Red Bull Music Academy unearthed fascinating stories behind some of the most iconic logos in music.
KISS, Anthrax, Run DMC, Ramones. These are more than iconic bands. They're also iconic logos. Even if you've never heard a Public Enemy song -- which, if so, get it together, man -- you'd still recognize the stenciled letters and crosshairs.
Red Bull Music Academy this summer tracked down the stories behind 22 of the most iconic logos in music, from the above-mentioned bands to MTV, CBGB's and Fool's Gold Records. And as usual, RBMA really did its research, landing firsthand accounts from band members and designers.
Did you know that the famous KISS logo was initially designed by Ace Frehley, the band's lead guitarist? "According to one story, Frehley wrote the name over a poster for Wicked Lester – the band Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley left to form KISS – and came up with those S’s on the fly," reports Red Bull Music Academy. "What doesn’t get mentioned is that some of Wicked Lester’s artwork used a jagged lightning bolt in place of its own single S."
From there, Stanley set to work refining the letters. “Paul was over here at my studio and I asked him about that logo," recalled Michael Doret, who designed a couple of the band's album covers. "And he said to me that he drew that on his kitchen table very early on, with a T-square and a triangle and some technical pens.”
It's actually pretty surprising how many of the group logos were drawn by the artists themselves. Wu-Tang Clan's was designed by producer Mathematics, who studied graphic and commercial art in high school. “The thing was to try and make something to stand out, kinda like the Batman insignia," he told RBMA about the Wu logo.
Some of the other logos covered in the piece are MTV, Giant Steps, EPMD, CBGB, Def Jam, Fania, Masters at Work and Studio 54.
Here is an excerpt from the RBMA story:
"Until recently, DFA’s logo – a doodle of a lightning bolt – remained unattributed. As Vadino recalls, 'At the studio one day – back in 2000 – somebody just scribbled this little lightning bolt on graph paper and at the top added [the letters] DFA. And I was like, "That kind of rules. That should be your logo." James and Tim just totally dismissed me. I was like, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to use it.’ So I just started putting it on flyers, and that became the de facto logo.' It was only in 2010, after a retrospective of DFA’s graphic work in Sydney, that Murphy claimed authorship, telling Vadino: 'I drew that fucking thing.'"
Follow Red Bull on Twitter for more updates.