Last week in lecture we were discussing how there was a big design shift from the 50’s to the 60’s. The Beatles for me anyway, came to thought on this monumental shift. At the beginning in their career they were the vision of the 50’s clean cut style through and through, however they later became one of the driving forces in the 60’s rebellion and psychadelic scene. I thought I would use them as an example again, this time to address the use of colour in their album covers and design, and how perfectly they reflect their views, music and style of the time.
The Beatles, Beatles For Sale (1964)
This is “Beatles For Sale”, the fourth studio album from the Fab 4. Released in 64′ It is the first album to feature a full colour photograph of the band. The album marked a minor turning point in the evolution of the Lennon-McCartney partnership. With John Lennon now showing interest in composing songs of a more autobiographical nature. The songs on this album were a lot more downbeat, you could say, compared to there previous three albums. This seems to not only reflect in the bands facial expressions on the cover, but also in the cover of it. The saturation of the cover seems to show a certain deepness and warmth, something The Beatles were trying to start to obtain in there music at the time, there were starting to become a lot more philosophical in there music, not just trying to reproduce the same pop sound.
The colour shows this as well, as you can see there is a lot of orange used. A colour known to represent creativity and successes. To the eye it gives a sense of warmness, but hippness without seeming aggressive. As well as an orange flare on the cover, there is also a green one. Green is usually representing the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness. All aspects the Beatles probably wanted to be connected with the band, they were still trying to sell albums to the youth, and this warm cover gives a sense of safety, making it also appealing to the parents buying them. However, the contrast against their black suits and hair is also very striking and gives the sense of sharpness and power.
They are also doing something with the season. The orange and green also reflect what seems to be a change in the season between the green of summer and the orange of fall. It also creates a warmth correlated with the season, and harvest. It feels like it is signifying a new start, or the end of an era. Possibly representing the end of their “clean cut, teen” music. In literature autumn is often seen as a symbol of maturity and wisdom. Something The Beatles would want people to think about them and their music at this point in there career.
The Bealtes, Rubber Soul (1965)
Rubber Soul is the sixth studio LP by English rock group, recorded in just over four weeks to make the Christmas market. The album was described as a major artistic achievement, attaining widespread critical and commercial success, with reviewers taking note of the Beatles’ developing musical vision. Basically, this was the first album that broke them out of that “teeny bopper” pop image, and let them be viewed as real musicians. We see this change immensely through the album artwork.
For starters, you may have noticed, “The Beatles” is not written anywhere on the album, maybe signifying the fact that they felt they wanted people to appreciate the album and the band for what it was musically, not because of the big name. They probably wanted to shed the connotations the band had with its name at this point, and show that they were musicians not just a boy band, if you will. But, instead of taking off there clothes and twerking to shed this teen image (cough.. Miley… cough) they did it through their album artwork to create and created an image for their new sound.
Firstly, like the “Beatles for Sale” album we see that saturation of colour again, this time it’s in the text. That saturated red, it’s so close to almost brown or orange, it creates an earthy and warm tone. Musically it gives off a folky feel, which matches the raw and folk inspired album tracks very nicely. However this saturated, vintage red text is nicely contrasted with this distorted dark blue photograph of the band. This mix of this cool photo, and the warm text really creates depth to the design, complementing the depth the Beatles were achieving in their lyrics and melodies. The darkness of the photo also adds to the professionalism, and makes the band appear to be really serious and professional musicians.
The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Sgt. Pepper is the eighth studio album, and recognized as the #1 album of all time. The album cover was actually designed by one of my personal favourite artists, Peter Blake, who is most famous for his collages. An aspect used greatly on this LP. The lyrics were even printed in full on the back cover, the first time this had been done on a rock LP. Following the likes of Rubber Soul, the continuing artistic maturation further departed the Beatles from the conventional pop of the time. They were now incorporating balladry, psychedelics and symphonic influences in there music. All of which is represented through the iconic album artwork, especially in the colour.
Unlike any other album from the Beatles, Sgt. Pepper uses very bright colours. With the bright blue sky, bright green trees and flowers contrasting the dark, red-brown mud and of course John, Ringo, Paul and George all decked out in bright psychedelic day-glo band uniforms. First of, the bright high saturated colours used together hugely attracts attention, good for record sales. It also gives the piece very dynamic qualities. It also gives it a sense of fun, and greatly represents the psychedelic, hippie image the Beatles would have wanted at the time. It also seems they use some slightly darker colours around the band to really make their unnaturally bright uniforms pop, giving a sense of almost divineness to the band themselves. The cover is almost like drugs themselves, it gives the appearance of what the world might look like on an acid trip, there is so much colour, and things to look at, it is visually very stimulating.
FUN FACT: John Lennon wanted desperately to have Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler represented on the album, but the record company made sure they were both left out.
The Beatles, Yellow Submarine (1969)
Yellow Submarine is the tenth studio album. It was released as the soundtrack to accompany the movie of the same name. The film and album was geared towards children. The album cover itself displays this very well. With a simple, bright primary colour scheme. it also uses complimentary colours affectively, it intensify each other and are extremely eye-catching and vibrant. Though the vibrant contrasting scheme also displays that psychedelic look they would have wanted at this time as well.
After looking deeper into this, it certainly has changed the way I view album artwork, it is not something that is just visually interesting, it does have important meaning, and to be affective and timeless it really does have to say something about the music and the artist.