Tuesday, April 27, 2021


Some things are fabulous for a day, they snag their fifteen minutes and that's cool enough, but then there are Beatles and Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn and Truman Capote. Things iconic range from The Tempest to Death Cab. 400 years separate Ben Gibbard and Shakespeare, but not for me. Each is perfect. 

The 80s were my era, and I was lucky enough to have embraced them and to have squeezed out the sublime (the quality of greatness), a huge part of which was Joy Division, a band that would become, following the death of singer/songwriter Ian Curtis, New Order. The music was dark and self-absorbed, dance-able, infectious and all consuming. New Order invented self-absorption, not to mention club music, sampling, bass lines as melody, and the automobile (maybe I exaggerate). 

Factory Records emerged from out of a club of the same name in 1978. A year later, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus were joined by Peter Saville and Martin Hannett to form Factory Records, and released their first EP, A Factory Sampler in 1979. 

The first LP released by Factory was Unknown Pleasures (Fac10) in 1979. The album received critical acclaim, the band subsequently appearing on the cover of NME and on the BBC's Peel Sessions; the album cover becoming as iconic as Sgt. Pepper. (Although the Factory emphasis is always on JD and NO, Factory Records signed Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark ("Electricity," Fac6), the Durutti Column and A Certain Ratio.)

The 1980s were graphic art's heyday and Peter Saville turned album covers into artwork. You wanted to hang them on the wall or carry them around. They were stark and industrial, a symbol of a new digital age, of things that didn't exist before. They are so iconic and intrinsically aesthetic that Microsoft commissioned the artist to create the first in a line of limited edition Zune mp3 players utilizing the Unknown Pleasures album cover. (Many of you, of course, don’t even know what a Zune is.) Note the Movement album cover sitting side by side with the original art deco design from Fotunato Depero in the 1920s. I think it was TS (Tough Shit) Eliot who said, "Good writers borrow. Great writers steal." I guess it holds true for artwork as well. Saville would go on to capture more of Depero's work as his folio of Factory Records covers was assembled. Factory Records, New Order and Peter Saville made artwork and design an integral part of 80s music; design that speaks for itself.

The images that Peter Saville created for Joy Division, New Order and, later, Suede and Pulp were so compelling that they struck the same emotional resonance with the people who bought those albums and singles as the music. Just as the musicians in those bands wrote and produced their songs as catalogs of their thoughts and feelings, so Saville has conceived his images – for fashion and art projects as well as music – as visual narratives of his life.

Born in Manchester in 1955, Saville was brought up in the affluent suburb of Hale. Having been introduced to graphic design with his friend Malcolm Garrett by Peter Hancock, their sixth form art teacher, Saville decided to study graphics at Manchester Polytechnic, where he was soon joined by Garrett. At the time Saville was obsessed by bands like Kraftwerk and Roxy Music, but Garrett encouraged him to discover the work of early modern movement typographers such as Herbert Bayer and Jan Tschichold. He found their elegantly ordered aesthetic more appealing than the anarchic style of punk graphics. Tschichold was the inspiration for Saville’s first commercial project, the 1978 launch poster for The Factory, a club night run by a local TV journalist Tony Wilson whom he had met at a Patti Smith gig. Having long admired the ‘found’ motorway sign on the cover of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, the first album he bought for himself, Saville based the Factory poster on a found object of his own – an industrial warning sign he had stolen from a door at college.