Monthly Archives: February 2012

Graphic Design: Soviet Space Posters

I don’t know the exact years for these posters – I would imagine early 1950’s all the way to late 1960’s. As you may know, there was a huge race between the US and Russia to see who would get into outer space first. Russia won with the first rocket to hold a living animal (a dog) in 1951 and also the first unmanned orbit of Earth in 1955. The competion was hot, and a lot of time and money was spent to make the citizens of each country aware of the importance of the space program. The Soviets printed these posters, some pure propaganda, some simply informative – all extremely heroic, to boost their program. They are all extremely cool, beautifully designed and printed with great illustrations, vivid colors and interesting type usage.

Big Fan/Style: The Specials

The Specials (The Specials AKA) – The Specials came from Coventry England and started life as The Coventry Automatics, changing their name to The Specials AKA The Coventry Automatics (that’s a mouthful) and finally and gratefully, The Specials. They were the leaders of what became known as the Ska Revival of the late 70’s (along with Madness, The Selecter, et al). It was a mix of punk speed and ethos and Jamaican Ska beats (pre-reggae) and it would become huge in England. The Specials were more political then the rest, singing about racism, poverty and unemployment and looked good doing it in their mix of rude-boy suits, pork pie hats and Fred Perry polos. They weren’t made to last though and would disintegrate 3 years later (1980) with “internal disagreements” – each would go on to form or play in different bands, most notably, Terry Hall (singer) and Lynval Golding (guitar) and Neville Staple (vocals, toasting) would form The Fun Boy 3 and have a hit w/ ‘Our Lips are Sealed’. The Specials would reform again in 2009 with all the original members, minus founder Jerry Dammers, to tour to sold out audiences. Their biggest hit – “Ghost Town” number 1 in the UK in 1980. (you’ve heard it in Shawn of the Dead and a bunch of other movies, if not on the radio).

The break-up band The Fun Boy 3

35 years later

Everyone Loves: Myrna Loy

Myrna Loy – Myrna Adele Williams (August 2, 1905 – December 14, 1993) Myrna Loy was perfect. She was crazy   beautiful but somehow approachable and cool. Her biggest hits were the Thin Man series (6 movies)  playing Nora Charles, the rich quick witted heiress and wife to erudite private detective Nick Charles (Powell). They drank, they joked, they solved crimes – they were the perfect married couple (on screen). Check out the Thin Man movies – you’ll be a fan forever.

The Thin Man w/ William Powell and Asta

A very young Myrna Loy

Wings in the Dark w/ Cary Grant

The Mask of Fu Manchu

20 years old

Design: Dime Mystery

Dime Mystery Magazine started publication in 1932 (as Dime Mystery Book) featuring a full novel and a few short stories. After 10 unsuccesful issues it was changed to it’s current title and featured novelettes focusing on, what became known as “Weird Menace” stories. Demented doctors, crazed pirates, bad priests, evil spiders, etc. became the standard. By the looks of these if you were a woman during this time you didn’t stand a chance.  This format worked much better and had a pretty good run until it closed shop in 1950. Garishly designed with lurid cover paintings, Dime Mystery Magazine certainly stood out on the crowded magazine racks of the 30’s-50’s.

Dig Your Own Murder

Hell Comes in Bottles

Dance of the Death Doll

The Seven Arms of Terror

The Beauty Shop of Horrors

Mistress of the Worm-Men

Beware the Boneless Death!

Maker of the Faceless Ones

Lure of the Fox-Woman

Photographers: Francis Wolff

Francis Wolff (1907 or 1908  – March 8, 1971) Francis Wolff worked for Blue Note Records in the 50’s and 60’s in a number of capacaties – as producer, accountant, executive – and as a photographer. Wolff was the fly on the wall for most of Blue Notes’ most important sessions and he took pictures of everything and everyone. His photos were used on a huge number of LP covers (the below photo being Coltranes’ Blue Train session) and are still used for the reissues of the Blue Note library.

John Coltrane

Miles Davis

Baby Face Willette

Sonny Rollins

Herbie Hancock


Philly Joe Jones

Coltrane and Lee Morgan

Thelonius Monk

Sonny Rollins

Max Roach

Style: Soul Train

With the passing of Don Cornelius (September 27, 1936 – February 1, 2012) a few weeks back, it’s time to appreciate the majesty that was Soul Train. Premiering on Aug. 1st 1970 and finally derailing in 2006, Soul Train remains the longest running syndicated TV show in history. Sometimes called The Black American Bandstand (a comparrison Cornelius hated) it opened a window into black music and fashion throughout the 70’s and 80’s. The show would always have a musical guest (Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Shaka Kahn, The Tops, The Temps, etc) who would perform 2 songs and a short interview. And then came the Soul Train Dancers Line – 2 rows of dancers meeting up to dance down the line showing their best moves and finest outfits. As a white kid growing up in Detroit this was astonishing – and the primary reason why I still love The O’Jays hit Backstabber.

"... and you can bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I'm Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!"

The Soul Train Line

The Jackson 5 - Michael in hat

a more casual Don Cornelius

Aretha Franklin

David Bowie - One of only 2 white performers ever to perform on Soul Train, preps to sing FAME

The Soul Train Dancers

The Line

Sly Stone