I have done around twenty music releases so far. Singles, EP-s, albums. And more often than not, creating a good album cover was more difficult than writing and recording the songs themselves. What makes a good artwork? I have taken two of my favourite ones to investigate.
Eurythmics – Savage (1987)
Designed by Laurence Stevens
Photography by Alistair Thain
Eurythmics, after two hugely successful albums, released Savage in November 1987. Returning to their musical roots of experimentalism, the artwork continues their tradition of surprising, but palpable visuals of its predecessors. On Touch, Be Yourself Tonight and Revenge we got close ups of either Annie alone or Annie with Dave.
This close up is something different. It pictures Annie in monochrome as a blonde bombshell, a Marylin-esque femme-fatale, leaning her chin on her hand, looking away from up, distracted, pondering.
The image represents very well what the album is about to give you: passion, cynicism and novelty, but little do you know that this is just one of the alter-egos she is presenting us through the songs and the accompanying video album.
Annie Lennox is known to be a chameleon, loving to dress up, and I find this one of her personas the most captivating. First of all, this hyper-feminin appearance is very far from what she is like in live performances or interviews, yet, it looks natural and easy. She once again proves that she is all about transformation, and has the mastery of what we would call drag. Secondly, the image, this intentionally overexposed close up is deeply sinister, almost unsettling. Much like the excerpt from the opening track ‘Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)’, repurposed as an intro to the video of the song:
“Some women think that they don’t count. But you have used that weapon against me. Did I tell you I was lying by the way, when I said I wanted a new mink coat? I was thinking of something sleek to wrap around my tender throat. I was dreaming like a Texan girl. A girl who thinks she’s got the right to everything. A girl who thinks she should have something extreme.”
Neoton Familia (Newton Family) – Dandelion (1981)
(ニュートン・ファミリー / ロマネスク伝説)
Art direction and design by Toshikazu Tanaka (Front Publicity inc.),
Illustration: Ichiro Tsuruta
My enthusiasm of the (very) late disco era is no news to anyone that knows me or follows what I do. It is the music that I was most exposed to as a child, therefore the magic world that the likes of ABBA or the Xanadu soundtrack created was an obvious choice for my early escapism.
Neoton Familia (or as they were known abroad, mostly in Japan, Newton Family), are a Hungarian pop band that imported this genre probably the most successfully to the lands behind the iron curtain. And then exported it right back to the Far East.
Dandelion, or its Hungarian equivalent A Familia was their seventh studio album, the third to be released in Japan by RCA. This was the first album to receive a unique design for the Japanese market, different to the Hungarian edition, or any other release of the LP.
The artwork is so colourful it almost makes me dizzy, a very strong collage of photography and graphic design. With my naive European eyes it looks very Japanese, too. And the world it creates describes exactly what made me escape to this magic world for many years throughout the 80’s: it feels as if I landed in Wonderland or the Land of Oz, that of glitter and pulsating rhythms.
It also illustrates the world of the songs the band was creating: heroes, legends, and ultimately carefree entertainment.
So there you have it. Next time I’ll write about artworks of my own albums.