About Guy Peellaert and his drawings of The Rolling Stones
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Belgian artist, painter, illustrator, comic artist and photographer whose book Rock Dreams includes paintings of the Stones. After it was published in 1974, Mick invited Guy to a Munich recording session to find inspiration for the Stones next LP cover, and he designed and painted the jacket for IT’S ONLY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. Peellart was also in charge of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album, among other assorted works.
From Illustration Chronicles:
On the title track to the album Diamond Dogs, David Bowie proclaims that “this ain’t rock’n’roll—this is genocide!”. It’s a powerful statement – one that stemmed directly from the singer’s realisation that greed was tearing the world apart and that the hedonistic ways of glam rock were simply helping to support the problem.
Released in 1974, the album was a complex blend of grimy textures and existential anxieties. It sat perfectly with the concerns and complexities of the decade. It was a time of great uncertainty, with many accepted norms undermined or placed in doubt. An oil crisis in 1973 upset the balance of power in the West and, in the UK, rising inflation gave way to austerity. There was poverty, protest and power-cuts throughout the country, and while all this chaos reigned, the decadent world of rock kept partying. The irony of all of this was not lost on Bowie.
For as long as musicians have been celebrated and well-regarded, their lifestyles have had the power to enchant and intrigue. We tend to view the world of popular music as a kind of hyperreality – a place where personalities are exaggerated and where the unusual can appear as mere commonplace. Bowie played in this arena, carving out his own unique identities and mythologies. The Belgian illustrator Guy Peellaert (1934–2008) also did this. He found stories to tell in places where fact and fantasy are frequently indistinguishable.
A product of post-war Europe, Peellaert was part of the first generation to be inundated with American art, film noir, pulp literature, jazz records and pop culture. Overwhelmed and inspired in equal measure, his work covered art, painting, illustration, photography and comics. In 1973 he rose to international cult acclaim when he collaborated with the British rock journalist Nik Cohn on a best-selling book called Rock Dreams (an image from this book is pictured above).
Conceived as a series of stills from a motion picture that never happened, his illustrations riffed on great American artists like Hopper and Rockwell while also twisting their styles into darker, gaudier and more surreal territory. His images chimed well with the tastes of a disillusioned generation, and the book sold over a million copies in its first year. Among its fans were a plethora of celebrities, including the likes of Jack Nicholson, John Lennon and Mick Jagger.
Jagger was so taken with Peellaert’s work that he asked him to create the artwork for the next Stones’ album – It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (above). At the time, Bowie had an ever-deepening fixation with the band, and, upon hearing of the commission, he went behind Jagger’s back and cajoled the illustrator into also working on his cover. Bowie was a friend, a peer and a rival to Jagger, and he knew that his album was scheduled to be released almost five months before the new Stones’ record.
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