Klaus Voormann

Klaus Voormann

Infobox musical artist
Name = Klaus Voormann
Img_capt =
Background = non_vocal_instrumentalist
Birth_name =
Alias =
Born = birth date and age|1938|4|29|df=y
Berlin, Germany
Origin = London, England
Died =
Instrument = Bass guitar
Genre = Rock
Occupation = Musician
Record Producer
Graphic Artist
Years_active = 1964 - Present
Label =
Associated_acts = The Beatles
Manfred Mann
Plastic Ono Band
Paddy, Klaus & Gibson
URL = [http://www.klaus-voormann.com/ www.klaus-voormann.com]

Klaus Voormann (born 29 April 1938) is a German artist, musician, and record producer known for his long association with the The Beatles, for whom he designed the cover of their album "Revolver", as well as for being the bassist with the British Invasion group Manfred Mann and later a respected session player and record producer.

Early years

Voormann was the son of a doctor, was born and grew up in the suburbs of North Berlin as one of six brothers.cite web |first= |last= |url=http://www.rockstore.net/Merchant/subpages/klaus.html |title=Klaus Voormann |publisher=Rockstore |date=2001 |accessdate=2008-07-04] The Voormann family were interested in art, classical music, and literature, with respect for history and tradition. Although Voormann had studied classical piano from eight to 15-years-old, his parents decided that instead of studying music it would be best for Klaus to study commercial art in Berlin at the "Meisterschule für Grafik und Buchgewerbe". [http://www.beatlemaniashoppe.com/voormann_bio.html Klaus Voormann Biography] beatlemaniashoppe.com - Retrieved: 26 April 2007 ] He later moved to Hamburg to study at the "Meisterschule für Gestaltung", but before his graphic art education was finished Voormann started work as a commercial artist, graphic designer, and illustrator, spending eight months in Dusseldorf working for magazines.cite web |first= |last= |url=http://www.voormann.com/biography |title=Biography |publisher=Vormann |accessdate=2008-07-04]

It was in Hamburg that Voormann first met Astrid Kirchherr. After an argument with her and Jürgen Vollmer one day, Voormann wandered down the Reeperbahn, which is in the St.Pauli district of Hamburg, and heard music coming from the Kaiserkeller club. He walked in and watched a performance by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and the next group scheduled to play were The Beatles. Voormann stayed and watched both groups, and was left "speechless" by the performances. Voormann had never heard this new music called Rock 'n Roll before, having previously only listened to traditional Jazz, with some Nat King Cole and The Platters mixed in. Spitz 2005. p222] Voormann invited Kirchherr and Vollmer to watch the performances the next day. After hearing this new music, Voormann and the other two decided that all they wanted was to listen to it, watch groups perform it, and to be as close to The Beatles as they could. Spitz 2005. p223]

The St.Pauli district was well-known as being an area where prostitutes were to be found, and was dangerous for anyone that looked different than the usual clientele. As a trio Voormann, Kirchherr and Vollmer stood out in the Kaiserkeller—dressed in their suede coats, wool sweaters, jeans and round-toed shoes—when most of the customers had greased-back Teddy boy hairstyles and wore black leather jackets and pointed boots. Spitz 2005. p221] During a break, Voormann tried to talk (in faltering English) to Lennon, and pressed a crumpled record sleeve he had designed into Lennon's hands. Lennon took little interest, and brushed Voormann off, suggesting that he talk to Stuart Sutcliffe, who, as Lennon said, "is the artist round here". Spitz 2005. p221]

Sutcliffe didn't share Lennon's attitude, and was fascinated by the trio, who he thought looked like "real bohemians". He later wrote that he could hardly take his eyes off them, and had tried to talk to them during the next break, but they had already left the club. This was due to the strict German law at the time which prohibited young people from frequenting bars after 10 o'clock at night, and bars like the Kaiserkeller were dangerous for anybody that looked as different as Voormann, Kirchherr and Vollmer did when customers became drunk and aggressive. Spitz 2005. p221]

Sutcliffe managed to meet them eventually, and learned that all three had attended the "Meisterschule für Mode", which was the Hamburg equivalent of the Liverpool art college that both Sutcliffe and Lennon had attended. Lennon dubbed the trio the Exies, as a joke about their affectation for existentialism. Spitz 2005. p222]

Voormann was in a relationship with Kirchherr at the time, and lived just around the corner from her parent's upper-class home in the Altona district of Hamburg. Kirchherr's bedroom (which was all in black, including the walls and furniture) was decorated especially for Voormann, although after the visits to the Kaiserkeller their relationship became purely platonic. This was because Astrid started dating Sutcliffe, who was fascinated by her, although she always remained close friends with Voormann. Spitz 2005. p224]


In the early 1960s, Voormann decided to leave Germany and move to London. He was invited by George Harrison to live with George and Ringo Starr in their apartment on Green Street. After John Lennon and Paul McCartney moved out to live with their respective wife and girlfriend; Cynthia Lennon and Jane Asher, Voormann found jobs as a commercial artist and then rented an apartment of his own. Voormann returned to Hamburg in 1963, founded the beat band with Paddy Chambers (guitar/vocals) Voormann (bass/vocals) and Gibson Kemp (drums) called Paddy, Klaus & Gibson.cite web |first= |last= |url=http://www.iheartklaus.com/pkg.html |title=Paddy, Klaus & Gibson |publisher=Heart Klaus |accessdate=2008-07-04]

In 1966, Voormann returned to London and was asked by Lennon to design the sleeve for The Beatles´ album "Revolver". Klaus had a style of "scrapbook collage" art in mind, as it is later shown on the sleeve of "Revolver". When showing his efforts to the band and their manager Brian Epstein, the band loved it, although Voormann's payment for the album cover was £40 pounds. Voormann later produced an updated image of Harrison for the cover of his 1988 single, "When We Was Fab," which also included the image of Harrison from the cover of "Revolver". For this work, Klaus won the Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts.

Around the same time another group was about to release their international debut album. The Bee Gees had recorded their first album, "Bee Gees 1st" and Klaus was hired to design the cover of that album. The album cover featured all five group members standing above a colorful, psychedelic collage painted by Voorman.


In 1966, at the same time he was designing the cover of "Revolver", Voormann became a member of the 1960s band Manfred Mann.cite web |first= |last= |url=http://www.iheartklaus.com/mm.html |title=The Manfred Mann Band 1966-1969 |publisher=Heart Klaus |accessdate=2008-07-04] Voormann played bass for the band from 1966 to 1969, appearing on all their UK hits from "Just Like a Woman" (July 1966) through to their final single "Ragamuffin Man" (April 1969). As well, he played bass and flutes on Manfred Mann's 1968 international hit "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)" (#1 UK, #10 US).

After that, he became a session musician, playing on solo projects by Lou Reed, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Harry Nilsson and others. Voormann was a member of Lennon's Plastic Ono Band, with Yoko Ono, Alan White (future Yes drummer) and Eric Clapton, which played at the "Live Peace in Toronto 1969"-recorded prior to the breakup of The Beatles-in Toronto on 13 September 1969.cite web |first= |last= |url=http://www.iheartklaus.com/pob.html |title=Plastic Ono Band |publisher=Heart Klaus |accessdate=2008-07-04]

In 1971 he moved to Los Angeles with his second wife and his first son Otto. In an interview with EMI about his album "Walls and Bridges", John Lennon was asked who was playing bass on the album. John answered with a hard German accent: "Klaus Voormann. We all know Klaus, "ja" (German: "yes")". He also played in Harrison's assembled band in the 1971 "The Concert for Bangladesh"; Harrison fittingly introduced him to the audience by saying, "There's somebody on bass who many people have heard about, but they've never actually seen him, Klaus Voormann."cite web |first= |last= |url=http://www.iheartklaus.com/george.html |title=The Concert for Bangladesh |publisher=Heart Klaus |accessdate=2008-07-04] In the "Concert for George" on 29 November 2002, he played bass as part of the supporting band on the song "All Things Must Pass".

After the breakup of The Beatles, there were rumours of The Beatles reforming as The Ladders, with Voormann on bass as a replacement for Paul McCartney. An announcement to this effect filtered out of the Apple offices in 1971, but was ultimately withdrawn before it got very far. This lineup (Voormann, Lennon, Harrison and Starr) did perform in various combinations on Lennon's albums "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" (1970) (Voormann, Lennon, and Starr) and "Imagine" (1971) (Voormann, Lennon & Harrison) as well as on Ringo Starr's "Ringo" (1973), and Yoko Ono's "Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band" (1970) (Voormann, Lennon, Starr, and Ono). Starr's album features the Lennon-penned hit single "I'm The Greatest" which is the only song in which all four musicians appear together, joined by Billy Preston.

In 1979 Voormann moved back to Germany. He produced three studio-albums and a live-album by the German band Trio. He also produced their worldwide hit "Da Da Da I Don't Love You You Don't Love Me Aha Aha Aha". After the 1986 breakup of Trio he produced the first solo album by their singer Stephan Remmler and played bass on some songs of the album. The following year he produced a single by former Trio drummer Peter Behrens.

Later years

Voormann retired from the music business in 1989, concentrating on his family. He lives near Munich with his second wife Christine and their two children, born in 1989 and 1991. From time to time he appears on TV shows, mainly when the shows are about the '60s in general or the Beatles in particular, or when he is asked to talk about his famous album sleeve for "Revolver".

In 1996 Klaus was asked by Apple Records to design the covers for the "Beatles Anthology" albums. He painted the covers along with his friend, fellow artist Alfons Kiefer. More recently, Voormann designed a cover for the Norwegian band Turbonegro.

In October 2003, Voormann published his autobiography, "Warum spielst du Imagine nicht auf dem weißen Klavier, John? Erinnerungen an die Beatles und viele andere Freunde" ("Why Don't You Play "Imagine" on the White Piano, John?: Memories of the Beatles and Many Other Friends"). The book gives special focus to the 1960s and 1970s, and covers Voormann's close friendship with the Beatles and other musicians and artists, as well as his private life.

A 2005 BBC documentary, "Stuart Sutcliffe: The Lost Beatle" features interviews with Voormann and shows drawings he made of the Beatles in Hamburg.

In 2007, Voormann designed the sleeve for the album "Timeless" by Wet Wet Wet. [cite web|url=http://www.afterdarkmagazine.org/news.php?item=3|title= Klaus Voormann Designs Wet Wet Wet Record Sleeves|accessdaymonth=14 November |accessyear=2007]


With Manfred Mann:

UK Albums:
*"As Is"
*"Soul of Mann"
*"Up The Junction (Original Soundtrack Recording)"
*"What A Mann"
*"Mighty Garvey!"

US Albums:
*"Pretty Flamingo"
*"Up The Junction (Original Soundtrack Recording)"
*"Mighty Garvey!"

With Plastic Ono Band:

*"Live Peace in Toronto 1969"
*"John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band"
*"Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band"

With John Lennon:

*"Wedding Album"
*"Some Time in New York City"
*"Walls and Bridges"
*"Rock 'n' Roll"

With George Harrison:

*"All Things Must Pass"
*"The Concert for Bangla Desh"
*"Living in the Material World"
*"Extra Texture (Read All About It)"
*"Concert for George"

With Ringo Starr:

*"Sentimental Journey" - Arrangement on "I'm A Fool To Care"
*"Goodnight Vienna"

Other artists:

*"Transformer " by Lou Reed
*"No Secrets" by Carly Simon



*Lennon, Cynthia] | title=John| publisher= year=2006 | id=ISBN 0-340-89828-3
*Miles, Barry
| title=Many Years From Now | publisher=Vintage-Random House | year=1998 | id=ISBN 0-7493-8658-4
*Klaus Voormann, "Warum spielst du Imagine nicht auf dem weißen Klavier, John ? Erinnerungen an die Beatles und viele andere Freunde", Heyne 2003. ISBN 3-453-87313-0

External links

* [http://www.voormann.com/ Personal website]
* [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0903399/ IMDB entry]
* [http://www.iheartklaus.com i ♥ klaus tribute site]
* [http://www.myspace.com/iheartklaus i ♥ klaus voormann myspace page]
* [http://www.iheartklaus.com/shop.html Klaus Voormann Art]
* [http://www.genesis-publications.com/books/ham/ "Hamburg Days"] book with unseen imagery by Astrid Kirchherr & Klaus Voormann & Foreword by George Harrison

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