Pop Art Meets the Rock Band

Emily Rothkopf

Pop Art, like a 1960’s rock band, was a rebel, breaking its industry’s established mold and using its platform as a means for commentary on popular culture.  “It was a ‘cool’ or emotionally distanced response to the world, an orientation towards youth and hedonism, and witty irreverence about everything ranging from religion to art,” (Shanes 2009).  It’s no wonder that the Pop Art movement and the Rock ‘n’ Roll era collided in the examples below.

The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Album Cover

By the late 1960s, The Beatles began to shed their “Beatlemania” image – one that evoked a classic boy-band charm and mass appeal.  The psychedelic era had taken over with its vivid colors and textured fabrics, in sharp contrast to the traditional monochromatic, simplistic imagery of the previous regime.  The Beatles 1967 album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band clearly depicts this shift.  The Beatles, in conjunction with artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, created the cover in a Pop Art format that simultaneously celebrated popular culture and parodied the “vacuity of mass-consumption, as typified by…objects of worship such as…the pop idol and the Hollywood superstar” (Shanes 2009).

Blake and Haworth’s creation was unlike anything the art world had ever seen and is oft imitated to this day.  In broad terms, it was a densely arranged collage that was constructed in a life-size set.  The overly colorful collage was a “who’s-who” in pop culture, consisting of cut-out, black-and-white celebrity photographs, and wax and stuffed cloth figures.  One of the notable cloth figures was of Shirley Temple, adorned in a “Welcome The Rolling Stones” sweater (Wikipedia 2014), which depicted the depth and reach of the mass-consumption culture.  The cut-outs were pasted onto hardboard, which Haworth hand-tinted, giving them a more eclectic vibe.  A variety of props were also added to the set, including: a flower bed, a drum, a hookah and a 9-inch Sony television set (Hutchinson 2013).  This wide range of items symbolizes the mass-consumption again, not only in a literal sense with items like a television set, but also in a metaphorical sense with the crowded, excess feel of the final image.

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The Beatles 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover; source: wikipedia.com

The Rolling Stones Some Girls Album Cover

Almost a decade later, The Rolling Stones released Some Girls with a similarly Pop Art inspired album cover.  Artists Peter Corriston and Hubert Kretzschmar designed the cover that featured The Rolling Stones in garish drag alongside select female celebrities and magazine ads (Wikipedia 2014).  Kretzschmar used the collage technique, taking black-and-white celebrity photographs from entertainment tabloids, movie stills, and Hollywood press material.  Corriston employed dye cutting and borrowed wig ads from Jet magazine in his work.  The result was a bold, graphic look (Hood 2011).

One of the themes in Pop Art as depicted in the Some Girls album cover, is society’s obsession with beauty and the female icon.  Many works in this genre portray the perfectly coiffed female as if she has just left the salon.  Additionally, a female celebrity is often incorporated with colored lips or eye shadow by tinting an original black-and-white image.  The Some Girls cover takes this a step further directly transposing the celebrity images, with imperfectly tinted red lips, into wig ads.  The female images alone evoke a comedic vibe — a parody of the beauty salon culture.  The male band members in drag simply cement the comedic intent.

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The Rolling Stones 1978 Some Girls original album cover; source: wikipedia.com

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The collage style found in these notable album covers is perhaps the precursor to today’s photoshopped and remixed culture.  Pop Art of the 1960s – 1980s had a more shocking, overtly cut-and-paste approach to the remix, whereas today’s works tend to be more blended, and easily understood and accepted.  Perhaps the concepts behind Pop Art have just become a norm for all art forms.  So while the traditional rock band as the baby-boomer generation knew it may have died, Pop Art is still alive and well in the music world…

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Lady Gaga’s 2013 Artpop album cover; source: wikipedia.com

Works Cited

Hood, John. “Some Girls: The Facts About the Stones’ Most Notorious Record Cover.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Dec. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Hutchinson, Lydia. “The Sgt. Pepper’s Album Cover: Faces in the Crowd.” Performing Songwriter. Performing Songwriter Ent. LLC, 30 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2014

“Jann Haworth.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Kimmelman, Michael. “Art Out of Anything: Rauschenberg in Retrospect.” The New York Times, 23 Dec. 2005. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Shanes, Eric. Pop Art. N.p.: Parkstone International, 2009. Print.

“Some Girls.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.