TOP 10 BAND LOGOS!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Anyone who has ever sketched the KISS letters in a school notebook or safety-pinned a Ramones patch onto the back of their jacket knows that a great band logo resonates with fans and reveals their love for those artists.
Whether it’s painted onto a kick drum or hung as a backdrop on stage, these designs embody the style and swagger of the band and represent their image, attitude and sound. In honor of the late Alan Aldridge, the “Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes”, who in 1971 designed the classic Hard Rock Cafe logo for our original London location, let’s take a look at some of the most iconic band logos in rock n’ roll history.
#10: WU-TANG CLAN
When the Staten Island hip hop collective known as the Wu-Tang Clan were in need of an image to symbolize the group, they enlisted the help of their friend, artist Mathematics, to create something iconic in the style of the Batman or Warner Bros. logos. Loosely based on common imagery found in old kung fu movies, the Wu’s “W” logo is as powerful today as it was when it was first unleashed on the cover of their 1993 debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
Shortly before the release of their debut album, lead singer and former art school student Freddie Mercury began to sketch what would become the Queen crest. Resembling the British Royal coat-of-arms, the crest would incorporate the astrological signs of each of the band’s members (two lions, two fairies & a crab), a rising Phoenix and a regal ‘Q’ to represent the pomp and majesty of Queen’s timeless music. Mercury left us too soon, but the band remains one of the undisputed champions in the rock world and their style and showmanship continue to influence artists of all genres to this day.
The goofy, dead-eyed smiley face, frequently seen worn on t-shirts by Nirvana fans since their explosive emergence as the biggest artist from the grunge rock era. Though its origins are somewhat ambiguous, the face sketched by Kurt Cobain makes its earliest known appearance on a flyer from 1991 promoting the release party for their now classic-album Nevermind. Three years later, when Cobain was found dead at his Seattle home, shocked fans around the world would mourn and pay tribute to the iconic musician who has since become a rock n roll legend.
#7: NINE INCH NAILS
According to Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor, the industrial rock band was named for its easy ability to abbreviate. The classic [NIИ] design by Reznor and art director Gary Talpas appeared for the first time in the band’s debut music video for “Down in It” from their seminal album Pretty Hate Machine. Despite their ever-evolving line up, the band’s success has continued since Reznor and Co. burst onto the electronic rock scene in 1989.
#6: GRATEFUL DEAD
By 1969, Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Grateful Dead crew were having trouble finding their equipment among all the other bands after playing festivals. Sound tech (and legendary LSD chemist) Owsley Stanley decided they should mark the gear with a unique stamp to make their cases easier to spot. He happened upon an image from a street sign and thought that it would make the perfect stamp. What began as a half-red/half-blue circle with a slash down the middle evolved into the famous “Lightning Skull” when artist Bob Thomas, who also created the famous dancing Jerry bears, redesigned the mark by adding the famous lightning bolt and skull face. And for Dead-heads everywhere, the rest is history.
First used on the cover of the horror-punk band’s third single, 1979’s “Horror Business”, the Misfits skull was inspired by a theater poster for the 1946 movie serial called The Crimson Ghost. Misfits fans have since worn this patch on their coats or as a ripped-up t-shirt proudly displaying their allegiance to the band. Today the haunting image of a ghoulish face has become so ubiquitous, you can now see it worn by models on runways or at suburban malls where you may find the logo on everything from coffee mugs to baby clothes. Whoever said punk is dead?
#4: GUNS N’ ROSES
The logo, designed by lead guitarist Slash in the early days of GNR, features two intertwined pistols and roses against the back of a bullet. In the mid-1980s, the-up and-coming band would often pass out flyers created by the guitarist along Hollywood’s Sunset Strip advertising their earliest shows at clubs such as the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and The Troubador. The contrasting images are meant to represent the duality of Guns’ music and also combine two of the original member’s names, Axl Rose and Tracii Guns. In 2016, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan returned to the group after a 20 year absence and have been playing to sold out stadiums all over the world.
Often parodied by the likes of Beavis & Butthead and Spinal Tap – and having inspired countless hard rock and heavy metal bands since it was first unveiled in 1976 – the AC/DC logo has easily become one of the most influential images in rock history. Los Angeles-based artist Gerard Huerta, who also conceived the famous artwork for the bands Boston and Foreigner, was commissioned to design a logo for the then-unknown Australian rock band’s debut album High Voltage. Huerta describes his work as loosely based on the Guttenberg bible’s lettering. Though he’s never received royalties for his contribution to the band’s famous brand, in creating the AC/DC logo Huerta inspired a style of font that will forever be synonymous with hard rock music.
From their first show in 1974 at New York City’s CBGB until their final performance at the Lollapalooza festival in 1996, no other band has embodied the sound and spirit of All-American punk rock than the Ramones. Their iconic logo is everywhere and has inspired countless variations from designers trying to capture the band’s streetwise attitude. Created by friend and artist Arturo Vega, the emblem was based on the US Presidential Seal and features an eagle holding an olive branch in one arm and a baseball bat in the other with the member’s names encircling the image. The waving banner in the bird’s beak reads either “Look Out Below” or perhaps more famously “Hey Ho Let’s Go” in reference to a line from the band’s debut single ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. Since sparking the birth of the punk rock movement, the band released 14 albums, played 2,263 shows and become one of the most enduring groups in rock ‘n’ roll history.
#1: THE ROLLING STONES
Still going strong after 55 years, the Rolling Stones’ “Hot Lips” logo is perhaps as recognizable around the world today, perhaps as much as McDonald’s or Coca-Cola. In 1970, Stones frontman Mick Jagger approached 24-year-old art student John Pasche to create a logo for the legendary band for their upcoming album Sticky Fingers and suggested a likeness of the Hindu goddess Kali’s pointed tongue. Often interpreted as an image of Jagger’s notorious lips, the mouth and tongue have gone on to become as identifiable as the bands bluesy, classic-rock music. “I think it’s stood the test of time because it’s a universal statement. Sticking out your tongue at something,” says Pasche. The Stones’ logo captures the essence of rebellion and sexuality that continues to resonate with each new generation of fans. We all know it’s only rock n’ roll… but we like it.