Guy Peellaert, 1934–2008


Diamond Dogs (1974).

Many people know this classic album sleeve even if they don’t recognise the name of the Belgian artist who painted it. Guy Peellaert died this week and this is easily his most famous picture. I remember being very struck by its appearance in the local record shop window which always displayed gatefold album sleeves opened out as above. By then the notorious dog’s genitals would have been removed from the picture to protect the delicate sensibilities of Bowie’s listeners; the copy here is from a later CD reissue.


Taxi Driver (1976).

Peellaert’s work was very visible in the 1970s, especially his book of rock star portraits, Rock Dreams, a ubiquitous pop culture item along with Roger Dean’s Views and Alan Aldridge’s psychedelic whimsy. I always liked the Bowie cover, it hinted at weirder music than the rather mundane post-Velvets/Mott the Hoople rock which the album contained, but much of the work in Rock Dreams seemed garish and awkward. Far more successful was Peellaert’s painting for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, undoubtedly commissioned on the strength of his earlier work but superior to nearly everything in his book.

Peellaert’s official site has several galleries of his paintings.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive
The illustrators archive

8 thoughts on “Guy Peellaert, 1934–2008”

  1. I LOVE that album art (and the album itself, actually).
    But really, how sensitive are Bowie fans? If they can deal with “well hung” Ziggy and his tight-tights, balls are common.

  2. That was a facetious comment on my part, I think the censoring was more about RCA playing safe and (possibly) avoiding trouble in America. Years later the second Tin Machine cover had to have genitals removed from the statues for the US release. Copious female nudity is fine in the rock world, just don’t try and show anyone a penis, even if it’s made of stone.

  3. Gatefold sleeves … including the Diamond Dogs cover, always fitted so nicely as backgrounds behind a fishtank I had some years ago.

    Changed regularly like the water = instant panorama!

    How to Freak Fish Out 101

  4. I always loved gatefold sleeves and remain pained I never had the chance to work on one. I’ve been designing for vinyl again recently but it’s all single-sleeve stuff. I think gatefolds are probably something of an indulgence these days.

    And speaking of covers, I like your Swingin’ Eye avatar.

  5. Man, how many good artists left us this year of 2008! Alton Kelley, Rick Wright, now Paellaert.
    I love that Bowie record, even more than I like the Bowie/Eno Trilogy soon after. And I also remember very clearly Paellaert’s art for the ‘It’s Only Rock’n’Roll’ Stones record sleeve (although I don’t like that album at all).
    Didn’t know his art for “Taxi Driver” though. It’s pretty intense. I like it.
    Well, one more time, R. I. P. Mr. Paellaert. I hope that’s enough for this year, regarding passing aways.

  6. Yea, GP was the dogs bollocks.

    Rock Dreams; I particularly liked his painting of the Mothers of Invention as a gang of bikers ( on US iron unfortuanately – girls bikes) – I agree it could have been better executed, but its better than the rest of the book.

  7. I wonder what the Mothers thought about that? In fact I wonder what many of his subjects would have thought about their depictions: Jim Morrison in a gay bar, the Rolling Stones as Nazis with naked underage girls, and so on. I suppose it makes a change from the usual flattery that goes on.

    That’s what struck me about the Bowie picture, and still strikes me now, Bowie and Peelaert’s daring in presenting an image far more grotesque and surprising than the kind of thing you’d expect from a rising star.

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