In the AZ of Rolling Stones art, A is for Aftermath, the breakthrough Stones album released in England by Decca in spring 1966.
Aftermath, Rolling Stones, Decca, 1966
Guy Webster and Jerrold (“Jerry”) Schatzberg shot the fine photographs which enriched the album cover. The front cover photograph is a key Rolling Stones image: it comfortably makes my top five Rolling Stones album covers.
Aftermath album cover photograph
The first thing that strikes you about the album cover is its colour. The sombre, predominant black of the first three LPs has been replaced by a lively mid-1960s colour wash.
Aftermath’s purplish colour and tone were cleverly chosen – purple, along with orange and lime green, was the coming colour in 1966, unlikely as it now seems.
But the colour tone is restrained – it’s a subtle magenta, not the then-fashionable strident deeper purple.
Aftermath, the cover implies to me, is a sophisticated product.
The intimate photograph on the Aftermath cover gives you a clue to the changing dynamics of the band. Founder Brian Jones looks to have been marginalised: he’s positioned outside the clear diagonal line made by the other four.
The graphics – a single, hyphenated word, AFTER-MATH – are subtly minimal, not in-yer-face. As with two of the three earlier (English) LPs, there’s no mention of the Rolling Stones on the album cover.
But what does the title mean? Aftermath of what? Of the Rolling Stones developing beyond the blues covers band of yore? Of four years of life on the road as priapic young pop stars? Of unencumbered youth morphing into more demanding adulthood?
Probably all three: Aftermath, the title, hints at the end of an era, and the dawning of a new phase in the creative arc of the Rolling Stones.
Aftermath: the music
Musically, of course, Aftermath, was a significant Rolling Stones release: the first collection of Jagger-Richards songs; the emergence of Mick Jagger as a lyricist with distinctive English sensibilities; and a new richer instrumentation – sitar, dulcimer and harpsichord were not too common in mid-1960s pop music!
ABKCO’s 2002 release of Aftermath
For years, if you wanted Aftermath on CD, you could only buy the US version, with a different track list and album cover. The original (“UK”) version of Aftermath didn’t appear on CD until 2002, in the praiseworthy ABKCO re-release programme.
With the welcome return of the original Aftermath to the Rolling Stones catalogue, you could hear the album’s musical richness for the first time. But the addition of the term UK to the front album cover graphics, though helpful for buyers, did no favours to the balance of the layout.
Aftermath is a key, if generally underrated, Rolling Stones album. The album cover design and photography are, as you’d hope, well conceived and beautifully executed.
You and The A-Z of Rolling Stones art
What do you think of the original Aftermath artwork? Do you prefer it to the US version? What other Rolling Stones art topics do you think I should cover in this A-Z series?
ROCK / ART / EDITIONS will carry a regular new post in The A-Z of Rolling Stones art series. Next: B is for…