Featured Album Cover Artist Portfolio – Mick Haggerty
by Mike Goldstein, Curator, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com
March 24, 2014
Every once in a while, I get to pinch myself with pleasure when I realize that I’ve been given the opportunity to meet and interview many of the talented artists that have created some of the world’s most-iconic album cover images. While, of course, I appreciate most all of the works I’ve featured in these articles, there are certain works that, for my own personal reasons, are deeply-affecting to me and, therefore, are often images that I’ve added to my own art collection, and so when I get a chance to interview the people who’ve produced these particular images, the whole enterprise takes on additional meaning and emotion for me.
In today’s Featured Artist Portfolio, I’m pleased to highlight the accomplishments of a designer who has created more than one of my favorite album covers – that being the supremely talented Mick Haggerty. As someone who has created covers for musical acts both here and in the U.K., it also gives me pleasure to learn more about a small number of covers for bands that, for whatever reason, never had much of a following in the U.S. but, as you’ll see, some of those images will impress you as much (or more) than some of his better-known covers. Great art is great art, no matter whether you’re just seeing it for the first time or appreciating it again for the hundredth time, don’t you agree?
So, without any further delay, please enjoy a selection of works by Mick Haggerty, along with some running commentary provided by the designer himself.
(David Bowie – Tonight, 1984)
Developing a “style” or trademark technique has never interested me much and I tried, when possible, to change it up on every job. When I started doing music “videos” in the 80’s – which were not shot on video at the time, but on 16mm film – and was introduced to the techniques of special effect compositing, my curiosity was tweaked and so I set to build my own studio system. Up to this point, all composited photographs were made by cutting and pasting photo prints and then re-shooting the artwork (like you’ll see on the cover for the Go-Go’s Vacation*). Experimenting with multiple layers or changing exposures or adding effects was virtually impossible, but by exposing photographic images backlit, using mattes, onto a single large format photo negative as they did in movies, the graphic possibilities seemed wide open. When David Bowie called about doing Tonight, he was interested in making a very heroic and exotic image. He mentioned The Green Lady by Tretchikoff and talked about The Knights Templar. I shot a few reference Polaroids of him in his room at The Carlyle Hotel, from which I did the cover portrait drawing and then, dragging a large format camera around New York, assembled a library of images including flowers, time lapse exposures of traffic, and smeared paint. After about a month of work, I emerged from my studio with a single 8″ x 10″ color transparency. All I had done in fact was invent an analog version of Adobe Photoshop, producing an image which now might take me an hour, but back then it was much more laborious and hit and miss, but much more exciting. In this portfolio, using the same method, I also made the Gamma 1 cover along with the piece which gives me the most pleasure – a cover for a special single release in Japan for Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Solid State Survivor.
(Gamma 1 and Yellow Magic Orchestra)
(The Move – The Best of The Move, 1974)
This is an early piece from the mid 70’s for A&M, and I include it not only because I think it still stands up, but also as a reminder of how weird it can get making art for musicians. It was made for a “best of” album for the British band “The Move”. I have always been interested in very saturated, busy images and especially ways to dynamically show movement, so here I really pulled out all the stops. I’m not sure what Roy Wood had been smoking that day, but he took one look and declared “Sorry, it doesn’t have enough impact”, so it was never used. Instead, they settled for a drawing of a removal van! Strangely, I went on to do two more covers for him with the Electric Light Orchestra.
(ELO – Face The Music and The Night The Light Went On In Long Beach)
(Jellyfish – Bellybutton cover spread, 1990)
I did this cover for my friend Steve Samioff, who was the art director at Charisma. I can’t say for sure where the idea of naked girl and toothpaste came from, but I must highly recommend that you not try this at home. The photo shoot went well, and the model was a pleasure to work with, even after spending the better part of a long day naked, covered only in various patterns and colors of toothpaste. It was the next day we got the call from the emergency room, where it seems that the menthol had left her with some very painful and scary lesions which, luckily, went away after a couple of days.
(Jellyfish – Spilt Milk, 1993)
The advice to “never work with animals or children” was proven to be true again. I can only tell you that those tears are real.
(Jerry Lee Lewis – Jerry Lee Lewis, 1979)
Being a long-time admirer of Mr. Lewis, I told the record company that I needed photo references to work from for the cover and I pressed them hard to let me shoot the recording session, and they agreed. I had been kneeling at the end of his piano for a couple of takes when he slammed down the lid and, with the back of his fist, launches a shot glass of bourbon flying over my head to smash against the wall. The session ended, apologies were exchanged, and I got my cover.
(Gamma – 2, 1980)
Ronnie Montrose was a dream to work with and, after showing him sketches, we had fins built, lawns cut, a model chosen, and photos taken to the delight of every one at Elektra Records. That was until the Rolling Stones decided to put up a billboard on Sunset Blvd showing a lady bound and beaten, to advertise Black and Blue. Within hours, as The Stones I’m sure anticipated, there followed demonstrations that blocked the street and closed down nearby record stores. I received a very panicked phone call from the record company saying the cover can’t run because it also “glorifies violence against women”. I pointed out that those were not real sharks and, in the end, we agreed that I reshoot the image with a man and a woman lying on the sun bed. Well, there is just no room for a man and a woman to lie sensibly side by side on a sun bed so, instead, I stripped in a man’s arm. As it turns out, I liked it more that way because the cigarette just adds just a hint of the post-coital.
(Orchestral Maneuvers in The Dark – The Pacific Age, 1986)
I was taking very long trips down to Baja during this period and making crude block prints, so a lot of this was printed on the road.
(OXO – OXO, 1983)
In England, there’s a brand of much-loved bouillon cubes called Oxo, which gave their name as slang for Cubans, or so I was told, since the band was formed by Cuban-American Ish Ledesma of Foxy fame. Warner Records agreed to do three different color versions of the cover, with the name highlighted in different places. I like this cover a lot. How often do you get to cover something in hugs and kisses and it makes sense?
(Jimi Hendrix – Kiss The Sky, 1982)
A labor of love. My attempt to make an icon for an icon. Love you, Jimi.
(Simple Minds – Alive & Kicking, 1985)
Another favorite of mine. It is satisfying to have taken so much out of the type and have it still so legible.
(Keith Richards – Main Offender, 1992)
At first, Keith sent over a shoot by David LaChapelle that he wanted to use. It was a perfectly nice fashion shoot, but nothing “Main Offender” about it, unless you took offense at the inclusion of too many silk scarves. I convinced Keith to let us have a few minutes at the recording studio and primed Dewey Nicks to just take a really confrontational and tough portrait. The lad did well. I didn’t do the type on this one, as it was done perfectly by Tom Dolan.
(Supertramp – Breakfast in America, 1979)
Just when I thought everything that could be said about this had already been said, a friend alerted me to some paranoid blog, certainly manned by some motley collection of conspiracy theorists with tin foil hats, who helpfully pointed out that, although I made this image more than twenty years beforehand, when reversed, it clearly shows the number “9-11” behind the Twin Towers, and forwards it reads “UP”! Damning evidence, for sure. I’m on a list somewhere…..
(Public Image Ltd – 9, 1989)
This was my first image made on a computer. It was a huge noisy Swedish machine I think, that came with a technician and an operator, who was very hard to work with. Again it took days to make an image now so simple for Photoshop. Looking at it now I really love the crudeness. I also loved working with Mr. Lydon. I shot three music videos for him and he was a real inspiration.
(Richard Thompson – Mirror Blue, 1994)
My idea for this cover was to create a “mass produced” plaster statuette of Richard as though he was Elvis or Marilyn. The idea only works because Richard most definitely isn’t Elvis or Marilyn, so presenting the idea was a little tricky, but Richard is one of the funniest fellows you’ll ever meet and just laughed and went for it. We ended up taking the statuettes all over and leaving them at swap meets, thrift shops and on people’s lawns. When I reminded him that the very first cover I ever did back in England was for Fairport Convention, Richard’s seminal folk band, he told me he didn’t care for it much.
(Maria Callas: Tosca comp)
This is pure fantasy. Over the years I’ve made covers that would never really exist, just for my own pleasure. I became fascinated with Los Angeles Chicano prison art. Men behind bars making very elaborate and beautiful drawings, letters really, declaring obsessively love for their missing wives or girl friends, or perhaps just their ideal woman. I looked around for a project at which to try my hand. The iconic stature of Maria Callas paired with the melodrama and treachery of Puccini’s Tosca seemed perfect somehow.
(The Go-Go’s – Vacation)
* Read my interview with Mick Haggerty about his work on the cover for The Go-Go’s 1982 hit record Vacation – http://rockpopgallery.typepad.com/rockpop_gallery_news/2007/09/cover-story-the.html
In the interview, Mick describes his pitch to the record label as an attempt to get them to see the work he’d produce as the first step in a true multi-media campaign. As he states – “Record companies around this time had only just realized that artwork and image actually effected sales, and I exploited that by presenting this image not as just an isolated cover but as a concept which could work in all media – video, press, merchandise, etc. Of course, this meant more fun and work for me, but it also pushed the promotional possibilities for the band and, if it all worked, we would all do well.” It’s a fascinating story and one I know you’ll enjoy reading.
About the artist, Mick Haggerty –
(Mick Haggerty with Jane Wiedlin & Kathy Valentine from The Go-Go’s)
Notable album cover work examples – David Bowie – Let’s Dance, Never Let Me Down and Tonight, The Police – Ghost In The Machine, OMD – The Pacific Age; Supertramp – Breakfast In America; ELO – Face the Music, The Goo Goo Dolls – Gutterflower, The Smithereens – 11 and Stevie Winwood – Roll With It
Born and educated in England, Mick has lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1973. As a freelancer, as well as in his roles as the Art Director for Virgin and Warner Bros. Records, he has put together a hugely impressive list of accomplishments, developing memorable designs and videos for a wide variety of musical artists. He has also influenced many of today’s best new designers in his role as teacher and Chair of the Design Department at the Otis/Parsons School of Art & Design in the LA area. Mick humbly notes that ” that making images for music offered a working class kid from the suburbs of London an amazing escape route, and I jumped at it.”
In 1979, Mr. Haggerty won the Grammy Award for “Best Album Package” along with the late Mike Doud, as the art director for Supertramp’s Breakfast in America. Again in 1983, Haggerty (along with Ginger Canzoneri – The Go-Go’s manager) was again nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Album Package” for The Go-Go’s Vacation. Other nominations include covers for The Pointer Sisters Steppin’ and Glassjaw’s Worship and Tribute.
(The Pointers Sisters – Steppin’ & Glassjaw – Worship and Tribute)
He’s also designed covers for OMD, PiL, Simple Minds, Richard Thompson, Roxy Music, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Lee Lewis, Keith Richards, Roy Orbison, Jellyfish, Ziggy Marley, Hall & Oates and, more recently, Josh Groban, Disturbed, and Michael Buble.’
As a graphic designer now turned full-time fine artist, Mick now spends most of his time shuttling with his family between his studios in South Africa and Southern California and, when not working on design projects, still spends every day he has in his studio. “Pushing paint around for its own sake is the most pure form of joy I have found”, he says.
To see more of Mick Haggerty’s work, please visit his website at http://www.mickhaggerty.com
All images featured in this story are Copyright 1974 – 2014 Mick Haggerty – All rights reserved – and are used by the artist’s permission. Except as noted, all other text Copyright 2014 – Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com (www.albumcoverhalloffame.com) & RockPoP Productions – All rights reserved.