Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How I Loved the Design of Peter Saville

On ThickCulture, I just did a post on the significance of John Hughes as a Gen-X touchstone. In the post, I recalled what was going through my adolescent mind back then::

"My 'heroes' at that time were in the UK, in the likes of Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records, Tony Wilson of Factory Records, and designer Peter Saville, all iconoclasts of a sort, whose ideals would eventually clash hard with the vagaries of market capitalism. In the mid-1980s, I felt these guys were onto something, an æsthetic and an ethos that was far removed from the suburban milieu of Hughes’ territory, which at the end of the day was just more identity posturing on my part. I remember wanting to go to university in order to start the next Rough Trade, back when alternative was post-punk or new music. So, imagine my chagrin upon seeing Hughes coöpt music that mattered to me back in the day, e.g., The English Beat {Ferris Bueller racing to get home running through yards to 'Rotating Heads,' Psychedelic Furs {'Pretty in Pink'}, and the Smiths {The Dream Academy covering 'Please, Please Please Let Me Get What I Want'}."
While writing this, I was reminded of my youth. While sifting through the record bins at indie record stores lamenting the high cost of UK, German, and French imported vinyl {let alone Japanese "audiophile" pressings}, I quickly realized how much of a sucker I was for sleeve design. I really liked Peter Saville's work and recall reading an article talking about him and Factory Records possibly in The Face or NME. This site has a sleevography, a discography of Saville's œuvre. I think I was drawn to his minimalist style and use of colour. While he might be known for his work on artwork for "indie" artists, he also did work for Wham! and Peter Gabriel. Here are some examples of his design that I recall::

Those born after 1990 or so will have little or no experience with the referent. I thought this was the coolest thing when I bought it. My copy has a black inner sleeve so it looks like those old 5 1/4" floppies. I loved this 12" for New Order's "Blue Monday."

I taped my copies of Orchestral Manœuvres in the Dark's {OMD} Junk Culture and Dazzle Ships on one Maxell C-90 cassette. I loved this sleeve, as it was die cut and folded open. You can see the it unfolded and from both sides here.

I never picked this one up, as it was too expensive. It was from OMD's eponymous album. It was also die cut and there weren't that many copies from these early pressings.

I couldn't afford this one either. The UK import had actual fabric for the 7" and the 12" of OMD's "Talking Loud and Clear."

I did manage to pick up this 12" of OMD's Tesla Girls with a live version of "Telegraph" and "Garden City," which turned out to be one of my favourite OMD songs, albeit it sounds rather dated when I listen to it now {below}

I was always drawn to Factory Record's fixation with numerical sequencing. Part of being a fan was deciphering the "language" of the record label. New Order's "Confusion" 12" was Fac 93. I think what spoke to me was the synth pop music with imagery celebrating technology. Saville also created a colour alphabet which was included in the original pressings of New Order's "Power, Corruption, and Lies." Looking at these takes me back to 1987-88, when I struggled with trying to achieve what I wanted to in visual and graphic arts. It makes me want to break out my art supplies...

Twitterversion:: Thinking about the sleeve artwork of Peter Saville. @Prof_K

Song:: Garden City - Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

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