Michael Joseph’s Notorious 1971 ‘Orgy’ Advertising Campaign for Fernet-Branca

In 1971 the great advertising director and photographer Michael Joseph was commissioned to shoot a billboard campaign for the Italian digestif Fernet-Branca.

 

The Michael Joseph image which was to be central to the 1971 Fernet-Branca campaign was featured in Dave Saunders’ survey Sex In Advertising, published by Batsford Books in 1996

The Michael Joseph image which was to be central to the 1971 Fernet-Branca campaign was featured in Dave Saunders’ survey Sex In Advertising, published by Batsford Books in 1996

 

Front, Funk Spectrum, BBE Records, 1999. Photo: Michael Joseph

Front, Funk Spectrum, BBE Records, 1999. Photo: Michael Joseph

 

Back, Funk Spectrum, BBE, 1999. Photo: Michael Joseph

Back, Funk Spectrum, BBE, 1999. Photo: Michael Joseph

 

Joseph’s reputation had been sealed a couple of years earlier by photographing the Bacchanalian scene which decorated the inner gatefold of the Rolling Stones’ 1968 release Beggars Banquet.

 

Inner gatefold, Beggars Banquet, Rolling Stones, Decca Records, 1968. Photo Michael Roberts, design Tom Wilkins

Inner gatefold, Beggars Banquet, Rolling Stones, Decca Records, 1968. Photo Michael Roberts, design Tom Wilkins

 

Rolling Stones, Beggars' Banquet, photography session out-take A large photographic print of an unused photo from the photo shoot for the inner sleeve of Beggars' Banquet, signed by Michael Joseph and titled The Rolling Stones - 'Begger's Banquet' - London 1968".

Rolling Stones, Beggars’ Banquet, photography session out-take A large photographic print of an unused photo from the photo shoot for the inner sleeve of Beggars’ Banquet – London 1968. Via

 

When commissioned for the Fernet-Branca job, Joseph and his casting agent Susan Scott pulled out all the stops, engaging a wild crowd of 75 unusual characters, including artist Judy Nylon, designer Brent Sherwood, model David “Piggy” Worth and Gala Pinion, who had been close to the Pink Floyd’s shining star Syd Barrett.

“The Rolling Stones banquet was a picnic in comparison,” says Joseph. “None of the models were paid apart from giving them as much booze as they wanted and a fiver each for cab fare. I liked Piggy; he was always enthusiastic and good value. And he always stood out in a crowd – towards the end of the shoot I scanned the scene and saw Piggy was in tears while the Arthur Rubenstein-alike pianist shook his fist and threatening to punch him if he continued kicking him in the back!”

 

Detail: David “Piggy” Worth with Gala Pinion in Bunny Girl outfit

Detail: David “Piggy” Worth with Gala Pinion in Bunny Girl outfit

 

Detail: Judy Nylon on the front of the Funk Spectrum sleeve

Detail: Judy Nylon on the front of the Funk Spectrum sleeve

 

Detail: Brent Sherwood with Nylon on the back cover

Detail: Brent Sherwood with Nylon on the back cover

 

Joseph managed to calm the pair and continued with the shoot, which he describes as “my worst nightmare”. By the time he had taken 50 sheets of 10 x 8 film – to be developed at £10 a sheet, comparable to the weekly wage at that time – the developing lab called to say that the tests were blank since his assistant had positioned the flash sync button on the camera the wrong way.

“And so everyone was delighted to discover that there were only 10 shots left since the budget was so tight,” adds Joseph. “Piggy managed a brave face for the chosen image.”

In the event the shoot was rejected by Fernet-Branca. “That was due to me adding a few naked strippers to the crowd,” confesses Joseph. “One of the client’s uncles was the Pope at that time!”

Joseph, who bought the rights the the photo-session, became the go-to photographer for crowd scenes, “some with up to 200 people”, he recalls. “My last epic was for an Italian port, which had 80 people and animals, shot at Knebworth House in the very spot where Kim Basinger dined with Batman in the film. My rep Peter Lyster-Todd also handled (Lord) Snowdon and (Norman) Parkinson. When Peter was asked if they would be interested in a mega-shoot he would decline and suggest I do it. They became commonly known as ‘Michael Josephs’.”

 

A clear view of Nylon at the centre of this tableau used on the front cover of The Kings Of Funk, BBE Records, 2005. Photo: Michael Joseph

A clear view of Nylon at the centre of this tableau used on the front cover of The Kings Of Funk, BBE Records, 2005. Photo: Michael Joseph

 

Another of Joseph’s crowd scenes appeared on the sleeve of BBE’s 2005 Masters At Work release The Kings Of House

Another of Joseph’s crowd scenes appeared on the sleeve of BBE’s 2005 Masters At Work release The Kings Of House

 

And another for the third of the Funk Spectrum series released by BBE in 2000

And another for the third of the Funk Spectrum series released by BBE in 2000

 

The Fernet-Branca session was given a new lease of life three decades later by dance label BBE when it used an image for the cover of the double-LP compilation Funk Spectrum in the late 90s. After agreeing a usage fee with Joseph, another shot was used as the sleeve for BBE’s Kings Of Funk. The record company also sourced other crowd shoot images from Joseph for Kings Of House and Funk Spectrum III.

Michael Joseph’s rock photography is represented by Morrison Hotel gallery.

*Thanks to Judy Nylon for bringing the Fernet-Branca shoot to my attention, Dave Brolan for hooking me up and also to Michael Joseph and Susan Scott for their memories and assistance.