The Fool

Released 1968 on Mercury
The Seth Man, June 2022ce
The Fool were an art collective comprised of Seemon Posthuma, Marijke Koger, Josje Leeger, and the exotically-named Barry Finch. Throughout 1967, their work was seen everywhere throughout the bourgeoning London underground that spilled into the world at large. Producing designs, artwork, and clothing their association with Beatles manager Brian Epstein and the Saville Theatre led to work that ranged from the inner sleeve for SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (plus an unused painting for its gatefold), to many other projects for The Beatles as well as separate commissions for John Lennon, George Harrison and Patti Boyd Harrison and most famous of all: the three story psychedelic mural painted on the facade of the Beatles’ Apple Boutique.

Such eye-catching work and famous clients led to a profusion of work in the pop world. The Fool would costume The Hollies, Procol Harum, and Cream (as well as painting all of Cream’s instruments and most famously: Eric Clapton's SG Gibson guitar.) They also designed a trio of stunningly psychedelic album sleeves: The Hollies’ EVOLUTION (1967), Incredible String Band’s THE 5000 SPIRITS OR THE LAYERS OF THE ONION (1967), and The Move’s debut MOVE album (1968). With their retail fashion line featured inside the Apple Boutique as well as upon the person of clientele such as Patti Boyd Harrison, The Fool also costumed The Beatles for their “All You Need Is Love” telecast as well as their “I Am The Walrus” promotional clip. Finally, they set designed and created original artwork for the title cards used in Joe Massot’s film, WONDERWALL (1968).

The Fool’s work in painting, fashion and design was characterised by their use of heavily saturated colour in full contrast and bright prismatic hues that were as much an assault on the retina as they were on workaday grey mediocrity. In equal parts mystical and enthralling, the sole album by The Fool is a collection of child-like sing-alongs, exotic instrumentation, and textures illustrating supernatural fairy tales and visions of the within, without, beyond, and back again. Ever since Donovan’s emergence into flower power, the baton subsequently passing to Syd Barrett in Pink Floyd only to be snatched back to the acoustic woodlands by Marc Bolan in the days of Tyrannosaurus Rex, psychedelia was from the start strongly connected to the sensations of childhood. Namely, that of the experience of innocence, and innocence is the prime feature abounding and traipsing throughout this album. Parallels could be drawn between this album and the sonic exoticisms found on that pair of British psychedelic freak out albums from 1967: Hapshash & the Coloured Coat’s FEATURING THE HUMAN HOST and The Rolling Stones’ THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST as well as the raw enthusiasm of the stripped-down-to-the-bleached-bones-and-stoned-barbarisms of drum and percussion caught in the raw of Amon Düül’s PSYCHEDELIC UNDERGROUND (1969).

All tracks on each side of THE FOOL not only crossfade into each other, but many are built up from a multitude of distinct segments so that the entire album runs near-continuously in its patchwork kaleidoscope. Produced by Graham Nash with Graham Bond as musical director and Eddie Kramer engineering, what they brought forth from the four artists was an intoxicating weave whose naiveté is still charming all these years later. “Fly” opens side one with sci-fi oscillations and spacey electronics rebounding hither thither and yon until the fade in arrival of the four minstrels, Seemon, Marijke, Josje, and Barry (in order as they appear on the front cover, accompanied by Marijke’s little dachshund, Amiga) on an assortment of percussion, flutes and woodwinds. Singing lyrics that express their passion for colour, happiness, levitation, and hallucinatory imagery (“I’m flying around in a place that I found / You can’t see the sky, there’s nothing around /But yellows, blues, greens and gold / Flying...”) while their loose, simple and inspired musicality hangs in the background to rhythmically ripple and pulse. A sole woodwind plays “Taps” in the distant as if to signal the end of daylight and arrival of night. Then, a piano starts a cascading series of notes with lute underpinnings. This is “Voice On The Wind,” and after this pair of vignettes arrive several more. Female voices sing of “utter confusion” quietly amid the sounds of high-pitched bells and low bass rumblings can be heard. Suddenly, a male voice narrates with all the received pronunciation of Mike Pinder:

“It is dark...But also not.
It is still…but also moving...”

Accompanied by the sound of frogs and crickets as well as “accompanied by an orchestra of trees,” organ and voices sing until the shrill, wailing from bagpipes signals the coda. Acoustic guitars are muscularly strummed as a chorus repeating the title exactly like “Painter Man” by The Creation, “Rainbow Man” features tom toms, Jew’s harp, harmonica and some stringed instrument as backing. Crossfading into the somber “Cry For Me,” a lute, banjo or quite possibly: a ukulele strums along with harmony vocals that impart some very touching and wistful reflections from this life:

“Just a dream,
I see a sky where angels fly
Where no one lies
where no one dies

Hear the sea,
whisper your sweet name to me
I want to say
Please help me pray
so love can stay...”

Seagull sound effects (or possibly, an antique hurdy gurdy in need of lubrication) resound on some distant beach with crashing waves as counterpoint. The Bo Diddley beat as rendered on tom toms, Moroccan lute, tambourines and handclaps eddies forth with “No One Will Ever Know.” As bagpiping skrils and swirls of rhythms permeate throughout, by the final fade one doesn’t expect a slight return with a boisterous “Hey!”

A singular gong hit ushers in side two and the tale of lost lands that is “Reincarnation.” With slide whistle, a kiddie’s xylophone, Tinkerbell wand sound FX and other oddments, the tale of a “prince of a lost land a long time ago / Saw landing in his yard a spacecraft or so” combine with other occult observations such as a traffic jam on Route 66 and “the foot of the Great Pyramid / The sphinx stoned looking on” until a banjo quickly riffs on the opening of “Walk Don’t Run” and the commencement of the charming “Hello Little Sister.” She waves her hand and smiles in a meadow of tall, windy grasses over and over until the entry of the extended instrumental, “Keep On Pushin’.” Featuring Graham Bond on organ and Seemon on bass clarinet, a snake-like rhythm uncoils to the sounds of his musical entreaties. Bongos, tambourines and percussion shore up the expositions of Bond’s organ rhythms and saxophone soloing. Different percussion edges in, creating swirling textures and before long, a footstomping rhythm enters with the group chanting “Keep on pushin’ / And don’t go back...” “Inside Your Mind” is a child-like chant-along whose speed increases from zero to 60 in each stanza and advises, among other things: “If you are fast asleep at night / Your soul is on a travel / It raises you unconsciously upon a nicer level...” Whistling flute opens the final reflection of several sections, “Lay It Down” that feature backwards buzzing sitar and sympathetic female vocalising that “Tell the children that we know about / The places where they go...” Flutes and triangles resound. To piano accompaniment, Seemon asks: “Have you been, have you seen behind / The screen, the colored dream”? After listening to this album, one will be able to answer in the affirmative. And with that, the album says farewell with a final skirl that sounds off, then recedes in the distance.

The following year, The Fool recorded a final single, “We Are One” / “Shining Light,” produced by Cyrus Faryar. But at this point in time, flower power and her brightly-hued colours of joy, hope, and love so extravagantly championed and held to her breast since the summer of ’67 had been used, bruised, and exploited by those who took on the superficial aspects of the quest. The Fool went their separate ways, but what they captured on their only album remains as a reflection on innocence and its initial sensations that can only, sadly, be experienced once.

NOTE: Eschewing the standard black, white, and red all over Mercury Records label, what was used for the album was probably one of the earliest, if not the first, custom labels in Rock. The Fool designed a label consisting of an op-art pattern of sunbeams, moonbeams and stars in blue, gold and yellow. This more than than hints at the graphic provenance of Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser’s Kosmische Musik label six years on. Although not as technical as Peter Geitner’s handiwork and far more organic, with Kaiser’s partner Gille Lettmann’s interest in fashion and art as well as music, it seems more than a probable influence.