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October 03, 2009

Album Cover Designers (Pt. 2): Peter Saville

After posting about Neville Brody, I began thinking about other possible album cover designers to write about. Then last week, I finally Netflixed the DVD of CONTROL, Anton Corbijn's moving biopic about Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, and although I had a few problems with the film itself, I was wowed by the performances by the lead actors (Sam Riley and the always-amazing Samantha Morton). I've always been an obsessive Joy Division and New Order fan--a fan of almost everything on Factory Records, really--and watching CONTROL meant that I wound up spending the week listening to Unknown Pleasures and especially Closer over and over and over again.

An enormous part of Joy Division's, and Factory Records', aesthetic legacy and success, can be attributed to the graphic designer Peter Saville. His album cover designs were almost always groundbreaking and beautiful, and often notoriously expensive and hard to produce (they often incorporated delicate cut-outs, folds, and textures beyond the usual cardboard square; a classic example here lies in my absolute favorite Saville, Always Now by Section 25, which famously used a intricate fold-out back cover with a flap pocket that opened to reveal a gorgeous blue-marbled interior that really has to be seen in its original LP form to be properly experienced. A good example can be found here). Saville's designs seemed to get more and more minimal as time went on; in an interview about contemporary album-cover design, Saville said this: "I've gone from idealism to quite pained cynicism. Selling stuff to people isn't really something I want to be part of. Often, with packaging design, I'd like to just write across it 'don't bother, you don't need it'."

(Above: Peter Saville.) Although his later designs--for example, the work he did for later New Order covers--seemed to reflect his new "fuck you" attitude toward beauty and maximalism, there's no denying that his earlier work for Factory and contemporaneous UK bands was massively iconic, influential, and gorgeous. Some of my personal favorites are below, in chronological order:

(1) Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures LP (1979)

(2) A Certain Ratio, "All Night Party" single (1979)

(3) Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, OMD LP (1980)

(4) The Monochrome Set, "Strange Boutique" 12" (1980)

(5) Roxy Music, Flesh + Blood LP (1980)

(6) Joy Division, "She's Lost Control" 12" (1980)

(7) Section 25, "Girls Don't Count" 12" (1980)

(8) Joy Division, Closer LP (1980)

(9) Martha and the Muffins, Trance and Dance LP (1980)

(10) Ultravox, "The Thin Wall" 12" (1981)

(11) Section 25, Always Now LP (1981)

(12) King Crimson, Discipline LP (1981)

(13) Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, Architecture & Morality LP (1981)

(14) New Order, Movement LP (1981)

(15) Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, "Maid of Orleans (The Waltz Joan of Arc)" single (1982)

(16) New Order, "Temptation" 12" (1982)

(17) Roxy Music, Avalon LP (1982)

(18) China Crisis, Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms (Some People Think It's Fun to Entertain) LP, 1982

(19) Zaine Griff, "Figures" 12" (1982)

(20) Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, Dazzle Ships LP (1983)

(21) New Order, Power, Corruption and Lies LP (1983)

(22) Howard DeVoto, Jerky Versions of the Dream LP (1983)

(23) Section 25, From the Hip LP (1984)

(24) New Order, Brotherhood LP (1986)

(25) New Order, "Shellshock" 12" (1986)

Posted by scottheim at October 3, 2009 01:35 PM


I was starting to reply to your post lamenting the absence of Durutti Column covers in your list when Chelsea mentioned your Facebook post and subsequent exchange about the new album, compilations, and re-releases. The conversation that followed can be summed up with my statement, "why didn't I get to know Scott when I was a young malcontent?"

As I'm sure you can appreciate, it was sometimes quite lonely listening to Tony Wilson's latest discovery alone in the basement of our Golden Colorado home because there wasn't anyone to share it with. Well thank god we've entered the wireless age (I think)!

All the Best, Jeff

Posted by: Jeff Pass [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2009 10:42 AM

Posted by: VJESCI [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2009 11:46 PM

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