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Music

How John Squire paid tribute to Jackson Pollock

Visual art and music have a fruitful and longstanding relationship. Whether it be visual art augmenting the sonic brilliance of a record or music created specifically to accompany a piece or series of visual art, it’s a symbiotic relationship where you can’t have one without the other. In the music industry, if you’ve created an exceptional record, it’s imperative that you find a perfect piece of artwork for the cover, as often it can be the deciding factor in whether an album becomes iconic or not.

The work of Andy Warhol with The Velvet Underground helped to make the band’s artworks some of the most memorable of all time, and now we see that bright yellow print of a banana smattered across popular culture. From this, you could argue that since the success of the Warhol/Velvet Underground partnership in the ’60s the audio-visual relationship in the music industry has been essential to triumph, be it artistic or commercial. 

Another band whose artworks are as legendary as their music is Manchester legends The Stone Roses. Fusing baggy with the jangly essence of countercultural outfits such as The Byrds, their music and artwork was a perfect combination and remain some of the most iconic of the era. Famously, the front cover of the band’s debut album, 1989’s The Stone Roses, features a bold Jackson Pollock-style artwork, accompanied by lemons, the French tricolour and the band’s name. 

Created by guitarist John Squire, the lemons were a nod to the antidote to teargas used by protestors in the Paris riots of 1968, however, the cover’s defining point is the Pollockian “drip technique” used. This homage to Pollock would be something that the band would become known for. 

John Squire: The Stone Roses and beyond

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The piece utilised on the cover is entitled ‘Bye Bye Badman’, after the band’s song of the same name, and during a catalogue for a 2004 show at London’s ICA, Squire said: “I actually wasn’t happy with it, which is why the tricolour ended up on there – that and the situationist theme of the song.”

Discussing his tributes to Jackson Pollock on the band’s other covers, Squire explained to The Guardian in 2004: “Apart from untitled, I made the album covers on canvasses that are roughly four times the size of a vinyl album. They were straight rip-offs of Jackson Pollock’s done in that style. I did enjoy it and I learned a lot from it, but there was nothing new in it. I’ll carry on painting but I’m not interested in being a record designer. And I doubt the record companies would want me either.”

Squire’s homage to the American expressionist didn’t end there either. Be it in promotional photographs or on he and bassist Mani‘s splattered guitars, Pollock’s “drip technique” became a defining facet of The Stone Roses’ career and style. Aside from the music, it remains their most memorable defining feature.

A stellar homage from a budding expressionist to one of the masters, Squire’s artwork for The Stone Roses is nothing short of iconic.

Listen to ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ below.