Friday, April 30, 2021

DM, Kate Bush and Brian Griffin

No, not the dog from Family Guy, Brian Griffin is the photographer from Depeche Mode's iconic early album covers: Speak and Spell, A Broken Frame, Construction Time Again, and Some Great Reward.

Griffin started work as a freelance photographer in 1972. His music industry clients include Siouxsie and the Banshees, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel, REM, and, of course, DM. Brian Griffin has had a profound effect on photography in the last 50 years creating works of art like paintings that leave the viewer mesmerized. I know I am. His work is so stylized (bold coloration, crystal clarity, stark surrealism), that one can easily see DM in his work in fashion, as well, for companies like Comme des Garcons.
In my writing, indeed in life itself, I've always been one to fall for the Zen of things, the natural progression from one thing to the next, and a recent article emphasized the early Depeche Mode LPs. So, of course, I listened to them all. It was A Broken Frame, though, that led me back once again to an artist I revere as much as Joni Mitchell and head and shoulders over most others, Kate Bush. Kate saw the covers for DM's 2nd LP and she and Griffin decided to put Kate into the aura of the album's cover, a woman like that found in Jean-Fran├žois Millet's "The Gleaners."
I have on vinyl all four boxed Kate Bush remasters (10 studio albums plus remixes and rarities). Guess what I'm going to do today?
Two days later... As mentioned, the Zen of things pointed toward Kate Bush. From Depeche Mode to Griffin to Bush, a triple play. But the car had other ideas and my Spotify luck of the draw chose Echo and the Bunnymen instead. From Crocodiles they played "Rescue," and from Ocean Rain, "Seven Seas" and "The Killing Moon." As synchronicity stepped in, my mind started wandering ("where it will go…") and it seemed to me that the album covers were rather Griffin-like. Sure enough, Echo and the Bunnymen's album covers were indeed a part of Griffin's work. I had no idea.

Circa 1981, I lived in Park LaBrea in L.A., adjacent to the Tar Pits. From my bedroom window I could see the HOLLYWOOD Sign; from the living room through the trees was a mastodon. A friend and I hit Vinyl Fetish on Melrose, then had a chili-dog at Pink's before heading back to my apartment to play DJ. My friend got Orchestral Maneuvers and Soft Cell. I got New Order's Movement. At Vinyl Fetish, he pointed and said, “If you like that, you’ve got to get this.” It was Crocodiles. Into the Zen of it even then, I had no choice. And he was right. It was like Joy Division but poppier with overdubs and a kind of cheery melancholy. Right Down my alley.

Several years later, I saw them at the Peppermint Lounge in NYC. Thomas Dolby was there next to me bopping along with scary Ian up on stage. We had the same wire-framed glasses. I got a kick out of that. It was like being one of the Pirate Twins ("Europa").
In my collection, I have only one Echo LP, Ocean Rain. I just finished side one. After the flip side, I guess it's on to The Flat Earth, I have no choice.

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