CULT ROCK POSTERS 1972-1982
Roger Crimlis & Alwyn W Turner
published September 2006
by Aurum in the UK and Billboard in the USA
and by Blues Interactions, Inc in Japan
extracted from Chapter 1: Driving Me Backwards
‘Glam rock,’ John Lennon once pointed out, ‘is just rock & roll with lipstick on.’ Which didn’t really do justice to the lipstick. Because lipstick was essentially what the best of 1970s rock was all about, from the Pierre Laroche-applied gloss of David Bowie and the black void of Lou Reed, through the ironic scarlet-lipped starlets Debbie Harry and Siouxsie, to the painted pout of Adam Ant. The lipstick killers of the ‘70s deliberately turned their backs on the legacy of the late ‘60s, replacing authenticity with artifice, careful craftsmanship with carefree playfulness and dressing down with dressing up. Appearances were, if not everything, then at least an integral part of everything. Everything that mattered.
It began in the early summer of 1972 when glam broke through as a major force in the British charts. Initially seen by the high-minded end of the music establishment as a novelty of limited appeal and dubious merit, this strange new genre nonetheless announced the arrival of a visually literate strand in rock that was to set the agenda for the next decade and beyond. Both glam and punk – the continuation of glam by other means – self-consciously set standards that reasserted the primacy of style and image in popular culture.
In an era when promo-films scarcely existed, when rock on TV was a strictly rationed affair and when the first glossy music magazine had yet to be printed, the poster was one of the few means available of conveying that image to fans and potential fans. ‘Did you hang my picture on your wall?’ Gary Glitter demanded in his 1973 hit ‘Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again’, and both he and his audience knew it was a rhetorical question. Posters were a shorthand declaration of intent, asserting allegiances, fuelling fantasies and letting friends know where one stood in the grand scheme of rock & roll. Whether they were record shop displays, fly-posters, gig promotions, magazine centrefolds or commercial cash-ins available from Woolworth’s, posters were everywhere. And they were as crucial to the artists as they were to the fans.
The posters featured in this book are predominantly of musicians from an artistic tradition in British and American rock that found new expression in the 1970s. Mostly photographic, mostly focused on imagery of the band, they aim to communicate a direct and simple message. If there is a single theme, then it is one of attitude and approach: the idea that, as epitomized by the Ramones, every aspect of a performer’s work should be a coherent, unified whole. ‘I deliver a complete package,’ Bryan Ferry explained early on in Roxy Music’s career; ‘something not only has to sound good, but also has to feel good and look good.’ Detail was everything: theoretically it should have been possible to take a sample from Bowie’s Yakamoto-designed knitted body-stocking and, from the cultural DNA, recreate the entirety of Ziggy Stardust. Or the spirit of punk from the ripped graphics in a Jamie Reid poster for the Sex Pistols...