Terry Pastor Talks
We all know that Ziggy played guitar. However, what most of us don't know is that Ziggy was captured artistically for the first time by artist Terry Pastor. Pastor's now infamous designs for David Bowie's Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust albums are examples of the golden era of album artwork. Ahead of his talk at the first Cover Club event on March 12th we caught up with Terry to discuss artwork, mp3s and Toy Story…
Can you let us know a bit about what youll be doing at the Cover Club event?
Thats a good question… Its been organised by Natalia and Emily so I guess what its going to be is that Ill be there and theyll be running a slideshow or projection of some of the album covers Ive done and other work as well. Ill be discussing with people how they came about, how they were done and all the stories behind them really. Essentially thats going to be it I think.
Have you got any particularly interesting stories about the covers? Not to take away all your content from the Cover Club!
Well I think certainly with the two Bowie covers I did, particularly with Ziggy Stardust more so than Hunky Dory, there are things like when I was working late one night in my studio in Covent Garden on the Ziggy Stardust cover I had a phone call from David Bowie just asking how it was going. I told him that Id just finished the front and was working on the back cover and he was really surprised that there was going to be a back cover. He asked me what it was and I said it was a shot of him in the phone box and he seemed to get really excited about that and he couldnt wait to see it. I guessed from that that he had no real input into what was happening with the cover at the time but it was certainly very interesting that he seemed so excited about it which is good.
It was a very positive reaction then? Did he like the final cover?
Oh yeah, I think the fact that Id originally done the Hunky Dory cover and the fact that hed asked me to do Ziggy Stardust in the same way, colouring up and re-touching photographs, he must have quite liked Hunky Dory in order for me to do the second cover. I think he was pretty pleased with them. From my experience of doing LP covers, in the past particularly, theres an amount that Ive done for different artists or bands that never get used in the end for whatever reason I dont know but the fact that some do get used must mean that they like them enough to use them. So from the point of view of him actually having published it; they must have been pleased with it.
Is there anything that youve turned down when someones offered you the chance to work on the album but youve decided it wasnt for you?
Not with LP covers because theyre usually quite nice things to do. In the past Ive turned down commercial work which I just didnt like the look of and I just didnt have any empathy with the subject but with music stuff its usually a fairly open brief anyway and its always interesting doing that sort of work.
When you set out were you particularly looking to get into designing album covers?
Not really, no. I think it was just a case of being a commercial illustrator it was part of the sort of work you were offered; from very hard-nosed advertising work to things like book jackets, album covers etc. Really it was anything that required illustration or re-touching, it was just sort of ones work really. I didnt specialise in LP covers particularly but I suppose Ive done about 18 or 19 covers over the years for different bands.
How did you first get into the LP covers?
I think it was just a case of being an illustrator and someone might see your work and think oh yeah, wed like to use him to do this cover. Its as simple as that really. Thats the way most of that work happens, its just that someone thats looking for an artist to do some work and they see your work and think that artist will be right for what we need or they like your work and sometimes theyll just say we like your work, do whatever you like and well probably like it. That wasnt the case with the Bowie covers because they were already set as photographs anyway so in that case the image was already there in a sense but with a lot of stuff when its pure illustration sometimes people will say well we like the way you think, just come up with an image. It goes from there really.
Are there any specific album covers by other artists that have inspired you or youve had a deeper interest in?
An LP cover I really like is for a really obscure band called Hapshash and the Coloured Coat and it was done by an artist called Michael English who sadly died a couple of years back. He was the original artist and worked with another chap called Nigel Waymouth and they did all the UFO club posters in the 60s, Pink Floyd and other bands, and I loved his work very much. The LP itself was musically terrible but the cover was fantastic.
So the record stands out in your mind for the cover alone?
Yeah, musically it was not too clever but it was worth buying just for the cover.
What music are you into personally?
Its fairly eclectic but I suppose that from having my background and age and whatever that as a kid I grew up with Little Richard who was a big hero of mine, and still is, but I suppose really in the 60s I liked the Rolling Stones and rhythm and blues music; Chuck Berry, The Coasters – big fan of The Coasters who were a 50s band – and Pink Floyd, all sorts of stuff really but Id say basically I really like rhythm and blues. When I was a kid I remember listening to Radio Luxembourg in bed on the portable radio and the minute they said theres a new Little Richard record coming out I didnt have to hear it and Id just go and buy it because I was such a fan. This pre-dates Radio 1 and the pirate stations and everything really, it was the only way of hearing top 20 music or pop music generally in the 50s because the BBC didnt really play rock and roll. The only sort of rock and roll that was English was Tommy Steele who I wasnt really a big fan of and people like Elvis Presley and Little Richard didnt really get a lot of airplay on the radio outside of Luxembourg so thats where I sourced all my music from at that time.
Youve touched on the fact that there wasnt much available at the time whereas now theres a wealth of stations…
Now were spoilt for choice really with downloads and whatever. Its all very available whereas when I was a kid, and even a teenager, you had to go and buy the record. You couldnt really source a record without going to a record store. In the 60s, with pirate radio, there was a lot more stuff being played so you did hear a lot of stuff which made it easier to be able to make a choice.
Rather than having the similar, saturated sound that we have today in mainstream pop.
Yeah, it really is now. The only plus side for someone like me is that with downloading and mp3s theres a lot of stuff you can find thats pretty obscure thats great music that youll never ever hear on the radio and if you want to spend time searching for it theres some great stuff which is a bonus.
With the rise of downloads, do you think the role of the album cover is slowly being reduced?
I think that because of the demise of vinyl, a nice 12 inch square piece of card or even a gate-fold, it was a really nice format for having an image and it was easy to see whereas with CDs it was fairly small and now of course, as you say, with downloads you dont even get a cover. I suppose you can download a cover but its not the same thing. Theres that physicality of having a 12 inch piece of vinyl which doesnt exist now really.
Theres been a bit of a vinyl revolution although what youll see on a cover seems to have changed, its more common to just have a photograph of the band or artist.
Thats true, Ive recently done a couple of album covers but they were to go on CDs so theyre not as impressive physically to see because they are quite small but having said that, from the point of view of painting one, its the same amount of work involved whether its printed 6 inches square or 12 inches square but the finished product certainly isnt as impressive I dont think.
Thats fair enough. Are there any musical artists around now that youll actively listen to?
I dont know really, Im at that age where Im set in my ways about the music I like which is probably out of date now in a sense. I cant really say particularly, occasionally Ill hear something and think thats really good but I wouldnt be able to think who it might be. Again, because of my taste in music isnt a fashionable thing, theres not a lot of stuff around thats new like that. It is around but its harder to find, particularly on mainstream media – it doesnt really get played so much.
Ive got a slight curveball for you… Are you a fan of cartoon animation at all?
I particularly like digital animation nowadays which is amazing. The last thing I saw, well not the last thing, was an animated cartoon which was drawn was the Japanese film Akira which was an amazing piece of work. That wasnt music base of course, just pure animation. I really like a lot of CGI stuff like Toy Story etc. because essentially, even though its computerised, theres an element where its originally been drawn so Im always attract to that. Theres an artist involved somewhere. The classic stuff like Snow White and Lady and the Tramp, I love that sort of stuff because it involves art as opposed to actors. Not that Ive got anything against actors, that sort of thing just appeals to me as an artist.
Is there anything else you wanted to mention?
I think that just the fact that there are still artists around like myself that are doing the sort of stuff that would be suitable for LP covers but the fact is that theyre not produced very much now so its not something thats used a lot now which is sad for myself, obviously, but also for people buying the product – I dont think its as enjoyable now from that point of view.
Well you used to get the added bonus of having the artwork as well as the music.
Exactly, years ago you could buy an album, particularly a gate-fold LP, and put the record on, sit down with the album cover and really look at it closely, read all the credits. It was nearly as important as the music from the point of view that as it had relevant information about the artist which I dont think you can quite do with an mp3 and even with a CD its not really the same thing.
Because theres a lot less space to work with.
Thats right, yeah. It was a whole thing of getting home with a brand new album, taking it out of the cover, putting it on the record and youd very rarely just put the record on; while youre listening to the music youd hold the album cover and look at it. That doesnt exist now so much.
Its a shame that people now cant always hold the physical product while listening to it, perhaps taking away from the experience.
Yeah, it is a shame really although I suppose the music is the most important aspect of it of course but I think it was something that people did enjoy as well, maybe even subconsciously. It was certainly something that people did relate to as well. I know particularly with the two Bowie covers that Ive done I get a lot of emails from people asking me about the cover and what it meant etc.. Of course it doesnt actually really have any meaning, it is what it is, but people love that feeling. Its a magic thing that they feel they can get drawn into the image on the cover while theyre listening to the music. I suppose it was the nearest thing before pop videos, having an image to go with the music. Now with pop videos you have that aspect which of course is great because of the dynamic to film which art doesnt have. Thats the only thing about art that I find frustrating as an artist – music has a dynamic, film has a dynamic but art doesnt its very passive. But thats the way it is and thats fine. In one sense being passive is quite good because you dont get distracted from anything other than that image, its just always there, its a constant. If its a good bit of artwork you can always see something new in it. If its bad work, once youve seen it thats it. Theres no more to see. A good piece of work always lends itself to seeing more and more each time you look at it.
Terry Pastor will be appearing at the inaugural Cover Club event Dowstairs at the Ace Hotel on March 12th. For more information, check out the official Facebook event page.