Black and White Punk Art

Before 1977, many records looked a bit like this,

New Seekers

Anyone would think that the early 1970s was populated by a bunch of free-wheeling, crimplene loving hippies, with shag haircuts. Oh wait…

Obviously, there were exceptions. Many of the era’s progressive rock bands released “concept” albums, with sleeves plastered in colourful and serious “conceptual” art work to give them an outward flavour of the profound and brilliant music within.

An airbrushed world of Arthurian legend, vivid sunsets and elements of science fiction spoke from the covers. You could practically smell the patchouli fragranced joss sticks just by looking at them. These covers incorporated images of space, myths and “meaningful” symbolism, and being exactly 12 inches square, would often be chosen to assemble early 70s hippy spliffs on.

And then there was Punk.

Post 1977, record sleeve art work changed dramatically. Gone were the references to Merlin and Lancelot, gone was the sweet smiling hippy band in their flares, and in their place were stark, often black & white images of our new sullen heroes.

Punk not only changed music, its whole aesthetic steered the world away from the pompous and bloated into something cooler, more extreme and much more real. By championing black and white, punk artwork not only stood out, but was a tacit, but very public rejection of the high gloss colour images of previous generation – and with it all their music and their entire value system. These classic early punk record sleeves presented something much closer, something we could actually relate to and even imitate. Even the primitive xerox machine in the library could turn your own artwork or photos into something that looked vaguely similar.

Punk didn’t need expensive art departments or a full colour process to get its message across. In the same way that the noodling progressive covers of the mid seventies hinted at the music within, Punk covers reliably informed you that the plastic disc inside was about to change your world!

By the way there’s an excellent twitter account dedicated to punk art @PunkArt1977 and it’s well worth a follow.


2 thoughts on “Black and White Punk Art

  1. super interesting considering the graphics of punk. the artwork did change a lot of things, even in larger design world.

    1. Thanks for your comment, we agree!

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