Happiness

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Classic Album covers : Rainbow Ffolly Sallies Fforth - Rainbow Ffolly

For years, Rainbow Ffolly Sallies Fforth, has been the ultimate mystery album for collectors. Mint copies change hands at upwards of £150, an Italian bootleg has been issued, and yet the group members have remained anonymous. On the 30th anniversary of its original release in 1968, See For Miles reissued Sallies Fforth on CD. Time to unffold the tale of the Rainbow Ffolly, a band influential on the careers of the Moody Blues, possibly the Who and even the Beatles

Rainbow Ffolly, an art college band, evolved in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, from a group called Force Four. Jonathan Dunsterville (lead guitar) picked the new name to conjure up the eye-searing colours associated with psychedelia, doubling the ‘f’ on Ffolly in tribute to Wally Ffolks, jazz clarinettist and creator of the ‘Flook’ cartoon strip. The rest of the band consisted of  Roger Newell (bass), Stewart Osborn (drums) and Jonathan’s brother Richard (rhythm)

Group manager, John Sparrowhawk’s claim to fame was that he was the vocalist on the ‘Light up a Richmond’ cigarette commercial, fondly remembered by Sixties pirate radio aficionados

For their first (and as it turned out, only) album the Ffolly were determined to create striking sleeve artwork, somewhat reflective of their wild stage act. “The best thing about Ffolly,” says Roger, “Was that it was entertaining and amusing. We were one of the earliest theatrical bands and entertainment was very high on the agenda. We took our music seriously but we were eager to take the mickey out of ourselves. We were of one mind on that”

In this era, Wycombe College was making waves on the fashion front, one famous graduate being Zandra Rhodes. John’s wife, Jane, very much the Ffiffth Ffolly, was the costumier for the Ffolly ffrippery. Influenced by the exciting new fashion scene, she created vividly-coloured costumes, enhanced with feathers and light-reflecting spangles

John’s artwork for the Sallies Fforth sleeve encapsulated the humour, colour and eccentricity of a Ffolly performance. Jane drew the girl’s face in the middle of the paddle wheel which became the focus of the piece. The band appreciated cartoons, so John assembled a collection of fun images into what he describes as “a glorified doodle.” Roger was prompted to query what might be going on behind the mystery girl, giving rise to the idea of matching the back bit-by-bit to the front, to offer people a humorous ‘look behind the psychedelic scene’

John was unimpressed by EMI’s marketing department. “EMI had no angle on us – didn’t know what to do with us.” Irritated by pointless questions of the ‘name your best subject at school’ ilk, John refused to allow his artwork to be spoilt by acres of meaningless sleeve notes. He incorporated jokes and references to the songs into his drawing, keeping words to a minimum. The fact that the band retained control over the presentation of the sleeve meant that, “We were happier with the album cover than the contents”

Of Sallies Fforth, John says, “I only made enough out of it for a large meal for my family.”

Ironically, he would probably have raised more cash by selling his own copy to a collector

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September 06, 2012

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