Symbols are an important aspect of a band’s image. Ironically, during the days when band logos were the most iconic, maybe they didn’t matter as much. Today, we live in the world of marketing and images, and in general, we associate things more with visuals. In the internet age, oversaturation leads to a necessity for more unique branding.
You would be hard-pressed to find a band with a better symbol than any of the ’60s or ’70s ones, these days. Whether it is the Rolling Stones ‘tongue and lips,’ or The Grateful Dead’s skull with its lightning bolt, it seemed like everything music-related was just better.
Ask any marketeer, and they will tell you, a logo can do a lot. Whether it’s used now, in the ultra modern world of brand recognition or back in the golden age of rock when drawing logos on your notepad signified you were apart of the same secret rock gang.
Aside from being designed to grab the attention of passing music lovers, how did some of the greatest rock logos come about? We delved into the six most iconic logos associated with some of rock n’ roll’s greatest acts to find out.
Rock’s most iconic logos
The Doors’ iconic logo is one of the most memorable ones in the history of rock. It’s a slight juxtaposition considering that The Doors were a psychedelic band and were represented by geometric shapes in the lettering.
It is bold and effective, displaying the duality of their sound, ‘The’ in front of ‘doors’ is the only psychedelic part otherwise it is pure modernity.
Bill Harvey, who was the head of the Elektra Records art department, is said to have designed it. The ‘e’ in Elektra is similar in design to the lettering of The Doors’ logo.
The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead’s ‘Steal Your Face’ skull logo has definitely stood the test of time as one of the most iconic logos and has even outlasted other logos associated with the band.
The Grateful Dead have the dancing bears, skull and roses, and the uncle sam skeleton, none of which are as iconic as the ‘steal your face’ logo which you can see below.
Allegedly, the idea for the skull with the circle containing the lightning bolt came from the band’s soundman, Stanley Owsley. The idea eventually found its way to Bob Watson who later developed it into what it is now.
The Rolling Stones
Everybody knows the Rolling Stones’ iconic tongue and lips that sprung forth from an image of Kali, the Goddess of destruction. Some may not know that it was developed by an unknown British artist, John Pasche and not Andy Warhol.
Andy Warhol, instead, helped design the artwork for Sticky Fingers, on which the logo was rolled out. Many also think that it is supposed to resemble Mick Jaggers’ tongue and lips — this isn’t the case.
Still, no matter where you are in the world, everyone will be able to recognise this as The Rolling Stones.
Jimmy Page said about the logo: “After all this crap that we’d had with the critics, I put it to everybody else that it’d be a good idea to put out something totally anonymous.” It was a smart move but not without its reactions.
“At first, I wanted just one symbol on it, but then it was decided that since it was our fourth album and there were four of us, we could each choose our own symbol,” he added. “I designed mine, and everyone else had their own reasons for using the symbols that they used.”
Each of the symbols was designed around something exclusive to the individual band members. Astrology, for instance, was a determiner of how the members designed their own symbol, but it still garnered a serious impact thanks to its mysterious nature.
This iconic punk logo was designed by Arturo Vega, who thought the irony of using the U.S President’s Seal for a punk band would be good, but even better — it would be iconic for an American punk band.
“With the eagle holding arrows – to symbolise strength and the aggression that would be used against whoever dares to attack us – and an olive branch, offered to those who want to be friendly,” recalled Arturo Vega.
Things would soon transform into a complete picture of the band. “But we decided to change it a little bit. Instead of the olive branch, we had an apple tree branch, since the Ramones were American as apple pie. And since Johnny was such a baseball fanatic, we had the eagle hold a baseball bat instead of the arrows,” according to Vega.
Another iconic logo that probably everyone recognises, partly because the name is in the logo. The logo was created in collaboration between Atlantic Records art director Bob Defrin, and graphic designer Gerard Huerta.
The font of the lettering was chosen by Huerta, which he found in the Gutenberg Bible. AC/DC brothers and founders, Angus and Malcolm Young chose the name after they saw AC/DC written on their sister’s sewing machine.
The logo has gone on to almost transcend the band and their sound and instead become a rich part of pop culture’s iconography.