Covering the Revolution:
Paredon Records Album Art
... Nobody could ever imagine how much of my and all my friends’ labor went into making these records look like real respectable products, you know. And I’m very proud of the fact they do look good, they look fine. You know there’s nothing shoddy about any of the booklets or the record or the quality of the recording or the covers. There’s nothing shoddy about it. Everything’s done as best as we could do it. Okay, but the fact is that most of that was done just by, you know, burning the midnight oil. Exploiting all your friends ....
During the course of the interview, Dane and Silber recalled the motivations and activities that specifically shaped some of the Paredon album covers:
Barbara Dane: You know I’ve met people who bought the record just to have the cover to put up on their wall. They wanted that slogan on their wall.
Irwin Silber: Well, what we tried to do with that was, I mean, it comes off as a really big statement.
Barbara Dane: The idea I was taking off on was the graphic design of their then-current slogan “Things go better with Coke.” They had "things" smaller, then the words got bigger, bigger, BIGGER. Remember that logo? So I was taking it off that idea with the "I" small and then Hate the Capitalist System bigger and bigger, with "System" hitting you in the face, trying to make it very stark, you know. Nothing to take your mind off what it was saying.
Irwin Silber: I had in mind that it should be done as though somebody had written it on a fence with whitewash or something like that. But Ronnie Clyne, who designed the cover, maybe that violated his sensibilities. He could never—he couldn’t bring himself to do it.
Barbara Dane: He could have done it, but I was really into that “Things go better with Coke” thing, just wanted to rip off their very cool design idea. Probably nobody noticed it but me.
Irwin Silber: Well, it’s your fault.
“I had contacted someone from the U.S. Sinn Fein group in order to get a better understanding of the movement as well as for advice about how to make the recording useful to all sides of the Irish opposition to British rule, a movement which has historically been rent with sectarianism. We had made contact with the singing group through Ewan McColl, and it turned out that the music itself was made by, and some of the ideas in it were acceptable mainly to, only one part of the movement. In search of a better balance overall, I was looking for something to depict the Irish working class, which would cut across ideological lines. We went through a lot photos, looking at them until finally we came upon the one that is on the cover. I love the photo, just the design of the photo, the way the men are coming out of the factory, and women, too, workers are coming out of the plant and how they look. He says, ‘Well, those are mostly Protestants.’ I said, ‘How do you know?’ He says, ‘Oh I can just tell by the way they look.’ I gather by the way they were dressed, by their general air, or maybe there’s something subtle in their general physiognomy that to the non-Irish it’s not apparent. But he said, ‘No they’re mostly Protestant.’ So I said, ‘Well good, at least they’re all workers. That sounds like a good cover.’ So we used that. In the end, we might have succeeded in making it useful to neither side. I hope not. The songs are great!
“I was able to find some Palestinians living in New York and luckily they put me in touch with a woman named Miriam Rosen, who was doing a radio series on WBAI in New York— a Middle East news round-up. She was kind enough to write a concise introduction to the situation in modern Palestine/Israel for the booklet. Miraculously, she also linked me up with Kamal Boullata, a widely recognized Palestinian artist who had done some illustrations for a book of poems of Mahmoud Darwish, probably the best known Palestinian poet of the modern times. Boullata lived in Washington but he made a trip to see me in Brooklyn, and to my everlasting gratitude he became very involved in the album. He very, very much wanted to see this project happen. If you look in the booklet, the songs are typed out in Arabic script. He got this done. He translated the songs. He wrote the introductions to the songs. He also generously designed and made a beautiful original drawing for the cover. He did a tremendous amount of work on this whole project, even though it is clear he is a famous artist with plenty of other things to do. He just decided he wanted this to happen. So now we have it. To tell you the truth, it could never have become the precious thing it is without Kamal Boullata.”
Argentina: Por el Fusil y La Flor, 1975
“There are so many European strains in Argentina that it’s very hard to figure out what a typical Argentine looks like. So we knew an artist who wanted to do the cover. And she was willing to do the research, so she got out different books and looked around, tried to find out what an Argentine person actually looks like, you know, more of a prototype. She couldn’t find anything, so she went to the Argentine embassy, and she said, “Give me some photographs of some Argentines. I want to make some typical Argentines.” So she said they kept showing her pictures of pin-up girls and stuff out of tourist literature ... So she said, “No, no. I mean Argentine, you know, like Che Guevara.” And these, of course, were fascist Argentines in there. And they said, “Che Guevara—He’s not Argentine, he’s Cuban.” The whole world knows he’s Argentine!
So she eventually had to just kind of speculate. Later on, a year or two later, I went to Cuba and I took a copy of that record and a copy of Che Guevara Speaks, and I gave them to Che’s father, who was living in Cuba at the time. I had a wonderful evening just talking and getting acquainted with the old guy, and so I told him the story. And meanwhile he’s sitting there with a pencil and paper, and in about two or three seconds, you know, he’s drawn this little drawing, which I still have somewhere in my files. He says “There, that’s a typical Argentine.” And of course it was a very indigenous-looking face, and he’d captured it perfectly. It turns out he’s a very good drawer. So too bad we didn’t have Che’s father’s drawing on the cover, but we have a very handsome one by Mimi Rosenberg.”