Behind some of the most iconic music band's logos

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By Marina Low
about 1 year ago

A band’s logo plays an essential role in connecting to people and it’s fans. It’s the face of the band, the representation of its spirit, and its distinguishing mark.

For a fan who admires the artist, imitates them, and specialises in their music, their band’s logo is the ultimate symbol. They want to wear them on their person, stick them on their car, and feel an instant affinity with anyone sporting the same symbol. But what’s behind the meaning of these logos and how did they come into existence?

Here, we take a look at the meaning behind some of the most iconic band logos of all time.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones Logo

The Rolling Stones have one of the most widely recognised logos ever created.

The red big mouth was designed in 1970 by John Pasche, a student of the Royal Art College of London, once the band became frustrated after many unsuccessful designs provided by their label, Decca.

Pasche’s creation represents the rebellious and passionate spirit of the band through a design thats resemblance to Mick Jagger’s mouth is more than evident.

The Hindu Goddess Kali
Goddess Kali

It is originally and ovation to the Hindu goddess Kali, to glorify the strength of free expression in rock ‘n’ roll music. Kali is associated with empowerment and called the goddess of Time, Creation, Change, Preservation and Destruction. It is often portrayed with a characteristic outstretched tongue.

During an interview about the origins of the logo, Pasche’s stated:

“I wanted something anti-authority, but I suppose the mouth idea came from when I met Mick Jagger for the first time at the Stones’ offices. I went into this sort of wood-paneled boardroom and there he was. Face to face with him, the first thing you were aware of was the size of his lips and his mouth.”

The band logo has never used a font that reads “Rolling Stones”. According to the band, the mouth itself is potent enough to convey the powerful message to its fans and admirers.

The iconic red mouth appeared for the first time in the album “Sticky Fingers” (1971) and has remained since then, as the unquestionable insignia of one of the most admired music bands of all time.

Sticky Finger album cover and CD
Sticky Finger album cover and CD

Nirvana

Nirvana logo

In short, nirvana is a place of perfect peace and happiness. In Hinduism and Buddhism, nirvana is the highest state of enlighten that someone can attain. A state of liberation and imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been finally extinguished. In Sanskrit, the literal meaning of nirvana is “blown out”, which in conjunction with its commonly recognised meaning of the highest state of bliss, perfectly describes the spirit of both, Kobain and the band.

The origin and meaning of the iconic “Smiley Face” logo, with its crossed-out eyes and its funny shaped mouth are blurry. There are a few theories on this subject, but it looks like Kurt Kobain took the true story with him to the grave.

One of the theories points to a strip club in Seattle, “The Lusty Lady”, which marquee stated “Have an erotic day” along with a smiley face strongly similar to the one in the band’s logo.

The Lusty Lady
The Lusty Lady marquee and detail of the smiling face

Another hypothesis out there holds that the inspiration for the Aberdeen’s band logo lays on “The Acid House”, a club that Kurt apparently frequented.

The Acid House
The Acid House logo

Other information tells that the “Smiley Face” would have seen its origin in a Kobain’s drawing, interpretation of Axl Rose’s face, although it’s quite hard to find the resemblance. Judge for yourselves…

Axl Rose and Nirvana's logo
How high would you have to be to see the similarity between these two...

It is also said that the logo can be either a stoned person’s face, or Kurt Kobain’s interpretation about people’s faces when watching a Nirvana performance.

But the truth is that the origins of one of the most influential alternative rock bands will remain as a secret, feeding the already solidly established myth.

KISS

Kiss logo

The origins of this logo aren’t as eccentric as the music band they represent.

Let’s first introduce the guys in the band. Gene Simmons (bass) and Paul Stanley (guitar), leaders of the band; and the two new incorporations, Peter Criss (drums) and Ace Frehley (lead guitar).

In the beginning, they formed Wicked Lester, a rock band started in the ‘70 by Simmons and Stanley. It was during a trip to New York when the name Kiss came out for the first time.

We’re guessing that they were in the car chatting when Criss, the drummer, mentioned that he used to play in a band called Lips. This comment inspired Stanley, who suggested the name Kiss for the band.

The SS logo

The lead guitar, Frehley - who had a knack on art - designed the logo, making the “SS” look like lightning bolts.

Coincidence or not, the shape of these final “SS” matched the logo of the German SS (Hitler’s militia), which representation was illegal in Germany. As a result of that, most of Kiss launches and its merchandising have the logo modified, and instead of the lightning bolts, the final “SS” appear as to inverted “Z”.

How the Kiss logo looked in Germany since 1979

KoЯn

Korn logo

The logo of this Californian music band, pioneers of Nu Metal genre, was created by his vocalist, Johnathan Davis, who scribbled it in one shot using a crayon.

Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, tattooed this logo on Korn guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch’s back.

Did you know…

Korn guitarists are source of inspiration for many other colleagues, due to their unique use of 7-string guitars - Ibanez K7 - that provides with the deep sound charasteristic of the band.

Head and Munky, Korn's two guitarists

The Beatles

The Beatles logo

The famous Beatles’ “drop-T” logo was designed in 1963 by Ivor Arbiter, owner of the London music store Drum City – first only-drums store in London. Epstein - the band’s manager - and Ringo went to the shop to find a replacement for Starr’s Premier kit.

Ivor Arbiter

I had a phone call from the shop to say that someone called Brian Epstein was there with a drummer. Here was this drummer, Ringo, Schmingo, whatever his name was. At that time I certainly hadn’t heard of The Beatles. Every band was going to be big in those days Ivor Arbiter

Epstein didn’t want to pay for the drums, but Arbiter refused to give them away. Eventually they got to an agreement, and the new kit was traded for Ringo’s old wrecked one.

The Beatles and Epstein (on the left)

Once the trade was done, Epstein requested that the band’s name appear on the bass drum. Arbiter himself sketched the “drop-T” logo on a piece of paper, emphasising the word “beat” with the capital B and the dropped T. They paid £5 for the design and it was hand-painted by Eddie Stokes, a local sign writer.

The Beatles logo became part of Ringo Starr’s drum kit in 1963, and since then has been used as The Beatles’ official mark.

Queen

Queen logo
Freddie Mercury

Years ago I thought up the name “Queen” … It’s just a name, but it’s very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid … It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one face of it. Freddie Mercury

Queen logo, as well as the name of the band, was created by its vocalist, Freddie Mercury, who was once an art college student.

It features the zodiac signs of the four members of the band: two lions for Leo (Deacon and Taylor), a crab for Cancer (May), and two fairies for Virgo (Mercury). The Phoenix above means immortality.

With the design of the logo, Mercury wanted to convey a sense of British monarchy and regal feel into the band’s corporate identity, therefore, the resemblance to the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.

The Royal Coat of arms of the UK

The Queen logo first appeared on the cover of their debut album Queen in 1973.