’Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,’ so the saying goes, but how do you pay tribute to one of the most iconic album covers of the 1970s? To honour the late illustrator, cartoonist and designer Ray Lowry, 30 artists have produced new artworks interpreting his cover for The Clash’s London Calling.
Lowry created a cult following contributing to Punch, Private Eye and NME, for which he produced cartoons, strips and illustrations. His concept for London Calling used a Pennie Smith shot of Paul Simonon smashing his bass guitar, which had been rejected by Smith as out of focus. Superimposed with a title drawn in pink and green lettering borrowed from Elvis Presley’s debut album, the cover was named in the top ten of album covers of all time by Q magazine.
For Ray Lowry: London Calling at the Idea Generation Gallery, the artists have all looked at how Lowry influenced their art. The results include a typographic collage from Billy Childish and a take on Andrew Farrington’s photographic portrait of Lowry from Liam Spencer, as well as work from Harry Hill, Malcolm Garrett, MP Ed Vaizey and comedian Arthur Smith.
The works will be exhibited alongside a retrospective of Lowry’s work, which includes the original sketches and designs for the cover plus private sketches, letters and photographs.
Exactly what makes an iconic album cover – worthy of imitation and flattery – is, of course, an inexact science. As Lowry said of The Clash cover, ’I had no idea that [the photograph] was out of focus. [I was] half blind at the best of times… [but] that simply had to be the one.’
Ray Lowry: London Calling is on at the Idea Generation Gallery, 11 Chance Street, London E2 from 18 June to 4 July