I have to start with a ‘comment’ I noticed on one of the DOA videos in the last blog … ‘such people who balance between being woman and men caused interest to observe them…’ – says it all really. I spent time this week looking through my studio DOA archives and was astonished how much stuff there was. I found drawers full of original artwork for various DOA logos and hand-created type, artboards with overlay printer instructions (this is pre-computer still) for tour prgrammes, sleeves and posters. I also found sketches and ideas which were never used. Two things occurred to me rummaging through my drawers (so to speak) – firstly that there will have to be more of Dead or Alive at a later date and secondly that you may be intereseted in some great designs ‘that got away’ – either because they were never used or if they were, the albums were not commecially successful.
I came across a band a few years ago and fell in love with their music. I offered to design an album for them. They had no money but sometimes you have to follow your heart. I still listen to their wonderful music whenever I need cheering up or when I need reminding there is still amazing talent out there. Unfortunately, through circumstances and incompetant promotion, the album disappered without trace. I still rate it as one of my favourite albums and most successful designs.
After I created the logo for the brilliantly-named ‘GEEZERS OF NAZARETH’, I printed it out, screwed it up into a ball and kept it in my back pocket for over a week. There is no way a computer programme could create the authentic texture of the final logo …
Anyway, I digress. I went to see Pete one day and Lynne warned me Pete was recovering from an operation on his nose (the fourth I think he said) He was on good form and we quickly made decisions on the artwork. It was difficult not to react to the bandages, his swollen face and the two black eyes the operation had inflicted on him. I asked him why he did it and his answer was both enlightening and disturbing. ‘I’m addicted to the fear,’ he said, ‘Each time I do it I’m absolutely terrified it could all go wrong. On one level it’s about image but on another level it’s about overcoming the fear so I experience the unbelievable high when its over and everythings ok.’
Eventually it did all go wrong. One of the most honest interviews I’ve seen Pete do was on the ‘Richard and Judy’ show. As I’ve said before Pete is totally honest in any situation, and morning television was no exception. They asked the questions and he answered them. Simple. His clarity talking about surgery, Big Brother and relationships is so open and candid – it’s almost shocking. Watch the two-part interview and see for yourselves …
Success fuelled Pete’s anarchic delight in creating an even more outrageous image. The photographs for the ‘Nude’ album were extraordinary and the design for the sleeve needed to be pretty full on …
I love this sleeve. We spent a day photographing a sea of roses, carefully selecting colours to tie in with Pete’s image. After combining the two images we decided the typography style should be as far removed from the image as possible – hence the blackmail/punk style lettering on a harsh black background. The combination of such disparate elements shouldn’t work but maybe that’s why it does – sometimes the most unlikely combinations succeed because of their audacity.
In the studio while I was working on the sleeve I had a dozen photos from the album photo-session pinned on the wall – large 20 x 16 colour prints. A courier who often delivered stuff to me walked through the door and his jaw hit the carpet when he saw them. ‘PHWOAR!’ he said, ‘I wouldn’t mind a bit of that. She’s fuckin’ beautiful mate. Who is it?’ ‘Pete Burns,’ I said heavily emphasising the ‘Pete’. He didn’t know where to put himself. With one foot already out of the studio and the other still firmly in his mouth, his face so red I thought he was going to explode, he fixed his gaze on the floor and squeaked, ‘Sign here please.’ He fled down the corridor and raced down the outside fire escape as if Beelzebub was in hot pursuit. I never saw him again. Pete would have loved it.
The last video is one of my favourite songs by Dead Or Alive. It’s that voice again. Also it’s a wonderful collage of photos from different periods of Pete’s career.
Reluctantly we now move on from Pete and DOA (but there WILL be more later). Next week we move to the opposite end of the music spectrum and go back a couple of years. I was invited by the legendary Peter Mensch to come up with ideas for the DEF LEPPARD ‘Pyromania’ album.