8. THOMPSON TWINS – Part One

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In 1985, late at night in a hotel room after several glasses of wine, two very strong-willed women were debating whether it was possible to break into the British Broadcasting Corporation to steal the Master Tape of a television performance broadcast earlier that evening.

One of them eventually persuaded the other it might not be such a good idea to storm the BBC.  On the extremely popular ‘Wogan Show’ the nation watched  GRACE JONES perform the wonderful ‘Slave To The Rhythm’. Miss Jones believed she’d made a huge mistake in her choice of wardrobe and was determined to retrieve the tape to destroy it. In fact, watching the clip now, it’s a brilliant performance and perfectly represents how fabulously extreme she could be. Make sure you watch the ‘reveal’ at the end of the performance – she looks Amazing!

Thank God she didn’t but I often wonder what would have happened if she’d actually attempted to retrieve the tape. The mind boggles. She may have got away with it – simply by scaring to death anyone who tried to stop her. She was FIERCE!!

Her sometimes co-conspirator (and potential sister-in-crime that night) who eventually persuaded Grace not to raid the BBC, was ALANNAH CURRIE of the THOMPSON TWINS. Like Grace Jones, Alannah’s reputation for being ‘difficult’ preceded her. When I first met Alannah, to work on the TT ‘Quick Step and Sidekick’ album it was immediately obvious why she had such a reputation. She was not ‘difficult’ at all. Basically as an intelligent woman in the music industry, predominantly populated with egotistical men who yearned to be guitar heroes, she didn’t take shit from any of them. She knew what she wanted, was clear what the band needed and refused to be derailed or intimidated by patronising individuals who thought they knew better than she did. The ‘difficulty’ was the men felt threatened by someone very much in control of a career she could skillfully orchestrate better than they could. What made it worse was that Alannah didn’t give a fuck what those people thought of her – and they knew it – which only compounded their view that she was arrogant and intractable. Like she cared?

Back to Grace for a second. Today Alannah told me she ‘was hugely in awe of her – she was lifeline of female trouble in a sea of boring white males.’ Perfect.

Fortunately there was someone who appreciated Alannah’s candour and vision and was equally determined to ensure THOMPSON TWINS were successful.

As art director and promotional guru at Arista records, PETE WINKELMAN’s enthusiasm for projects was incomparable. If he had belief in an artist he gave it 100%. He recognised how huge THOMPSON TWINS could be and gave them the undivided attention they deserved. There was a problem though. Everything submitted by designers for ‘Quick Step’ had failed to impress the band. They needed a strong and unique graphic identity and nothing had come close.

Pete Winkelman called me, we had a meeting and hit it off immediately. I recognised his genuine commitment to find something the band were totally happy with at all costs. He recognised my approach to design was not restricted by formal training – therefore I was capable of finding a left-field solution to the problem. Our connection was undoubtedly enthusiasm for what we did and neither of us relied on precedents to influence our approach to a project. (It has always astonished me – and it’s happened on several occasions – when I have been given a brief to replicate a particular graphic style which has proved successful. Why would anyone want to present themselves as a clone of someone else in a market that thrives on originality?)

Anyway … Pete showed me all the photographs, taken for the album sleeve, which had been rejected by the band. There was nothing good enough and certainly little that was dynamic. I took half an hour out (always a good idea), sat in a cafe and tried to figure out what was missing – then I had an idea. I sped back to Arista and asked to see the photographs that had been rejected by the photographer. I’d realised that the photographer may have dismissed photographs for the wrong reasons. An album sleeve is not just about a photograph – it’s about a combination of elements – something I’d learnt on SECTOR 27. I did find what I was looking for in the reject pile. I could see why the picture had been rejected – the band were weirdly off-centre and Joe had been cropped in half on the left of the shot. However, it was a great picture and I could see that the addition of graphics would make it work. It also inspired the design for the logo … one which I still think suited the band perfectly.

tt logo

Creating the logo, using the same colours as the basis for the graphics and using the border so Joe’s image wasn’t falling off the edge of the sleeve, everything fell naturally into place. The quirkiness of the photo was retained and the ‘empty spaces’ of the original image were no longer empty. The end result looks effortless and balanced.

Quick Step

DESIGN OBSERVATION 2

Check out photos that have been rejected. Your criteria for what can make a photo work are different to a photographers. Alternatively – work WITH the photographer before a shoot.

to be continued ….

Essential viewing: THOMPSON TWINS

‘Love On Your Side.’ WATCH HERE

‘We Are Detective.’ WATCH HERE

‘You Take Me Up.’ WATCH HERE

Essential viewing: GRACE JONES

‘Private Life’. WATCH HERE

‘La Vie En Rose’. WATCH HERE

‘Pull Up To The Bumper’. WATCH HERE

‘Walking In The Rain’. WATCH HERE

For those of you who haven’t seen an earlier feisty and furious Grace on ‘The Russell Harty Show’ when she threw a wobbly and attacked Harty with her handbag – WATCH HERE.

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7 Responses to “8. THOMPSON TWINS – Part One”

  1. David Wachs Says:

    Hey Andie.

    Nice one…yes, always outside the box is the safest place to be. Home for me.

    I knew Joe in the Thompson Twins. We both did some personal development work together back in the 80s in Los Angeles. Nice guy.

    Keep crankin out the stories…

    David

  2. Dave2 Says:

    This is astounding. For YEARS I’ve been scouring the internet for information on an artist named “Satori” who did some of my favorite album art from the 80’s… in particular, those by the Thompson Twins (which were a huge inspiration to me) and that haunting cover for Dead or Alive’s “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know.”

    Today, on a whim, I was Googling for information and found this amazing blog! Andie, thank you so much for sharing these great stories with us! I can’t wait to read them all.

    • Andie Airfix Says:

      Hi Dave, welcome to design as an extreme sport. Pleased you’re enjoying. I’ve always wanted to find a medium to tell my music stories. Blogs are perfect for writing, presenting images and, crucially, PLAYING MUSIC of those I’ve worked with. You can look forward to more of THE MOUSE, GUNS’N’ROSES, THE STONES, ZEPPELIN and some you may not have heard of but who contributed hugely in allowing me to be innovative and creatively open. Please pass on the blog. &ie Airfix. (PS you may also be interested in andieairfix.com where you’ll find editions and stuff – including THE TWINS. I still love the logo I did for them!)

      • Dave2 Says:

        It was that Thompson Twins logo turned into a map for “Into the Gap” that had a big impact on me, as I explained on my blog back in 2006… I’d include a link, but comments with links are rejected (blogography dot com slash gomap).

        Happy to see you have prints for sale. Do you offer signed editions?

      • Andie Airfix Says:

        Hi Dave2,
        I love that TT one as well – especially the triple picture disc. Did you see that? ALL editions are signed and limited to only 100.

  3. José María Says:

    Un grande, también supe pintar ese logo de los Thompson Twins en una t-shirt por los años 80’s, cuando todo era a puro pincel.

  4. EXITPENGUIN Says:

    during my young teenage years, i was totally inspired by 80s music, but more fascinated by the artwork, and the “idea” that created them. now i have found this incredible website, which is a portal to my retro stance, and is still the main inspiration to my music/art project, here today in my mid-40s.

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