Apr 182011

Just got back from Boston with the Fam. While there we checked out the kinda cool ICA museum, where they had an exhibit The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl. Most was just so-so, but they had the original David Byrne More Songs About Building and Food artwork, which was way larger than I imagined (90″x90″) Typically I don’t dig musicians doing cover art. I don’t know why—it smacks of “look at me-ism,” to me. But that cover was very cool. I don’t think even Beefheart did much of his own cover art. Maybe David Thomas? Anyway, this has probably been hashed over, but is it proper for musicians to do their own covers—except for the Head, that is?


  15 Responses to “Musicians as Artists”

  1. tonyola

    I don’t see why not. Captain Beefheart did two of his own covers – Shiny Beast and Doc At The Radar Station. Dylan did his own cover for Self-Portrait. Quite a few indie artists have done their own too. It all depends on how it turns out, and even that is subjective.

  2. Hey man, sometimes a deadline is fast approaching, no one else seems to know what’s in your head, you fire up, and pull an all-nighter doing the best you can. Why not? 🙂

    Seriously, in an ideal world I see nothing wrong with the musicians having at least a say in the direction of the album cover with a real graphics person like sammymaudlin, Barry Brooks, Karen Schmidt, or the late Eric Peterson executing the concept. Being a control freak I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think, imagine if I were laid back and let the label make all the graphic decisions and then was presented this as my band’s debut album cover:


    Or maybe that was the work of one of those Alvin brothers, in which case I’m in FULL agreement with you!

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    Your beloved Minutemen did their own cover art a few times. A few others I can think of:

    Roy Wood
    Ron Wood
    Joni Mitchell

    … and almost all of those suck!

  4. pudman13

    This isn’t entirely on topic, but it’s close. I’ve always wondered why so many album covers with drawings or paintings of the bands are so awful. Who actually said OK to them?

    An example:
    “Gee…let’s pick a drawing that makes us look reallllllllllllly ugly!”

    I can’t imagine any artwork by a band member could be any worse.

  5. We (The Dead Milkmen) worked on all our own cover art. We insisted on it. I usually at least did the main artwork and concepts ideas but would sometimes get expert help with digital file layout. Massive hat tip to Karen Schmidt in Philly who has provided excellent help in creating cover art for many local bands who wanted to keep creative control over their image and “vision”.

    I remember working up to the last minute on the color separated overlays for the Big Lizard LP art right up to the day of our first tour…this is before computers and they had to be cut by hand from “Amberlith”…

  6. I thought you did most of your covers. A couple of iconic ones come to mind!

    And Mad props to you for helping us make our vision of our second record come as true as possible, not to mention the high degree of difficulty you faced in creating the chucken logo.

  7. 2000 Man

    I’ve seen the original art for Talking Heads, too. That thing is HUGE! It’s really neat, too.

    Neko Case makes a strong case (I couldn’t think of another way to phrase that right now, and I gotta go) for being in control of her own artwork. Middle Cyclone is one of the best album covers ever. She even auctioned off her car not too long ago.


  8. There is always one member of the band who is an aspiring artist (or a real one) who jumps at the chance, since nobody else will actually go to the trouble of working on it or hiring (and paying) somebody. That person has always been me.

  9. BigSteve

    I don’t think even Beefheart did much of his own cover art.

    No, but did you know that The Mascara Snake (Don’s cousin Victor Hayden) did the cover art for Beefheart’s worst album, the dreaded Bluejeans & Moonbeams?


  10. With one exception, I’ve always done the album artwork myself, and even with the exception, I consulted with the painter beforehand.

  11. Some album art that I’ve liked done by the musician —

    Chrs Mars of The Replacements did the artwork for both his solo records — and now he’s a full time artist, no music any more.

    Don Dixon’s wife the wonderful Marti Jones is a painter who did her own cover on My Long-Haired Life.

    Rickie Lee Jones had done some nice covers too.

  12. shawnkilroy

    Psycho Killer-early definitive hit
    Burning Down The House-bigger hit with identity intact

    The One I Love-because it’s their only good song
    Stand-because it’s so fucking jive, like the rest of their work

  13. shawnkilroy

    in an effort to not look at other people’s answers, i put this in the wrong thread.

  14. Besides Bryne it is probably best for the musician to go with a low-key sketch (not “Serious Art”) if they want to design their own cover. Lennon’s doodles work http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JohnLennon-albums-wallsandbridges.jpg, http://www.flickr.com/photos/yokoonoofficial/3386563836/ as does this not so serious Entwistle cover http://www.thewho.com/index.php?module=discography&discography_item_id=68

  15. I always did our album covers too, with mixed results.

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