El Lissitzky record covers

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Your Generation (1977) by Generation X. Design by Barney Bubbles.

Continuing an occasional series about the work of particular artists or designers being used on record sleeves. El Lissitzky (1890–1941) is an interesting candidate in this area since his pioneering abstractions have greatly influenced subsequent generations of graphic designers. As a result of this you’re just as likely to find his Suprematist style being pastiched on an album cover as find one of his paintings decorating the sleeve. Pastiches are difficult to locate unless you already know they exist—or unless the album credits acknowledge the style they’re imitating—so this list will no doubt be incomplete.

Barney Bubbles’ design for the debut single by Generation X is the earliest example I’m aware of that makes use of the El Lissitzky style. It was also one of Bubbles’ first sleeves for a punk band, and a significant break with his often florid hippy designs.

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Die Mensch Maschine (1978) by Kraftwerk. Design by Karl Klefisch, “inspired by El Lissitzky”.

Kraftwerk’s seventh album uses Lissitzkian typography and graphics on its front and back covers. A very popular album with the post-punk crowd that would have been the first introduction for many people to El Lissitzky’s name. Kraftwerk still use that vibrant arrangement of black, red and white in their stage shows.

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B-2 Unit (1980) by Riuichi Sakamoto. Design by Tsuguya Inoue.

More pastiche, this time borrowing from El Lissitzky’s Suprematist book for children: About Two Squares: In 6 Constructions: A Suprematist Tale (1922). The book’s two characters of a red square and a black square appear on the vinyl labels. This is a great album, incidentally, still my favourite by Sakamoto.

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Continue reading “El Lissitzky record covers”

Weekend links 185

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L’uomo che piantava gli alberi (2013) by Sofia Rondelli. Via Form Is Void.

• I’m looking forward to hearing the new album by Chrome Hoof, a band whose ambition and attitude makes many of their contemporaries seem lukewarm at best. Mick Middles gets to grips with Chrome Black Gold here. John Doran interviewed the group in 2010, a piece which includes a Chrome Hoof mix of tracks by other artists.

Jay Roberts: “I was a young Marine scout sniper, definitely his type. And for a single, unforgettable afternoon, Orange County’s most notorious serial killer coaxed me into a place from which many didn’t escape.”

Jonathan Meades: “Why I went postal … and turned my snaps into postcards.” “Meades isn’t your average architectural fanboy,” says Rachel Cooke who went to talk to him at his home in Marseille.

“Faced with a Nabokov novel,” Zadie Smith writes, “it’s impossible to rid yourself of the feeling that you’ve been set a problem, as a chess master sets a problem in a newspaper.” Certainly, while Humbert asks the reader “not to mock me and my mental daze”, the suspicion is that the power dynamic in his tale is a little different.

Tim Groenland on the difficulties of writing, publishing and reading Lolita.

Cosmic Machine is a double-disc collection of French electronic music from the 1970s & 1980s. Justice enthuse about the music here where you can also preview the tracks.

The Midnight Channel, Evan J. Peterson’s horror-poetry homage to the VHS era, is available now from Babel/Salvage. There’s a trailer here.

• “Our age reveres the specialist but humans are natural polymaths, at our best when we turn our minds to many things,” says Robert Twigger.

• Another musical Chrome: Richard Metzger on newly resurrected recordings by one of my long-time cult bands.

• Hermes Trismegistus and Hermeticism: An interview with Gary Lachman.

• A stunning set of photos of London in the sweltering summer of 1976.

Pye Corner Audio live at The Outer Church, Madrid, November 2013.

Judee Sill, the shockingly talented occult folk singer time forgot.

• Designer Jonathan Barnbrook answers twenty questions.

• Don’t trust the painting: Morgan Meis on René Magritte.

Laurie Anderson’s farewell to Lou Reed.

Philippe Druillet at Pinterest.

• The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny (1968) by The Mothers of Invention | March Of The Chrome Police (1979) by Chrome | Chrome (1981) by Debbie Harry

Weekend links 126

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Mala Reputación (1991) by Dogo Y Los Mercenarios. Cover art by Nazario Luque.

Artist Nazario Luque was Spain’s first gay comic artist who’s also known for the drawing which appeared (without permission) on the sleeve of Lou Reed Live – Take No Prisoners in 1978. On his website Nazario says he’s been described as “Exhibicionista, solidario, provocador, agitador moral, rompedor, arriesgado, polifacético, transgresor, canalla, pintiparado, morigerado o simplemente superviviente…” Via Música, maestros, a two-part post (second part is here) about album cover art by comic artists.

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop Returns. And quite conveniently, Ubuweb posts some original Radiophonic creations by electronic music genius Delia Derbyshire. Ms Derbyshire is profiled along with her other pioneering colleagues in an hour-long TV documentary, Alchemists of Sound.

• Tor.com celebrates the fiction of Shirley Jackson. Too Much Horror Fiction has a substantial collection of Shirley Jackson book covers.

Phantasmagorical and all but plotless, Nightwood flings itself madly upon the night, upon Wood, and upon the reader. Its sentences pomp along like palanquins and writhe like crucifixions. They puke, they sing. Their deliriums are frighteningly controlled. […] TS Eliot loved Nightwood so much that he shepherded its publication and wrote the introduction to the first edition. Dylan Thomas complimented it with his left hand by calling it “one of the three great prose books ever written by a woman” and with his right hand by stealing from it. […] Nightwood’s Dr. Matthew-Mighty-grain-of-salt-Dante O’Connor, florid monologist and transvestite, seems to have been a model (along with Captain Ahab) for Judge Holden in Blood Meridian. The difference is that Cormac McCarthy’s Judge is essentially Satan, whereas O’Connor is essentially Christ; they’re only just on opposite sides of the border of madness.

Austin Allen on The Life and Death of Djuna Barnes, Gonzo “Greta Garbo of American Letters”. There’s a lot more Djuna Barnes at Strange Flowers.

• Out at the end of the month, Extreme Metaphors, interviews with JG Ballard, 1967–2008, edited by Simon Sellars & Dan O’Hara.

• The favourite Polish posters of the Brothers Quay. Over at Cardboard Cutout Sundown there are more Quay book covers.

The Mancorialist: people on the streets of Manchester are given the Sartorialist treatment.

The Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia takes place on 29th September.

The Caves of Nottingham are explored in a detailed post at BLDGBLOG.

• In Remembrance: Bill Brent, Groundbreaking Queer Sex Publisher.

Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie

The Uranus Music Prize 2012

Fuck Yeah René Lalique

Dr Who: original theme (1963) by Ron Grainer with Delia Derbyshire | Falling (1964) by Delia Derbyshire | The Delian Mode (1968) by Delia Derbyshire | Blue Veils And Golden Sands (1968) by Delia Derbyshire.

A hustle here, a hustle there…

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Male hustler standing on street corner (1967) photographed by William Gale Gedney.

One of those irresistible confluences of disparate things occurred this week. Watching Todd Haynes’ fabulous Velvet Goldmine for about the tenth time at the weekend had me listening to Lou Reed’s Transformer album the day after. The sight of these New York street photos by William Gale Gedney a couple of days later immediately brought to mind the lyrics of Walk On The Wild Side. The Guardian brought things full circle by posting the 1973 Lester Bangs interview with Lou Reed in which Transformer is discussed, and Reed gives the quote about the glam trend of appearing gay which Ewan McGregor’s Curt Wild character—an amalgam of small parts of Reed and a huge dose of Iggy Pop—paraphrases in Velvet Goldmine:

Wax eloquent, for once and finally, he did. Listen kids, you may think you’ve got your identity crises and sexual lateral squeeze plays touchdown cold just because you came out in rouge ‘n’ glitter for Dave Bowie’s latest show, but listen to your Papa Lou. He’s gotta nother think for you punk knowitalls: “The makeup thing is just a style thing now, like platform shoes. If people have homosexuality in them, it won’t necessarily involve makeup in the first place. You can’t fake being gay, because being gay means you’re going to have to suck cock, or get fucked. I think there’s a very basic thing in a guy if he’s straight where he’s just going to say no: ‘I’ll act gay, I’ll do this and I’ll do that, but I can’t do that.’ Just like a gay person if they wanted to act straight and everything, but if you said, ‘Okay, go ahead, go to bed with a girl,’ they’re going to have to get an erection first, and they can’t do that.”

Never one to mince words is our Lou. YouTube has a video of Reed’s song which sets the music to shots of the real-life people mentioned in his lyrics, hustling Little Joe included. Those of a sensitive disposition should be warned that the surrounding videos seem to be filled with penises. The William Gedney photos are from a substantial collection at Duke University among which there’s a set from a gay march and rally commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Stonewall Riot in 1979.

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Male hustler standing on street corner and lighting cigarette; has shirt open (1967) photographed by William Gale Gedney.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lonesome Cowboys
Les Demi Dieux revisited
Les Demi Dieux

William Burroughs interviews

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With William Burroughs: A Report from the Bunker (1982) by Victor Bockris. Design by Neville Brody.

If it’s interviews you want, some of the most entertaining are in Victor Bockris’s collection of conversations between El Hombre Invisible and the various New York notables ferried round to sit at Burroughs’ table in his Bowery Bunker. The British edition published by Vermilion was always preferrable for its Neville Brody cover design beside which the US original looks very dull indeed. The encyclopedic Burroughs site Reality Studio has copious lists of earlier Burroughs interviews. They also note the occasions when he put on his journalist hat and went out to interview someone equally famous, usually at the behest of a music magazine. A couple of those pieces are online thanks to the diligence of various fans.

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Diamond Dogs (1974), a blend of Lou Reed, George Orwell and William Burroughs.

One such is the 1974 interview with David Bowie for Rolling Stone in which Bowie discusses Burroughs as an influence while Burroughs informs the singer that the heroes of his latest novel, The Wild Boys, favour the Bowie knife as a weapon:

Bowie: Nova Express really reminded me of Ziggy Stardust, which I am going to be putting into a theatrical performance. Forty scenes are in it and it would be nice if the characters and actors learned the scenes and we all shuffled them around in a hat the afternoon of the performance and just performed it as the scenes come out. I got this all from you Bill… so it would change every night.

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A year later Burroughs got together with Jimmy Page for Crawdaddy magazine where the discussion circles around some of the same subjects, notably the writer’s obsession with sound as a weapon. There’s also this comment from Burroughs which is the kind of thing that always gets my neurons firing:

Antony Balch and I collaborated on a film called Cut-Ups, in which the film was cut into segments and rearranged at random. Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell saw a screening of the film not long before they made Performance.

Roeg later directed Bowie, of course, and is one of the dinner guests in With William Burroughs, while Jimmy Page and Donald Cammell both appear in Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising. The connections go round and round… Read the whole piece in a post I made a few years ago at the late, lamented Arthur magazine site.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Soft machines
Burroughs: The Movie
William S Burroughs: A Man Within
The Final Academy
William Burroughs book covers
Towers Open Fire