04 June 2013

The Beatles logo

Ringo records 'She Loves You', 1 July 1963 (via TheBeatles.com)
Backstage in Boston, two hours before the gig, Paul McCartney is doing what he does best - reliving the glory days. It is August 2009. He has just soundchecked at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, where, in front of an audience of eighty, he played songs he remembered from the Cavern Club and Abbey Road. 'And this is a new one,' he announced, as he began singing 'Yesterday' [...]

McCartney said he had always been fascinated by the appearance of things. A few weeks after his Boston show, his old band would make their first appearance in a video game, The Beatles: Rockband, which involves playing along to Beatles songs on plastic instruments and scoring points for how well you can strum with George or keep pace with Ringo. This game was being packaged with huge posters showing the band around the time of A Hard Day's Night. The font used to display the band's name looks like the one the band used at the time: thick black letters, small spiky serifs, the large boastful B at the start, that long T that extends below the baseline of the other capitals.

This was the logo-type that Ringo pounded behind on his bass drum skin when they played Shea Stadium in August 1965, the one that came up for auction at Sotheby's in August 1989, the logo that attached itself to most of the repackaging and merchandising after their split. The video game designers have adapted it slightly for the drumkit that comes with their game: the B is taller, the counter space in the B and the A is larger, and the bottom curl on the S has lost its serif and instead snakes devilishly towards a fine point.

'It wasn't a typeface,' McCartney says. 'I think I drew it when I was at school. I used to sit around endlessly with notebooks, drawing Elvis, drawing guitars, drawing logos, drawing my signature. At that sort of time we were starting the Beatles and I think in my drawings I hit upon the idea of having the T long. It's not going to do me any good to really claim that, but it's quite possible'. Others have also claimed credit - Ivor Arbiter, the London drum shop owner who claims to have designed it for £5, and sign painter Eddie Stokes who worked for Arbiter painting drum skins in his lunch hour. Whoever was responsible, it seems likely that the main subconscious influence on the look of the letters came from Goudy Old Style - which would place the nameplate of the most famous English pop group of all time firmly in the heritage of early twentieth-century America.

- Simon Garfield, Just My Type: a book about fonts, London, 2010, p.269-272 (links & pic added) 

See also:
Music: Jarvis Cocker reviews The John Lennon Letters, 10 October 2012
MusicPaul McCartney in Hyde Park, 4 July 2010
Movies: Review - Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy, 10 February 2010
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