Friday, February 6, 2009

From the Vault: "What's your sign?"

  A picture is worth a thousand words, but for many musical artists, certain pictures are worth so much more. Recognized around the world, band logos let many proudly flaunt their favorite artists without touching the alphabet. More importantly, however, they represent the band and what it stands for through the use of colors, lines, shapes, and a little bit of imagination.
   Most recognize the familiar logos, but many do not know the stories behind the well-known works of art.
   One of the most recognized band symbols of the rock era is the “tongue and lips” logo, representing non-other than the English rock and roll rebels, the Rolling Stones. Designed by John Pasche, this symbol started in the inner sleeve of the band’s album, Sticky Fingers.
   In the words of Pasche, the “concept of the design was to represent the band’s anti-authoritarian attitude, lead singer Mick Jagger’s mouth, and the obvious sexual connotations of the band and their songs (”
   While the 70’s brought an era of increasingly surreal and extreme band artwork, Pink Floyd and it’s design team, Hipgnosis, stuck to the basics when they produced the band’s most-recognized symbol.
   Atom Heart Mother and Meddle, the two albums preceding Dark Side of the Moon, had displayed a cow and an over-sized human ear. For Dark Side, Hipgnosis presented a similarly simple design: a diagram of light passing through a prism, said to offer clues to the spirit of music within.
   Presented with five different designs, the band took less than three minutes to pick the design before going back to work in the studio.
   “The symbol represented both the diversity and cleanliness of the sound of the music,” designer Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis said, “In a more conscious way, it worked for a band with a reputation for their light show (”
   The triangle is a symbol for ambition, which was an important theme to band member, Roger Waters. It was also Waters’ idea to turn the light from the prism into a heartbeat inside of the sleeve, representing the sound that starts the music.
   Unlike the logos of Stones and Floyd, the symbols representing Led Zeppelin did not come about in such a positive manner. After the release of Led Zeppelin II, which included “harder” rock hits such as “Whole Lotta Love”, the band retreated to a cottage in the mountains of Whales, England to find a new formula for their next album. The outcome of this retreat resulted in a nearly all-acoustic album, Led Zeppelin III, which was simultaneously slammed by the press.
   After the album’s negative reviews, lead vocalist Jimmy Page decided that the next album would have no mention of the band’s name. Instead, the album would showcase four symbols, representing and devised by each member of the band to express himself.
   Robert Plant’s symbol is a feather in a circle, found in an old book called “The Sacred Symbols of Mu.” According to Page, “the ancient Mu civilization existed around 15,000 years ago as a part of a lost continent in the Pacific Ocean (en.all”
   “All sorts of philosophies have been based on the feather; it has a very interesting heritage,” Page said, “For instance, it represents courage to many Red Indian tribes. I like people to lay down the truth, that’s what the feather in the circle is all about.”
   Three ovals interlocking a circle represent band member John Paul Jones. It is thought to represent unity and family, as well as a person who is confident and competent because it is near impossible to draw accurately.
   Percussionist John Bonham’s symbol is three interlocking circles. Plant once stated that he always thought Bonham’s symbol represented man, woman, and child: the trilogy. It is also the emblem of the Ballantine Bear.
   The meaning of Page’s multi-dimensional symbol is unknown.
   Originally designed with the purpose of marking the band’s flight cases to easily identify them on tour, the Grateful Dead’s skull logo has become a strong image for the band. The logo was designed in 1969 by artist Bob Thomas, although the symbol was not used until the release of the album Steal Your Face in 1976. The logo was inspired by a 60’s poster displayed in California and balances it’s color in a “yin-yang” style (
   Dave Matthews Band fans easily recognize the band’s energetic, dancing logo, rightfully dubbed the “fire dancer.” The fire dancer logo came about when Matthews was asked to draw what he sees when he looks out at his fans.
   The meaning behind logos and symbols of bands vary as greatly as the music behind the bands. Some logos, such as Prince’s name-replacing symbol, listeners may never understand, while others, such as HIM’s heartagram, representing the balance of good and bad, are clear cut and simple. However one thing is for certain: when a symbol and a band’s name can be interchanged, a milestone has been hit.

1 comment:

Nigel Morgan - Morgan PR said...

Hey Heather a really well written and brilliantly researched post that is absolutely crammed with fascinating facts - you should be (if you haven't already) seeking to submit this somewhere!

It should not be left to languish on the dark side of a blog!

Keep up the good work!

As you are into PR, take a look at my blog and the recent posts which reveal where I think Michael Phelps got it wrong (PR wise!) most recent can be found at - I'd love to get your take on it.