A guide to British concert posters & British Psychedelic Posters by Nick Etheridge
A lot has been said and continues to be said about classic US psychedelic posters. There has been commentary, cataloguing, revision and revelation as material emerges from deep collections and prices and excitement continues to rise.
By contrast, UK psychedelic posters, are mostly uncatalogued and with limited classification making it a potential Wild West for fakery, fraud and uncertainty for the uninitiated.
However, some of the posters that emerged from the London scene are among the most creative, beautiful and desirable anywhere and highly coveted by astute collectors. Today there is enormous demand from collectors and museums worldwide for the few extant copies who recognise the historical importance, stunning artwork and legendary performers and artists who thrived and exploded out of the vibrant London scene of the late 60’s.
Hapshash and the Coloured Coat Posters
The greatest and most cohesive body of psychedelic art from the UK are the almost mythical posters created by Hapshash & The Coloured Coat. The artists Michael English and Nigel Waymouth were initially put together to create artwork for the famous London psychedelic nightclub the UFO on Tottenham Court Road, London and from that wellspring emerged a small but astonishing series of concert posters, record promos, head and fashion shop posters and numerous smaller graphics works like the fold out cover posters for OZ magazine. They eventually recorded an LP culminating in a few live gigs that pre-empted their parting of ways mid-1968. Their legacy of perhaps 30 posters of fantastic quality, ground-breaking printing and rich imagination defines the UK psychedelic era and set new standards for what and how posters could be printed.
It is worth noting that due to scarcity, desirability and limited information all authentic Hapshash posters printed in 1967-68 are considered as 1st pressing originals. Although some popular posters were reprinted during this time such is the desirability and scarcity of the 1960’s originals that these hand produced works are considered equally collectable, a situation quite unique in the rock poster collecting world.
OA 114 CIA Pink Floyd at UFO Club concert poster
OA 114 CIA v UFO Pink Floyd at UFO Poster
OA114 is one of the most beloved of all Hapshash UFO and Pink Floyd posters. This was for what turned out to be the last night of the original UFO club before pressure from the mainstream press persuaded the police to act and close it down. The poster is a tour de force of cosmic symbols, flying saucers and beautiful printing. This is one of the most bootlegged of all the OA posters and Nigel Waymouth’s personal favourite.
Position 70 OZ 4 poster
Position 70 OZ 4 Poster
In May 67 Hapshash produced the first of two beautiful wraparound covers that unfolded into posters for issue 4 and later 13 of the ground-breaking OZ magazine. The iconic image was reproduced minus the magazine price by Big O as a commercial poster and was still available into the early 70’s. Despite its popularity few have survived. The image shows the unfolded poster.
Osiris Visions Ltd. and the poster printing process
The majority of the Hapshash output are part of a wider catalogue of posters printed and distributed by Osiris Visions Ltd. This business was set up by Joe Boyd who ran the UFO club and Barry Miles the proprietor of Indica Books and the International Times the leading UK counterculture newspaper.
Once Osiris Visions was established all posters were allocated an ‘OA’ or Osiris Agency catalogue number which was printed onto the posters as part of the printing credit and copyright details which can be seen on all the original OA Hapshash posters apart from a few non-OA productions and early pre-OA printings.
This OA printing credit can be key to deciphering and understanding when, and sometimes where, the poster was printed. The printing credit below is from the last original printing of OA 103 Hendrix at the Fillmore. The Charlotte St. address identifies it as the last of the official printing of this poster dating it between Dec 67 or the early 1968 and the type font indicates it was printed by TSR.
The OA printing credit contains valuable information and is the key to determining when and where the poster was printed
Artists who worked on the OA series were the very best of the scene including Mike McInnerney, Martin Sharp, Adrian George and Greg Irons from the US as well as various images supplied by photographers like Des Dale.
The OA series allocations can appear haphazard with numbers missed, posters reallocated to different numbers as well as numerous and seemingly pointless additional series with only a few posters in it. But at least it is an inventory of sorts even if initially confusing and incomplete.
A key feature of Hapshash posters is they were beautifully hand screen printed with liberal use of bright dayglo and rich metallic inks giving them a distinctive texture, colour intensity and depth. They revived, improvised and improved split colour ‘rainbow printing’ mixing different colours seamlessly to dramatic affect. Despite the process being labour intensive it might be used multiple times on a single poster. OA 123 I Can See for Miles promo Track Records for The Who has three passes of ink and all are split and graduate seamlessly to different colours!
Unfortunately, these printing methods are time consuming and very costly so only small numbers could be produced (100’s, not 1000’s) and the fact the best posters were silkscreen meant Osiris Visions made little if any money from them.
The printing process also prohibited any large-scale production as the individual colour screens used to pass the ink through would quickly wear out from the abrasion of forcing ink over and through them by hand with a squeegee. Additional runs would need new sets of screens crafted from templates prepared by the artists and increasing the run size did not reduce costs.
OA 103 Hendrix at the Fillmore Auditorium concert poster
The handmade screens would never be identical one printing to the next or from one print shop to another. The incredibly popular Hendrix at the Fillmore OA103 was printed no less than five times at three different locations each with distinct layering of overlapping inks. A small point perhaps but the district differences are very useful now to help determine authenticity and chronology of printings. Despite the multiple printings it is still rare as an original due to the modest numbers printed.
About half the concert posters were fly posted often in dazzling large groups and the others sold on but Osiris Visions ran at a loss due to the high production costs required to produce them. Joe Boyd finally closed Osiris Visions mid 1968 as the poster business declined and the Hapshash partnership dissolved.
UFO Mk 2 OA202 poster
UFO MK2 OA202 poster, often referred to as “The Toothpaste Poster”
This was the first stunning work from the Hapshash collaboration in March 67 and is considered a Pop Art masterpiece. It’s an impressive 30 x 40 inches and expensive to produce so probably printed in very low numbers. It is a flowing pink/orange peppermint swirl spelling UFO floating over a gold background. They were posted around the streets of drab London in large groups and must have looked mesmerizing. This advertised six weeks of shows at the UFO Club that included Pink Floyd, Soft machine and Arthur Brown. It is sometimes referred to as the’ toothpaste poster’ and as an original incredibly rare.
The artwork from Hapshash is distinctive for their use of styles and images from Pop Art to Art Nouveau (both original and plagiarized), mystical symbols and mythical animals, ground-breaking and playful use of split colour printing. Within many of the highly detailed and layered artworks will be found small whimsical details, cartoon characters, unnoticed cryptic messages and astrological signs that all add to the mystique of the posters.
The desire for a cohesive vision in the poster was paramount to the artists and perhaps at times more so than what was being advertised. Information was often minimized to the periphery or integrated directly into the graphics raising them to more ‘objet d’art’ rather than a throwaway promotional device.
OA 130 Mystical Pantomimes Incredible String Band Concert Poster for March Tour 1968
OA 130 poster Mystical Pantomimes Incredible String Band March Tour 1968.
Full of sexual and colourful symbolism. Fantastic multiple split colour passes of ink from gold to yellow and red and a dark to light blue over the top. The tour name only appears in an obscure thought bubble and tour dates modestly displayed (or obscured) in the bottom border over rows of red dots. The band’s name appears in the clouds alongside other small characters over a sea of geometric dots that cover the lower portion of the poster. This poster also has the circular Hapshash logo used on design work in 1968.
Screen or Offset? OAS Poster Series
Most Hapshash posters are screen printed but this is not always the case. Joe Boyd of Osiris Visions requested that Hapshash use the cheaper offset litho process to reduce costs but they preferred the silkscreen process due to the fantastic results. However a few are litho printed, including the OAS series.
The OAS series begins with the four beautiful Sunday at the Saville OAS 1-4 for concerts in September and October 67 which are offset but commonly described or sold as silkscreened. They do have the look of a silkscreened poster but they are all offset on uncoated stock that also gives them a matt silkscreened look.OAS 4 has been bootlegged so caution is required as many copies circulating are reprints.
Despite being limited to offset printing for this series Hapshash still had fun experimenting and there are two rarer variants, OAS 3 Traffic that uses pink and blue rather than black and an OAS 4 The Who that is a darker orange/brown rather than bright orange.
Its not well known that there are six, not four, posters in the OAS series that include OAS 5 Osiris Visions Promo ( see below) and OAS 6 The Who Sells Out by Adrian George that came machine folded into the first 1000 issues (500 mono 500 stereo) of the Album released 15 December 1967. The album with small ‘psychedelic poster inside’ sticker and original folded poster today now command a high price.
OAS 3 Sunday at the Saville The Pink Floyd/ Jimi Hendrix Poster
OAS 3 Sunday at the Saville The Pink Floyd/Jimi Hendrix concert poster
Commonly thought of as a screen print, this litho poster in matte almost grey silver lists a stunning selection of key performers of the UK underground in October 67. Joe Boyd who ran Osiris Visions also managed many of the bands here and also produced Pink Floyds first single. Although performing on separate nights very few concert posters are able to boast both Jimi Hendrix and The Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett on the billing.
This poster and other OA’s were officially reproduced by the San Francisco Arts lab in the 1990’s under the supervision of the English and Waymouth with early numbers being hand signed by the artists. This series of reprints uses very bright and shiny metallic inks giving a spectacular but different feel than the originals.
OAS 5 Osiris Visions Ltd Poster
OAS 5 Osiris Visions promo poster
The OAS 5 is a little known promo poster that boldly displays the new address and phone number of Osiris Visions after its move to new premises around November or early December 67. Although not a graphic masterpiece, it provides a direct insight into the dazzling selection posters available at the end of 1967 All but three of the designs are from Hapshash and only two non silkscreen.
Very few of the 1967 OA posters were reprinted in 1968 with the notable exception of the popular OA 103 Hendrix at the Fillmore and OA 301 Luv Me.
OA 116 Save Earth Now poster
OA 116 Save Earth Now Poster
This is a stunning example of a very early 1960’s environmental poster showing the growing awareness and interest in ecology and protecting our world. The poster shows aspects of the earth from the sky, sea, jungles and mountains with various animals along the different races and religions of the world living in harmony.Note the subtle background colour split from bright yellow to green under the gold ink pass.
OA 123 I Can See for Miles Poster
The Track record promo for The Who is a masterclass of rainbow printing. There are three individual split applications of ink to create this poster and must have been incredibly time consuming to print. There is a red to yellow gradient background, metallic silver to gold gradient and a final dark blue to light blue.The effect is beautiful, seamless and easy to miss.
Finding an absolute original of this poster can be very challenging due to the high quality bootleg that has been in circulation for some years and originates from a well known UK bootlegger.
The copy is very well printed and sometimes still passing for the original as it appears to have layered inks although it is not a true silk screen poster. These posters still come up for sale on Ebay and more recently sold on as modestly priced 1970’s reprints now they are generally recognised as reprints. So expert help is needed if offered one of these posters as this fake has fooled collectors and dealer alike.
Hapshash and Osiris Visions posters - a word of caution about reprints.
The OA and Hapshash posters have been widely copied and unless you are well acquainted with the originals and the many fakes on the marketplace, get some good advice before parting with any money. To paraphrase Brad Rogers, a pioneer in identifying the OA bootlegs –”if you don’t know where it’s been for 50 years or you’re not an expert assume it’s a fake.”
Most fakes seen on the market come from the same original source in the UK and printed up in 80’s or 90’s along with various permutations of story about originating from a newly discovered ‘stash’ usually in an attic of a relative of the printers.
These still appear regularly on eBay and smaller auction houses. The reproductions have recently been ‘rebranded’ and often labelled as ‘later ‘or 2nd printings from the 1970’s so being offering at a more affordable lower price, but they are in fact nice decorative items only. So, seek either provenance, expert advice or a respected dealer.
None of the bootlegs are true screen prints and look and feel new and generally 20 x 30 in. There is no standard ‘one size fits all’ and all for authentic OA issues and sizes vary slightly across the series and print runs.
Nearly all surviving Original Hapshash or OA posters are damaged or used in some way. They almost never survive in faultless mint condition. A poster with aging and damp/water stains on the reverse, pin holes, tape residue and handling are commonplace. This can all be positive factors establishing age and originality as most of these posters have "lived a life". So, don’t let that put you off.
Be very wary of white clean new looking paper with no imperfections in near perfect condition. Be cautious of bargain prices as rare originals seldom come at knockdown prices. I have also seen fakes that are deliberately distressed and damaged to appear old, so be looking out for this trick too.
The list of these current well-known Hapshash and Osiris Visions Bootleg posters are as follows:
Pre OA-Pink Floyd/Soft machine at UFO Poster by Michael English (double size 40 x 30 inches)
OA 102 Tomorrow My White Bicycle Poster - BOTH white and cream paper versions
OA109 The Move at the Marquee Poster
OA 114 CIA v UFO Pink Floyd Poster-there is also an early 1970’s POST OA non-screen print reproduction that comes up for sale often as an original 1st print.
OA 118 5th Dimension Leicester Poster
OA 123 The Who I can see for Miles Poster
OA 124 Richard Bernstein Gallery Poster
OA 134 Julie Felix At the Albert Hall Poster
The following posters were originally offset litho- All theOAS and OA 500 series were also offset
OAS 4 The Who at the Saville Theatre Poster
OA 501 Arthur Brown Track Promo Poster
OA 502 Jimi Hendrix Track Promo Poster
Yarrowstalk licenced Osiris Visions reprint posters
There is also a group of licenced Osiris Visions reproduction posters known as the Yarrowstalk edition printed by Brian Zahn of the US Yarrowstalk counterculture magazine. These posters were screen printed in the later part of 1967 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and are the earliest known licensed reprints.
The posters can be distinguished by the lack of OA printing Credit and some copies appear slightly misprinted. Unfortunately, there is no printers mark, but some helpfully do have an elaborate Yarrowstalk stamp and/or Brian Zahn’s signature on the verso. However, it is impossible to determine 100% exactly when they were printed, reprinted or in what numbers.
Mint condition copies still emerge for sale on the market and from the Zahn estate who seem to still have copies for sale. The known Yarrowstalk prints are:
OA 103 Hendrix at the Fillmore Poster
OA104 UFO Coming Poster
OA 114 CIA v UFO Poster
OA 116 Save Earth Now Poster
Although not OA originals or produced in London they are historically relevant as the earliest reprints licenced from Hapshash so they have value, and are not recent bootlegs. They can make an affordable substitute for the more expensive and harder to find original Osiris Visions posters
One of the great joys of collecting is also that of occasional rediscovery and recently several unknown original Hapshash works have come to light. They have no OA number and not works printed for Osiris Visions, but they have been acknowledged as original pieces by Nigel Waymouth. Hopefully there is still more to be discovered!
Hapshash and the Coloured Coat at the Paradiso April, 25, 1968
Hapshash and the Coloured Coat at the Paradiso 25 April 1968 / Thursday? Good!
This poster reuses the 1966 pre Hapshash English /Waymouth poster Friday? Good! With a reimagined and irreverent 1960’s Last supper with colourful new characters and uses it as a gig poster for the bands appearance at the famous Paradiso Club in Amsterdam.
Hapshash expanded it interest into creating experimental music recording two albums and naturally creating the artwork and promotional material. As a studio work it seems to succeed with a cast of quality musicians supporting the artists who didn’t play on the albums but as a live act it became shambolic and acrimonious.
The few gigs were apparently improvised, chaotic and only a few more occurred back in the UK. This Holland trip was the only time both English and Waymouth performed together live and Waymouth describes these gigs as the end of their artistic partnership. This is the only known copy which came to light in 2017.
Score it at the Head Shop
These small promo posters in green on pink paper were given away to customers at the Kensington Park Road Head Shop London. The stoned hippie head surrounded by hashish (?) smoke and shooting stars is typical Hapshash. There are currently two known copies of this recently discovered poster. The wavy "Score it at the Head Shop" text is similar in style to the text on the Hapshash 14hr Technicolor Dream flyer design of April '67 so possibly from the same early Hapshash period.
About the Author - Nick Etheridge is a dedicated collector based in the UK and passionate about psychedelic posters from Hapshash to Hawkwind.
In recent years he has become fascinated by the influential groundbreaking posters from Osiris Visions and Hapshash issued for a short period in the heyday of the 60’s scene in London.
Nick is dedicated in his research clarifying the posters, identifying print runs and increasing our knowledge along with helping avoid the fakes that have flooded the market.
Nick welcomes any additional information you wish to contribute on this subject, and is available to answer any questions you may have. He can be reached at Nicketheridge1@hotmail.com
References and Notes Hapshash and Osiris Visions posters
Whocollection.com. A very useful Osiris poster resource by respected collector Brad Rogers with information and images about the series and excellent research on the fake OA posters.
V&A Museum London – vam.ac.uk; there are many original and rare OA posters in their permanent collection and can be viewed online.
Hapshash and Osiris Visions Poster Bibliography
Useful texts and background for Hapshash and Osiris Visions posters and the UK underground scene:
High Art by Ted Owen
Days in The Life, Voices from the English Underground 1961-71 by Robert Green
In the 60’s by Barry Miles
My White Bicycle: Making Music in the 1960’s by Joe Boyd
3D Eye by Michael English
The Art of British Rock 50 years of Rock Posters, Flyers and Handbills by Mike Evans