Cover Story – The Go-Go’s – “Vacation”, cover by Mick Haggerty

vacationcover2.jpg
All images Copyright 1981 & 2007 Mick Haggerty – www.mickhaggerty.com

Subject – The Go-Go’s – Vacation – a 1982 release on I.R.S. Records (distributed in the U.S. by A&M Records), with cover art/photography by Mick Haggerty

In 1981, Southern California’s The Go-Go’s became first all-girl band of musicians/songwriters to have a #1 album on the Billboard Magazine Pop Charts with Beauty and the Beat. Their music conveyed a vibrant, fun-filled sense of the So. Ca. lifestyle, mixing rock, punk and surf music basics into an extremely radio-friendly package, as was well-demonstrated in their hits “We Got The Beat” (which had been released independently on Stiff Records) and “Our Lips Are Sealed”.

Signed to Miles Copeland’s I.R.S. records, home of The Police (and, within a short time, The Bangles, The Beat, The Buzzcocks, The Cramps, R.E.M, Timbuk 3, and a host of other acts), the band toured extensively, were nominated for a Grammy for “Best New Artist” at the 24th Grammy Awards (losing to Sheena Easton) and then continued on its hit-generating way with the release in 1982 of their follow-up record Vacation. While Vacation did not hit #1 again (rising as high as #8), it was home to a couple of well-loved singles, including “Get Up and Go” and “Vacation”, originally penned by bassist Kathy Valentine for the group she was in prior to The Go-Go’s and remade into the classic title track.

And while health issues, personality/creative conflicts and the disappointing sales of their subsequent records lead to the break up of the band in 1985 (although they have regrouped to do special performances – and released the critically-acclaimed “God Bless The Go-Go’s” record in 2001 – as well as continuing on with their solo careers), the band will always be remembered as one of the few bands of the era that truly enjoyed (and deserved) a broad-based appeal and throngs of fans world-wide.

One of the first truly multi-media artists on hire to the music industry, Grammy Award-winning designer Mick Haggerty was brought on to create an eye-catching package design for Vacation and, as he explains in today’s Cover Story, he used the opportunity to develop a concept that succeeded as the basis for a wide variety of promotional needs…

In the words of the artist, Mick Haggerty (interviewed September 2007) –

“I was a friend of Ginger Canzoneri (The Go-Go’s manager), as well as Mike Doud, who had art-directed their first record package. I saw the band play at Brendan Mullen’s club in Hollywood – The Masque – and met (lead singer) Belinda (Carlisle) one night with him.

I maybe have the chronology wrong, but I was also working for The Police around that time and I think that The Go-Go’s were the openers for their tour (ed. note – yes, they were!)… that is, they were the openers until they became more popular than The Police and half of the crowds were leaving before the headliners went on!

The basic idea for the cover was Ginger’s. We were both saturated in kitsch and Americana and both loved movies in which singers were filmed against obvious rear projections – like Elvis singing while he was surfing. I think she may have had a postcard of water skiers; we just started from there and let it snowball.

I had worked for A&M, their label, many times and they just let me loose to work directly with the band. Record companies around this time had only just realized that artwork and image actually effected sales, and I exploited that by presenting this image not as just an isolated cover but as a concept which could work in all media – video, press, merchandise, etc. Of course, this meant more fun and work for me, but it also pushed the promotional possibilities for the band and, if it all worked, we would all do well.

I researched the world of water skiing shows and soon found out that Cypress Gardens in Florida was known as “the best”. Since I wanted not only to shoot cover stills of the girls but also to film the backgrounds that would be used in making the video, the deal was sealed when I found out they had a camera boat I could use.

I knew I had to strip the bands heads onto the bodies of the girls I shot in Florida, so in order to get the Go-Go’s heads and someone else’s bodies to match, it meant I had to do some very careful measuring of everyone before I left. This in turn led to a quite bizarre moment when I arrived in Florida. No one there knew who The Go-Go’s were, but because they knew I needed to choose my skiers carefully, the Cypress Garden management had about sixty different women in swim suits lined up for my examination – many of them were just amazing!

But let’s be diplomatic here – I was not interested in their faces and I was not trying to match leggy bathing beauties or aqua athletes, but rather the band members who had more, lets say, “girl next door” bodies. I sheepishly got out my tape measure and ended up with a very odd choice of five girls, and the rest must have thought I was completely nuts. Luckily, the weather was fine, the sky was blue and we shot it all in one day, completing the rest of the shoot with the band on the West coast at the Charlie Chaplin stage at A&M.

I made the promotional video with C.D. Taylor, who was my partner on many video productions. We used all “old technology” – rear screen projection – not the ever-popular blue screen video. The film I had shot of the skiers was projected on to a screen from the rear as we filmed the girls – hamming it up with swimsuits, and doing their best lip-synching – in front. For the package cover shoot, I matched the lighting as closely as I could while I photographed their heads. These being the years of analog, the grain on the film had to match, so I ended up shooting from way up on the soundstage roof. We later made very saturated die transfer prints and retouched the hell out of it all for the final image.

They were great to work with and I liked them all. Looking back, it seem that there were very few problems – they were willing to try anything and, being at the start of their career, had nothing to protect or to argue about (things got more complicated down the road I think).

During one of the many breaks in the day’s activities, I remember the band and I walked out of the lot and strolled up the street and we all sat down on a bus bench on the busy corner of Highland and Sunset Blvd. and just smoked and talked and all the while with them dressing in their full tiaras and tu tu’s. This being Los Angeles, no one seemed to notice – just a few more weirdos in Hollywood.

Of course, as a designer, I went crazy with all the spin-off advertising and merchandise – we did everything from beach towels to disposable cameras. To this day, I think the package still looks like the music sounds.”

Interesting trivia bit from Mike G – “Vacation” was featured in Michael Moore’s hit movie Fahrenheit 9/11, serving as the soundtrack of footage of President George W. Bush enjoying a round of golf just prior to the 9/11 attacks.

About the artist, Mick Haggerty

menjanenkathys.jpgMick Haggerty, with Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin and Kathy Valentine.

I interviewed the respected British designer, illustrator, art director, photographer and teacher just a few days prior to his leaving on a tour of Africa. Born in England, he lives, works and plays these days in Los Angeles. As a freelancer, as well as in his roles as the Art Director for Virgin and Warner Bros. Records, he has put together a hugely impressive list of accomplishments, developing memorable designs for a wide variety of musical artists. He has also influenced many of today’s best new designers in his role as chair of the Design Department at the Otis/Parsons School of Art & Design in the LA area. Here’s just a sampling of Mick’s well-known works and achievements:

All images Copyright 1981 & 2007 Mick Haggerty – www.mickhaggerty.com

Grammy Awards – In 1979, Mr. Haggerty won the award for Best Album Package (along with the late Mike Doud) as the art director for Supertramp’s Breakfast in America. And again in 1983, Haggerty, (along with Ginger Canzoneri – the GO-GO’s manager) was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Album Package for The Go-Go’s Vacation

Other well-known artists/covers he’s created include:
David Bowie – Let’s Dance, Never Let Me Down and Tonight
The Police – Ghost In The Machine
ELO – Face the Music
The Goo Goo Dolls – Gutterflower
The Smithereens – 11
Stevie Winwood – Roll With It
Dave Mason – Let It Flow
Plus works for OMD, Disturbed, PiL, King Crimson, Richard Thompson, Roxy Music, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Lee Lewis, Keith Richards, Aerosmith, Sammy Hagar, Roy Orbison, Boz Scaggs, the Violent Femmes and, recently, Josh Groban and Michael Buble’

To see more of Mick Haggerty’s work, please visit his website at http://www.mickhaggerty.com/

To see examples of his work in the RockPoP Gallery collection, click here.

To see other examples of artwork related to The Go-Go’s in our collection, click here.

About “Cover Stories” – Our weekly series will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.

Every Friday and syndicated the following week on The Rock and Roll Report, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.

We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.

All images Copyright 1981 & 2007 Mick Haggerty www.mickhaggerty.com
All other text Copyright 2007 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery (www.rockpopgallery.com) – All rights reserved.