Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy's Reviews > A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
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Jan 31, 2012


The Cover

A black hole within a white zero within a black cog.

Darkness, nothingness and insignificance.

How It Came About I

The following account is from an article here:

http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-bl...

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.
Cover by David Pelham (1972)

This has become quite a well-known image. However, something that none of these images [can] convey is the urgency and speed at which some of them had to be created. Neither can the images convey the additional complications created by author demands and in the case of film titles, director demands. They also cannot convey how different, difficult, laborious and slow the technical side of the process was in those days.

While schedules varied, some were very tight indeed.

Barry Trengove had designed a delightful cover for the Penguin edition of A Clockwork Orange and then the movie came along. While the Penguin marketing department was desperate to tie in with the film graphics, the director of the movie Stanley Kubrik wasn’t at all interested in tying in with the book. Consequently I was given the task of commissioning an illustration that gave the impression of being a movie poster. Sadly I was subsequently let down very badly by an accomplished airbrush artist and designer (whose name I will keep to myself), who kept calling for yet more time and who eventually turned in a very poor job very late. I had to reject it which was a hateful thing to have to do because we were now right out of time.

To give you an impression of what it was like working in those pre-computer days, there was no pressing of buttons and getting a result there and then, no emails or jpegs or instant typesetting. No quick way of trying this colour or that colour. No. In those days you often found yourself working around the clock because everything technical took so long.

Well there I am, late in the day and having to create a cover for A Clockwork Orange under pressure. Already seriously out of time I worked up an idea on tracing paper overnight, ordering front cover repro from the typesetter around 4.00 am. I remember that my type mark-up was collected by a motorcycle messenger around about 5.00 am. Later that morning, in the office, I drew the black line work you see here on a matt plastic acetate sheet, specifying colours to the separator on an overlay while the back cover repro was being pasted up by my loyal assistants who had the scalpel skills of brain surgeons. I had wonderful assistants, absolutely wonderful.

Then more motorcycle messengers roaring around London in large crash helmets; and some days later I would see a proof. In those days, that was quick! Since those times I have often been amused to notice that my hurried nocturnal effort of so long ago appears to have achieved something of iconic status, for I've seen this cog-eyed image on fly-posters in Colombia, on t-shirts in Turkey, and put to a variety of uses in Canada, Los Angeles and New York. Because I did it, I spot it. Its like walking into a room where a party’s going on and, although the room is buzzing with conversation, if somebody simply mentions your name in conversation you immediately pick it up because it’s so familiar.

How It Came About II

This article and interview is by John Fountain, senior writer at Avvio:

http://blogs.creativepool.co.uk/blog/...

The designer and illustrator David Pelham is not happy. He has commissioned a top airbrush artist to create an illustration of a movie poster for a new print of ‘Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess. Unfortunately he has been badly let down. The artist has delivered a pretty poor job. Worse, it has arrived hours before the artwork is due for proofing. Pelham calls the airbrush artist and rejects it. Looking back on that day in 1972, he remembers; ‘It was a hateful thing to have to do because we were now right out of time.”

The new cover design is to coincide with the launch of Stanley Kubrick’s film of Clockwork Orange. While the Penguin marketing department wanted it to tie in with the film graphics, Kubrick wasn’t interested. He made it very clear that absolutely no images from the film should be used on the cover. So Pelham decided on illustration and tried to create the impression of a movie poster. But now, with the clock ticking on the Clockwork Orange print-run, he had to think again.

Pelham had seen Kubrick’s film of Clockwork Orange and the image of the lead character Alex wearing that bowler hat and one false eyelash was firmly fixed in his mind. So with pen and paper, he sketches the outline of a face under a bowler hat. Then, to reflect the title, he has the idea of adding a watch cog in place of an eye. During the early hours of the morning he works the design up on tracing paper, and while still completing the drawing, he orders front cover repro from the typesetter. The nocturnal designer remembers that the type mark-up was collected by a bike messenger around 5.00 am.

Speaking to the BBC about his late night creating the iconic design, Pelham explains; “Later that morning, in the office, I drew the black line work you see on a matt plastic acetate sheet, specifying colours to the separator on an overlay while the back cover repro was being pasted up by my loyal assistants who had the scalpel skills of brain surgeons. Then more motorcycle messengers roaring around London in large crash helmets and some days later I saw a proof. In those days, that was quick!”

This stark and slightly disconcerting graphic was certainly powerful. In fact, when Kubrick’s film was banned, it was this cog-eyed image that became the visual identifier for Burgess’ work.

Not that the author was impressed with the design. He didn’t like it and defaced his own copy by drawing a face in himself.

Pelham, too, is disappointed with it. “I don’t like the image,” he reveals. “I really don’t but it has become iconographic. I don’t like it because it was primarily done overnight, with very little thought, really. It was an emergency: a graphic design emergency because we had to a have a cover, because we’d miss the hit of the movie.”
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Comments (showing 1-9)




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Noran Miss Pumkin I adore coll book cover art!


message 8: by Gayle (new) - added it

Gayle ...and sadly, I prefer the later Penguin cover of a glass of milk...


message 7: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy There is an interesting article about the glass of milk cover by Liana Burgess, Anthony Burgess' second wife here:

http://www.masterbibangers.net/ABC/in...

Her obituary is interesting reading:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2007/d...


message 6: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy Liana also did Italian translations of Thomas Pynchon's V and The Crying of Lot 49.


message 5: by Gayle (last edited Feb 01, 2012 12:39PM) (new) - added it

Gayle Ian wrote: "There is an interesting article about the glass of milk cover by Liana Burgess, Anthony Burgess' second wife here:

http://www.masterbibangers.net/ABC/in...

Her ..."

Great links Ian, who knew there was an Anthony Burgess Centre? Well, you obviously! What I want to know now is how did their son "suddenly" die?


message 4: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy Thanks, Gayle

"Paolo Andrea (also known as Andrew Burgess Wilson) died in a London hospital of natural causes at the age of 37 in 2002. The rumour that he died by his own hand continues to circulate, but the coroner’s records indicate that there was no inquest into his death, as there would have been if suicide had been suspected."


message 3: by Gayle (new) - added it

Gayle Hmmm. You are an excellent researcher!


message 2: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy Ha ha. Google is an amazing tool! Plus I'm gearing up for some Burgess and bio reading.


message 1: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 Excellent factoids for pub quizzage use.


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