Jan 212010

I was poking around in the archives and I came across a discussion in which folks were talking about starting a thread to determine once and for all which rock band has the best logo. I don’t think that discussion ever materialized so I’m starting it here.

What is the Greatest Rock Logo of All Time?

Please don’t just say the name, show your work too. And don’t let your personal taste about the band’s music affect your appreciation of their branding skills.

I’m going to go with…

The Doors. Their logo has nice clean lines, is instantly recognizable, and is simple enough that any kid coming of age in the ’70s and possessing even the most modest artistic skills could reproduce it on their backpack/desk/etc.


  38 Responses to “Battle Royale: We’re an American Brand”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks for kicking this off, cdm. You’ll see that I added a link at the end of your piece to an online instructional course in drawing your favorite logo. I encourage you to check it out.

    The Doors’ logo is a good, simple one, but the fact that the band dropped it midway through their releases shows an internal lack of faith – and everyone knows The Doors were the best judges of their creative output, always steering clear of excess.

    As much as I hate the band, it’s hard to top the KISS logo. Next to their makeup that may be the most important factor in their success – and they’ve never strayed from that logo, have they? Even when they took off the greasepaint they were still using that KISS typeface that makes me wish it was a standard font I could call up everytime I have to type their name.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the KISS logo, it even looks good as a print on a pair of pants:


  2. Damn, I can’t believe that I missed that one. I gladly cede the belt to you, Mod.

  3. Hank Fan

    As a marketing tool, which is what a logo is, I’d have to go with the Stones lips and tongue logo. It’s iconic, instantly recognizable, kind of obnoxious, and does not even say “Rolling Stones” anywhere on it.

  4. Hank Fan nailed it. Other good ones: The Pistols, The Who, Love and Black Flag. All of them logos that show more or less what a band stands for. Always loved the simple Buzzcocks one too. Yes or Iron Maiden anyone?

  5. 2000 Man

    The Stones Tongue is definitely the belt winner, hands down.

    Even though ramones666 mentioned it, along with many others, I always liked Roger Dean’s Yes logo. then again, when I was thirteen, I loved Yes so much that I actually used my skills which barely allowed me to write my own name to draw Yes logo’s on everything I owned, or Stop signs and bathroom stall walls. I thought that logo looked so cool, especially when he blended colors together on it. That was neat.

  6. Hey man,

    I just picked up a really neat LP, Fraser and DeBolt. Don’t know anything about these two weirdos, but I’m enjoying their LP a whole lot. Especially good is a track called “Them Dancehall Girls”. Here’s a clip of the duo doin’ their thang at the 1971 Philadelphia Folk Festival:


    Definitely not for Fritzlike types, but some of you others might find it enjoyable.

    Just trying to turn y’all onto some good stuff, man.

    E. Pluribus

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Come on, The Stones logo can’t win! That came about 10 years into their career, just as they began to take a downturn. The only reason it doesn’t require the band’s name as part of the logo is because they were already legendary by the time they came up with that design.

    Now Black Flag’s logo might top KISS, but the tongue and lips? I don’t know.

    Gergs, as for Fraser and DeBolt, Geo and dbuskirk have been into them for years. They didn’t share that with you way back when?

  8. The first 2 that come to mind are tier-2 arena-rockers Angel and Starz, probably because they landed squarely in my junior high days ca. 1975-77. Bands and kids seemed to place a lot more importance on logos back then. And of course there was the usual pattern of 1) 15 foot high drum riser, 2) top of drummer’s head peaking out from behind 17 tom-toms 3) giant logo over the drummer’s head.

    Angel – because the logo works upside down and downside up!


    Starz because 1) any middle schooler could draw it in 10 minutes and 2) the band used it prominently on every album and 3) it looks good with fireworks, dry ice, and a plunging black leather v-neck. To wit:








    Even the guitarist’s spinoff band co-opted the logo 20 years later!

  9. I’m not claiming this as the winner, but Motorhead needs to be in the hunt:


  10. Motorhead is a cool logo. On the band web site they have page after page of people with motorhead tattoos.

    Nobody’s going to bat for Aerosmith? Cool logo but I have the same problem for most of these suggestions and that is you can’t draw them on your binder as easily as KISS. That should be one of the main criteria, you know, let the kids take care of the analog viral marketing.

    I do have one that might surpass KISS:
    AC/DC. Four simple letters and a lightning bolt.

  11. The winged logos of Aerosmith and Van Halen flanked the coasts of this proud nation of rock….

    i don’t know where i was goin with that, but we have spoken of VH as a west coast counterpart to Aero and their logos are remarkably similar. I just got “get your wings” a few days ago, and it’s funny becaust the album uses a prototype of the flying A logo and it looks hairy like cousin it or something. hahaha!

    how about this fan made logo that graced every shcool desk from 1971 to 1981:

    I think this might win!!!

  12. fuckin stupid internet fucked it up, but you guys know what i meant.

  13. come on, should we really be validating the existence of logos by talking abotu them?! i always thought they were one of the lamest things imaginable.

  14. Thanks for the video link. Gergs. Isn’t that violinist the “secret sauce”?

  15. I always liked the XTC “Drums and Wires” logo, but they really didn’t stick with that, did they? I think Cheap Trick deserves a mention, but I think the Stones, Kiss and AC/DC are all really good choices. I think AC/DC is the one I’ve seen satirized the most, so I’d vote for that.

  16. 2000 Man – I went one step further and wore a Yes logo belt buckle on a daily basis around 9th or 10th grade(good thing tattoos were less readily available for suburban kids then)

    Something like this:

  17. Going 180 degrees from Yes, for at least 10-15 years starting in the early 80s, the Dead Kennedys logo was as ubiquitous in the world of disaffected teenagers as the Nike swoosh was for the rest of the world. Probably more so than the Black Flag bars.

  18. Mr. Moderator

    For what it’s worth, there was an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer a couple of months ago about someone who’s going around the world shooting photos of people with the Black Flag logo tattooed on their bodies. The work is going toward a photo book. Twenty-five years ago, who could have predicted such a coffeetable book?

  19. diskojoe

    My personal favorite would be the original Kinks logo w/the boots at the end of the letters.

    Also, the Swan Songs Records logo was also pretty popular back in the day among the Zep-lovin’ youth.

  20. hrrundivbakshi

    Dancehall Girls is okay, I guess — but that video clip is an unintentionally hilarious hippie stinker!

  21. Almost forgot: Crass had a good one too. Almost every leather jacket in the early eighties had one, either in spraypaint or white marker. Saw that one even more than Black Flag or DK´s.

  22. Mr. Moderator

    Geo, I’d say the woman’s left shoulder is that clip’s secret sauce.

    I love how “real” that video of Fraser & DeBolt is. I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s something about the way it’s shot, the natural lighting, etc that makes me feel like I’m standing alongside those hippies as they play.

  23. diskojoe

    I almost forgot, how about the Beatles’ logo, which is simple & elegant at the same time.

  24. 2000 Man

    noonetwisting, that was a cool belt buckle. I remember wanting it, but it cost more than my belt. I think that’s the same color scheme as the Yes poster I had on my wall. There was also a brass one that was pretty neat.

    I liked Angel and Starz, too. I had a Starz poster that was a close up of a woman, and other than her mouth her face was cut off, and just under her cans she was cut off. She was unzipping a leather jacket and there was a little Starz pin on the lapel. My mom really hated it, and I can see why, but the teenager in me loved that poster to death!

    The problem with the Kiss logo was that if it was on your friends folder, and he wasn’t looking, it was easily turned into Piss with an eraser and ball point pen of the same color.

    I remember liking the Styx logo. I liked everything about their albums except what was on the record itself.

  25. hrrundivbakshi

    Mod, you’re onto something there. I almost feel like I could SMELL them!

  26. Mr. Moderator

    I was at a birthday party a couple of weeks ago for a friend. The hosts were the sister and brother-in-law of the birthday boy’s fiancee. I’d never met this couple before. They were very nice and all that jazz. The husband and I were talking sports as the first round of the NFL playoffs played in the background, and he confessed to being a Cowboys fan. This is NOT a cool thing to confess to in the Philadelphia area, but I respected him for coming clean. He immediately offered his personal history as a way of defending himself: born to lifetime New Yorkers who relocated to South Jersey when he was 3 years old… Dad wasn’t a rabid sports fan, but he was born into a NY Giants/Yankees family… So when this guy was 10 years old and he sat down with his dad and brother to watch his first Super Bowl, the Cowboys vs the Steelers, he told me he decided he’d be a Cowboys fan. Soon enough the boys at school would, uh, explain to him his traitorous ways, but since his family had no prior Philly-area ties he brushed it off.

    Then – and the reason I tell you this tale – he said, “I want to make sure you know how much of a fan of the Cowboys I was and still am to this day.” He took me into his home office and among his legal texts he pulled out a battered, old blue canvas 3-ring binder that was loaded with plastic sleeves containing full sets of each Cowboys team he’d collected through his middle schoool years and early high school years. Fair enough, I thought. The added bonus of seeing this sacred binder was the laugh we got out of the ’70s Classic Rock logos he’d doodled all over the front of the binder. It was all the ’70s bands we’ve discussed here along with others not yet raised, such as Rush. I wish I really knew that guy and could get a scan of his old binder so that we could compare all the ’70s contenders in one shot.

  27. misterioso

    Mod, admittedly, ceding this to the Stones logo shows a real lack of imagination, but to state that it came into being “just as they began to take a downturn” is just plain loco. Sticky Fingers and Exile: all bands should decline in like manner.

    May I put in a word for the Byrds logo as used on 5th Dimenion and Younger Than Yesterday (and in later times on the box set and other repackagings)? Do a google search for “Byrds logo” and you will see what I mean. I think it is classic, cool, and distinctive. Plus I like the Byrds, as opposed to, say, Black Flag, though I think I know who would win in a fistfight.

  28. The obvious for me would be The Beatles with the long “t” that donned Ringo’s bass drum. So iconic, think of the video opening for the Anthologies. It’s simple, but recognizable.

    I have Dylan’s “eye logo” tattooed on my arm. But I will admit that it’s certainly not as iconic as the ones mentioned above.

    I’d vote for the AC/DC logo just because it’s everywhere. There’s more parodies and versions of it more than anything.



  29. hrrundivbakshi

    As much as I’d like to pass the trophy to Angel — man, that logo blew my 14 year-old mind back in the day! — I gotta go with AC/DC. Undiscussed Honorable mentions include:

    The (English) Beat

  30. Mr. Moderator

    That Byrds logo is a good one, Mr. Ioso. For those who don’t immediatle picture it:


    I’ll accept your reasoned response to my dismissal of the Stones’ logo, but I’m still sensing this is coming down to KISS vs AC/DC. I still say the fact that KISS makes us long for standardization as a TrueType font on our computers is worth something.

    The Blur logo is a good one that I hadn’t realized was so good:


    The (English) Beat logo is hampered by the variations owing to naming rights in the UK and US. And does it come with the girl or not?

    The Buzzcocks’ logo is another good one that I hadn’t appreciated. Here’s a link to a hi-res version, if you want to print it out and stick it on a binder at work:


    TB, I think it’s cool that you’ve got that Dylan logo as a tattoo. We’ve never done a tattoo-related “Getting to Know You” question before. Stay tuned…

    Here’s a late entry that just came to mind, although I can’t say it knocks KISS or AC/DC out of the squared circle:


  31. Mr. Moderator

    cdm, are we about due for a poll to at least narrow down the contenders? Any new ones to throw into the ring? Is it down to AC/DC and KISS, or is the Stones’ logo still in the ring too, along with Yes, Black Flag, and the Angel/Starz tag team?

  32. I agree that it’s time to let the People decide this one. I really think it’s between KISS and AC/DC, notwithstanding the strong case some people made for the Stones.

    I’d like to throw them all up on a poll but my concern is that people will start voting for their favorite bands as opposed to which band developed the best brand. What do you think? Can these people be trusted to do the right thing? Or should we just have the illusion of free choice and let them decide between the two forerunners? I’ll abide by you decision in this.

  33. Mr. Moderator

    As much as we like to say we’re following the rule of The People, this is a Battle Royale. The People have had their chance to make a grab for the belt. Maybe I’ll scale the choices in the poll back to a Furious Five. Too much rides on this decision to leave water down votes for logos we’ve already suggested ourselves.

  34. BigSteve

    I know it’s a parody of other logos, but I thought I’d mention this one:


    The umlaut over the ‘n’ is brilliant.

  35. misterioso

    By the way, this has all been worth it if only to be reminded of Angel. Hadn’t thought of them in, what, 30 years?

    In the end, I think it has to be KISS. I mean, if we accept the idea that a band having a logo is fairly crass corporate marketing at its best/worst then KISS has to be acknowledged as masters of this. Not that the Stones are too shabby in this department, either.

  36. sammymaudlin

    I’m a designer so my opinion means more. Hands down, without a doubt the Stones lips/tongue is the greatest of all time. As said before, it says Stones instantly, faster than actually reading the bands name. It can be represented with one color. It’s simultaneously cool, obnoxious and a little bit naughty. Just like the Stones.

    The fact that it came six years into their career (after the demise of the rock snob favorite Jones era) actually supports its value. It came late but still is the single iconic image for the Stones.

    My favorite though is the simple, groovy, thick logo of The Stooges. It’s like a Hot Wheels track. Yeah.

  37. What about the Grateful Dead skull with the red, blue and lightning bolt? And I think the Metallica logo is worth a mention also. I’ve certainly seen that one on the back of tons of jean jackets.

  38. Definitely too late now, but the Ramones logo is my favofite.

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