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Cover Story #7: Everybody Loves Raymond Pettibon—the artist behind Black Flag, SST Records, & OFF!

Actually, our title is far from true. Raymond Pettibon has actually pissed off tons of people over the years with his provocative, often controversial, outsider art. Over time, he's turned into an acclaimed and very wealthy American artist (auction prices through the roof lately), but to his chagrin he will always be known first and foremost as the guy who came up with the name Black Flag for his brother Greg Ginn's groundbreaking L.A. punk band as well as the four-black-bars flag design that became the band's now iconic logo. A logo that has since gone on to become the bane of every self-respecting tattoo artist's existence, right up there with tribal, tramp stamp, and butterfly tattoos.

Inaugural inductee into the Neck Tattoo Hall of Fame

But we've all gotta start somewhere and the artist formerly known as Raymond Ginn (who changed his surname to Pettibon in the late 1970s, inspired by his father's nickname for him—Petit Bon or "Good Little One"), started doing album covers and promo posters primarily for Black Flag and a few other bands on Greg's influential punk label, SST Records, in 1979. Those album covers, to this day, are as punk rock as punk rock itself, meant to challenge the status quo and stir controversy in equal doses. From the very beginning, his art also pointedly and unabashedly reflected our decaying society back at us with an antiestablishment world view laced with a wicked strain of black humor. One thing is for sure, and that is the fact that no other record label's image has been so closely aligned with one solitary artist.


To demonstrate, we've chosen our 25 favorite Pettibon covers (albums, singles, and compilations, but no concert posters, handbills, or lame Foo Fighters bullshit included) from over the years, and as always they're ranked in descending order to provide some artificial drama. Appreciate them or not, this list tells an important parallel story of the punk era, as well as later resurgences of the art form, from the perspective of a uniquely talented and unquestionably original mind.


PICKLED PRIEST'S 25 FAVORITE RAYMOND PETTIBON COVERS



25 OFF! | Wasted Years (2014)

Pettibon's initial notoriety came from his work with Black Flag from 1979-1985, after which he went on to a bona-fide career as a bankable artist, only occasionally coming back to grace us with an album cover now and then for old time's sake. One such return, over a quarter century post-Black Flag, was for a now decade-long series of covers for L.A. punk veterans OFF!, a band that not-coincidentally features original Black Flag singer Keith Morris. It's assumed a favor was called in or Pettibon just loves bands named after pest control products. (Maybe you could name your new punk band Roach Motel and see if he bites.) Whatever the motivation, it has been a blast from the past to have Pettibon back in his original milieu again even if his new work is substantially tamer than his original work decades prior. Wasted Years (a nod to Black Flag compilation Wasted...Again is presumed) is typical late-period Pettibon. In the beginning, he was most known for producing black and white line drawings that evoked the aesthetic of the many punk fanzines produced during the first-wave era (Pettibon himself responsible for many such zines) and this cover carries on that vibe. It may not be among his most memorable creations, and I do miss his old edge, but it makes the list because it has a tasty Spicoli vibe a la Fast Times at Ridgemont High and that works for me.



24 VARIOUS ARTISTS | Chunks (1981)

An outlier from typical Pettibon covers, this was from Chunks, a punk-rock compilation released on New Alliance Records (an SST-influenced label started by members of the Minutemen) and features the usual line drawings, but this time they look like they were created by a completely different artist thanks to a level of technical precision not previously seen from Pettibon. The cover has the layout of a four-paneled comic strip albeit with an unsettling abortion theme. These days, Texas would probably toss you in jail for releasing this album cover. Anyhoo, the visuals are crisp and clean, the lettering considered, and the red in lieu of his beloved black India ink, gives the whole composition a new look and feel. Which makes sense considering he was moonlighting for a different label at the time.



23 OFF! | First Four EPs (2010)

Another OFF! album, another stoned teenager on the cover, this time an awkward adolescent who appears to be an older (but not better) version of Beavis perhaps. The caption even sounds like something Butthead might've wryly observed upon reuniting with his old friend five years after their MTV show ended. The visual is a bit ironic, too, especially considering lead singer Keith Morris was 55-years-old when the initial OFF! EPs started coming off the presses back in 2010. (It should be noted that he had lost none of his early ferocity despite his age and continues to defy logic at 67—a fucking freak of nature, he is.) The First Four EPs compiled the band's first four hard-to-find EPs and referenced a very similar Black Flag compilation, The First Four Years, which chronicled Morris's formative years with Black Flag, pre-Henry Rollins. Nice touch once again.



22 MINUTEMEN | My First Bells (1985)

The cover of this cassette-only compilation of early Minutemen EPs and compilation tracks is refreshingly charming on first view—a happy young lady displaying her latest find at a local vintage clothing shop. It almost looks like a Facebook post or Tweet or something if that had been a thing in the mid-80s. But in the captioned drawing, you see the feet of a corpse, complete with toe-tag, sticking out of a body bag in the county morgue. And suddenly you have to ask yourself the uncomfortable question: Did this happy girl kill some hippie flower child just to snag her first pair of bellbottoms? Say it isn't so! Disturbing thought aside, I love the simplicity of the line drawing here. Just the bare minimum, like it took just a minute for the man to draw.



21 MIKE WATT | Ball-Hog or Tug Boat (1995)

SEX WITH YOU IS LIKE WATCHING SCIENTIFIC WRESTLING.


Can that in any way be considered a compliment? Discuss. Whenever Pettibon did an album cover later in his career it was usually for an old cronie from back in the early days of Cali punk, and Mike Watt of the Minutemen would've been at or near the top of that list. Watt himself also had a lot of notable pals and just about every one of them contributed at some point to Ball-Hog or Tugboat, his solo debut. It has to rank high on the list of albums with the most cameos—take a look on your own time; it's positively amazing the album got made at all. The cover, which is why we're here, is a total departure from the usual Pettibon, which is appreciated even if it doesn't mean improvement. This was done during the mid-90s alt-rock explosion, so I suppose the cover had to be somewhat more marketable and ideally inoffensive to the general public. So this time we get a bolder color palette and some amateur graphic design to complement another Pettibon drawing/caption combo. It seems to be a custom-made affair meant to memorialize the mutual love of wrestling he and Watt shared for some reason. The drawing is, in truth, underwhelming, but the caption saves the day. Scientific Wrestling would've made a pretty good album title, too. Not one of Pettibon's best, but it makes the list anyway because it's a different take on his original approach and we applaud the attempt.



20 BLACK FLAG | The Process of Weeding Out EP (1985)

We'll leave the debate over the artistic necessity of an all-instrumental jazz-punk Black Flag album for another day, but the first entry on this list from the band that made Pettibon infamous is undoubtedly from one of their strangest, and most unexpected releases. It's fitting then that the cover is another of the most anti-Pettibon images from his entire tenure at SST Records. It's surely one of his most detailed drawings to feature on a Flag cover and certainly one of his darkest—if not in theme, then in the saturation of black throughout. The drawing features Satan in his laboratory apparently weeding out the do-gooders from a petri-dish full of fresh sperm. It certainly adds some unexpected nuance and complexity to the old good vs. evil debate. Perhaps we underestimated the red devil's tactical sophistication a bit? What first presents as a low hanging moon soon reveals itself to be the focus of his microscopic examination, but what human traits can be discerned this early in the reproductive process? Can he tell who is susceptible to a little temptation and who is not? It's a pretty cool cover overall, even though the inverse Black Flag & logo combination is far too big for the space. I'd much rather the drawing be a little larger with more blank/black space surrounding it. I do appreciate the truth in advertising warning to the band's core fans that this is an instrumental affair, something that surely had die-hard fans a little perplexed.



19 OFF! | Live From the BBC (2015)

Pettibon's OFF! covers have their own distinct charm and identity, but they mostly fall near the end of this list because they didn't have the cutting social edge of his earliest work (still to come, of course). That said, his approach here did continue an entirely distinct visual brand for the group, which in itself is one of the goals of an album cover or series of covers. That consistent look and feel, also present in Black Flag's discography, would be instantly recognizable even if the band's name wasn't added in a bold, 96-point font. That said, the drawing here isn't much to praise, although the long hair is decidedly un-punk, which is one of the cool things about the band in general—Keith Morris and crew just don't give a shit about your definition of a punk band. The caption, LEONARD BERNSTEIN DIGS THIS SONG, is one of Pettibon's most overtly humorous and I'm bet Leonard would've got a kick out of it knowing him, which I don't.



18 OFF! | OFF! EP

This is one of those covers where I'll let you fill in the "story" behind the drawing. I'll spot you a bass guitarist, a dead body (or parts of a dead body), and a severed finger. You do the rest. Assignment due by EOD next Wednesday.


17 OFF! | Free LSD (2022)

The most atypical cover in Pettibon's OFF! series is this attractive visual from the band's heavy-punk album Free LSD (which made our Top 50 Albums list last year). The usual format—large band name, ink drawing—remains, but this time there's some pleasing color added around the UFO (or drug-fueled vision) complemented nicely by cool outer-space lettering and you have a bona-fide composition this time instead of just some graphics and a random drawing pasted onto the canvas. The caption approach that is sysnonymous with Pettibon's artwork remains, too, but this time it smacks of some serious drug intake. If you can't read it easily, here's the caption:


It appeared at all events, on the late days of Spring, just a response to the facility of things,

and to much of their juvenile pleasantry, to find one's self "liking," mildly stoned.


I wish I said stuff like that when stoned. I've always been under the impression I disappoint under the influence of drugs. Nonetheless, this cover definitely benefits from a more spectacular image. The color makes it stand out from the pack and the backwards lettering is just the right approach considering the title. The whole thing holds together holistically more than most entries in Pettibon's revered oeuvre.



16 BLACK FLAG | Demos 1982

Pettibon is a prolific fucker and always has been, so the claim that he was always surrounded by stacks of potential drawings to pick from come album cover time makes sense. His art wasn't created in response to any provided mood or theme, but its intrinsically confrontational nature just suited Black Flag's approach to music in general. Perhaps it was all genetic chemistry at play. The Ginn brothers, one a musician, the other an artist, came at life in similar ways albeit from two different artistic disciplines with neither offering an ounce of pandering or tolerance for normal human existence in the process. While Black Flag was responsible for more concert fights per capita than almost any other band in history, Raymond Pettibon was similarly instigating confrontation with his unmerciful artwork. This album of Black Flag demos, unreleased except on bootleg, is one such example. He often used his art to make a political or social point and on the surface, one might be appalled by a coquettish lady getting swastikas burned into her shoulder blades. Until you read the caption, of course: ANTI-SEMITISM IS BETTER THAN LOVE BECAUSE IT LASTS. So instead of her lover's name in a heart, she's getting marked forever with something more likely to persist. If that isn't a scathing indictment of our society, I don't know what is. The more we change, the more we stay the same. The drawing is in a style not replicated on any other cover either—it's more finely detailed and deviously playful. I also like the light gray foundation. It provides a pleasingly cohesive basis for the whole piece, which is something never said about any Black Flag release ever.



15 BLACK FLAG | In My Head (1985)

From here on out, as Black Flag covers enter the list with increasing regularity, be prepared for some uncomfortable content—images designed to provoke, disturb, make you think, often at the same time. Here's the first of several (ironically, the last Black Flag cover he ever did). In My Head brings six Pettibon images to one cover (against his will), seemingly the uncontrollable thoughts of the anonymous man outlined in silhouette behind them. Some troubling images reveal themselves; predatory behavior, revenge fantasies, and domestic violence for starters. Other images aren't as clearly defined but they still leave a lasting and unnerving aftertaste. Since it's hard to read the captions at this size, they are as follows (clockwise from top left)...


AN 'A' IN THE SCHOOL OF LIFE

I'VE BEEN GOOD TOO LONG

DO EXACTLY AS YOU'RE TOLD AND NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO YOU

THE PERSON WHO TOOK THIS PHOTOGRAPH IS DEAD

I'VE HEARD THAT IF YOU SLAPPED THEM, THAT STOPPED THEM

IS IT IN HER HEART? HER MIND? OR IS IT REAL?


The identity of the man behind the shading is unknown, but it could be a composite of many men, perhaps an early view of what would eventually become known to society as toxic masculinity. And Black Flag concerts, routinely violent and predominantly male, were a good place to witness it in living color. The early L.A. punk scene was also a good place to see police abuse their power by randomly kicking some punk asses for kicks. The cover is just one of several that have a focus on gun violence in our country and there's a lot more of that to come unfortunately, both on Black Flag's album covers and in the United States in general, where mass shootings would become more and more common since. On a graphic design note, the use of color here is appreciated, with five of six images sharing the same orange background color (Why not the sixth? We may never know). It's definitely a good concept. It accomplishes what it set out to do and provides the listener something to contemplate as they settle in for some heavy lyrical content delivered with maximum intensity.



14 BLACK FLAG | Six Pack EP (1981)

In the visual neighborhood of Jackson Pollock, the Six Pack cover is punk in a nutshell. A misunderstood art form that challenges conventional thinking to such an extreme degree that others want to isolate or eradicate it by any means necessary. So the idea of being painted in a corner is very real to the average punk, especially in L.A. during the early 80s. On one hand, true punks liked it that way—a tight community of likeminded outcasts united by music, message, clothes, and attitude. As a concept, I really like this cover, but I don't think my interpretation has anything to do with the artist's intent, that's just how I see it. As noted before, Pettibon's drawings weren't bespoke creations, but sometimes I wish they were. For example, I can't help but think this image would work better if the "artist" pictured on the cover had also painted the band name and logo on the walls of his room with the same paint brush he used to paint the floor. That would've looked pretty cool. But maybe that would be trying too hard. Which is not very punk at all.



13 CEREBRAL BALLZY | Cerebral Ballzy (2011)

The less you know about the horrifically-named Cerebral Ballzy the better. They were short-lived and we're all the better for it. But I do like the simplicity and humor of this cover which begs you to supply your own caption ("I'm too young to have a skeleton in my closet!") not to mention the "we just peeled this off an old Xerox machine" feel, which is very DIY punk. Another nice touch is how the boy's striped shirt recreates the same visual as the skeleton's ribcage. If you were this kid, you'd be a little rattled, too.



12 OFF! | OFF! EP (2012)

I hate when I do something really bad and Satan makes no formal acknowledgment of it. He's terrible at recognizing his best people, like this evil sorceress with the bad haircut, menacing eyes, and pointy shiv. What does a girl gotta do to get some hate around here? This gets my vote for Pettibon's best OFF! cover. Same homemade feel, but this time we get a sinister image and a disturbing caption: SATAN DID NOT APPEAR. It makes you wonder what you have to do for a little face-to-face. I welcome a little evildoing from Pettibon at this point in his career.



11 BLACK FLAG | Jealous Again EP (1980)

Very early Pettibon here on the third ever SST release and second for Black Flag. At this point, he hadn't fully settled on his singular style yet and that benefits the cover art which seems more alive than most of his other work. It's got a pleasing bumble bee color palette, nicely contrasted with the light blue of the school uniforms. It's one of the artist's more detailed and cartoonish images as well. Oh, and of course, there's a gun included to up the ante to Black Flag levels. Is this like the set of Rust where one of the prop guns is actually loaded? The moral of the story is don't bring a baton to a gunfight.



10 BLACK FLAG | Nervous Breakdown EP (1979)

The debut release for both SST Records and Black Flag, Nervous Breakdown is considered an iconic punk cover for good reason. Punk is all about agitation and here we have a guy clearly on the edge, ready to pop off at any moment, with only a kitchen chair held by an amateur lion tamer to keep him under control. Multiply this guy by about 250 and you had the typical untamed Black Flag audience back in the early-80s. In other words, enter at your own risk. I do appreciate the low-budget black and white color scheme (later versions are in blue or red), which only adds to the cover's DIY feel. I also have an affinity for the captionless drawings of Pettibon. Sometimes it's better to let the image tell its own story. Oh, and this is the one and only time the iconic Black Flag logo isn't added to something they released, with later versions of this record including it in the design. From that point forward the Golden Arches of punk were everywhere on everything.



09 MINUTEMEN | Paranoid Time EP (1980)

While we're talking about the early days of SST Records, let's move to the label's second-ever release, the Minutemen's debut EP, Paranoid Time. Not a bad start for a new label, is it? First, the debut of a now legendary punk band. Second, the debut of a now legendary punk band. (If you must know, the label's next release by a band other than Black Flag or the Minutemen was Saccharine Trust's Paganicons, which, if Wikipedia is accurate, was one of Kurt Cobain's ten favorite albums. It's no stretch to point out that the Paranoid Time cover would not go over very well in the second decade of the 21st century. It features an Asian film crew (armed with guns, of course) filming what appears to be either a western, a porno, or a western porno with a diminutive leading man groping the breasts of what appears to be an American woman on set. Was this a Harvey Weinstein production? On a label known for Black Flag, this one has enough red flags to cause a major HR meltdown. So why am I drawn to it again and again? Why have I spent time making up the circumstances that led up to this moment? A good cover can stir the imagination.



08 BLACK FLAG | Slip It In (1984

Raymond produced a shit-ton of drawings, all of which were not specifically made for the records that used them. Did any SST band choose an image because it seemed to reflect their music's content? Perhaps. But for the most part, especially in the case Black Flag and other SST bands, the most provocative or controversial image would often win out. Which is how a nun cradling a man's hairy naked leg next to the title Slip It In comes together. The title, in this case, makes the drawing doubly salacious and controversial. Add the caption NOBODY KNOWS MORE THAN I THAT THE LESS GIRLS KNOW THE BETTER THEY ARE LIKELY TO BE and people are going to get their collective shorts in a bunch. But who among us doesn't like to dangle the taboo now for comedic effect and/or shock value? It's no different than thousands of comedians, filmmakers, and musicians pushing the envelope of acceptability in the practice of their craft. I get the distinct impression that Pettibon was just a prolific artist mainlining ideas without regard to propriety of content. And why should he? There's fun to be had trafficking beyond the limits of cultural acceptability. Granted, there's always the risk that your artistic career might be defined by that very same art. No matter what Pettibon has done since, and it has been a ton of great work, he'll always be first and foremost the "Black Flag artist." He quickly realized that, too, so it's no surprise that Pettibon pulled away from doing covers after awhile. He didn't love the idea of bands recontextualizing his art, even though he did have to acknowledge that that very same art is what elevated his stature in the first place. A paradox to be sure. The Slip It In cover is particularly striking because the image is set on top of a blood red background—the traditional color of the devil. Its bold colors stand out (and indicate an increasing printing budget at SST) and the cover is basically "Good Girls Don't" (But I Do) five years after the fact, taken to its most extreme conclusion. Like it or not, it's a cover that you cannot look away from without having it stick in your memory first.



07 BIG WALNUTS YONDER | Big Walnuts Yonder (2017)

This cover, unsurprisingly, came about due to the longstanding friendship between Pettibon and the Minutemen's Mike Watt, who formed this one-off "supergroup" in 2014 with members of Wilco (Nels Cline), Deerhoof (Greg Saunier), and Tara Melos (Nick Reinhart). I've never listened to it, nor was I even aware of its existence until now to be honest. The less said about the band name the better (brilliant/stupid?), but I do give them credit for the song title, "I Got Marty Feldman Eyes" regardless. As for the cover, I dig the old-school artwork, which has a very pulp novel vibe or perhaps a retro comic strip feel, with its dark shading and thick line work. The caption is also perfect. It took a shot in the eye for this guy to guess where he was taken post-abduction (my story, not theirs) yet he still seems genuinely excited to be in the Big Apple! New York has that affect on people.



06 MINUTEMEN | What Makes a Man Start Fires? (1983)

Which came first, the drawing or the album title? This is the only case I've seen where Pettibon's caption was used as the actual album title. Or was it the other way around? I haven't been able to find out definitively. Either way, this is an attractive cover composition. Composition isn't something I've commented on much so far, mainly because it wasn't really a big priority at SST (typical of punk records in general, or course). Usually, the artwork was hastily slapped on and the graphics cut out and pasted hastily without much regard to spatial dynamics or visual appeal. Glue the drawing on, add the band name in a giant font, find a spot for the logo, and you're done! Here, the brown and yellow color palette works well and the smaller font size shows a rare level of restraint. The temptation to make the drawing much bigger was smartly fought off and the cover's "brown space" makes the overall visual very effective. Ironically, this is one of Pettibon's greatest drawings, the one you might want to peruse at a larger size. But that's beside the point. Solution? Buy it on vinyl.


05 BLACK FLAG | Family Man (1984)

Black Flag really did what they wanted without regard to their audience's preferences or desires and Family Man is one of the best examples of that. A growing Henry Rollins influence resulted in a spoken word album with jazzy instrumental passages—just what your average hardcore punk rocker was hoping for at the time! Nonetheless, I don't have to tell you that this cover is without a doubt one of the most disturbing, controversial, and denounced punk rock album covers ever. Jim Ruland, the author of Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records, wrote that, "Trying to choose the most disturbing Pettibon illustration is like trying to pick the least creepy member of the Manson Family." He wasn't wrong, but I think I have your winner right here. A man about to conclude a murder suicide holds a gun to his head, apparently moments after taking out his own family. The album title only drives home the atrocity. It was a shocking image in the 80s and it's a shocking image now. But it is also an image you cannot turn off. It haunts, it penetrates. Unfortunately, this is America right now, full of disturbed people doing horrible things. In the entry prior, Pettibon asked What Makes a Man Start Fires? Here, he seems to be asking 'What drives a man to start shooting?'—a concept sadly ahead of its time. The caption adds some potential context in this case— NOVEMBER 23, 1963, or the day after the Kennedy assassination. So was this man so distraught that he no longer wanted his family to live in this world anymore? Or is this vision just an acknowledgement that heinous shit happens every day in this country usually without it even registering with most people? No matter the reason, it's a powerful statement.



04 BLACK FLAG | The Unheard 1983 Demos

I didn't say this was going to be pleasant, did I? This is punk rock, after all, and Black Flag was all about aggression release. They tapped into a growing youth movement that needed an outlet for their growing angst, brought on by feelings of hopelessness and alienation. Predictably, that manifested itself in many ways— sometimes productive, sometimes misdirected, often dumb, occasionally tragic. But the best part of punk was that it didn't sit back and brush things under the rug like generations before them. It's not surprising then that Pettibon's artwork is loaded with images and ideas most, including parents, the police, teachers, et al, would rather not face. In this case, Pettibon is perceptive enough to realize that the ennui present among his own peers has always been simmering below the surface. So here we see yet another seemingly adult man putting a bullet in his head to escape his own reality, with a caption that reads like he just took a couple Tylenol for a headache. Is the image irresponsible? Or does it shine a light on a growing problem? What does it say to you?



03 BLACK FLAG | My War (1984)

Aren't you glad you're still reading at this point? Admittedly not the most uplifting post in Pickled Priest history, but at least it isn't as bad as my Cannibal Corpse entry a couple years ago. Is it any consolation in this case that Pettibon holstered his ever-present guns for an album and instead trotted out a Mr. Rogers Neighborhood puppet wielding a butcher knife? Uh, perhaps not. Admit it though, this cover is brilliant in all ways. It's colorful, it's scary, it's demented, it's morbidly funny, and it fits perfectly with the album title, My War. It's also atypical of the SST covers created during the first half of the 80s. This time, vibrant colors and a full wall-to-wall image are used instead of a cut-and-pasted illustration which makes this seem like it was, for once, specifically created for the album. Love the ominous shadow of the knife and how Pettibon puts in just enough of the puppeteer's arm to remind us that the real perpetrator here is a human being, not a movie puppet come to life. This is my war and this is how I'm going to fight it! With an evil avatar sporting beady eyes, a combover, a giant nose, creepy yellow teeth, and a fucking butcher knife. Appreciate the tie, though. A classy touch where it really wasn't needed or expected.



02 ANNIHILATION TIME | Annihilation Time

Back to guns one more time because I know you missed them. This suicide is a little more impactful than the one in entry #4 because the image is more realistic (a good thing?) and because it's a full-cover composition that really delivers a pleasing overall visual impact. Well, as pleasing as a guy about to blow his head off can get, but you know what I mean. What did you expect from a band named Annihilation Time anyway? The band's name in bold across the top does enhance the image, to be sure—a caption in its own right. If this was a Toad the Wet Sprocket record, the impact wouldn't be nearly as complete or impactful. How this relatively unknown band got Pettibon to contribute artwork for their cover I do not know, but I do get a kick out of the fact that this cover was once displayed on the walls of MoMA during a Raymond Pettibon exhibit years ago. As for the image itself, I really like when Pettibon varies his style, in this case with a more conventional crosshatch heavy "portrait." The addition of a thought-provoking caption only pumps up the intrigue behind the image. What has led to this very moment? What is going on in his mind? How can we stop it?



01 SONIC YOUTH | Goo

We end with an acknowledged Pettibon classic and one the most iconic, not to mention parodied, album covers ever. This pseudo-Warholian pop-art creation was part pulp fiction, part cartoon panel, and part Baader Meinhoff recruitment poster, from Sonic Youth's Goo album in 1990. If you need that many modifiers to describe something, then you know you've done something right. It's an indelible image, seen everywhere since the album's release, including on my mask of choice during the pandemic. (Not once did someone in my uncool town so much as comment on it, but I guess we weren't in the mood for small talk then.) In classic black and white (with heavily saturated black) there's a stark power to the image, which is adapted from a photo of a real-life couple who perpetrated the Moors Murders in England in the early- to mid-60s (Ian Brady and Myra Hindley to be specific—look it up—a grisly, horrifying tale). The caption, however, doesn't mirror the facts of that case; instead they went with a, believe it or not, more palatable storyline involving the murder of a couple parents. What a relief! But it made for an intriguing, arresting image, nonetheless, one that surely was responsible for selling a lot more records just on impulse buys alone. A vinyl copy, in particular, looks fabulous in the Now Playing rack—it's just not the same on CD. So here it is, the ultimate Pettibon, even if it isn't the quintessential Pettibon—the one synonymous with L.A. punk rock explosion back in the early-80s. Even though it makes more sense to put a Black Flag record at #1, this feels right. Let's face it, if I was forced to get one Pettibon-inspired tattoo, this would be it. I don't think I could go with a Blag Flag at this point in my long life. I just couldn't pull it off anymore.


Before we leave, a few more from Pettibon and the reason we didn't put it in our Top 25....


HONORABLE MENTION

Too Hare Krishna

Too disrespectful to my childhood fantasy

Too sexist

Too rape-y

Too everything

Too mouthy

Too Sparks-y

Too Foo Fighters-y

________________________________


Well, that's all for this service my art loving parishioners. Head home, get out your sketch pads, and start drawing. You never know, you might just end up on an album someday.


Cheers,



The Priest



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