by Art Chantry ( email@example.com)
i’ve always had an affinity for bob mould. not only have i deeply admired the music he produced in the astonishing band ‘husker du’ (and, later, the band ‘sugar’), but, we’re both smart (and smart ass) white trash dudes from loser working class towns in the middle of nowhere. so, he and i are both culturally very very close. to top it all off, i also sorta of look like him. i’ve actually had strangers walk up to me and ask me if i was bob mould. it’s not so strange, though. i get that sort of thing a lot. on one single day in LA, two strangers separately approached me on different occasions in fast food joints and asked me if i was andy partridge (of XTC.) i guess we all have that same balding round ‘feel’ to us.
i’ve been reading this little book, an autobiography bob mould wrote about his experiences in both the punk and the gay subcultures of america in the primal 80’s (and also some time spent in the pro wrasslin’ world. but, i haven’t read that part yet). it’s really quite good. most rock autobiographies get pretty redundant, they all talk about exactly the same things. but, bob mould is smart enough and observant enough to take us into much more inetresting places. it also helps a lot that michael azerrad (one of my very favorite music culture writers) helped him out on fine-tuning this. the result is a pretty darn good read. i recommend it.
i also want to point out a really smart design thought – this dust jacket cover. at first glance, it seems like a bazillion other covers you’ve seen – photo of author and a generic piece of type slapped on top of the picture. really, nothing at all special. when i first got this book, i didn’t think twice about. but, there was something that kept dragging me back to double-take on the thing. it was that faded-out spine (it travels around to the back, too). for guys like me that spend a lot of time in thrift stores and old book stores, this is a rather common feature on old books spines. it means that the book sat on a shelf in bright direct sunlight for too long and the spine/edge faded out – it’s called ‘bleaching’. in fact, in my unthinking mind, i also instinctively knew this book had been sticking way far out on the shelf by itself in the bright sun for a long time, too. that’s because the bleaching/fade pattern travels so far in from the spine edge. when i got this book, it actually looked like a thousand other old used sun-bleached books in my trashy library. then i thought nothing more about it.
after reading a few chapters, i stopped and looked at/re-read the title and thought about it (i often do that.) the title: “see a little light” was a pretty generic – but heartfelt – title that accurately describes mould’s journey out of his personal downward spiral. it worked, though it was unspectacular. but, then the bleached-out spine suddenly hit me – it was a design joke, maybe even a pun. i felt so dumb. i had looked at this cover over and over and for the longest darn it didn’t hit me that it was a design gimmick – i thought it really was bleached-out by the sun! actually, i hadn’t bothered to actually THINK about it at all. the generic design lulled me into NOT noticing it. then i saw it and i was smacked between the eyes like with a 2×4. i chuckled.
i’m pretty sure this effect on me was not the effect the designer was shooting for. this designer (the legendary chip kidd) was most likely just desperately trying to come up with a smart design for a rather mundane cover and title on a book he cared about. i’ve met chip kidd and i know him to be an incredibly smart witty guy – and maybe a design genius. he can reduce a concept into a direct shot between the eyes (and into the brain) like very few designers out there can. so, i have to think that maybe, just maybe, he was trying to make a bleached-out book collector joke – if nothing else to just sideswipe all the old book junkies like me out there. but, i don’t know. he’s a smart dude – but is anybody THAT smart and SNARKY? well, maybe christopher hitchens was. but, he’s gone now.
anyway, so, i really think this is a great and exrtremely clever take on a design problem that so many of us have had to face over the years. basically: “what on earth can you do with this thing?” it’s the hallmark of a really good designer when he can come up with a smart and interesting solution to the old problem. throughout chip kidd’s history, he’s proven to be so dang good at these bright simple ideas that he is beginning to rank up there with the true great design minds of our era.
back to bob mould – my gal used to run punk houses, publish zines, release records, and book shows in the early days of seattle punk rock. she was the first to bring many bands like husker du to seattle. the band slept on the floor of her house for a week (bob had a big sick ear infection). lotsa bands slept on her floor. it was the way it worked in those days (as plainly evidenced in mould’s book).
maire distinctly remembers husker du and has fond memories of their stay (and later stays as well.) she said she didn’t really spend much time with bob (she hit it off with grant hart from the band). but, her business partner, dennis white, spent a lot of time with bob mould. they became pals. so, it was a special tickle to read a paragraph in bob’s book mentioning his stay at (it think it was called) ‘pravda house’ (or perhaps it was ‘holy war cadets house”.) both managed by the young maire masco.
maire isn’t mentioned by name in bob mould’s memoirs. but, dennis white is! unfortunately, bob mould refers to him as ds BROWN! ah well. at least he the fact that his name was a COLOR correct. sorry, dennis.