September 4, 2008  |  Design


Pop/graphic artist JOHN PASCHE’s original artwork for THE ROLLING STONES‘ iconic lips & tongue logo—based on Mick Jagger’s big mouth—has just been bought by the VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM in London for $92,500 USD. The acquisition funds were secured with the help of The Art Fund charity, which donated 50% of the cost. The 14-inch square color separated, handpainted artwork comes with a color print. Paid just paid £50 for creating the artwork in 1970 while still an art student at the Royal College of Art at Jagger’s request, Pasche’s enduring image has since become one of the most recognized pieces of graphic art in the world and an icon of an era. The logo’s first use was on the inner sleeve of the 1971 Album “Sticky Fingers” featuring cover art by Andy Warhol, a fact that led to the Pop artist being erroneously credited for the image since its inception. The newly acquired piece will be housed in the V&A’s permanent collection, which represents largest assemblage of decorative arts and design in the world. The fact that Pasche used to wander the halls of the museum as an art student is a particularly fitting bit of irony. To read the full story of the logo’s creation, READ ON:

Story courtesy CREATIVE REVIEW:

You’re the lead singer in the biggest band in the world and you need someone to design a poster for your next tour – what do you do? If you’re Mick Jagger in 1970 you call up the Royal College of Art and ask them to recommend a student to do it.

A hairy Pasche in 1969…

So it was that John Pasche began a working relationship with the band that produced one of the most memorable and widely recognized graphic devices ever created. Pasche was part of a talented group of graphics students at the college – his contemporaries including George Hardie and Storm Thorgerson. Following Jagger’s phone call to the college, he went along for a meeting with the star, the upshot of which was a pastiche of a 1930s travel poster which was used to promote the Stones’ English tour that year.


Later, Jagger called back. The Stones were going to launch their own label and they needed a logo, could Pasche design it? He met with Jagger again where the singer “talked about things he liked and things he didn’t like, nothing too specific,” explains Pasche, “and then I just had this idea”. While an obvious reference to Jagger’s features (not especially flattering, but Jagger didn’t seem to mind) Pasche says that the main reason that the thick red lips and sticking out tongue seemed so right was because it was blatantly anti-authoritarian and “they were still the bad boys of rock and roll at the time”. The style came out of Pasche’s fascination with Pop Art – its directness and simplicity, he says, “is probably why it stood the test of time”. The fact that both it and the band have (save one or two personnel changes) remained basically the same has turned it into an icon.


One of the first jobs to use the logo was the sleeve for the Sticky Fingers album which famously featured a photograph by Andy Warhol of a well-filled pair of jeans on the front and a real zip for the fly (the zip caused all kinds of problems, damaging both the record inside and other albums placed next to it). Pasche was given the Warhol artwork and asked to complete the packaging by designing the inner sleeve, for which he used his new logo. Unfortunately, because of Warhol’s involvement, it is Warhol, rather than Pasche, who is often credited with the design of the logo.


The original Sticky Fingers album cover and vinyl sleeve

Until 1974, Pasche worked as the Stones’ designer. He always dealt directly with Jagger who, he says, “was very interested and knowledgeable about art history and graphic design. He’s always taken a lot of interest in everything graphical and photographical related to the band and he understands the importance of image”. Once Jagger was satisfied with a design, says Pasche, “he would get the rest of the band to rubber stamp it, but he was always the leader.”

Pasche went on to forge a career in the music business, as an art director at United Artists, then creative director at Chrysalis. Up until three years ago he was creative director for London’s South Bank Centre and now runs his own studio.

It was, he felt, the right time to part with the Stones artwork and put it up for auction through Chicago-based Mastro. The V&A had previously asked about loaning it for a forthcoming exhibition. Hearing of the sale, they decided to acquire it for their permanent collection. Victoria Broackes, Head of Exhibitions, V&A Theatre and Performance Collections, is convinced of its importance: “The Rolling Stones ‘Tongue’ is one of the first examples of a group using branding and it has become arguably the world’s most famous rock logo,” she says.

“It was a fantastic break for me,” says Pasche of the original commission. And one that would be unlikely to be repeated today. The current state of design for the music industry is, says Pasche “a great shame, but when you’ve got downloads who needs packaging anymore? I just feel lucky to have been part of a period when [working in the record business] was exciting.”

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