A tribute to Andie Airfix, Def Leppard and Metallica designer

Andie Airfix artwork

I'm incredibly sad to report that my family friend Andie Airfix has died.

When I was 15 and intent on being a graphic artist I'd visit him at his studio at the end of our street for unofficial work experience. If I wasn't boggling at the chart toppers who'd often pop by to say thank you (Andie appeared to know, and was loved by everyone in the music biz), I was marvelling at the fact I already owned several of the sleeves on his wall, or gazing in wonder as, bent over his easel, he’d sketch out designs for albums I'd later buy.

He’d bequeath that same easel to me, a priceless lump of rock history, when he moved permanently to Brighton with his husband Ricky, and, old unwieldy warhorse that it is, I can never part with it. 

Anyone who's ever copied the cover of Pyromania or Hysteria on the cover of their school book, or any number of classic singles, will have recreated one of Andie's originals – including a Thompson Twins single called Get That Love I ended up colouring in when he tossed me some felt-tips one day and said "Go to work on that". (I was beyond thrilled. I loved the Thompson Twins at the time. He would have known that.) I’m especially proud of my aqua-marine.

He was a very wise, chilled, spiritual soul – though not at all averse to partying wildly with Lars backstage at Metallica gigs – and somehow seemed younger than he was, owing to having a foot in both the hippie and New Wave camps. He was a hell of a writer too, as evinced by an extraordinary, magical memoir of his travels through the hippie trail, Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent. His soul might have remained in the Summer of Love, and in his beloved India, but he was also creatively active during the birth of Punk, New Wave, the New Romantic scene, the Classic 80s pop years, and helped to shape much of those movements' aesthetics. 

And to me, as a teenage would-be-artist, showing him my scribblings, he was incredibly patient, indulgent, funny and kind. I last encountered him in person halfway across a bridge, which seems significant somehow. 

RIP you glorious man x.

Andie Airfix

This is a photo I took of Andie (right) with Ricky, snapped outside his former studio in Lots Road, Chelsea, on Saturday 1st May 2010, the day he left for the coast. I love the way the rays of the sun make a perfect halo around his head. 

(Image: © Ali Catterall)