Monday, 24 March 2014

The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos!



Should logos belong in music? The most recognisable logos around the world are big businesses Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Nike: not very rock and roll! And yet many of the AAA logos have become instantly recognisable, known around the world by fans who often don't even know English to understand the words. In this week's top seven we'll be looking at the seven most famous AAA logos, discussing who invented them and why and how successful they've been down the years:

The Beatles 'Drop T' logo (1963-present)

Amazingly this logo never appeared on an official Beatles product until the 'Anthology' TV series in the 1990s (where the camera zooms right up into the giant 'T' in the middle) but every Beatles fan will know the logo I'm talking about. The design was made not by an artist or illustrator but by a part-time drummer and music shop owner named Ivor Arbiter. When Brian Epstein offered to update the rather battered drum kit Ringo had been using his days with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, the drummer and his new manager went to Drum City, Arbiter's shop in Shaftesbury Avenue. Ringo had planned to buy an all-black kit, like most bands on Merseybeat, but whilst in the shop he became taken with the idea of black lettering on a white drumhead. Unfortunately, the only make of drums that came that way was the now world famous 'Ludwig' kit, which happened to be one of the most expensive in the shop. Epstein refused to pay the £238 the shop was asking (a lot back then) but came to an agreement where Ringo would trade his battered old Premier Drums kit and the band would agree to have 'Ludwig's name printed prominently on the drumhead. As final persuasion, Epstein also agreed to pay the grand total of £5 for a special logo to be made up, which Arbiter designed there and then inside five minutes, later getting local sign writer Eddie Stokes to paint the logo physically onto the drums. Epstein asked if Arbiter could emphasis the word 'beat' in the 'Beatles' name but otherwise left him to it. That actual drumkit was last used on the Beatles' first run of dates in Paris in February 1964 before being upgraded for the first Ed Sullivan TV show a week later. Reportedly Ringo kept the drumhead for luck and still has it in his collection today! Unusually, though, the Beatles never used the logo on any of their record releases - in fact they didn't use any logo until the 'Apple' days...

Grateful Dead 'Skulls and Roses' logo (1966-date)

Skeletons have become synonymous with the Grateful Dead and occur on many of their album sleeves - especially the archives releases since 1995. The most famous one, though, is the skeleton adorned with roses who appears on the front cover of the 1971 live record variously known as 'Grateful Dead' or 'Skulls and Roses' after it's cover. The illustration had been used to advertise Dead shows since 1966, however, right from the very first handful of shows the band played using this band name and actually dates back even further: it started life as a black-and-white drawing by Edmund Joseph Sullivan and was made for the philosophical book with the very catchy title, the "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam". The band's regular illustrators 'Stanley' and 'Mouse' loved the drawing so much that they simply traced it, turned it into technicolour and the distinctive lettering. The relationship between a skeleton and roses goes back to an early Christian martyr - not band favourite 'St Stephen' but 'St Valentine', who was so adored his skull was surrounded by roses when he was buried and his followers continued to do add roses to his grave every anniversary (his feast day of February 14th is still celebrated as Valentine's Day - but not by the Christian Church, who decided there wasn't enough evidence for him to be canonised and booted his 'day' off the calendar pretty much at the same time the Dead started using the logo - were they feeling sorry for him perhaps?!)

The Monkees 'guitar' logo (1966-date)

The Monkees' clever 'guitar' logo - with each of the letters in the band name drawn to fit the outline of a guitar with 'love hearts' attached instead of the frets - dates back almost as far as the band. The idea was first sketched by Screen Gems publicity agent Ed Justin after show creators Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider told him about their new series and requested something that a music-loving teenage audience would identify with. Justin then got in contact with Nick Lo Bianco - who had worked with Screen Gems before drawing illustrations of TV shows for lunchboxes -to make the final design. The logo ended up being used on almost everything the Monkees released across their ten original albums, as well as appearing prominently during the titles of their 52 episode TV show (though its noticeably absent from their feature film 'HEAD'). The surprise, really, is that the pair didn't go for a design that involved 'monkeys' in some way - along the same lines as the occasional 'American' version of the Beatles logo that featured - you guessed it - beetles.

Apple (The Beatles, 1968-present)

Strictly speaking, of course, the famous Apple logo identifies the record label, not the Beatles. But as the creators, backers, writers, producers and biggest sellers on the label, that logo is always going to mean 'Beatles' for their many fans who wanted to get their 'five a day' of Apple singles. Both the name and logo were thought by Paul McCartney together when the band needed a name for the company they were planning. A keen collector of art, one of Paul's favourite painters was the surrealist Magritte (also beloved of Lindisfarne's Alan Hull, who sought special permission and reportedly paid millions to use a painting as the cover of his solo album 'Pipedream'). One of Paul's closest 'art' friends was 'Indica' gallery and bookshop owner Robert Fraser, who organised the art show where John Lennon first came across Yoko Ono and was the poor chap who was arrested at the infamous Rolling Stoned 'drug bust' of 1967 and unlike Mick and Keef actually served his six-month sentence. Paul had an open arrangement where Robert would keep any Magritte paintings that came in to be sold to one side for him and he would pay a good price for them. One nice Magritte painting of a green apple did and Fraser popped round to Paul's Cavendish house; finding the Beatle was busy filming in the garden - probably one of the 'home movies' that inspired 'Magical Mystery Tour' - Fraser left the painting in Paul's sitting room with a note. Already looking for a logo to go with the company the Beatles had started, Paul realised what a great image it was when he first saw it ('A is for apple' is what was taught at many a school back in the Beatle's childhood) and how many variations the Beatles could use. Starting with the single 'Hey Jude' most Beatles singles featured a 'whole' Granny Smith on the 'A' side and a 'cut' Granny Smith on the 'B' side but this idea was changed a few times over the years: the  American version of 'Let It Be', licensed along with the film on 'United Artists', used a red apple to avoid confusion with the Beatles' label; George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' paints the apple 'orange' (and includes a jam jar on the 'Apple Jams' disc!); the twin John and Yoko/Plastic Ono Band albums feature the apple in black and white; Ringo's 'Back Off Boogaloo' single has the apple in blue; best of all Harrison's album 'Extra Texture' features an apple with a bite taken out of it - his comment on the way he felt the company was going in the late 1970s, with each Beatle taking a 'bite' out of the business! The computer company Apple got into repeated trouble in the 1980s and 1990s for using the 'Apple' name without the Beatles' permission; they currently have an 'understanding' that they will never use the fab four's distinctive 'green Granny Smith' design and now part-own the rights to the Beatles logo with the understanding that the group can continue to use it indefinitely.

Rolling Stones Tongue (1971-present)

John Pasche was a graphic art student right out of London's Royal College of Art when he was headhunted by Mick Jagger to draw a new tour poster for the band in 1971. Pleased with what they saw, the band asked him to come up with a 'logo' for them that would represent their image with an anti-authoritarian-but-nothing-likely-to-be-censored logo. Meeting up with Jagger to discuss designs, Pasche says he was struck by just how big Jagger's lips were in person and decided to incorporate them into the image, adding the tongue as a gesture of 'cheekiness'. Pasche was reportedly given a one-off payment of £15 for his work despite the many millions who have seen his work since (the logo has appeared on practically every Stones release since the 'Sticky Fingers' album in 1971 and is the entire front cover of the compilation 'Forty Licks' and the concert album 'Live Licks', where the tongue is shaded green). Pasche doesn't seem to have been too upset though, working the band many times since (most notably the actual 'goat's head soup' being brewed on the inside sleeve of that album). 

CSN Logo (1994 'After The Storm' CD)

Sadly Crosby, Stills and Nash have only used this brilliant logo for the one album and tour, which is a terrible shame. After 25 years without a 'brand', Graham Nash decided to come up with one for the cover of the band's album 'After The Storm'. Nash's interest in art and photography had been growing down the years to the point where he now had his own studio, 'Nash Intermedia' and he got his colleagues Kate Nook and Rand Wetherwax to come up with a startling image of the letters 'C' 'S' and 'N' painted on a stormy backdrop. Stephen Stills later added his suggestions, so he gets a co-credit for the design too on the record label. The logo cleverly sums up the CSN ethos: the letters encircle each other but they're also separate - for instance the 'N' has a link through an elongated 'S' which is also looped by a giant 'C'. Sadly this clever logo has lain dormant ever since 1994 - not least because all the CSN family records since then have featured either CSNY, CN or members of the band solo!

And that's all for another week! Goodnight from all of us here at the 'jukebox logoed' Alan's Album Archives!TM

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