Front cover of the Rumplestiltskin album (1970).

Steve Thomas is a graphic designer from London. He was a prominent member of London's art-pop scene of the 1960s and 1970s, working as a male model, artist, designer and rock & roll manager. After being educated at the Chelsea School of Art by painters like Patrick Caulfield, John Hoyland and Allen Jones, he went to work in the record industry. Among his earliest efforts are promoting hit singles for Peter Frampton's first band, The Herd, and then he turned to graphic design.

The "Steve Thomas Associates" are credited for the designs of several album covers from around 1970. These include 'Three Week Hero' by P.J. Proby (1969), 'Matthew, Mark, Luke And John' by Methuselah (1969), Rumplestiltskin's self-titled debut album (1970), 'Bluebell Wood' by Big Sleep (1971) and, most notably, the back cover for The Rolling Stones' live album 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!' (1970). The cover for the debut album by the nowadays obscure British prog rock band Rumplestiltskin is of interest to comic fans, as it contained a comic strip on the front and back. The absurd and somewhat naive story involving a talking giraffe was drawn by Thomas and scripted by journalist/columnist Angus McGill, who also made the daily cartoon strip 'Clive' with artist Dominic Poelsma for the London Evening Standard. The album was produced by Shel Talmy, who also worked with The Who and The Kinks. Unlike those two bands, though, Rumplestiltskin never made it big.

Comics segment from the back cover of the Rumplestiltskin album (1970).

In an e-mail to Lambiek, Steve Thomas described how the remarkable cover came about:
"I was commissioned by Shel to work with Angus, who wrote a very successful cartoon strip in the London Evening Standard every day, to be the artist on a cartoon strip to appear every week for six weeks in the British music papers (New Musical Express, Disc, Melody Maker, etc.) that was to be an esoteric teaser to co-incide with the release of the album Rumplestiltskin.
The content was created by Shel and Angus, which seemed to be in-jokes about Shel's friends and enemies. One running gag was about a singer called Bob Henry or Jericho Brown who was a jerk acquaintance from Shel's Hollywood days who arrived in London. I can't remember the reason for many of the characters or the gags(!), but I know that Rapunzle was my girlfriend at that time, Eleanor.
A later girlfriend was the model in the centrefold, a photograph by Clive Arrowsmith, Erica Bergman, co-incidentally. All went well with the black & white line drawings appearing every week - they did grab an increasing amount of attention. I liked it - didn't understand it entirely, but I was pleased. Then Bell Records, in their excitement to release what they thought was a very hot record, quickly - really quickly, decided to release it. And there was no artwork for the sleeve, Shel couldn't show the band because of contractual problems, so I was instructed to produce a colour version of the six cartoon strips overnight. We did it - with five designers filling in the spaces on a production line, and not very well, but it a quick fix to satisfy Bell's insistence. A pity, as I say, the black & white line drawings were OK, but that's rock n roll for you!

It was the artist's first and last venture into the art of cartooning.

Invitation for the opening of the Biba store (1973).

Later life and career
By 1971, Thomas and his design partner Tim Whitmore were assigned to design Barbara Hulanicki's legendary Big Biba shop, a leading seven-storey department store in the Kensington district of London. They brought along their graphic artists Kasia Charko, Mick Partlett and Chris Angell. The shop opened in 1973 but already closed its doors in 1975. Thomas later worked for years as Paul McCartney's personal designer, which included building a studio for the recording of 'Mull of Kintyre' (1977). During the 1980s, Thomas and his partner were mainly designing showbiz hang-outs in London, such as the Restaurant in Dolphin Square, the Pheasantry and John Conteh's bar JC's, as well as the Roof Gardens Club in Miami and the revolving restaurant 1300 feet up the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada. Thomas and Whitmore, accompanied by Chris Angell in 1993, also worked on advertising and branding campaigns for such companies as Lucky Strike, Levi's, Esso, Pepsi Cola, Danone, Guinness, Harrods, Virgin and Wrangler.

By the 2000s, Thomas and Whitmore parted ways, and Steven Thomas started to concentrate on more personal artworks in his Notting Hill loft, using his skills of drawing, painting, photography and collage making. He also worked on a book on the creation of Big Biba (ACC Editions, 2006), a career retrospective ('Big Biba and Other Stories', Chelsea Space, 2008) and a one-man show of artwork (Chelsea Arts Club, 2010).

David Bowie’s portrait as Aladdin Sane in the place of the mariner Hero, from the old Players Navy Cut cigarettes pack. From Thomas' Heroes & Villains series (2013).

Series and books by Steven Thomas you can order today:


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