'Oh So Pretty: Punk in Print' is a new tome for the Blank Generation of the late Seventies. Showcasing the anger and creative energy of graphic design from the punk era, it's a visceral reminder of this decade's most influential youth movement
BY DEE IVA
The mid-Seventies in Britain were pretty bleak, with three-day weeks, power cuts, mountains of uncollected rubbish and high unemployment. If you were a teenager the only ways out of the gloom were music and fashion. The music scene before 1976 consisted mainly of prog rockers like Yes, teeny bop bands like the Bay City Rollers or American soft rockers like The Eagles. But in 1976 the punk movement kicked off, laying waste to all that went before it and for many bored and disaffected teens this was Year Zero.
RIGHT: 1977 poster promoting a concert by Siouxsie and the Banshees at Eric's club in Liverpool
BELOW: Poster for X-Ray Spex’s single ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’, October 1977; Flyer for The Clash, Subway Sect and Snatch at the ICA Theatre, London, 23
October 1976; Poster for Blondie’s 12-inch single ‘Denis’, ‘Contact in Red Square’ and
‘Kung Fu Girls’, February 1978; Flyer for the Sex Pistols at The Screen on Islington Green, 17 May 1976
2016 is the 40th anniversary of punk and to mark the occasion exhibitions, events and reunions have taken place across the UK reminding a certain section of society of their rebellious and idealistic youth. Brit artist and designer Toby Mott was one of those youths. Living in Pimlico, London, a stone’s throw from the King’s Road, Chelsea (a battleground for legions of punk rockers and teddy boys), Mott’s formative years were spent following the first wave of punk bands such as The Clash, X-Ray Spex, Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Adam and the Ants.
An avid collector of record covers, fanzines and the assorted printed ephemera that spread the word about who to see and where to see them, Mott’s bedroom became a shrine to the burgeoning punk movement, which is why his personal collection of punk artwork is second to none.
ABOVE FROM LEFT: Poster for Buzzcocks’ single ‘Orgasm Addict’ by Linder Sterling and Malcolm Garrett, November 1977; Reverse of flyer for Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Adverts, Motorhead, The Vibrators, Generation X and Buzzcocks at The Greyhound, Croydon, February/March/April 1978; Poster for The Adverts at The Windmill Club, Rotherham, 15 September 1977; Sniffin’ Glue #3½ by Mark Perry, 28 September 1976
Mott's new book ‘Oh So Pretty: Punk in Print 1976-80’ gathers this extensive collection of punk memorabilia together for the first time. Printed on rough unvarnished paper, punk’s energy and DIY ethos is captured in everything from posters, flyers and record sleeves to tickets and magazine covers. Hand scrawled lettering, Letraset, dodgy photocopies, and photo montage was the visual language of early street punk graphics which pre date today’s cut and paste culture. Iconic designs by legendary designers including Jamie Reid, Malcolm Garrett and Linder Sterling are here too on artwork for the Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks, but it’s the raw amateur nature of the disposable material that really captures the creative have-a-go attitude of this short-lived yet incredibly influential movement.
BELOW FROM TOP: Nothing is off limits in this poster for 'Cut', the debut album by punk's first girl group The Slits, September 1979; Jamie Reid's seminal artwork to promote the Sex Pistols' second single 'God Save The Queen', May 1977
If you ever wore a pair of bondage pants, know what a bum flap is or had a pair of studded leather wristbands this book is for you. But beware, it may just bring a little tear to your eye…
'Oh So Pretty: Punk in Print 1976-80' by Toby Mott and Rick Poynor (Phaidon Press, £19.95) phaidon.com