Out Of The Blue (1977) by Electric Light Orchestra.
Many different labels may be attached to the 1970s but it was definitely the science-fiction decade as much as anything else, a time when the use of SF imagery became a widespread trend, often superficially applied but there all the same. You see this in the music packaging of the period, and not only in the obvious enclaves of progressive rock. Here’s Motown Chartbusters Vol. 6 (1971) with a spaceship cover by Roger Dean; here’s Herbie Hancock on the cover of Thrust (1974) piloting his keyboard-driven craft over Machu Picchu while an alarmingly swollen Moon seems ready to crash into the Earth.
Out Of The Blue gatefold interior.
The exploitation of SF imagery on the covers of funk, soul and disco albums was much more widespread than the jazz world, and lasted long enough to join up with the emergence of synth-pop and electro in the early 1980s. The meticulous airbrush paintings of Shusei Nagaoka dominate this era and idiom, thanks in part to his covers for two of the biggest albums of 1977: Out Of The Blue by Electric Light Orchestra, and All ’n All by Earth, Wind & Fire.
All ’n All (1977) by Earth, Wind & Fire.
The latter doesn’t look especially science-fictional until you flip it over and its Egyptian scene morphs into a futuristic cityscape with a fleet of rockets heading for the stars. (That pyramidal building is based on one of Paolo Soleri’s hexahedron megastructures.) Many of the albums that followed this pair were jumping on the post-Star Wars/Close Encounters SF bandwagon but there were other reasons for funk and disco artists to embrace the Space Age, as Jon Savage has noted: “Disco’s stateless, relentlessly technological focus lent itself to space/alien fantasies which are a very good way for minorities to express and deflect alienation: if you’re weird, it’s because you’re from another world. And this world cannot touch you.”
Munich Machine (1977) by Munich Machine. (A Giorgio Moroder production.)
Nagaoka was in demand for his cover art even before hitching a ride to the top of the album charts so what you see here is a limited selection. As usual, there’s more to be seen at Discogs although I often wish they’d allow larger image uploads. Future Life magazine ran a feature about Nagaoka in October 1978 which includes a brief interview with the artist together with some biographical details.
Mandré Two (1978) by Mandré.
Continue reading “Shusei Nagaoka album covers”
My earlier post about Future Life magazine mentioned the regular Portfolio series which featured interviews with illustrators and space artists, the latter group being the people who providing conceptual paintings for astronomy books and government entities such as NASA. Since the magazine files at the Internet Archive aren’t searchable I thought it worth making note of the interviews here, for my own benefit as much as anything else. (This blog has often served as a useful notebook.)
Issue 1: Chesley Bonestell.
Many of the artists featured in Future Life were receiving their first (in some cases, only) high-profile feature at a time when little attention was given to the producers of this kind of work even in popular science-fiction magazines. The story magazines have always run interviews with writers but prior to Future Life, Science Fiction Monthly was the only magazine that I’d seen with a regular illustration feature, and that title didn’t last very long. Future Life covered some of the same people, Chris Foss, for example, while seeking out the prominent figures of the US illustration world. Not all the art is to my taste at all but the interviews are of interest even if you don’t like the pictures. One surprise was finding an interview in one of the issues that I’d missed with Ludek Pesek, a Czech artist whose views of the Solar System and depictions of the evolution of life on Earth I knew from the Puffin books he worked on with Peter Ryan. Those books were aimed at a young readership and were great favourites of mine before I’d seen anything by Foss and co. Another of the space artists interviewed is David Hardy, a British contemporary of Pesek’s whose view of an alien planet will be familiar to Hawkwind enthusiasts on the back cover of Hall Of The Mountain Grill. Another notable feature of the series is the lack of women artists, although this isn’t so surprising given that women creating pictures of space hardware are few even today. All the same, they might have featured Rowena Morrill, a popular cover artist for SF and fantasy novels at the time, and someone whose work I prefer to many of the people they did profile.
Issue 3: Boris Vallejo.
Issue 4: Robert McCall.
Issue 5: Shusei Nagaoka.
A Japanese artist best known in the West for his album-cover art for ELO, Earth, Wind and Fire, and many others.
Issue 6: Ron Miller.
Issue 7: The Brothers Hildebrandt.
Issue 8: David Hardy.
Continue reading “The artists of Future Life”