There aren’t many pairs of red lips that flood album covers, t-shirts, mugs and other various merchandise (we even found some urinals – see below) so excessively and so well, to long-lasting, stylish effect. But the ‘tongue and lips’ logo design for the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers album cover has done just that, in the 41 years that it has been around. John Pasche, a Royal College of Art (RCA) student at the time, (and previously Creative Director of the Southbank Centre) had the honour of designing it.
In 1969, Mick Jagger made his way to the RCA graduate show and asked Pasche if he would design the logo for their next album. Pasche didn’t say no.
Here’s how the story goes…
On 29th April 1970, Jo Bergman who was running the Stone’s office at the time, wrote to John Pasche, once Creative Director of the South Bank Centre (he left in 2005) to confirm that they had commissioned him to design a poster for their forthcoming 1970 European Tour. He remembers how it all started with that tongue and lips logo: “I was in my final year of a graduate design course at the Royal College of Art in London.” It was at his final degree show that Mick Jagger turned up at the RCA to have a look at his work. “I was extremely honoured,” comments Pasche.
So where did the inspiration come from and did Jagger have much input? “I met with Mick again who asked me to design a logo or symbol for The Rolling Stone’s record label. Mick showed me an image of the Goddess of Kali (the goddess of time and change) which was the starting point to our discussions for the design.” The idea came to Pasche almost immediately, taking only a week to draw up different variations. “Mick immediately liked it and the band gave the thumbs-up for me to complete the project.”
There are several meanings behind those two ruby lips and matching tongue and what they represented. And yes, before one asks – Mick’s own lips, naturally, are part of Pasche’s answer: “The tongue was to represent the band’s anti-authoritarian attitude and Mick’s mouth (who could forget those lips!) as well as the obvious sexual connotations.” Pasche designed it in such a way that it would be easy to reproduce on merchandise, in a style that could “stand the test of time.”
And so it has. The Rolling Stones logo became a globally recognised symbol of pop culture and a symbol of a band which, little did they know then, would be held in higher esteem 40 years later than most of the bands around today. What remains the most incredulous strand of this logo’s story though, is the amount Pasche was paid for it.
No one could have predicted how huge this band would become when Pasche was paid just £50 for the design of the logo, which he never retained any image rights to. It’s perhaps safe to say, that Pasche is not relaying this story whilst twiddling his thumbs on his fifth yacht, but in 1972, he did receive a payment of £200 in recognition for the logo’s success. Then in 2008, Pasche sold it to the V&A, who bought it for £51,375. The money went towards his son’s education.
If you’re wondering what Pasche thinks of a logo that came to signify one of the greatest bands in music history, here’s what he said: “As a designer, I am obviously proud that my design is still out there and it it’s just fantastic that it’s still being enjoyed 41 years later.”
John Pasche – upcoming exhibition
John Pasche now works as a freelance designer and will be exhibiting some of his best-known designs and artwork for album covers and tour posters at the o2 arena from October 2012 – January 2013. Click here for more info.
Might we also add that whilst this is a design story and doesn’t necessarily fit in to our Urban, Contemporary or Digital & Interactive categories, we couldn’t resist telling you this incredible story of a simple logo design.