Friday, November 27, 2009

Men Without Hats: Logo #320

Designed by Monica Froeber for the band's 1980 "Folk of the '80s" release - although actually this logo is a rallying cry against men with hats, but it's so simple and eye-catching with the black and the red arranged so sparingly that we can forgive the semantic shortcomings and wonder whatever happened to...Monica Froeber! Men Without Hats had two rather fine pop singles - "Safety Dance" and "Pop Goes the World" - and if that's all they ever made and then vanished, they would remain avatars of perfect pop. Instead - look out casinos! Here come Men Without Hats! Cue Metallica in one, two...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Distorted Pony: Logo #319

I love following up something like Take That with something like Distorted Pony. David Uskovich, guitarist with the industrial / noise rock band, remembers: "Around '88 or '89 - maybe as early as '87 - Dora Jahr, bassist, made an abstract "pony" out of clay. She rolled the clay into ropes. I can't remember, but I think the head, body and tail were all one piece, with separate pieces for the legs and the "eye," which is that big circle in the middle of the head. It was like a 3-D version of a line drawing. She probably still has that thing. One of us, or maybe it was Robert Hammer or Theodore Jackson, had the idea to slap some black paint onto the clay pony and then press it onto a piece of paper. The results were pretty cool, as you have seen, so we decided to have some rubber stamp maker make us a rubber stamp from the original print and Bob's-your-uncle: instant portable logo-maker. We definitely used it for the first single. We were all total industrial dorks, so the fact that the Pony logo resembled the Einsturzende Neubauten logo was not lost on us."

Distorted Pony re-united this year in Los Angeles; sometimes it takes years for people to catch on. The world needs ditch-diggers - and grave-diggers - too.

Take That: Logo #318

The one-time teen sensation's logo was designed by T&CP Associates in 1992. If ever there was a logo suffocated by its own cynicism, it's this one.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hüsker Dü: Logo #317

Hüsker Dü was graced by this particular sigil by band member and designer Grant Hart in 1980. I received this nice note from Grant Hart some time ago, discussing in-depth the other, more identifiable logo. "In 1978-1979, I was enrolled in the Advanced Graphic Arts Program taught by Will Wachtler at South St. Paul High School. We learned to set type by hand and a few of us were taught to operate and maintain Heidelburg automatic offset presses. The details of paper and ink were stressed, as well as inspection and recycling of worn type. I did so much proofreading without running actual proofs that I could read upside-down and backwards nearly as fast as I could a printed page. It was during this time that I became involved with the two others that would form the band Hüsker Dü. Punk rock posters and the photocopier were advancing and there was a tremendous merging and emerging in and of the graphic arts.

An early poster for a performance of the band was printed in dark orange ink. The band name was set in a medium Helvetica type with two colons from a smaller font leaded in to form the umlauts over the "u" in "Hüsker" and the "u" in "Dü." This took place between late March of 1979 and early June of the same year, when I graduated and subsequently lost access to the facilities of the high school Graphic Arts Department. It was not long before the young band had need for another poster. Having no real type to use, and not wanting to use the "ransom note" method of clipping out individual letters, I cut out the band name from the dark orange poster for the next one. To add visual impact, I carefully tore the words horizontally and pasted them together with a gap between the top and bottom portions. I wasn't experienced with the inexpensive photo-offset presses that used a plate made of paper to deliver the ink to the paper to be printed on. These machines have disappeared from the face of the Earth due to the technical advances of photocopies, but I digress. The first attempt at printing the poster failed because elements that were lighter-than-black came out mottled and not too readable. Not having time to re-design the whole thing, I took up a Sharpie felt-tip and colored in the words quickly but carefully. The next attempt at printing was a success and the band immediately recognized the result with approval. It was varied in its use, printed backwards and psychedelicized. It has been spoofed and rearranged to spell out names of nightclubs, record stores and other bands, and I have seen at least eight tattoos of it on people's bodies."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Quiet Riot: Logo #316

From the cover of Quiet Riot's third album, "Metal Health," this enduring metal mascot was designed by Quiet Riot and Jay Vigon in 1983. Makes a fairly synchronistic follow-up to the previous entry about Left Insane, really. The album ultimately sold six million copies - how many of those six million people do you know? "Cum on Feel the Noize" was the big hit that everyone knows; its video came from the same cosmos of dread as Greg Kihn's "Jeopardy" video and the clip for Dio's "Last in Line." Each - Kihn's impending marriage; Peluce's menial delivery job; the kid from the Quiet Riot video waking up early and having that mask hanging over his head - seemed to have their respective menaces spawned from a sense of middle-class responsibility that none of the curly-haired heroes wanted to assume or pursue. And here you thought people thinking about heavy metal only concerned themselves with messages playing backwards. Crushing, middle-class fears factor very heavily in the dull, beige, backwards world out of which heavy metal attempts to pull its listeners. Quiet Riot's late singer Kevin DuBrow (possibly the man behind the mask) dressed up in straitjacket and mask onstage, and while that makes for great theatre, it also represents a rare moment of explicit empathy between elevated performer and downtrodden fan. Guitarist Carlos Cavazo recently discussed the album cover: "It was an idea created by the whole band. It's supposed to be a guy who goes crazy banging his head, and they had to put a straitjacket and an iron mask on him, so that he wouldn't hurt himself. I remember the mask was Rudy's [Sarzo, bass] idea. He got the idea from the movie ‘The Man In The Iron Mask."

Here's "Night of the Living Dead," in glorious black&white. Happy Halloween, folks. All Souls' Day is just around the corner!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Left Insane: Logo #315

South Bay avant punk band Left Insane had their logo designed by drummer Tony Cicero - from an original sketch by singer/guitarist Paul Radabaugh - in 1989. A masterpiece of simplicity and perspective, it graced the cover of the band's "Visa Weekend" 7" on No Reality Records, an unheralded record label with a catalog that includes Nip Drivers, Pinhead Gunpowder, and Crimpshrine. Radabaugh: "The rendering in your post is my drawing and that's what got used in most of the fliers and promo materials. Tony and Mark Segal (from the SST band Paper Bag, which hailed from deepest darkest Tarzana) cleaned it up a little for the "Toolbox" album." Cicero got his start in Carson - a suburb between Los Angeles and Long Beach with a really beautiful old movie theatre nearby in Wilmington - in 1979 with a band called The Meathooks (I'm told there are recordings hidden deep in the heart of Lomita). He left when SST superstars Saccharine Trust needed a new drummer; after Saccharine Trust, he played in Vida with Dez Cadena. One of the most complex, driven and creative of all the drummers working in the Southern California punk world in the '80s, he's criminally underrated and I'm not just saying that because he's on the payroll. Now he's in Black Love - my band - and we are absolutely dipped in chocolate gold to have him with us. Someone asked recently what Black Love sounds like. We sound like Nick Cave and P.J. Harvey watching scrambled porn - but not necessarily the same channel at the same time. Also: disorienting hard rock.

This just in: Black Flag / DOA / Danzig / Run-DMC drummer Chuck Biscuits has died of throat cancer at age 44; BrooklynVegan has the most comprehensive tribute to Chuck, including a video possibly from 1988 in which Chuck shows off his collection of cereals (!) including Fruit Brute, Fruity Yummy Mummy, Count Chocula and his favorite: Quisp (?!)

Also just in: Chuck Biscuit death hoax?!?

Update: Yes, he's alive. Move along, people - nothing to see here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Psychic TV: Logo #314

Designed by Throbbing Gristle / Psychic TV co-founder Genesis P-Orridge in 1981. Deceptively simple and endlessly reproduced in a variety of materials and locations, it is at least a distant cousin to Raymond Pettibon's Black Flag bars and at best a close brother to Jesus Christ's cross - well, wait, let's not talk about that. That cross around your neck? You think Jesus is going to want to see that when He gets back and comes up to shake your hand? So distasteful. The Temple Ov Psychick Youth file declares, "The Psychick Cross is a symbol of TOPY. That is its main meaning. It can also represent a trinity, a reversal of the Papal Cross (i.e. two long crossbars and one short), and a TV aerial (receiver and transmitter of information). No meaning is imposed upon it by the group." Speaking rather incisively in a recent interview, P-Orridge recalls, "One reason we came up with what we called the Psychic Cross was to have a non-verbal icon, where if you saw someone with that on a jacket, or a tattoo, you would think, "They’re probably relatively close to my way of thinking…they're part of my invisible tribe." It doesn’t have a linguistic definition - it's beyond words.

(William S.) Burroughs was really interested in hieroglyphics. One of the things he pointed out was that he believed that the hieroglyphic so-called 'languages' work on the nervous system rather than the intellect because they're pictograms, which are received in our brains very differently to a linear, alphabetic language. And the subtleties and the nuances in this holographic information - of a hieroglyph - is more far-reaching and less specific than an alphabetized language. Whether alphabets go from right to left or left to right or up and down, they're basically teaching the brain to create habitual pathways that are - supposedly - logical…but actually they erase imagination from language. They erase the individual's subtle interpretations of meaning - and therefore meaning becomes very dogmatic."

With more than three dozen members coming and going since the group's inception in 1981, Psychick TV is a cross (har) between a symphony orchestra and the Justice League of America. Genesis P-Orridge - now Genesis Breyer P-Orridge - welcomes the publication in November on Feral House of the 544-page "Thee Psychick Bible." Finally - something to read this winter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

:zoviet*france:: Logo #313

One of the greatest musical groups of all time - flat-out, hands down, bar none. They make the mystical and transcendent into something intimate, they make some of the best record packaging ever created and if ever there were a need for meditative drones made of sticks and stones, :zoviet*france: fulfills it. Robin Storey, late of zoviet*france:: "The ZF logo developed organically with input from all the artists involved in the early days (including Lisa Hale). I can't remember when that particular configuration (Nb. the star-crescent) was first used, but it must have been around the mid-'80s." The band is fractured and fractious now, for various reasons - which is sad, but their music is immortal and surpasses the paltry emotional firefights in which mere humans tend to delight from time to time. :zoviet*france: came out of a confluence of avant-garde minds working in northeastern England in the late '70s and early '80s - The Hafler Trio, Metgumbnerbone, Alien Brains, The New Blockaders and various variations of the people in those great creative brain-trusts. Here's :zoviet*france: about 20 years ago. Here's their incredible discography, which is fraught with some of the most luminescent titles ever - including "Shouting At the Ground," which comes from a slightly longer quote, "Shouting at the ground won't make it hear you any better." AMEN TO THAT!

By the way, that comment on the Operation Ivy entry just totally made my week. It's not that I'm running out of logos or affection for the form - I'm just overwhelmed in my current state of human limitation. Further bulletins as events warrant - lightning strike or sudden radioactive mutation notwithstanding.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Operation Ivy: Logo #312

Designed by OpIvy singer Jesse Michaels in 1987. At last report, there are no plans for a band reunion. Simple things are sometimes the hardest to do well. Theirs is a logo (mascot?) that was left out of the recent Yahoo! blog survey that ripped off many of the images and entries of this blog, which is a real shame but no real surprise. The NME did the same thing back in April. Linkbacks are the Internet's equivalent of the reacharound; neither site gave me the profound joy of even that cold comfort. Like that popular band once sang, "That's the price of love..."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Siouxsie & the Banshees: Logo #311

Siouxsie's heroically pharaoic eyes - courtesy of London design house Crocodile - graced the cover of their 1987 LP "Through the Looking Glass." It was the face that launched a thousand shirts and plunged countless young girls into annoying, frustrating conversations with men and family who wondered who the eyes belonged to and why they have to be so weird all the time.

This Day in Death: Leos Janácek (July 3, 1854 – August 12, 1928)
Thomas Mann (June 6, 1875 – August 12, 1955)
Ian Fleming (May 28, 1908 – August 12, 1964)
Philip-Dimitri Galás (July 21, 1954 - August 12, 1986)
Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 - August 12, 1988)
Bernard Kliban (January 1, 1935 – August 12, 1990)
John Cage (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992)
John Loder (Southern Studios; April 7, 1946 - August 12, 2005)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Phish: Logo #310

Created by Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, possibly as early as 1986. More Holist goodness - the whole being bigger than the sum of its parts. Speaking of the sum of its parts, so what must that internal memo have been like about the guy from Phish being beaten up by Hells Angels? The world, like the ad said with the wise old owl, will never know. I don't particularly care for Phish. Too imprecise and meandering and beardy. Their ice cream is fairly good, though.

My ex-girlfriend died last month. She was 26. Her heart stopped. I'll be 39 on Thursday. Do I really have to experience dead ex-girlfriends at age 39? Naturally - naturally - if you want to read about what a godly being she was, you have but to read any of the blaugs out there extolling her virtues and whatnot. "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones," said Mark Antony in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," and much like Mark Antony, I come to bury Danielle - not praise her. Here's the downright lowdown on the latter-day ambient saint: she was a beautiful pain-in-the-ass who had a deathly fear of commitment through her 20s and sought enlightenment and inspiration from one boyfriend after another. Conversely: I was not her star to follow. She wound up with the man she wound up with - and although I thought much of their recorded output were shiny cogs in one vast and endless boredom factory, clearly she was happy; clearly she was at peace. Who am I to begrudge anyone that? I'm just this curmudgeonly scribbler who writes brilliantly about disposable popular culture. Conversely two times: the day she died (unbeknownst to me), I was digging through storage and found a packet of her love letters that I hadn't looked at in years. Someone meant, it would seem, to say something before she departed for the great Beyond. Anyway, he had his time with her - but I got her on the way out. Bye, Danielle.

The Song of the Moment is "Last Day of Magic" by The Kills.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Urban Waste: Logo #309

Fondly-remembered New York hardcore band Urban Waste had their logo designed by Billy Phillips & John Dancy in 1982 for the cover of their 7" EP on Mob-Style Records, although doubtless the band was using it as early as 1981, when they began. They reunited in 2002 and played the long-lost CBGB's, almost 20 years after this 1983 live action. Looking back at that performance almost 25 years ago, they all seem so earnest and sincere. Someone should survey all those old HC musicians and ask how they feel now, compared to two or three decades ago. "Time," as Thomas Paine once observed, "makes more converts than reason."

Cyclic Law: Logo #308

Canadian dark ambient band (and label) Cyclic Law founder Frédéric Arbour designed their own logo. Arbour: "It consists of the Jera Rune, a Norse symbol symbolizing seasonal cycles, birth and death and renewal...the Cyclic Law of eternal return. It was conceived in 2001." We trust he means the logo, not the Law.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Venom: Logo #307

Created by Venom bassist / singer Conrad "Cronos" Lant in 1982 for the cover of the "Black Metal" LP. Venom Central reports: "All of the Venom artwork and Venom logos on the early Venom album and single record sleeves were all designed and illustrated by the band's singer Cronos (Conrad Lant)."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Orbital: Logo #306

Designed originally by Fultano '90 in, surprise surprise, 1990.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Grey Wolves: Logo #305

Designed by Trevor Ward of Grey Wolves and perfected from 1988 through 1992. Ward: "I can't claim to have come up with the Celtic cross - this came a few thousand years before me - but it was me who cut out the wolf's head pic and stuck it in the middle along with the rune/lightning bolt. This was also a long time ago, when we use to mess around with symbols a lot more than we do now." Grey Wolves - a.k.a. The Blackshirt Orchestra, Brutal Love, Irritant, Lebensborn, Nails Ov Christ, No Lie G.I., Opera For Infantry, Tactical Aid Group - have constantly pumped out the most abrasive, politically incorrect, intense music, mostly on cassettes for the past twenty or so years. They show no signs of stopping. Their records have great titles: "A Wealth Of Misery," "Open Up Wounds," and "Many Are Called But Few Get Up," and for that they are highly recommended.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pennywise: Logo #304

Pennywise had their visual "meh" designed by Fred Hidalgo in 1991. Hard to believe they've been going for 21 years now; the band's the age of a grown-up but they're still spastic nerfbags.

I really have nothing more to say than that. Just because I showcase a band doesn't mean I always have to like 'em. Here are some things I actually do like.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ima Robot: Logo #303

The eponymous robot for the band Ima Robot was designed by Alex Ebert. Ima Robot Central reports, "It's based on a painting he did years back. We first started using it around 2001." The robot symbol - looking nothing so much as a hieroglyphic of the robot from the 1957 film "Kronos" - started showing up on walls and utility boxes in the early years of the 21st-century (I know - that does sound impressive) throughout Los Angeles. Looked like it'd be a new entry in the street art sweeps that, at the time, included Buff Monster, Skullphone and the endlessly tedious dyad of Shepard Fairey and Robbie Conal. Sadly, not to be. Just another band - but one with a well-presented public image.

The Song of the Moment - much as it pains me to say so - is "Actor Out of Work" by the painfully perfect St. Vincent.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ian Dury and the Blockheads: Logo #302

There's an Ian Dury movie in the works. Ian's to be played by Andy Serkis, the man who mastered the ways of Gollum, King Kong, and Martin Hannett. The Blockheads face logo was designed in 1977 by the indefatigable - well, almost - Barney Bubbles (born Colin Fulcher, June 30, 1942 - November 14, 1983). There's also a new book on the astonishing range Barney's art, called "Reasons to be Cheerful." Ultimately, like the Sex Pistols and Whitesnake logos, the sum of the logo's parts remains greater than its whole - Holism rides yet again.

This Day in Birth:
Sir David Frederick Attenborough OM, CH, etc. etc. (May 8, 1926)
Philip Bailey (Earth, Wind & Fire; May 8, 1951)
Lex Barker (was Tarzan; May 8, 1919 - May 11, 1973)
Kelan Phil Cohran (AACM; May 8, 1927)
Dagmar Dimitroff (Die Tödliche Doris; May 8, 1960 - Jul. 14, 1990)
Jean Giraud (Moebius; May 8, 1938)
Keith Jarrett (May 8, 1945)
Bill Legend (born William Fifield, of T. Rex; May 8, 1944)
Lob (Instagon; May 8, 1965)
Richard McAllister (Pentagram; May 8, 1955 - May 26, 2006)
Myst (born Volker Kahrs, of Grobschnitt; May 8, 1951 - July 20, 2008)
Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. (May 8, 1937)
Mickey Ruskin (Max's Kansas City; May 8, 1933 - May 16, 1983)
Tom of Finland (born Touko Laaksonen; May 8, 1920 – Nov. 7, 1991)
Alexander Arthur Van Halen (May 8, 1953)
Danny Ray Whitten (Crazy Horse; May 8, 1943 - Nov. 18, 1972)
David T. Wiley (Human Hands; May 8, 1954 - September 8, 1988)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Contravene: Logo #301

Eric, bassist for Phoenix anarcho / peacepunk band Contravene: "We found the basis for it in a book of Japanese design motifs. We changed a few things about it, added the peace and equality signs and our name and that was that. As for when it first appeared, I believe our design came about in 1999. The original Japanese motif has been around much, much longer."

This Day in Death:
Nigel Christopher Preston (Sex Gang Children, The Cult; April 4, 1963 - May 7, 1992)

Timothy R. "Tim" North (Crash Worship, Rhythm & Noise; September 17, 1960 - May 7, 2003)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Type O Negative: Logo #300

Type O Negative's brilliantly simple design came courtesy of lead singer Peter Steele in 1988. Type O Negative recorded one of the most amazing cover songs ever - that of Seals and Croft's "Summer Breeze," heard most notably on the "I Know What You Did Last Summer" soundtrack. What makes their version so rewarding is that Peter Steele is not necessarily someone thought of as embracing summer breezes or food cooking and plates for two. Such are the pitfalls of having a public image informed by heavy metal and a 6'7" frame. And yet his delivery makes the notion so completely plausible that it is to the original song what a drop of water is to fine scotch: unveiled potential. To quote William James, "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Effigies: Logo #299

My, but it's been a long time. Life, plans, etc.

Paul Zamost from pioneering Chicago hardcore band The Effigies reveals: "The hangman logo was our first button, which was made up in 1980-81 by our drummer Steve Economou. Not sure of who to credit for the clever idea; it was probably Steve as well."

"Reside," their latest album, was released in 2007; a promotional advertisement for it can be found here. Hardcore has as many local variants as does jazz - L.A. hardcore and New Orleans jazz spring to mind - what external factors shape the differences in sound? The '80s experience - Reagan, excess and EDD (Empathy Deficit Disorder) - was a fairly universal one, as are feelings of loneliness, rejection, love and pain. Maybe it's just the weather.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Cramps: Logo #298

This stylish zombie was illustrated by the illustrious Stephen Blickenstaff in 1984 for The Cramps' "Bad Music for Bad People" LP.

Lux Interior (born Erick Lee Purkhiser, born October 21, 1946) died early today. He died the day after the 50th anniversary of day the music died. I had the great pleasure of seeing them years ago in a small California town and Lux was as brilliant as ever, climbing the walls and the stacks of amplifiers until the very end. Purportedly he even took the trash out wearing high heels. Several other sites have their tributes - nothing I can say here would elaborate or expand upon their insights, so...yeah, well, so.