As the famous phrase goes, I don’t know much about art but I know what I like. I’m learning a little bit but I’m still an absolute novice. As I’ve mentioned previously, I love the vinyl revival. I love holding an album in my hands and looking through the sleeve. I recently bought Quadrophenia by The Who and the cover is absolutely fantastic, its not just the image of Jimmy on his Vespa, its the incorporation of the band logo and the colour just sets the tone of the album. There are plenty of other album covers that are fantastic pieces of art in their own right. Pink Floyds Dark Side of the Moon is an obvious choice and I’ve always liked the covers for Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom and Blood & Chocolate albums.
For our last project – Release the Bow (available through our website and your favourite download and streaming service) we were lucky enough to work with artist Darren Elwell (check out his work at darrenelwell.co.uk) and it was a big learning curve for us. We had an idea of the general theme and aesthetic which for our first release from the project – Knuckles – I feel, in hindsight, that we had too much input into what it should contain. We got the artwork back after several drafts and were blown away with what he had done but after this one, we just gave Darren the song and let him crack on and he just grew into the project amazingly and his work blew us away every time. It was made even better for me because Darren explained everything to me. He pointed out details that I had missed or dismissed as insignificant and it made his work come alive even more.
Aside from the album artwork, visual art has featured heavily through musical history, thanks to MTV, music video has been an important art form for musicians. There have been some unfathomable works, Michael Jackson’s Thriller never disappoints. There’s been some absolute rubbish too, hats off to Faith No More for their lack of effort, but the art runs deeper with some bands.
In a recent podcast from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Archaeology Podcast (if you haven’t checked it out, you really should) Dennis Dunaway was being interviewed. For those that don’t know, Dennis was the bassist in Alice Cooper. Now here’s a distinction that needed to be explained to me he was IN Alice Cooper not playing for Alice Cooper. I had no idea that Alice Cooper was, originally at least, a band name. I thought it was just the one guy. Did you know? In the interview he said that someone would come into a room where some or all of the band were gathered and shout Alice Cooper, hoping to get the attention of Vince Furnier, but no one would acknowledge it because they weren’t “hip to what they were doing”. I would definitely be like that, I wouldn’t have had a clue that it was the band and not a guy if it hadn’t been explained to me.
Art can be off putting. Looking from the outside it can seem very pretentious. If you’re not “hip to it” then you can easily be scoffed at. Luckily, these days, information is easy to find out and we can learn a lot of the back story from those that made it but do we then lose or fail to develop our own understanding of what it means to us? I like thinking about what I’ve seen and taking my own meanings from it but I also like to know what the artist was thinking and I like to paraphrase comedian Jimmy Carr when I think about art “Whether you think its good or you think it’s bad – You’re right.”