A new rock ‘n’ roll art book from Omnibus, Classic Rock Posters is a sumptuous volume that very much does what it says on the tin. Co-edited by poster artist Dennis Loren and underground rock legend Mick Farren, the book is a potted visual history of rock music through promo posters.
The book opens with a brief history of poster art, before delving deeper into the subject, with individual chapters taking us on a chronological history of music, starting with early rock ‘n’ roll, R&B and soul, and moving through British Beat, 1960s psychedelia, 1970s prog, metal and mainstream rock, punk and new wave, hip-hop and dance, grunge, indie, goth, metal and alternative and up to ‘the modern era’. Along the way, significant artists and designers like Family Dog, Barney Bubbles and Hipgnosis are singled out for extended coverage, and the chapters also have text covering the development of rock from the early days through the trippy Sixties, the stadium rock of the Seventies, the pun revolution and more.
The text is occasionally opinionated, sometimes contentious, but well written and argued nonetheless. But let’s be honest, it’s the visuals that make this book, and they are astonishing. Different people will have different opinions, but it’s hard to imagine many readers, if removed from their own musical tastes, arguing that the psychedelic art and much of the 1970s material here isn’t the best. The psychedelic posters in particular are astonishing riots of colour, design and hallucinogenic insanity, often difficult (if not impossible) to read but undoubted works of artistic genius.
Much as with movie poster art, the rock poster (and album cover) is mostly now a shadow of its glorious past, though impressive designs for The Mars Volta. The Bellrays, Wolf Mother and The White Stripes show there is still life in the format (even if much of it now consciously harks back to the glory days). The digital revolution threatens to rob us of much in the way of artwork for music and movies, but there will always be a place for the rock poster – part artwork, part advertisement, it remains an essential promotional tool. Fans of the art form will be overjoyed with this gorgeous, weighty book..