Sunday, April 30, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 027: Swag – Rock Posters of the ‘90s”

Being born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I actually came of age in the swampy breeding grounds of Grunge, although I was never really a fan of that STYLE of music, (it seemed more like metal than punk to me.) However, I ALWAYS loved the posters from this era, and this book includes a bunch of classic images that remind me that I used to be young!

Spencer Drate – Swag – Rock Posters of the ‘90s (2003)

I spent a lot of time at concert halls and other venues in the late 80s and early 90s (before I had kids), and we also had a local “punk” record store that was run by guy who LOVED rock posters, so I was pretty lucky, being heavily exposed to GRUNGE-ERA art when it was in its heyday. Frank Kozik, Coop, Jermaine Rogers, Tara McPherson, Brian Ewing, Jay Ryan, Art Chantry---these and another dozen or more big names from the artistic underground are covered in this book, and Chantry even wrote a nice, lengthy introduction on the history of concert posters. It’s a thick topic, but Chantry’s intro does an acceptable job of setting the stage for the rest of Drate’s book, which is essentially an alphabetical catalog of artists and designers responsible for some of the more noteworthy ‘90s music industry graphics.

Each artist/design team gets a brief intro and then examples of their artwork are presented for the reader to explore. Some of the bigger names get several pages worth of work, others get one poster and done, but the variety of styles and graphic design choices in this book are still pretty great. From hand-drawn comic book style images to modified photographs to bizarre cut-and-paste collages, the breadth of GRUNGE-ERA art was astonishing. It’s also interesting to me that the posters from this era were NOT just for bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but many classic rock acts also still toured (Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, etc…) and sometimes these crusters even  played with the fancy NEW bands of the day.

Overall, I’d recommend this book for design fans, for rock ‘n’ roll history lovers, for kids who were too young to be conscious during the height of grunge, or for anyone interested in underground artists. Many of the designers presented here have web sites or even entire books devoted to their art, so if you see something you like within these pages, there’s plenty of OTHER materials to look for. Meanwhile, this collection is a great starter.

---Richard F. Yates

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