By David Laing
All artwork by Ian McCausland
Ian McCausland is an Australian music legend. Although he did and still does make music, it’s not his musical skills he’s recognized for; it is his graphic art skills. A designer and illustrator since the early-‘60s, Ian’s got his first break with the original Aussie pop bible, Go-Set magazine. He went on to design numerous iconic Australian album covers, including Chain’s ‘Towards the Blues’, Daddy Cool’s ‘Daddy Who?’, Spectrum’s ‘Milesago’, Carson’s ‘Blown’ and Company Caine’s ‘Product of a Broken Reality’, as well as Skyhooks’ logo, and, famously, the 1973 Australian and New Zealand tour posters for the Rolling Stones. He was deeply involved in the underground/alternative press in the early 70s, and became Mushroom Records’ first art director.
Ian got his professional start with Go-Set by winning a completion to design a poster for the Who/Small Faces/Paul Jones Australian tour of 1968, and nearly 50 years down the track he continues to work, illustrating covers for new Festival Records compilations including ‘Boogie! Australian Blues, R&B and Heavy Rock from the ‘70s’, ‘Silver Roads – Australian Singer-Songwriters and Country-Rock of the ‘70s’ and the new ‘The Glory Days of Aussie Pub Rock Vol.1’.
Ian is one of Australian music’s genuine nice guys, and with ‘The Glory Days of Aussie Pub Rock’ receiving a rapturous response from punters, I Like Your Old Stuff thought the time was right to find out more about what made him tick.
For more information, and to purchase prints of some of Ian’s most iconic work as well as new series of posters featuring old favourites including Daddy Cool, Chain, Skyhooks and more, go to ianmccausland.com.au
Before you became known for your visual art, you were a singer and guitarist on the mid-‘60s Melbourne scene, and also a Go!! Show regular. Who were some of the artists you shared stages with, and when and why did you stop performing?
“Rock Around The Clock” was the first rock’n’roll song I ever heard and it blew my mind back in 1956. I was 12 years old. A year later and I saw Bill Haley and The Comets live at West Melbourne Stadium, and continued to go to all the subsequent Lee Gordon concerts that followed.
In High School the passion grew, and with four mates I started a rock band The Lincolns. We only played at birthday parties and stuff, but we got our first big break when we played at the inaugural teen dance at the newly constructed community hall in Gordon Grove, Glenroy.
The Strangers formed in 1962 and became resident at the new hall. They were the best of the Melbourne bands that were playing in the popular Shadow’s style of the day, and had established Gordon Grove as a legitimate rock venue.
I began to sing with The Strangers, doing a couple of sets throughout the night and performing with them at Melbourne suburban rock dances. In those early days, bands would play mostly instrumentals leaving the songs to guest vocalists.
These were the days of the big Town Hall rock dances. The stars of the day were Colin Cook, Betty McQuade, Johnny Chester, the Thunderbirds, the Premiers, the Bluejays, and I shared the stage with all of them and many more I’ve forgotten.
When the Go! Show hit the black & white TV screens, the Strangers were hired as the house band to provide the musical backing and vocal harmonies. Peter Robinson, the Strangers bass player and a musical genius, would arrange all the vocal harmonies and I became part of this backing group. This led to me being a solo artist on the show, doing covers of top forty hits.
I only had four appearances on the show. First up I did Chuck Berry’s “Dear Dad”, followed by Billy Joe Royal’s “Down In The Boondocks”, Cliff Richard’s “Theme For a Dream” (with Pat Carroll and Olivia Newton-John beside me) and Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”.
I then joined The Rondells as a vocalist. We were under the same management as the teen sensations Bobby & Laurie and presented as a package deal. We did the western Victorian leg of an Easybeats tour, and I think to this day they were one of the most exciting acts I’ve ever seen.
Then came Little Gulliver & the Children, a 5 piece R&B band formed by my old friend Gulliver Smith, of later Company Caine fame. I did some vocals and played guitar and harmonica. We gigged around the early Melbourne disco’s and released an EP through W&G Records.
I gave away the music for a while to concentrate on my young family (after all, I was a father at 22) and to get into my artwork. This abstinence lasted until the 90’s when I formed Chicken DeVille, a country rock band. We played at country themed suburban pubs and rural Victorian venues (anywhere with a mechanical bull) for four years before we broke up.
What were your early visual influences – as a kid (prior to getting the Go Set job and the proliferation of the underground commix scene in San Francisco), and then later, in the early years of your career as a poster and cover artist?
Like most little kids I was always drawing. My sister and I would go to the Saturday arvo matinees and when I returned home I would replicate the on-screen action, the dotted line trajectory of the cowboy bullets a feature of my drawings.
My first job after leaving school was as a ticket writer at Myers, where I learned to use a brush to create the price tickets for the store. I moved on to a job at a design studio, Studio Services, and began to use my illustration skills.
At this time, most of the new magazines like Queen, Look, and Twen began to hit the newsstands. They were full of new illustration styles and were a constant source of inspiration, and I studied their techniques and methods. I began using airbrush.
I believe you were also involved in some of Philip Fraser’s publications after Go Set? Was this in a general design role or where you doing illustrations?
After Go-Set folded, the inspirational Philip Fraser moved his hand-picked creative team to his new publication The Digger. This wasn’t about the music any more, it was a sort of heavy political broadsheet that tackled subjects like the Vietnam war, abortion, and porn.
We moved around a lot in those early days, occupying free hippy office space in Carlton and finally ending up in Lanark Terrace, a beautiful Victorian mansion on Canterbury Road, Middle Park.
I was the Art Director at Digger, and I also drew a cartoon for the back cover, my version of a dope comic.
We had published an issue on porn, a serious look at the subject with the feature written by feminist Beatrice Faust with a cover shot of a risqué French postcard. Very tame.
A few of us were sharing a joint upstairs when we noticed these guys in suits coming through the back gate, and moments later there was a thunderous knock at the front door. It was the vice squad and they moved through the place confiscating material. They even took the cartoon I was working on for the next edition!
When the vice squad finally left there was another knock at the front door – it was Danny Webb and a film crew from HSV7.
You’ve sent me the cover of image of something called ‘Ace & His Adventures in the 70’s’? What was that?
‘Ace & His Adventures in the 70’s’ was an idea I had to couple together the dozen or so dope cartoons I had produced for The Digger. The colour illustration was to be the front cover, but I never got around to putting it all together. Dope comix were officially banned but were available from ‘head’ shops that stocked drug paraphernalia, and the youth culture began to divide into ‘heads’ and ‘straights’. Heads knew what it was all about and the straights didn’t have a clue. Robert Crumb was my favourite, but I also enjoyed Gilbert Shelton’s Furry Freak Brothers.
Illustration from The Digger
You were also involved with the Planet/Daily Planet, which was a great chronicler of the wild days of Aussie rock’n’roll in the early ‘70s, and then with Mushroom in its infancy. What were some of the most memorable things about your time with both those nascent businesses and about the music scene of the time in general?
After The Digger hit the dust, I moved on to Planet, a street style newspaper that had been started by Michael Gudinski and Ray Evans, mainly, I suspect, as a vehicle to promote their various bands and gigs. The office was an old house in South Yarra conveniently around the corner from the South Yarra Arms.
It was very hippy, lots of marijuana and teenage runaways crashing there. I worked laying out the paper in the kitchen down the back where the electric stove provided heat as well as red-hot coils for spotting hash.
I worked with some great people who enjoyed the fun times. David Pepperell, Jen Brown, photographer David Porter (Jacques L’Affrique), Lee Dillow, and the legendary Terry Cleary.
Planet eventually folded of course, and I moved on to my new role as Art Director at Mushroom Records. I set up the art department and my first record cover was the triple-fold 1973 Sunbury release, followed by many more over the years. Skyhooks were really happening at that time. It was a great job but I wasn’t there a lot of the time. I preferred to work at home in my studio/spare room. As well as designing album covers, I was beginning to get work as a freelance illustrator in advertising, which would become my main outlet for artwork and dollars.
I enjoyed being briefed by advertising art directors, they always seemed to know what they wanted and would supply great reference, in contrast to the rock’n’roll brief, “Can you do something trippy man?”
I treat each piece of artwork I do as individual projects, choosing an illustration style and technique that suit the piece. This results in a variety of styles. I’d try anything – pencils, ink, airbrush, collage, scraperboard, sculpture to get the result I wanted. I’ve never stopped drawing.
Left to right: Ian, Lee Dillow, Terry Clearly and Jacques L’Affrique
The Planet crew as t-shirt models, left to right: Lee Dillow, Jan Flint, Terry Cleary, Jenny Brown, and Ian. Photo credit: Jacques L'Affrique
Is it true that the Stones had you do an album cover for them and then lost the artwork?
The artwork that was lost was my concept rough for ‘Goats Head Soup’. Charlie Watts had briefed me in Sydney after being most impressed by my tour posters. I mailed the package to the Rolling Stones office in London and never saw it again. Neither did they apparently.
Shortly after I was contacted again by mail (no phone in those days) by the Stones inviting me to submit a design for a new album ‘Love You Live’. This time the package got through, but I didn’t get the gig. They sent the art back and let me know they’d given the job to Andy Warhol.
Your later ‘70s covers – ‘Guilty Until Proven Insane’, ‘Ozambizi’ and ‘Screaming Targets’ -are in different styles to your earlier work. What was inspiring you at the time? Did you find the New Wave inspiring at all, musically or visually?
New Wave was just a re-branding of the music. It was re-branded again with that awful New Romantic movement. I liked the work of Hipgnosis, a British design group, and admired their graphic solutions during that period. Guilty Until Proven Insane was inspired by their cover illustration for Black Sabbath’s Technical Ecstasy.
I didn’t consciously change my style but continued to experiment with illustration techniques, treating each cover as a separate project. I guess what follows from this is that I don’t have a ‘house’ style that’s instantly recognisable as mine. I don’t know what I’ll do, and you don’t know what you’ll get.
Did you lose interest in music in subsequent decades? You didn't seem to do as much work. What did you do?
I’ve never lost my love for music.
I was going through a very rough patch in my marriage. It had been deteriorating for ten years, and in a futile move to save it tried moving first to Queensland and then to Jan Juc. I never stopped drawing, creating artwork inspired by the beautiful Surf Coast. The marriage thankfully ended in 1997 and I could breathe again.
What are some of your favorite pieces that you’ve done over the years?
It’s hard for me to pick a favourite piece of art, as I’ve never been completely satisfied with anything I’ve done. Always think I could do much better if I could do it again, although I am happy with the Stones Australian Tour poster.
What are some of your favorite covers and posters that others have done over the years?
There are so many. I’ve always loved Milton Glaser’s Bob Dylan poster and anything from the Fillmore series of posters. Heinz Edelman, who drew the Beatles Yellow Submarine, was an inspiration as well. Robert Crumb’s artwork of course, and locally there’s Chris Grosz, who continues to amaze me with his output, and the super talented Reg Mombasa with his art for the Mentals and Mambo.
Some of Ian’s most iconic work as well as new series of posters featuring old favourites including Daddy Cool, Chain, Skyhooks and Jo Jo Zep and The Falcons are available at ianmccausland.com.au
DADDY COOL: "I wanted this illustration to look like the front cover of a dope comic. It's based on their unforgettable 1971 concert at the Melbourne Town Hall and I hope I got the clothes and guitars right. I worked on the 'Daddy Who' and 'Sex Dope Rock'n'roll' covers with the talented Ross Hannaford."
The Who, Small Faces & Paul Jones 1968 Australian Tour
The Rolling Stones 1973 Australian Tour
Dragon - O Zambezi album cover
Rod Stewart & The Faces 1974 Australian Tour
SKYHOOKS: "Quite possibly every mothers nightmare in the 70's. But then again, you can't judge a man by his shoes. The Skyhooks logo is lettering I did for their 'Ego' album cover. I also designed 'Straight in a Gay Gay World' and 'Guilty Until Proven Insane' in 1977."
Spectrum - Milesago album cover
CHAIN: "Somewhat reminiscent of 1930's "Race records" graphics. They sent them for 10 long years on the chain gang, and out of that came the classic "Black and Blue". I designed Chains' Toward The Blues album cover in 1971."
Daddy Cool - Daddy Who? album cover
JO JO ZEP AND THE FALCONS: "It's a hot summer night on the Esplanade. There's the sound of rootsy R&B and riffing brass coming from St.Kilda. I designed JoJoZep & the Falcons' Screaming Targets album cover in 1978."
Company Caine - A Product Of A Broken Reality album cover
One of Ian’s surf coast inspired pieces
THE GLORY DAYS OF AUSSIE PUB ROCK VOL.1’, featuring The Angels, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil, Divinyls, Australian Crawl, The Sports, Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons, Mental As Anything, Dave Warner’s From the Suburbs, Flowers, Matt Finish, Stars, the Dingoes, Paul Kelly & The Dots and numerous others – 91 different artists all up – is out now on Festival Records.
Thanks very much to Ian McCausland. Make sure you go check out more of his work at ianmccausland.com.au