Thursday, December 20, 2007

Roger Dean- Album Cover Artist and Designer

Ever since Alex Steinweiss designed album covers for Columbia Records in the 1940’s, many famous artists and designers have also designed iconic and stylish album cover art. From famed cartoonist Robert Crumb, who designed Janis Joplin’s “Cheap Thrills album cover to Andy Warhol’s contribution to the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” LP, many famous artists have put their talents to work and put an image to the music created by rock and roll bands and artists.

One such artist, Roger Dean, is world-famous for his legendary album cover designs and concepts. He is best known for his partnership with the progressive rock band Yes and his album covers are peerless.

Dean was born in Ashford, Kent, England in 1944 and spent much of his childhood moving around the world (he has lived in Cyprus, Greece and Hong Kong) with his British army father. The family returned to England in 1957 where Dean enrolled in the Canterbury School of Art and earned a National Diploma of Design. In 1968, he graduated from the Royal College of Art. Dean preferred to distinguish between design and the reworking of an existing model or design or inventing and the making of something new, a concept that would help him later on with his work.

In fact, one of his inventions was the “sea urchin chair,” a foam chair which, though appearing to be spherical, would conform to the person sitting in it; who could obtain a seated position of varying angles. The uniquely designed chair was featured in the film “A Clockwork Orange” and Dean was commissioned to design a “landscape” of similar seating for Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.

It was around this time that Dean would embark on the now famous art design work that he is best known for, designing and painting unique album covers for various rock bands. His first album cover was for a band called “Gun.” In 1971, Dean designed the cover for the first Osibisa LP (an African/Caribbean band) and this cover attracted a lot of attention and interest in his work. In fact, later that year, Dean formed the partnership that he is most recognized for, the album cover art for the band Yes (and along with his brother Martyn, designed the stage set for the band as well).

As Yes guitarist Steve Howe explains, “There is a pretty tight bond between our sound and Roger’s art.” Dean’s art is characterized by dreamy, space-like landscapes, floating islands and fantasy habitats. He primarily works with watercolors, but many of his paintings make brilliant use of other artistic media such as gouache, ink, enamel, crayon and collage. Dean is also a highly respected calligrapher, designing logos and titles to compliment his paintings.

Besides his impeccable and incomparable album covers for Yes, he has also designed album covers for the rock bands, Uriah Heep, Asia, Atomic Rooster and Budgie and artists Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman.

In 1985, Dean landed a gig with Psygnosis and he has designed the artwork for several videos games, including Tetris Worlds and the redesign of the Tetris logo. In recent years, he has focused on his architectural ideas and designs. As an architectural designer, he has designed homes and sustaining villages and even designed all the aspects of his own home, from the construction techniques that were implemented to his own emotional comfort and security. The design is based on his “Home For Life” concept, that a house should be artistically appeasing, irenic and environmentally kind; yet cheap and quick to construct.

Rest assured that whatever project Roger Dean may be working on, it will always be innovative, inspiring, and incomparable and tackled with an obvious zest. His stylish, conceptual album cover art will live in infamy for years to come as he continues to influence new artists to this day.

Author Robert Benson writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates, where you can pick up a copy of his ebook called
"The Fascinating Hobby Of Vinyl Record Collecting."
Contact Robert at

This Day In Music History-December 20

Elvis Presley receives his draft notice, but applies for and gets a 60-day deferment in 1957.

Joe Walsh joins the Eagles in 1975.

In 2006, nearly forty years after it was recorded, Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher is awarded 40% of the songwriting credit for "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" by a London court.

The Osmond Brothers make their first appearance on the "Andy Williams Show" on NBC-TV in 1962 (minus Donny, who was only five years old).

In 1965, Wilson Pickett records "634-5789,"with Booker T.'s MG's with Isaac Hayes filling in for Booker on piano.

In 2004, Chicago bluesman Son Seals (singer-guitarist that played with Albert King and Earl Hooker), dies at age 62 from diabetes complications.

Founding 10,000 Maniacs guitarist Robert Buck dies in 2000 from complications resulting from liver failure. He had continued to perform with the group even after Natalie Merchant's departure in 1993. Buck was 42.

In 1999, Country legend Hank Snow, who recorded "I'm Movin' On" and was Elvis Presley's manager for a brief period, dies in Nashville aged 85.

In 1973, Bobby Darin (who topped the charts for nine weeks in 1959 with "Mack the Knife”) dies while undergoing seven hours of open-heart surgery. He was 37.

Singer Ian Anderson forms Jethro Tull with his former John Evans Blues Band mate, bassist Glenn Cornick, in Blackpool, England in 1967. The band’s name comes from an 18th century farming tool inventor. John Evans later joins the group as a keyboardist.

The Hollies release their hit single "He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother)" in 1967.

In 1966, the Beatles record vocal harmonies and bells for use on "When I'm Sixty-Four."

Birthday wishes to classy soul diva Anita Baker, who was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1957.

Folksinger Billy Bragg was born in Barking, England in 1957.

The Easybeats' vocalist Steven Wright was born in Leeds, England in 1948. His group's biggest hit was "Friday on My Mind."

KISS drummer Peter Criss celebrates a birthday. Criss was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1947.

Blood Sweat & Tears drummer Bobby Colomby was born in New York in 1944.

Amos Milburn hits #1 on the R&B chart in 1948 with the song "Chicken Shack Boogie."

Peter Paul & Mary hit #1 in 1968 with "Leaving On A Jet Plane," a song that was written by John Denver.

In 1986, the song "Walk Like an Egyptian," by the Bangles, topped the charts and stayed there for 4 weeks.

Capitol Records releases “Meet The Beatles” in the U.S. in 1963. Beatlemania officially gets underway in the states.

In 1965, the Rolling Stones and the Kinks make their first appearance on “Shindig.”

Marietta GA native, Black Crowes’ front man, Chris Robinson, was born in 1966.

In 1968, Bob Dylan and The Band join several folkies in a concert commemorating the legendary Woody Guthrie. It’s Bob Dylan’s first public appearance since his motorcycle accident two years earlier.

The Rolling Stones "Let It Bleed" knocks The Beatles "Abbey Road" from the top of the U.K. album chart in 1969.

In 1982, rocker turned TV star Ozzy Osbourne is hospitalized and treated for rabies after biting the head off a bat during a concert.

In Belfast, U2 perform “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” live for the first time in 1982.

The Beatles and the Beach Boys are inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

On The Tonight Show (NBC) in 1994, Melissa Etheridge sings John Lennon’s "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)."

In 2004, Doug Robb’s battle with pneumonia causes Hoobastank to cancel their remaining December concerts. Hospitalized the previous weekend, the singer is ordered to remain in bed for a week.

In 2006, Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton says he's cancer free after undergoing radiation treatments. "I had a (diagnostic) scan (recently) and it showed that the tumor and the (cancer) cells in the adjacent lymph gland were gone."

12 days after John Lennon was shot dead, "Just Like Starting Over" became his first UK solo #1 (1980).

On December 20, 1989, a lawsuit was filed against Chuck Berry on behalf of more than seventy women who claimed he had secretly videotaped them while they used restrooms in his home and a restaurant. Although Berry adamantly denied making the tapes or even knowing who did, the cases were settled out of court for more than one million dollars.

2001 was a very good year for Classic Rockers. Elton John and Billy Joel toured together and grossed nearly $60 million from just 31 dates, averaging $1.9 million per show. Eric Clapton proved to be a strong draw in international arenas, earning a healthy $43.5 million from 59 shows, racking up 38 complete sell-outs, and averaging nearly $750,000 per night.

Money making figures for 2002's top grossing Rock artists were as follows:

Paul McCartney - $126.1 million
The Rolling Stones - $90 million
Cher - $67.6 million
Neil Diamond - $52.2 million
Britney Spears - $43.7 million
Aerosmith - $36.3 million
Eagles - $34.9 million
'N Sync - $33 million
The top grossing country artist was Kenny Chesney at $22.7 million.