Friday, September 23, 2016

U2’s graphic designer Steve Averill explains the art on album sleeves

Steve Averill is U2’s long time friend and visual consultant and graphic designer.

A member of The Radiators From Space/Troubled Pilgrim, he is responsible for so many of their iconic album covers.

BOY 1980

Photographer Hugo McGuinness took this picture of Peter Rowen. The image of a young boy reflected the innocence of the young U2.

Something I didn’t find out about later was the cover was changed in America and Canada because the record company feared accusations of paedophilia.

On the reverse sleeve, in individual band shots, Adam Clayton is wearing my glasses because they thought they looked cooler than his own.

WAR 1983

This was based on a picture I saw of a young boy being rounded up by Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto. You could just see the terror in his eyes. We got back Peter Rowan who had featured on Boy and got photographer Ian Finlay to take some pictures. But I wasn’t happy with the white background so I found an old coal scuttle, and held it behind Peter.
Incidentally Peter had a cold sore on his lip but some people mistakenly though he’s been punched.

Under A Blood Red Sky 1983

Why this album? This is the record that broke U2 in America.

It was recorded at Red Rocks in America.

But the sky was blue. This was years before photo-shop so we spent ages burning out the image into red. The sleeve is a picture taken on a monitor.

The Unforgettable Fire 1984

This had a bright red sleeve when it first came back from the printers.

The label loved it. But we wanted it toned down to this reflective purple and Japanese lettering because the title comes from the Hiroshima exhibition which was created by survivors.

The castle on the cover was inspired by Simon Marsden photography book In Ruins which features all that’s left of some of Ireland’s once great houses and castles

The Joshua Tree 1987

The working title for this record was The Two Americas.

This picture by Anton Corbijn was taken in Death Valley in a lunar landscape on a dry riverbed.

I love the fact the band are left of centre on cover.

Check the inlay sleeve and you’ll see the band with the tree behind them.

There in the far left corner you can spot a mirror I accidentally left in shot.

Achtung Baby1991

This sleeve had to represent a major shift in U2’s sound.

So we had photos from all these different locations like Morocco and Tangiers.

The inspiration for the grid system on the cover was The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street.

One boxes had picture of Adam’s privates. I can remember the phone call late one night, saying the printers in America wouldn’t print the sleeve because over the picture.

We sent word to stamp an X over Adams privates.

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