dangerous dabbling: buckaroo artwork

Many recording artists can’t seem to resist a little dabbling in the graphic arts, sometimes even doing their group’s cover design and artwork. Most should stay away…. (ed.)

Art Chantry: One of the banes of graphic designers everywhere is the musician who thinks they’re also an artist. most major ( and minor) players in the history of music had such enormous swollen egos that they thought everything they touched was the stuff of genius. I think they need that hubris to be able to actually do what they do. but, it …makes like hell for us poor working stiffs who have to collaborate with them on a record cover.

Art:i once did a christmas card/flexi disk that was a re-work joke of "50,000,000 elvis fans can't be wrong" cover. we had a problem with the 'peg hole' of the record. it seems that when you "de-constructed' and rebuilt the cover exactly as designed by the art director back then - the record player post would pop up straight and proud out of elvis's crotch! a private designer "gotcha" joke. always be nice to you designer. we know more than you and ALWAYS get the last laff.

I can’t tell you how many musicians have a girlfriend to keep occupied or a ‘graphic designer in the band” who decide they want total control of the project. Even teenie record labels give the control of the artwork over to the band to trick them into thinking they’re getting what they want in a contact deal (and then use the clause to screw them over when they can’t deliver artwork on time).Back in the 90′s it seemed that virtually every week we’d get a record sent to the rocket that had a snapshot of the lead singer’s dog on the cover. They always seemed to think this genius concept was wholly unique, too.It became a running joke.

Everybody dreams about doing record covers and musicians are actually people too. But, almost all of them should stick to their music and leave the artwork alone. That’s like me telling them how to make their music while I build their public image. It’s rude and it’s stupid.

All that said, there are still a few amazing record covers put together by the artist. Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music did amazing iconic stuff with those covers he controlled for his band. Mad underground geniuses like Gibby Hayes (of the Butthole Surfers) and Steve Albini (of big black and shellac and rapeman) and lux interior and Ivy Rorschach (of the Cramps) executed absolutely brilliant and astonishing covers for their music. When it comes to some people, they really have the golden touch – the entire vision and the skill and the the genius to make all the right moves.

Bob Dylan. Self Portrait

Frank Sinatra was a pretty good painter. He had one cover of him as a harlequin (on black velvet) that he did that pretty respectable. Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) later walked away from music and became a highly celebrated museum caliber artist with solo outings in places like the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art. even Joni Mitchell’s naive little scribbly doodles adorning her record covers somehow manage to capture the essence of her voice and songs. so, even self-indulgence can produce good work.

But, then there’s people like Bob Dylan. There’s a story told by the brilliant design director of Columbia records, John Berg. The label was putting together the album “self-portrait’ (a pastiche of bits and pieces from all over assembled while still recovering from his “motorcycle accident’ – aka, ‘rehab’). Bob pulled up in front of the offices of Columbia in a beat up station wagon. He excitedly ran to the back and opened it up and pulled out a painting – a really really BAD painting. He said something like, “I’ve been doing some painting and think this would be a great cover image.” GAH!

Berg tried and tried to talk him out of it, but ol’ Bob was insistent. That’s where Bob’s painting career began. And man! His paintings remind of his

monica playing – truly terrible but somehow suitable in a “mirror” sort of way.

Which brings me around to this cover. I first encountered this record (completely unknown to me at the time, and I’m a big Buck Owens fan) in Tom Huck’s studio (“evil” Tom Huck has interesting taste in the musik). I was blown away. It looked like a Halloween party sound effects record – but it was by BUCK OWENS! I had no idea!

Tom pointed out the best part – it’s actually drawn by Buck himself. and the various monsters are members of his band, the Buckaroos (for instance, ol’ frankie is buck as a self-portrait). He even seems to have drawn all the type, too! The title song, ‘monster’s holiday’, is a silly thing about all the famous movie monsters hanging out and partying. Amazing, huh?

This particular sample I found in a goodwill store. It’s totally trashed and seems to have belonged to a child (note ‘buck owens-esque’ pen scribblings). It is dirty and scuffed and , best of all – it seems to have actual vomit stains on it!!! Man, does it get more appropriate than that? Ever in the history of mankind?? Ever??

I think old buck should have stuck to his music and left the cover artwork to us lowly professional graphic designers.


---When Joni awoke, she donned a pair of black men's skates, a long black skirt and a fur cape, took a limo to the lake's edge and managed to conquer bitter winds and an already thawing, spongy ice while Joel took the pics. To their surprise, they got the shot they were after, but felt that the "unruly" pose of Joni "with the attitude of a crow" was more interesting. Still, it didn't convey enough the album's themes of "melancholy and movement" and "romantic winter." It was back to Norman Seeff (who often photographs her) for a portrait of Joni looking "haunted, like a (Ingmar) Bergman figure." And then the ideas started coming together. She used an instrument called a Camera Lucida to enlarge or reduce the 14 photos from the different series to various sizes within one image area, and then shot one big negative with all the resized photos in place. An air brusher corrected all the light sources and smooths over the edges. "If I had done the cover as a collage, it would've looked much more primitive," she says, "this way it's so polished, as if it's exactly one photograph." So, there you have it, one of the classic LP covers of all time - a collaboration between Joni, Joel Bernstein, Norman Seef, and a major Wisconsin ice storm.---Read More: http://wisconsinology.blogspot.com/2008/02/lp-covers-1.html

Art:the copyright date on the back is ’74. but, even more informative is the big full-color smiling snapshot of buck himself – and it’s definitely buck owens circa 1970′s, not circa 1960′s. also, the ‘design’ of the back cover is quintessentially 1970′s design treatments – it LOOKS like a front cover for a buck owens record from that era. so, he got into monsters pretty late, i guess. all around it’s a very strange record.

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