am truly saddened by Alan’s passing. For such a long time he was intertwined with us on a truly magical journey. Before his most endearing collaboration with us, the iconic artwork for 1973’s Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy, he illustrated the cover and edited (along with Mike Dempsey) my first collection of complete lyrics The One Who Writes The Words.
His pedigree was flawless, and his history was indelibly intertwined with the fantastical and the psychedelic. Before Alan’s airbrushes colored the horizon, the landscape of England was decidedly black and white. If there was a Piper at the Gates of Dawn, an imp in the inkwell, and a madcap architect of Swinging London, it was most assuredly Alan Aldridge and his colorful and cosmic creations. He broke the mold, pushed the envelope, and turned a buttoned up world upside down with his topsy-turvy, down the rabbit hole view of the absurd
I’m still not entirely convinced he’s received the credit he deserves. Sure I’m biased, but get your hands on a copy of the aforementioned book THE MAN WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES - get lost in it and tell me I’m lying. He was also as they say in the East End of London a diamond geezer. My Dad loved him, and he loved my Dad, and believe me my dad was a tough nut. They bonded over cheese, good red wine and my father’s proclivity to be politically incorrect. With Alan’s passing, the sushi bar incident will now have only myself as the last remaining eye witness.
Like A Portrait of Dorian Grey, I have stashed away out of sight an illustration Alan drew of me at a time in my life when I had a hellhound on my trail and a habit I was having trouble handling. It’s a terrifying piece of cautionary art, a reminder of what lies ahead when one is running off the rails. It’s also so skillfully executed and beautiful in its horrific detail that just pulling it out of mothballs would remind me of how it scared me straight.
If you are not familiar with Alan Aldridge, I beseech you to investigate his life and learn more, you will be dazzled by his body of work and his telling of tales. He was once challenged to a drawing duel by Salvador Dali in a airport bar, invented the Hard Rock Hotel logo and rode on the back of a motorcycle driven by a disheveled Steve McQueen at alarming speed through the canyons of Beverly Hills. They are all true, or at least I can confirm that those including yours truly are. Crazy and comedic, full of vim, vinegar and hot peppered sass, episodes of honesty and candor shot through the kaleidoscopic eyes of one of the most talented men I’ve ever known.
There is much I regret in my life, and much that I do not recall with particular fondness. I’m not nostalgic, I live very much in the present, but my time in the company of Alan Aldridge bears not one second of regret. We had a blast; we did some wonderfully creative things together, and for a golden moment in time, we ruled Barbados and were kings of the world.
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