Stealing art

Good to hear last year’s Turner Prize winner Martin Boyce confessing to stealing record sleeves in his student days, specifically Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures. “What drew him to study art was also the act of looking. In a record shop as a teenager, he once stole a record sleeve (the vinyl was kept behind the counter) for its design. He didn’t actually hear the record until years later,” ran the story after the award was announced. And as we’ve seen on ST33, so many covers went missing at Our Price stores that they printed up their own replacement sleeves.
As for the Unknown Pleasures sleeve which so fascinated Boyce (Issued on Factory, 1979), Peter Saville explained the way the finished design came about to The Guardian in May 2011.

Joy Division Unknown Pleasures sleeve Peter Saville
“This was the first and only time that the band gave me something that they’d like for a cover. I went to see Rob Gretton, who managed them, and he gave me a folder of material, which contained the wave image from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy. They gave me the title too but I didn’t hear the album. The wave pattern was so appropriate. It was from CP 1919, the first pulsar, so it’s likely that the graph emanated from Jodrell Bank, which is local to Manchester and Joy Division. And it’s both technical and sensual. It’s tight, like Stephen Morris’ drumming, but it’s also fluid: lots of people think it’s a heart beat. Having the title on the front just didn’t seem necessary. I asked Rob about it and, between us, we felt it wasn’t a cool thing to do. It was the post-punk moment and we were against overblown stardom. The band didn’t want to be pop stars.”

The image now turns up on all sorts of tacky merchandise, from sports shoe soles to bags…

About simon robinson

Having worked as a graphic designer in the music industry, mainly in the reissue sector, I now concentrate on the design and publication of books about popular culture - and even write some of them.
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