Saturday, 31 July 2010

Carol Day, Tom Bell's Fireplace and the First Rolling Stones LP

I blogged several months ago about an exquisite and long forgotten newspaper strip that adroitly captured the sophisticated milieu of post war London via the fraught relationships of it's central character and namesake; Carol Day. "Carol Day" was as you will recall the brainchild of the artist David Wright, who had left school and commenced work at his uncle's studio, where his talent soon manifested itself and following on from being a very successful fashion illustrator he soon started veering in the direction of comic strips such as "Judy" which appeared in the popular weekly magazine, Tit Bits". "Carol Day" which first started appearing in the Daily Mail in 1956 proved the most popular of all Wright's strips as well as being his best realized, the quality of both his scripting and his artwork were without peer, it is really a great shame that the majority of comics enthusiasts are still unaware of it and comic historians should hang their heads in shame. There is Roger Clark's excellent website devoted to David Wright and Carol Day at http://carol-day.com and both Steve Holland and David Roach have written some excellent pieces on this subject along with artist Brian Bolland who has always had high regard for Wright's work.

The artistic tradition in the Wright family is a strong one, as aside from David Wright's uncle the family could trace their artistic heritage back to Joseph Wright of Derby fame and all of David Wright's three sons pursued careers in the arts, with Patrick Wright achieving notoriety as the artist behind Battle Picture Weekly's "Hellman of Hammer Force" as well as various issues of Commando pocket library, while his younger brother Paul became a noted maritime artist with scores of paperback covers to his credit.

Their eldest brother Nicky who was the original model for Mark Lovell (brother to Carol Day's flatmate Nora) eschewed pencils and paints and turned instead to the camera. After a disastrous start as a wedding photographer, where on one memorable occasion and unable to break the bad news to his client, the father of the bride tracked the otherwise incommunicado photographer to the shed at the bottom of the garden which served as Nicky's developing studio singing in a stentorian voice, "Someday My Prin(ts) Will Come".

Nicky quickly realized that he needed to get a bit more training under his belt and able to charm his way into any circles he fancied, managed to blag himself an apprenticeship to Dezo Hoffman who was a London based photographer of Slovak origins who had entree into all the right circles. Hoffman was also beginning to get himself a reputation as a photographer of up and coming bands. Young Nicky was sent along to meet some of the bands that Hoffman was being called upon to photograph. He met the Beatles but didn't really find them that captivating, the next band was an entirely different matter when Wright was sent to meet The Rolling Stones and their street savvy manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who having barely turned twenty was the youngest yet most clued up, member of the team.


For Nicky it was love at first sight and while Dezo concentrated his lens on the fab four, Nicky's attentions were chiefly orientated towards the Stones and following a succession of photo calls it was soon time to create the cover image that would launch their first LP - and all for the princely sum of £25.00. A big deal job indeed, which called for a bit of extra thought on Nicky's part.

It so happened that Nicky was renting a ground floor room from the actor Tom Bell whose role as Toby in the "L-Shaped Room" had attracted a lot of critical acclaim and Bell's lovely missus whose seductive charms did not go unnoticed by the young Wright was his de-facto landlady. An additional delight for the photographer's eye was the truly gargantuan and very grand fireplace that his room hosted and it was here that Nicky decided to place the Stones.

The resulting photograph was truly sublime, with the softly lit, almost Gainsboroughesque pose adding a degree of gravitas to a band that represented every parents worst nightmare. Frequently and totally erroneously attributed to David Bailey (who created an equally stunning image for their second LP) this remains one of those iconic frozen moments in rock history.

12 comments:

  1. Great post! I'm sad to say but, I just recently found out about the artist David Wright and his masterful comic strip "Carol Day". It's really a shame that he's not really well known here in the US.

    Thanks for posting!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Urban, many thanks for your kind words. The good news is that there are a couple of really passionate David Wright enthusiasts in the US and one of them; Roger Clark is the author of the blog I've linked to in the piece. He has done wonders in putting David Wright's material before a wider audience and you can read many of the stories in their entirety on his blog.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great to see more CarolDay, the third tier of panels are wonderful, very atmospheric!

    ReplyDelete
  4. They are indeed really atmospheric James as is the wholes story. Amazing fog and lighting effects by Wright.

    The story that these panels are taken from is; "Problem Child" which you can read in it's entirety over at Roger Clark's site at:

    http://carol-day.com/htl/ProblemChild/ProblemChild.php

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fantastic! I had no idea of the familial connections to Joseph and Pat; someone really should write a piece about artistic dynasties in the world of comics. Where did that lovely wash strip come from by the way?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great to hear from you Phil, I'm really ashamed to say that I've forgotten exactly where that wash strip appeared. I think it was Reveille but can't swear to it. The chap that does know is David A. Roach, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of comic art and is a huge fan of David Wright's. He has the advantage of being both an artist as well as a comics historian and I can remember standing with him as we poured over a whole sequence of David Wright originals (including this very piece) and he was able to place exactly when, where and how this artwork appeared.

    David's written several pieces on David Wright for publication both here and in the US and has helped out Roger Clark over at his superb Carol Day site which now features the bulk of the Carol Day stories. Roger's now added portions of the first Carol Day story, which was absent from his site until very recently.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Brilliant--there are little tidbits in written in here that I did not know about my father, Nicky Wright; I just stumbled upon this post while researching my late grandfather's work.

    Ambre Wright

    ReplyDelete
  8. Discovered this post just now. I knew Nicky quite well during the last five years of his life, from 1995 until his sad death in January 2000. He and I had attended a comic convention in Novi, Michigan,Summer 1999. I sat in on his interview with artist Joe Kubert, they had a great time discussing the Golden Age of Comics. Nicky was at that time working on putting together a book on the subject, the last project he did of course, and Kubert wrote the introduction. I remember seeing litho plates to Carol Day strips in his office, as well as dailies, original art, hanging on his walls. And Nicky told me of the photo shoot for the first Stones cover as well, about the fireplace they posed in front of, and the actor whose home it was. I think he told me that Tom Bell had also had a role in Helen Mirren's PRIME SUSPECT as well, I'll have to check IMDB to confirm. Your frame grab of the Stones cover looks great.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes Guy, Tom Bell had the role of one of the DCI's in the first Prime Suspect movie and he also played Jack the Hat McVitie in the film The Krays.

    Nicky was just so passionate about comics and we would spend hours on the phone chatting about them. ECs were a particular passion of his as well as Lev Gleason Crime comics and anything with Matt Baker art.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ambre - great to hear from you. Your dad was a truly lovely, lovely guy and good to learn that you're researching your grandad's fabulous artwork.

    If you check my links you'll find a link to a really amazing site devoted to Carol Day.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It is fascinating reading information on my Grandfather David Wright. I am the son of Nicky Wright, and was also named after my Grandfather. The artistic genes are still carried on by both my sisters and I. Personally I would love to learn more I was only nine years old when my dad passed away. A lot of his past and my grandfathers remain a mystery to me.

    ReplyDelete