"Rubber Soul" Typography

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Ken Orth's picture
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Joined: 12 Mar 2015 - 7:44am
"Rubber Soul" Typography
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I am writing the stories of the cover artwork on The Beatles’ record albums, and am currently researching the creation of artwork for the band’s sixth album, Rubber Soul. You can see the album cover at: www.thebeatles.com/album/rubber-soul. Not only is the distorted Rubber Soul photo an immediate eye-catcher but, for the first time on a Beatles’ album, the title typography is also a star. The title in the upper left corner was designed by Charles Front in the fall of 1965 and has been described by critics as “bulbous”, “rubbery”, and “psychedelic”. Here’s where I can use your help.

First, is there a proper name for this style of lettering? I’m familiar with the common word-processing fonts – Calibri, Arial and the like - but my research has yet to turn up a name for this unusual typographic design. What’s it called?

Second, did this lettering style have a history of use prior to appearing on the Rubber Soul cover in December 1965? Perhaps it was not common before then but I know it’s difficult to say that something is a first, as some have said the Rubber Soul cover was the first to use this style.

Thanks for your time and consideration of my questions.

Riccardo Sartori's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 - 4:20am
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You could be interested in Doobie: http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/canadatype/doobie/
And this previous discussion: http://typophile.com/node/35379
Personally, I tend to associate "psychedelic" more to the kind of poster lettering originating with the Vienna Secession in the 1900s and rediscovered in the 1960/1970s (example: http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/adobe/mojo/)

Ken Orth's picture
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Joined: 12 Mar 2015 - 7:44am
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Thanks riccardO. Doobie and Mojo are similar to Front's design - thanks for the leads.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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[duplicate post]

Nick Shinn's picture
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I’m inclined to think that the lettering concept is quite original, a response to the serendipity of the photo’s distortion. 1965 was too early for the West Coast psychedelic lettering style in which Wes Wilson morphed jugendstijl. Just look at the early Family Dog posters from 1966, it’s not emerged yet.

The album art fashion in the UK beat group/mod era of the early-mid 1960s was for strong typography, lots of Compacta, a reaction against the hand-lettering of the late 1950s—which would include the beatnik style of loose interlocking.

Just look at the title of the Stones’ 1966 album Aftermath, based on Impact-like letter-forms. Hand-drawn, but still wedded to the mod(ernist) aesthetic. http://wwwrollingstones.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/1966/04/aftermath-...

Modernism and psychedelia were parallel trends in the 1960s, the modernism slightly earlier.

Donovan album from 1965—he transitioned from folk to psychedelic, his producer Mickie Most had an eclectic influence. http://www.hotplatters.com/images/2-182.jpg That’s as close as it gets.

Ken Orth's picture
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Joined: 12 Mar 2015 - 7:44am
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Thanks Nick. Its beginning to look like the Front lettering is both original and nameless.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Emergent and seminal!

Nick Shinn's picture
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BTW, I love your concept Ken, is this going to be a book?
Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to discuss.
I bought all their albums as a teenager in the UK, although the Stones were my favorite group.
Will you be comparing UK releases with North American and elsewhere?
https://recordcovers.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/a-few-record-cover-books/

Ken Orth's picture
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Joined: 12 Mar 2015 - 7:44am
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Nick: I'm writing the story about the cover art on each Beatles' UK album. Stories have been published in "Beatlefan" magazine in the issue marking each album's 50th anniversary. "Help!" comes up this summer; "Rubber Soul" for the holidays. I'll take you up on your offer for your observations about the typography on upcoming albums - thank you very much for offering!

I'm not writing about the US releases except in cases where thew US covers were based on the UK art, such as "With/Meet The Beatles", "A Hard Day's Night", "Help", and, now, "Rubber Soul", which was the first cover truly shared by UK and US releases (although the songs were different).

Thanks again for your interest, time and insights. Looking forward to further discussions. Best, Ken

Nick Shinn's picture
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