Working in the music industry in the 80’s guaranteed strange and surreal experiences time and time again. One of the first with the THOMPSON TWINS was visiting their squat in south London for a party. We arrived and there were a dozen fans camped in the garden, trying to catch a glimpse of their newly-acquired idols. There were no curtains on the windows and I remember being advised to crawl on the floor underneath windows to avoid being spotted by the youthful, exhuberant poparazzi outside. Inside – as the party got more and more out of hand – everyone forgot to duck under the windows and the evening was puncuated constantly by loud cheers from the enthusiastic encampment. What made it funnier was that Alannah had insisted we all raid her dressing room to find fancy dress. I don’t suppose the fans ever knew whether they’d seen Tom, Joe and Alannah or not – unable to distinguish them from the endless stream of weirdos strutting, stumbling and lurching across the brightly lit windows wearing pompadour wigs, masks, hats and strange outfits. They cheered enthusiastically anyway whoever and whatever they saw. Bless.
The period working for TT was an extremely creative one in the music industry. Vinyl was still the predominant format (although CD’s were beginning to appear) and 7 & 12 inch singles were a crucial ‘tool’ to promote albums. Pete Winkelman at Arista recognised the value of collectible limited edition singles and both of us loved the Picture Disc format. The No 1 album –‘Into The Gap’ – was released in 1984 and I came up with a design for a single release that Pete loved. He wasn’t convinced it would work but I’d done my homework and talked to the manufacturers.
Again, I can’t stress how important it is to communicate with manufacturers and suppliers. Including them in the design process often inspires them to stretch the production process to its limits – often finding solutions a designer would never think of and also offer new processes which could be used for future projects. Also great ideas in design isolation often don’t translate in practical terms. Better to get constructive advice than piss people off with prima donna demands! In order to avoid disappointment at the final result – pre-empt possible problems. (Back to Christopher Hunter again – ‘… always imagine what could go wrong. It usually does – so prepare …’)
‘Take Me Up’ was the single from ‘Into The Gap’ and my idea was to create 3 picture discs which ‘jigsawed’ together. Maps and map symbols were the theme for the album and as soon as I realised a world map neatly fitted into the right proportions required to produce the 3 interlocking discs the design process began …
I’ve had the three discs framed (coming up for auction in December at Bonham’s) and most people don’t believe, until close inspection, that they are PLAYABLE 12 inch vinyl discs.
It’s also important to note here that although the logo was essentially the same as ‘Sidekick’ the 3 colours were changed for ‘Into The Gap’ and there were new configurations of the different elements. Ideally logos should be open to development – especially with bands who are constantly developing musically. It also helps distinguish between different projects …
Then came ‘Here’s To Future Days’. I still love the cover photo for this – the child is very disturbing – and once again the logo was adapted. It had to be more low-key‘ so it didn’t detract from the photo by Rebecca Blake.
Excuse me.’ said the aggressive customs officer at Heathrow. ‘What’s in your bag?’
I took a deep breath, knowing my answer was guaranteed to make him think I was taking the piss bigtime. ‘ A crown, a sceptre, and a large stuffed fish.’ I said, deadpan. He stiffened. ‘Empty it,’ he said, barely containing his anger.
I emptied the contents of the bag onto the table – a crown, a sceptre, and a large stuffed fish. It was one of those glorious moments when I thought ‘I love my job,’ and I smiled like a demented conjurer who’d performed a trick to wind him up. The guy, already prepared for a serious confrontation, literally froze. His brain refused to engage with what his eyes were telling him. He looked at me then at the table and then back at me. His eyes and brain still hadn’t connected. ‘YOU!’ he shouted, the volume of his voice taking him by surprise, ‘Yes, you Madam – I want you to empty your bag. NOW.’ The poor woman behind me, the object of the guy’s frustration, was clearly shocked by his aggression but put her bag down next to mine. That was it. He utterly blanked me. I collected my stuff and rejoined the photographic crew I’d travelled with back from a photo-shoot with the THOMPSON TWINS in Paris. Happy Days.
There will have to be more Twins stories but for now we move on.
My partner Michael decided in 82 to pursue his passion for painting. At first I was nervous of going it alone but friends insisted it was just what I needed. They were right and the transition was fairly seamless. It is obvious, I know, but I was given the opportunity to develop an individual approach as a person and a designer.
I met Peter Mensch who fronted one of the biggest management companies in the US – Q Prime. Whilst working on artwork for DEF LEPPARD (SEVERAL chapters on them soon) I was asked to work with another band who could not have been more different. It was 1985 and the comparatively new ‘disco scene’ was creating more nightclubs than had ever been seen in London. It’s hard to imagine but there were very few large dance venues before then. I went to a live gig which was being recorded for radio. I’d heard DEAD OR ALIVE but I wasn’t prepared for the powerful vocals and hi-energy performance of the charismatic lead singer who challenged every definition of masculinity. I’d been invited to work with PETE BURNS and couldn’t wait to meet him.
WHAT a voice!