It was the love child of Blu-Tack – the removable putty that could stick pretty much anything – provided it wasn’t too heavy – to a wall and UK art and poster shop, Athena founded in Hampstead (London, UK) in 1964 by Ole Christensen.
In 1969 Blu-Tack was the accidental by-product of research into creating a new sealant combining chalk powder, rubber and oil. Originally white in colour a blue dye was added to avoid any confusion with chewing gum. Around 100 tonnes a week are now produced by “Bostik” at its Leicester (UK) factory.
Combining these two brands in the 1970’s resulted in the walls of many thousands of teenager bedrooms and student digs being graced by some of the most iconic posters ever produced.
“Tennis Girl” – Taken by Martin Elliott in September 1976 at Birmingham University’s tennis courts and features an 18-year-old, Fiona Butler, Elliott’s then girlfriend. First published by Athena as part of a calendar for the 1977 Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, then distributed as a poster, launching in 1978 and selling over two million posters at £2.00 each.
“God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols 1977. Taken from the “Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s is The Sex Pistols” was the Punk “celebration” of the Silver Jubilee. It was banned by the BBC and commercial radio in the UK yet still achieved a No 2 slot in the Official UK Singles Chart.
“Farrah” – selling a staggering 12 million copies. The original photo was shot in 1976, featuring the then relatively unknown Farrah Fawcett at her Bel Air (California, USA) home by Bruce McBroom of Pro Arts Inc. It was first published in Life magazine in September 1976.
“Che Guevara Red” by Jim Fitzpatrick’s based on Alberto Korda’s original 1960 photograph.
“Jaws” Stephen Spielberg’s 1975 telling of Peter Benchley’s story. The Highest Grossing Film of All Time – prior to the relates of Star Wars. The artist responsible for the original painting – which to this day is said to be missing – was Roger Kastel.
“Shaft” – Richard Roundtree starred – with a stunning Isaac Hayes soundtrack – in this third blaxploitation movie released by a major studio. It is said to be the most popular of the genre and certainly was a commercial success costing $500,000 to make and earning $13m.
“Lunch atop a Skyscraper” was taken on 20th September 1932 by Charles Clyde Ebbets and depicts eleven men eating lunch on a girder during the construction of 30 Rockefeller Plaza (Manhattan, NYC, USA). It was taken on the 69th Floor.
The Doors – featuring Jim Morrison – “American Poet” – who died aged 27 in 1971. It was photographed by Joel Brodsky.
The Rolling Stone Lips – Mick Jagger liked the work of 24-year-old art school student, John Pasche, who accepted £50 to draw this world famous logo.
Marilyn Monroe – a still from the Billy Wilder directed “Seven Year Itch” in 1955
Beer – self deprecating humour was always part of growing up!
Star Wars – released in May 1977, the George Lucas written and directed first outing for this amazingly successful franchise. Originals of the poster in good condition, designed by Tom Jung, are today worth $2500-$3000.
“Fly United” – United Airlines spoof, 1970’s vintage, just for the laugh!
Athena was sold by Ole to E&O who grew the chain to sixty stores nationwide. In 1977 it was sold to the Pentos Group and floundered in 1995. It is now has a strong on-line offering.
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Images courtesy of Martin Elliott, Life/Pro Arts, The Rolling Stones, Virgin Records, LucasFilms, Elektra Records, Zanuck/Brown Productions, Fitzpatrick/Korda, 20th Century Fox.