rolling stones tongue logo 1971Articles

The Rolling Stones: The Story Behind the Iconic Tongue Logo

If you like this please consider supporting the site. Stones Data is not affiliated to the band. Your donation helps to do what I do, pay for its maintenance costs and keep the page updated daily. Thank you! *Donate here

The Rolling Stones’ tongue logo

*The following text was extracted with permission from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012

As long ago as April 1969, Andy Warhol was asked by Jagger to help design the next album cover and he eventually produced the controversial zip sleeve for STICKY FINGERS, which included the male “Levi’s” photograph. Warhol is often mistaken for having designed the Stones tongue logo too. Marshall Chess was journeying from Amsterdam to Rotterdam to meet the band and stopping for petrol he noticed the Shell Petrochemicals moniker displayed just the yellow Shell whereas in the States it was spelt out with the letters, S – h – e – l – l spelt out beneath it. He suggested to Mick that the Stones needed a logo that was instantly recognisable like the Shell yellow shell design.

He would have also been aware of the 1968 ‘Granny Smith apple’ image taken by The Beatles. In an Indian calendar, Mick saw an image of Hindu Goddess Kali, who was the Goddess of destruction – she had a lascivious red tongue. This was given to London Royal College of Art student John Pasche, who came up with the first idea of the Stones tongue and was authorised by the band’s London office to design the work in April 1970. John knew Trevor Churchill through his freelance work at Chrysalis Records. Jo Bergman wrote: “We have also asked you [as well as the 1970 and 1972 tour posters] to create a logo or symbol which may be used on note paper, as a programme cover and as a cover for the press book.”

The actual chronological line is that John was first asked to design a tour poster in the style of the 30s and 40s for the 1970 tour. His first drafts were turned down by Mick but he liked the second draft of the juxtaposition of a Concorde flying over a cruise ship with a classic 1930s car.
Subsequently, he was asked to design a logo and on meeting Mick to discuss the idea the first thing that struck Pasche was: “Face to face with him, the first thing you were aware of was the size of his lips and his mouth”. The student was paid a one-off initial amount of £50 then, in 1972, a further £200 due to the success of the logo. (Ref. rolling stones tongue)

He also received merchandising rights until selling the logo to the Stones in 1984. John Pasche sold the original artwork to the Victoria & Albert museum in London in 2008 for £52,000. One tongue twister that continues to be thrown up is a design by Alan Aldridge in the book The Beatles llustrated Lyrics which depicts a lady licking an ice-cream with a large red tongue and lips for the song Day Tripper. It bares an uncanny resemblence to the Stones tongue. The book was first published in 1969.

Before the release of STICKY FINGERS, Marshall Chess commissioned Craig Braun’s concept packaging company to control the overall design of the album which would include the tongue. He asked his design consultant team to look at Pasche’s design. They produced a new incarnation for the tongue based on a faxed copy of Pasche’s original. They added more of a black void for the mouth, added a second white streak on the tongue and narrowed it plus black-lining the tongue edges. Craig Braun took this and within the USA the inner sleeve had his tongue while Pasche’s design was featured in the rest of the world. Ernie Cefalu (famous for the Jesus Christ Superstar design) was asked to work on merchandise and the tongue was also portrayed on all STICKY FINGERS tour items and in various guises on every tour since.

Craig Braun was tasked with pulling the album sleeve together and he utilised a third piece of cardboard behind the zip (the underwear) which helped to minimise the damage the zip would have on the vinyl. Even this idea did not help when many copies were packaged together until Craig had the brainwave to pull the zip halfway down so it fitted with the disc’s inner circle. Initially, it was thought that the zip could descend to reveal a pink balloon but the idea was dropped due to the anticipated cost. The sexual innuendo of Warhol’s zip and crotch outline was not subtle but the only country to object was Spain which, at that time, was under a long-term dictatorship.

The Spanish Group of Atlantic Records changed the cover and also substituted Let It Rock for the needle-inspired Sister Morphine. The Spanish album cover was designed by John Pasche and was a tin of Fowler’s treacle with three fingers protruding from the sticky black molasses. It delayed the album release in Spain by three months. The Russian sleeve copy featured a female with jeans safely zipped up. The Craig Braun and Ernie Cefalu team stuck together for a while and helped to design some initial merchandise under the brand name Rockreactions.

Cefalu later founded Pacific Eye & Ear, a successful creator of album cover design. Craig Braun’s Rockreactions (Licks) only had a short license deal for merchandise and thereafter the Stones took it back. Another revenue stream had been derived from Pasches’s £50 tongue and Marshall Chess’s desire to create a logo. (Ref. rolling stones tongue)