The art of noise

Popular music and visual imagery go hand in hand. Whether mainstream or counter-culture, artists have celebrated their wares via album covers, posters and flyers throughout history.

According to The Art of British Rock, a new book by Mike Evans, the British rock poster begins within the context of small print runs made possible through offset lithography and the advent of screen printing.

’As such, the history of the British rock poster runs alongside that of general British poster art and graphic design, but is in most ways an entirely separate story,’ writes Evans. Rather,the posters associated with popular music come from a parallel ’vernacular’ tradition of printing, poster design and sign-writing stemming from 19th-century variety playbills, painted shopfronts and popular book jackets.

Early rock posters would advertise 1960s ’beat boom’ gigs, and local printers would create more off-the-cuff, improvised posters consisting mostly of text, according to Evans. The Art of British Rock charts rock art’s development throughout the decades, from those beginnings to the influence of art schools in the late 1960s, the explosion of psychedelic poster art, the visceral and home-made approach of 1970s Punk and the advances of the digital age in the 1990s.

’Every development in rock music – be it progressive rock, Punk, Britpop or techno rock – has triggered an accompanying innovation in graphic style,’ writes Evans. ’The sheer scope of styles and techniques in contemporary posters and album packaging is as great as the music it was created for.’

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