February 4th, 2014
NOW ON SALE: The bumper second issue of Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop: The Magazine (really must come up with a better word than Blogazine). A massive 44 full-colour pages packed with pictures and writing pulled from the best of my blog posts in mostly updated, rewritten, and improved versions. Featuring…
All this yummy graphic goodness can be yours for a mere $9.25 or $2.99 for a digital version (which is free if you buy a print copy).
See more and buy it here.
Download: Art For Art’s Sake – 10cc (mp3)
January 23rd, 2014
It’s taken way too long but I’ve finally produced a second issue of Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop: The Magazine.
Featuring more pages, more words, more pictures (and costing more money as a result I’m afraid), and more razzamatazz! than the first one, I hope you think it was worth the time and effort.
On sale soon!
Download: Papercuts – Broadcast (mp3)
January 14th, 2014
In case you don’t know (the type is tiny) this is the gorgeous cover of Astrud Gilberto’s 1969 album I Haven’t Got Anything Better To Do, and if the job of a sleeve is to convey what an album sounds like then this does the job beautifully — it’s so evocative you can hear the record in your mind just by looking at the photo: low-key, intimate, and sad. You almost don’t even need to listen to the record, but that would be silly because it’s wonderful, what Astrud called “my fireplace album.”
Download: I Haven’t Got Anything Better to Do – Astrud Gilberto (mp3)
The staring-at-the-camera pose is often used for emotionally-vulnerable albums like this, Phil Collins did it too but he isn’t as pretty as Astrud Gilberto and having a face like hers really helps with a sleeve like this. I imagine the designer didn’t want any type on it at all but the label insisted so he did it as small as he could get away with. A lot of the skill in being a designer is knowing what not to do, or doing nothing but hire the right photographer.
The “right” photographer in this case was Joel Brodsky who shot several very famous record sleeves including Astral Weeks, Kick Out The Jams, and The Doors, (plus that iconic portrait of Jim Morrison) so he has a hell of a portfolio, but his lesser-known work also includes another of my favourite sleeves:
This is another very evocative photo that tells a story but I’ve always had trouble figuring out exactly what it is. Her nakedness and cigarette suggest this is post-sex, but she also looks very pensive and lonely curled up on her own like that. Whatever’s going on, it’s a beautiful photo and her coffee-coloured skin and au naturel state are perfect for Callier’s laid-back, Jazzy-Folky Soul.
Download: Just As Long As We’re In Love – Terry Callier (mp3)
December 17th, 2013
I came across this when I was researching my post on 1980s nuclear tension, the rather grim cover of the BBC listings magazine Radio Times the week they screened Threads.
I doubt if the BBC would have the balls to make a film as difficult and politically-controversial as Threads these days, and I doubt if the current, more populist version of the (once-great) Radio Times would have an image like this on its cover either — unless it was something to do with Doctor Who.
Download: War (Hide Yourself) – Frankie Goes To Hollywood (mp3)
October 8th, 2013
There are few better illustrations of how the utopianism of post-war urban planning and architecture came crashing down than this photo of the Ronan Point tower block in East London which partially collapsed in 1968, killing four people. Though it was caused by a gas explosion, the fact that one whole side of the building fell down was blamed on shoddy design and cheap materials, and high-rise tower blocks soon stopped being seen as visionary modernist systems for living in the clouds, but instead dehumanizing and brutalist concrete boxes — usually with the attendant problems of drugs, crime, and lifts that stink of piss.
It wasn’t always like that, I remember my Gran telling me that when new tower blocks were built down the end of her road in the 1950s people couldn’t wait to move into them because they thought they were clean, bright, and modern compared to the dingy, back-to-back Victorian terraced houses they were living in.
The estate I grew up on was fairly human-sized — each building was only two levels and every flat had a garden or balcony — but when I was a kid we loved playing on the bigger estates and tower blocks with their walkways, ramps, endless stairwells, underground car parks, and playgrounds that were like abstract concrete and steel sculpture parks. Through our eyes they were futuristic places designed for adventure but to others they were Ballardian nightmares and a scary backdrop for pop records.
Download: Hatfield 1980 – Everything But The Girl (mp3)
August 21st, 2013
July 22nd, 2013
July 17th, 2013
I assume most people know that the sleeve of London Calling is a
rip off, pastiche of homage to Elvis Presley’s first album. You might even know that the cover’s iconic photo of Paul Simenon was taken by NME photographer Pennie Smith (whose photos of the band were collected in a terrific book that will set you back a few bob these days). But unless you’re a Brit of a certain age you might not have heard of Ray Lowry, the man who actually designed the sleeve.
Lowry was a cartoonist who regularly contributed to the NME during the 70s and 80s, including the surreal weekly strip Not Only Rock and Roll. He had a sharp eye for the foibles and posturing of music fans and rock stars and whenever they got too self-important or pretentious — which they often did in the NME in those days — you could always rely on the Lowry cartoon at the back of the paper to bring things back to earth.
He became mates with The Clash after meeting them at a gig, and the band invited him on the road with them to be what Joe Strummer called “official war artist” of their 1979 tour of the US which led to the commission to design the cover of their next album. Ray had drawn cartoons for underground papers like Oz in the 1960s so he was from another generation than these young punks, but being a lover of what he called “holy rock and roll thunder” he was thrilled by the music’s primitive energy and probably bonded with The Clash over a shared passion for 1950s rock n’ roll (and its hairstyles), Lefty politics, and a belief in “authenticity”.
Judging by these early roughs Lowry had the Elvis-inspired typography before London Calling had a cover image or even a name, it also looks like it was going to be called Made In England at one point. The final sleeve is fairly plain and basic but sometimes effective design is just a matter of picking the right picture, even if it’s out of focus because Pennie Smith was backing away from a pissed-off, guitar-swinging Simeonon when she snapped it — and I’m sure The Clash loved the iconoclasm of using an old Elvis sleeve as inspiration.
As far as I know it’s the only album cover Lowry ever designed which is crazy when you think how famous the one he did is. Sadly he died in 2008, though the commercial work had mostly dried up he had carried on painting and had an exhibition of his work just before he passed away. But if he wasn’t completely forgotten, he’s certainly not as well known as he should be.
Download: Death or Glory – The Clash (mp3)
Ink is a collection of Lowry’s work that’s out of print now but can be found for sale on the internets without too much bother, happily his illustrated book about that 1979 tour with The Clash is still available.