A Final Outrage: The Album Art of Blue Öyster Cult

By Richard McKenna

Despite the dispiriting fug of “classic rock” that hangs about their name—largely thanks to the persistence in popular culture of the song for which they are best known, the wonderful but largely unrepresentative “Don’t Fear the Reaper—Blue Öyster Cult began life as a high-concept countercultural proposition whose aim was to bring an underground literary and musical sensibility, as well as wit, to the dull, self-indulgent ceremonies of rock…

The Bruton Music Library, 1977 – 1989

Alongside the industrial manufacture of popular music which characterised the second half of the twentieth century, another type of music aimed at a smaller group of consumers and offering another perspective on the humours of its day was also being recorded: production music, also called library music, was instrumental music recorded to evoke a certain mood or tone and licensed for use in other media (for example as background, incidental or theme music)…

‘Masquerade’ by Kit Williams, 1979

In 1979, British artist Kit Williams published Masquerade, a picture book telling the story of a hare who loses the precious jewel entrusted to him by the sun. Masquerade contained clues to the location of a golden pendant in the form of a hare that had been buried at a secret location and was worth, at the time of the book’s release, £5,000…

Metal Mickey, 1978 – 1983

After first appearing as a recurring character on British children’s TV show The Saturday Banana and scoring a hit record with his 1978 novelty cover of “Lollipop,” five-foot-tall remote-controlled robot Metal Mickey caught the eye of LWT producer Humphrey Barclay, who commissioned a self-titled spin-off series…

Quickshot Joysticks, 1982 – 1988

As sophisticated new electronic entertainments entered the lives of increasing numbers of people during the 1980s, sophisticated new interfaces were designed to utilize these entertainments—and capitalize on them—to their fullest potential. The joystick was invented originally to satisfy the need to control movement in three dimensions following the invention of the aircraft in the early 20th century…

Channel 4 Ident, 1982

By the early 1980s, the creation of a fourth British television channel had become a moot issue. In 1955, the license-fee-funded BBC1 had been joined by the commercial Independent Television network (ITV), legally identified as Channel 3, and in 1964, these two were joined by BBC2, the first European television channel to broadcast regularly in color…

‘Long Distance Kiss’ by Syd Brak, 1982

As the grimmer social realities of the 1980s began to take hold, more abstract aspirations began to fuel the collective imagination, and the airbrush—a device originally invented in the second half of the 19th century—proved to be an effective tool for creating dreamlike imagery that combined the smooth realism of the photograph with the artifice of the painting while eliminating the potential dissonances of both…

Selections from ‘Suburbia’ by Bill Owens, 1973

Look at that living room, so similar to many of the ones I grew up around and yet so much less pokey, so much more relaxed. Those cars, those bizarre technologies we were constantly struggling to understand in cartoons and comics—pull carts, barbecues, six packs—all in the middle of this massive, consequenceless nowhere where it was always warm and never rained. We lived in estates too, but nothing like these huge, smoothly landscaped labyrinths, low to the ground like military installations. Wow, what a place…