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GONZO WEEKLY #144: Jon meets Roger Dean

The other morning I had a lie in. I didn't mean to, but it was only a few days after the Weird Weekend, and I was still recovering. I slept most of Monday, but Tuesday and Wednesday I was supposed to be back to normal. However, it didn't actually work out like that. So it was about eleven in the morning when I staggered out of bed. I was negotiating my way through a plethora of cats when the telephone rang. I am never in the best of tempers first thing in the morning, and assumed that it was probably someone from a call centre somewhere in Uttar Pradesh trying to sell me something.

So I picked it up grumpily, quite prepared to instruct the caller to commit a biologically impossible act of self-procreation, when the last person in the world that I was expecting spoke to me.

"Hello Jon, it's Roger Dean," the voice said, and I immediately tripped over the orange cat.

For Roger Dean has long been an artist whom I admire greatly. I was a devotee of his paintings on Yes album covers long before I actually heard the music, and his alien landscapes have been part of my personal inner environment for well over four decades now.

For those of you not au fait with his work, although I truly cannot believe that there will be anyone reading this magazine who has NOT heard of him, here is his biography taken straight from the horse's mouth on his own website:

"ROGER DEAN was born in England in 1944,and is an artist and designer internationally renowned for his, album cover designs, posters, books, the revolutionary publishing companies, Dragon’s Dream and Paper Tiger, Eco architectural, furniture and stage design, as well as typefaces, logos and iconic designs for computer games company, ‘Psygnosis’ and redesigned the Tetris Logo.

Dean attended Canterbury College of Art between 1961-1965 inclusive where he received his National Diploma in Design (NDD) he then went on to the Royal College of Art 1965-1968 where he received a first for his Masters Degree (M.Des.RCA) and a silver medal, ‘For Work of Special Distinction’. His was thesis on, The Psychology of the Built Environment, and the research for that formed the basis for his architectural designs. Whilst a student he designed the ‘Sea Urchin’ chair.

This chair was exhibited at the Design Centre in London is now owned by the Victoria and Albert museum for their permanent collection (furniture). A second prototype was acquired for the MAK museum in Vienna for their permanent collection in 2008

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London have also acquired two original “Yes” logo paintings plus the six sketches and 11 of his album covers and record labels for their permanent collection (Prints ,Drawings and Paintings).

In 2002 received an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Academy of Art University. In 2009 the Arts The Institute of Bournemouth conferred an Honorary Fellowship. In 2013 he received a Gold Badge of Merit from BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. Around the world, over sixty million copies of Roger Dean’s images have been sold, as album covers, posters, cards, calendars and books. His work has been exhibited in many galleries and museums around the world including, The Royal Academy, The Royal College of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, The New York Cultural Centre, The institute of Contemporary Art London. In 2010 the Daelim Contemporary Art Museum in Seoul Korea held a major retrospective.

There are three volumes chronicling the Deans work: “Views” (1975) “Magnetic Storm” (1984) “Dragons Dream”2008.

In 1981, with his brother Martyn, Dean built their first architectural prototype shown at the NEC. During the course of a several exhibitions, over 250,000 people have visited the prototype. His work has inspired generations of young men and women who have become professional designers and artists, as well as demonstrating the importance of never going anywhere without a sketchbook and a pencil."

His paintings have become the visual interpretation of an entire genre of music for many people, including myself, who believe that his organic realism perfectly compliments the music which defined our adolescence. Yes guitarist Steve Howe said, "There is a pretty tight bond between our sound and Roger's art", and it is hard not to agree with him.

Despite the fact that I was bursting for a pee we chatted for a few minutes, and we made arrangements for me to telephone him that evening at his home in Sussex. We had a long and involved telephone conversation which I shall be publishing in two parts. The second, and longer bit, will be broadcast on Gonzo Web Radio in September to coincide with Roger's major exhibition at Trading Spaces in Sussex. The first excerpt, in this issue of the magazine, concerns his relationship with Rick Wakeman, and what he will be doing at Wakemanfest.....


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