Monday, July 30, 2007

Blink-182: Logo #15

Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker designed this icon for their eponymous Geffen album in 2003. Barker credits The Jam and Pop art with the arrows; still, some fans were vexed enough to cry plagiarism and let slip the dogs of blogs, accusing Barker of stealing the happy-face idea from Nirvana's somewhat like-minded logo. Nirvana, however, could well be accused of the same thing, seeing as their happy-face logo was preceded by those of The Weirdos and Social Distortion. Not exactly a brain-busting concept, that happy face. Regardless, it's an effective, simple image, suggesting action in the face of unconsciousness - or, alternately, that sleepwalking through life is just peachy in a post-Reagan reality-TV world.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Specials: Logo #14

Designed by Jerry Dammers and Horace "The Gentleman" Panter for their Two-Tone label in 1979, the usually nameless Walt Jabsco was based on an album photograph of Peter Tosh. It debuted on the The Specials' "Gangsters" single. Indian-born Dammers played keyboards in the septet; Panter, the bass. One of the first mascots in the survey, it pre-dated even Iron Maiden's Eddie, but Motörhead pre-dated them with their Snaggletooth mascot, which was then pre-dated by Angel Witch. Another story for another time. And while Eddie and The Not Man and Grim Reaper are exciting on a cosmological level, you don't necessarily want to style your life after them. Fangs are rough on dry-cleaning. Two-toned suits - not so much.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dead Kennedys: Logo #13

Dead Kennedys logo designer Winston Smith recalls, "I created that after I'd met (Jello) Biafra in either late 1979 or very early 1980. I'd done some work with him and come up with a few things and one evening he gave me a call to ask if I could cook up something they could use for an emblem for the band. He explained that since lots of bands just went by their initials (MDC, DOA, DRI, etc.), they usually got referred to as the DKs. I spent the evening going through dozens of different ideas utilizing different geometric shapes. Finally I got it down to the most minimal amount of pen strokes one could make and still have a legible image. I wanted to create something that would be E-Z for anyone to draw quickly and completely. At least, in that regard, it looks like I was successful. I don't think it's any artistic masterpiece but at least it was original. Anyway, when I first showed it to Biafra a week or so later he said "That's IT!," and before I knew it the logo was drawn all over the walls in the back of the club they were gigging at in Berkeley where we were that night. Unfortunately artists usually can't collect any royalties from tattoos or graffiti, otherwise I'd be retired somewhere in the south of France with a really bad drug habit (which is, fortunately, unaffordable in my current economic situation)."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Magma: Logo #12

Interviewed by George Allen and Robert Pearson in 1995, Magma founder Christian Vander remarked on the logo he designed in September 1969, "When I created it, I never thought of (it as) a bird. The idea at the beginning was something like the dress of the Egyptians. It was supposed to be like a piece of cloth or articulated metal sheets that would mold over the body, over the ribcage. It was to be similar to breast-plate armor, but supple, not rigid." Contrary to popular belief, Vander was not the drummer in the forest in Jean-Luc Godard's "Week End." The Magma design is a modern example of a very ancient attitude: that a symbol's meaning borders on the mystical and it's something meant to be integrated into the life of the bearer. It's like a literal brand - or, as it appears on the tombstone that graces the cover of the 2004 Magma album "K.A (Köhntarkösz Anteria)", a totem that helps guide the individual even after death.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Adam and the Ants: Logo #11

Designed by Danny Kleinman in 1980, this underrated, catchy symbol projected the public image for the burgeoning Ant Liberation Front, an unheralded pop meme used by everyone from the Kiss Army to the Insane Clown Posse's Juggalos. Kleinman, the guitarist who in 1971 founded Bazooka Joe (the pub rock precursor to Adam and the Ants), would go on to project other public images whose impact on the psyche of that decade's pop culture is almost like the scent of the campfire to yonder Neandertal. His videos include Thomas Dolby's "Hyperactive!," Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days," and the extortionately bizarre "Go Insane" video for Lindsay Buckingham, and he's designed the title sequences of every James Bond film since "GoldenEye". Adam and His Ants represented a side of punk that would be mainly exterminated through a trinity of yobs, heroin and conservatism. It was composed of highly literate (and literal), funny, imaginative gestures against the status quo, coming from seemingly nowhere and often of indeterminate sexual origin. That its individuality has been beaten out of the pop landscape with clubs of irony and conformity is everyone's loss and boredom's tirelessly tiresome gain.

7 Seconds: Logo #10

One or two because I missed a day or three.

Straight-edge punk pioneer Kevin Seconds (née Marvelli) designed the 7 Seconds logo in 1980. The cattier dyslexics among us may mistake "sXe" for "sex," but the straight-edge credo - a slightly grumpier Eagle Scout worldview - is concerned with anything but. 1980 was a good year for emblems: Devo's energy dome, The Anti-Nowhere League's spiked fist and mace, and the White Spirit eagle. "The logo first appeared on gig fliers in our hometown of Reno," Seconds remembers - which, having abstained from copious amounts of drink and drugs, is fairly easy to do after 27 years. Here the circle also suggests a mosh pit - which, in an odd way, with its convivial picking up of punks who have fallen to the ground, is comforting in itself. 7 Seconds, having much in common with common-sense Christianity in its core philosophy, cleverly offers a simple yet multi-faceted icon with straight edges that can be seen as either crooked crosses or an overwhelming paranoia from persecution by authority - something inherent in punk from day 12 (it took The Man a little while to catch on).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Blue Öyster Cult: Logo #9

Designed by Bill Gawlik in 1972, this symbol's level of simplicity mirrors Blue Öyster Cult's key innovation: the umlaut. The band's umlaut was suggested by either Blue Öyster Cult keys player Allen Lanier or scribbler Richard Meltzer - ironically, two occupations least associated with maximum weight. And yet for all the controversy that dogs the 35 years of this group, it virtually bleeds tradition: their folkish yet deific subject matter, about Titans as diverse as Kronos and Godzilla, harks back to the days of the wandering troubadour. The hooked cross holds alchemical significance as a logo for lead, one of the heaviest of all possible metals - just as the barber's pole signified the earliest of all possible frontier surgeons, or the giant shoe signified the shortest of all possible cobblers.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Joy Division: Logo #8

Illustrated by an as-yet unknown hand and found by Joy Division drummer Stephen Morris in 1979, this frontspiece for the "Unknown Pleasures" LP comes from an edition of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy. The image was originally presented as a black lines on white space, but on a hunch, designer Peter Saville flipped it. Eureka! What you see are 100 successive bursts - go ahead and count, we'll wait - from CP 1919, the first known pulsar. The more gothy reference texts refer to this as "the scream of a dying star", but we all know that in space, no one can hear you scream. In September 1979, "Alien" premiered in the "United" Kingdom and bore that chestnut out completely. Another instance of an image assuming de facto logo status, if only because for the past thirty years it has been reproduced incessantly on badges, patches, stickers and knickers. Joy Division contemporary (and no slouch in the design department, he) Jon Wozencroft has a nice "secret origin" story about the cover in the summer 2007 issue of Tate Etc. Magazine.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lacrimosa: Logo #7

From the great tradition of Holism comes this logo for goth-metalloid Swiss misanthropes Lacrimosa. Designed in 1990 by Lacrimosa's Tilo Wolff, the clown deftly juggles letters so that they may spell the name of the band just so. What a coincidence! And here the presence of type inside the logo is forgiven. Holism, a philosophy crystallized eloquently by Aristotle as "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts," is also present in the logos for Whitesnake, Stryper and Dire Straits, all of which will be covered at a later date. The original design from their initial demo cassette was that of a skull-faced jester, but apparently it wasn't quite lachrymose enough.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gay Dad: Logo #6

Created in 1999 by Factory Records design genius Peter Saville, the "Walking Man" innocuously heralded a British guitar band whose short creative life was battered by controversy and ended after a three-year rocket ride from top to bottom. Capitol was thwarted in its intentions to promote the band Stateside; the conventional wisdom was summed up by one apocryphal publicist who "said he'd resign if he had to work a band called Gay Dad," according to singer Cliff Jones. In this sign there is a clever override of daily experience that - Protestant work ethic aside - effectively makes every crossroads in the United States a four-way advertising campaign. For gay dads. And of course the implicit observation with this logo is that with every street come pedestrians, and some of them are dads, and some of those dads are gay. But at least they're white gays, so that should have been comforting to someone.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Germs: Logo #5

Much teeth-gnashing controversy surrounds the "Germs" vs. "The Germs" debate - much as Pete Shelley once said about Buzzcocks: "It's the definitive article, not the definite article." So here, they are just Germs. The symbol, designed in 1978 by Don Bolles and Darby Crash (in point of fact, Bolles recalls merely telling Crash to place the circle in the corner) was first used on armbands by the group and a few of their core fans. The blue circle, reminiscent of an oven's flame, would anticipate the "Germs burn" - a wound caused by a cigarette wielded by a member of Germs. Darby Crash (born Jan Paul Beahm, September 26, 1958) killed himself by heroin overdose on December 7, 1980. It was a day, he had hoped, that would live in infamy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Faust: Logo #4

This is a photograph from the cover of the eponymous Faust LP (Polydor, 1971). The hand is Andy Hertel's, a friend of the band - and here it should be pointed out that the logos in this blahg are simply the symbols, not a typeface or a font or a script. This of course eliminates 90% of all so-called logos - including all those inscrutable death metal designs that end in ??? - but it's a distinction that must be made. Pay no attention to the type beside that claw! Fittingly, the first X-ray ever taken was that of the hand of Mrs. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895. It was a photograph that led Dr. Roentgen to the Nobel Prize in 1901, the inaugural year of the awards - ironically, founded by a man whose invention (dynamite) effected a dire need for X-ray technology. Sometimes. Some logos are methodically crafted, and some have their immortality thrust upon the band. This is an example.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hieroglyphics: Logo #3

Speaking in 2000 to the San Francisco Weekly about the logo he designed in the 1990s for his group Hieroglyphics, Del tha Funkee Homosapien (Ice Cube's cousin, born Teren Delvon Jones on August 12, 1972 in Oakland) recalls, "When I invented that symbol, I never thought it would get this big. I've seen about 20 people with that tattoo. I saw a comic book - like "Clerks" or something - and one of the fools in there had a Hiero shirt on. I saw a Redman and Method Man video, and there's somebody in the crowd with a Hiero shirt on." Then: "When I got older I realized you have to make money somehow, you ain't giving your art away for free." Irony of ironies! Mnemonic devices as successful as this one assume lives of their own, inhabiting a shadowy netherworld of aesthetic flophouses: stickers and patches and Pee Chee folders. You never really get a receipt on those. The circle motif is getting a bit tiresome at this point - logo #4 will be something different. Possibly something oblong.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Squarepusher: Logo #2

Designed by Alexander Rutterford in late 2001, this emblem for the "Do You Know Squarepusher" LP also briefly appeared on a t-shirt and a press release - both of which are rather rare now. "It's not really used any more," say the good folk at Warp, a record label co-founded by Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell that began life as an acronym for Weird And Radical Projects. It's a shame because there again is the simplicity of the unifying circle, and then there's the square. Pushed. All hail the underrated rebus. Rutterford, who worked with filmmaker Chris Cunningham on the Aphex Twin's "Rubber Johnny" and Björk's "All Is Full of Love" videos, latterly works for Joyrider, making odd films and apparently having a reasonably good time.

Negative Trend: Logo #1

Formed in San Francisco in 1977, Negative Trend's logo was designed by founding member Rozz Rezabek and future Flipper vocalist / bassist Will Shatter (born Russell Wilkinson, June 10, 1956 - December 9, 1987). Rezabek recalls looking at the bad news in the business section of the newspaper, and then at the worse news on the front page - as always, two perfectly good bellwethers of things as they are, and things to come. As with most good ideas in pop, it's simple, immediately striking (red, black and white were the first and only colors used by primitive printing presses) and easily propagated through knife on desk or paint on wall. The negative symbols also disrupt the circle's usually comforting psychology, anticipating a change in mantra from the "Fuck you - I got mine" of the '70s to the "Fuck you - I want yours, too" of the '80s.