Today’s book was something I found remaindered last year that was an immediate hands-down “buy this book!” moment. Exceedingly rare are the volumes that I have bought instead of sold off in the last 20 years,but this one was strongly bipolar Monk-bait that stoked my twin ardor’s for New Wave and graphic design. Too band only one of them puts money in my wallet.
I have a few several books on the art of album design, but this one took a unique angle on the often staid notion. Dispensing with the typical “let’s round up some great album covers, loosely connected by artist and genre” to look behind the final public image that the record in the store represented. Instead, Torcinovich opted for pulling away the green curtain to reveal the body of work, usually unseen, that went into that iconic album cover. This is the book to have if you ever wanted to see the contact sheets behind your favorite albums. The curation here was very strong with the book organized into American and British strains of Punk and New Wave dating from Bob Gruen’s 1976 “Max’s Kansas City” cover through to Eugene Merinov’s 1982 “Press The Eject + Give Me The Tape” by Bauhaus.
The curation takes in familiar icons as well as those known best to the underground. Roberta Bayley’s iconic Ramones work rubs shoulders with Seth Tillett’s “Press Color” photos for Lizzy Mercier Descloux. In fact the Ze Records contingent gets a more than fair shake here, and yet many of the biggest guns of British photography were also well-represented here.
Brian Duffy’s still harrowing shots for Bowie’s “Lodger” were always the most harsh and extreme wrapper to sell a much less overtly threatening album. Only the disturbing “Repetition” fit the tone of the cover that closely. It probably contributed to the overall soft sales for that particular Bowie opus. If ever an album cover said “don’t touch me!”it was that one.
The book is split fairly evenly between monochrome and color photography, but the black+white here just looks more lovely. One of the best b+w photos ever was Brian Griffin’s truly iconic shoot for the Joe Jackson debut album, “Look Sharp.” Those Denson’s he’s rocking more than fit the title and seeing Griffin’s contact sheet throws his methodologies out into the open. Seeing the train of thought until the “eureka” moment he ultimately captured is one of the joys of this book.
Even some of my favorite color images, hew closely to the monochrome spectrum of tone. I loved Gered Mankowitz’s Pollock-inspired cover for the second Tourists album, “Reality Effect” since it was released in 1979. It’s fascinating to see the composition in white above with the band members before the paint began flying. According to Mankowitz, the intent was to have the musicians paint objects in the room brightly, but after a few doses of LSD, that idea went out of the window[pane] as they splattered each other instead.
I especially loved the full coverage of Lene Lovich’s first two album covers here. Has there ever been a more photogenic woman artist? her emoting for the lens as seen here, would put her at the forefront of the modeling world, if she didn’t have so much more to offer. It was lovely seeing the black and white film shot in the stainless steel fermentation tanks of the Guinness brewery in London. I’m more familiar with the gel-toned ultimate color shot, but the black and white shots go further at capturing the metallic sheen of the setting. How I’d love to see an actual print of these shots in a museum one day.
I like seeing the grease pencil markup on the JAPAN “Tin Drum” cover. The differences were so slight between the takes that the final choice almost seemed arbitrary in that each one was equally stagey and poised. Among all of the visual paths not taken, the text here also contains essays by a few famed photographers, giving their own spin on the work. People like George DuBose, famed for his early B-52’s cover photography. His quote about Lydia Lunch vs The B-52’s was priceless. Elsewhere, Torcinovich reveals that he discovered who took the iconic photo [not credited] for Iggy Pop’s “The Idiot.” If you share my penchant for this music and the wrapper it came in, then “Outside The Lines” is a superb addition to your music design library.
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