THE ROLLING STONES ‘Urban Jungle’

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The last blog was a bit of a false start promising more METALLICA but my illness developed into something more serious and I’ve been unable to work or even blog for many months. Everything has been on hold – until now …

Progress, though slow, has been very positive which now enables me to re-connect with the things I love doing – the blog being right up there with the work I do. Hopefully this is the beginning of more consistent blogging.

Next week some of my original art for THE ROLLING STONES goes up for auction at Bonhams. I thought I’d take the opportunity to provide insight into the processes involved in creating an ident for a rock’n’roll tour organised for such a gigantic corporation as THE ROLLING STONES. This short entry will continue in another couple of weeks with more stories – some hilarious, others nightmarish – but here’s a taster of what’s to come.

Although THE ROLLING STONES ‘Urban Jungle 1990’ tour was called ‘STEEL WHEELS’ in the States there were additional considerations involved in bringing the tour to Europe. In America the tour design company went for a very corporate look – shiny, clean graphics which reflected the album cover …

It did the job well in the States but the image was deemed ‘too corporate’ for the streetwise European market used to more ‘edgy’ graphics. Fans were more fashion-conscious and at ease with bright colours and a bolder graphic style. I was brought in to help … to create a new ident and to follow with merchandising which had a more effortless choice of items. Apparently sales were being lost in the States because of overchoice. The range of items was so great that people were turning away from merch stalls because they couldn’ decide what to buy. So … consolidation was vital …

I called him ‘Skippy’

– my affectionate name for the raging rabid dog used as the primary image for THE ROLLING STONES ‘Urban Jungle 1990’ tour. He was found at the bottom of a sketch produced by the stage design team at Mark Fisher and was the perfect beast to front ‘Urban Jungle’. Skippy was redrawn – but in such a way that the rough graffiti feel was exaggerated. Vibrant colours were added, a drop-shadow created to give more weight and depth to the image, the head was made bigger to increase Skippy’s aggression and  complementary typography was designed and approved.

Skippy was now ready to rampage around Europe !

Too often graphic images can be overworked, considered too much and compromised, (see earlier Def Leppard story on the design of ‘HYSTERIA’ cover), and it shows! ‘Skippy’ is the perfect example of how an almost throw-away original image can be developed and retain its free-flowing rough style, its authenticity and its vibrant energy. It was the antithesis of the `STEEL WHEELS’ design but perfectly suited to the demands of a European mentality. Once the image, colours and the typestyle had been approved the tour could then be styled throughout. From a graphic point of view I always began (remember this is still  early computer days for creating artwork of any decent quality) with a Master Art Board. For those of you interested in how this looks click HERE. This Master was then used to create the tour programme, merchandising, posters and promotional items. More on this in the next blog.

Of course – the whole stage design had to change too. This unforgiving task fell to Mark Fisher. The staging for STEEL WHEELS was so complicated and so enormous there were two complete sets which ‘leap-frogged’ each other on tour. The set was simply too big to build in a day. The same applied to the newly devised URBAN JUNGLE set …

I was invited to the opening night of URBAN JUNGLE in Rotterdam. I took a close friend of mine (more on her embarrassing behaviour later!) and in the afternoon we climbed up to the first level of the gigantic stadium to watch the final assembly of the stage. A few minutes later we were followed by Mick and Keith who were doing the same. They both leant on the edge of the balcony and after 10 minutes Mick turned to his guitarist …

“I don’t like it Keef.What do you think?”

I know it cost several hundred thousand pounds to create the WORKING MODEL for the (approved) staging. God knows what it would cost if they had to change it. What happened?

See you in the next blog

As ever, &ie

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