Reaction to Tone on Tuesday’s column about the late Charlie Watts’ influence on the Rolling Stones graphics was so positive that we’ve got some more album covers for you (instead of the scheduled Feedback Friday).
Speaking of feedback, reader Mike Salter noted that Goats Head Soup was art-directed by Ray Lawrence using David Bailey’s photography. Lawrence was a maker of commercial advertisements in London at the time before returning to Australia to do the same, and then making three all-time great movies, Bliss (85), Lantana (01) and Jindabyne (06). We start with his centrefold, with our Charlie front and centre.
By 1974 Belgian artist Guy Peellaert’s soft air-brushed and theatrical retro style was becoming famous. For It’s Only Rock and Roll the Stones are entering a heaven run by adoring handmaidens. What’s worse: the kitsch or the misogyny? Jagger showed David Bowie some the sketches, and he was so impressed he used the artist to create the half human - half dog for the Diamond Dogs album. Better image; released earlier.
There’s a story that when Mick and Keef returned at 5.30 in the morning from a night out clubbing in Amsterdam, Mick wanted to rouse Charlie, so he rang his room, demanding “where’s my drummer?”. Charlie showered, got dressed in shirt, tie and suit, went to Mick’s room, entered saying “I’m not your drummer,” and a punch to the chin that almost knocked him out the window into the canal (only to be saved by Keef). In this cover photo for Black and Blue, shot by a fashion photographer Yashuro Wakabayashi in 1976 on Sanibel island in Florida, Keef seems to be telling Mick not to repeat the incident.
Andy Warhol, creator of the iconic Sticky Fingers, makes a sketch picture portrait of Jagger for the front of Love You Live in 1977. Biting the hand that feeds him figuratively, and then literally, Jagger wrote the the band and album name on the cover. This annoyed Warhol intensely. He wrote in his diary: “I thought Mick ruined the cover … by writing all over it. It's his handwriting, and he wrote so big. The kids who buy the album would have a good piece of art if he hadn't spoiled it”.
Some Girls (78) uses dye cut holes in the cardboard to allow the photos on internal sleeve to be revealed as it slides in and out, or different images if reversed. Originally to be called More Fast Numbers, the title change inspires a 60s Madison Avenue styled idea that was first used by art director Peter Corriston on Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti album. Here the photographer and illustrator Hubert Kretzschmar plays loose with the Stones in drag along with stars like Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe and Racquel Welch. If you find that original, hold onto it, because the actors were later replaced by other images after legal threats.
Emotional rescue (80) was originally going to be called Certain Women (oh dear, a corny glance to the previous) and More Fast Ones (again a backwards reference). Re-enter Peter Corriston who uses thermography (which captures infrared radiation) and to create a patchwork of Stones (and Ronnie Wood is said to feature twice). Cold and quite contrary to the title. The cover fades, so to speak, whilst the music is a return to gusto.
Hubert Kretzschmar (from Some Girls fame) takes photos of the Stones at his West Broadway studio in Tribeca in 1981, and illustrator Christian Piper, who is living with Kretzschmar, adds a Maori-style ‘Tã moko’ to Jagger (and no other Stones appear). The original photographs are lost after Piper mistakenly sells them to Richards’ office.
Undercover (83) used the graphic idea of real, peelable, strategically placed stickers, on a pin-up image that could be removed by the purchaser. Easier sketched than made. Production difficulties were immense; eventually the printing company used manual labor in a women's assembly line to place the stickers onto their printed sleeve. No peep show however; the sticker of the Stones hides a white poodle.
For Dirty Work in 1986, the Stones hired former tour photographer Annie Lebovitz. The photo, the first in almost 20 years in which they all appear together, is not Lebovitz’s best work. In a decade of great images, I’d go so far to say it’s her worst. The album was sealed in a red shrink wrap, making the image appear black and white. Some commented that Charlie Watts looked very embarrassed.
Artist Francesco Clemente was commissioned to create two covers: the 12” single One Hit (to the Body) (86), and Mick Jagger’s solo album Primitive Cool (87). Clemente was famous in the 80s through the Italian art movement ‘Transavantguarda’, a version of neo-expressionism, a post-modernist interpretation of figuration, centering on historical figures. The Stones are under attack, whilst Jagger looks out unrecognisably.
Graphic artist Mark Norton’s miniscule brief for the album Steel Wheels in 1989 was just two words ‘steel wheels’. Norton later said: “That's pretty much all we knew…I wasn't interested in making a retro reference like locomotive wheels. It was more a case of trying to evoke the abstract idea of forward motion, energy, something that was rushing past at speed”. A major change in image direction for the band, with re-energised music that went on a world tour in the same name (more next week).
Keith Richards was working in a small flat that Ronnie Wood had built for his mum. He called it ‘Doc’s office and the voodoo lounge’, with a painted sign over the door. Stuck for an album title, Richard's told Rolling stone magazine 1994: “We agonized over it and it was staring at us in the face. Finally, it was Mick who said, ‘What about voodoo lounge? Why not kind of like Beggars Banquet’ Right number of syllables”.
Bridges to Babylon (97) is a conundrum. The music was ho-hum. The same-named tour is regarded by some as the best ever. By anyone. But you'll have to wait until next week to see the stage design that Charlie Watts dreamed up. The album cover seemed rather awkward - a towering Assyrian lion encased in a Brocade style strip case in the early issues; the desert landscape of the interior more closely mimics the tour's stage set.
One of the few album covers that matches the name, here a Bigger Bang (2005) returns to the early idea of a good photograph. William Gilchrist gave a more streamlined approach to a photo by Nick Knight, with all band members on the cover. Almost 40 years after the embarrassment of Their Satanic Majesties Requests, and 20 after the mid-eighties lollipop Leibovitz photo, this one photo finally seems to capture the band.
A quick idea. For the name Blue and Lonesome why not turn the Stones’ open mouth logo, in use since Sticky Fingers, from red to blue. A quick record. The album was recorded in just three days in 2015 and went on to win a Grammy in 2016.
Finally, a word about THAT logo. The ‘tongue and lip’ design was created by British artist John Pasche in 1970 and was subsequently revised by American artist Craig Braun. The design was inspired by an illustration of the Hindu deity Kali, which Mick Jagger showed Pasche during a discussion concerning an album cover design: while Jagger was focused on Indian culture, which was in vogue at the time, Pasche was “struck by Kali’s open mouth and protruding tongue”.
The rate of new Stones’ studio albums has slowed from five-year intervals to almost eleven for the last. Now that Bill Wyman is long retired and Charlie Watts is playing Jazz with St Peter’s All-Stars, maybe that’s the way it should stay. In any event they’d struggle for a new or novel album cover, particularly without CRW’s graphic taste.
Tone Wheeler is principal architect at Environa Studio, Adjunct Professor at UNSW and is President of the Australian Architecture Association. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and are not held or endorsed by A+D, the AAA or UNSW. Tone does not read Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Sanity is preserved by reading and replying only to comments addressed to [email protected].
End note: this column was written with Mr Rory Toomey also in mind - architect, artist and drummer; former environian, now with the NSW Government Architect. Well played sir.