Cover Story – “AC/DC’s Classic Logo” by Gerard Huerta

By Michael Goldstein

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Subject – “AC/DC Classic Logo“, a logo/typographic design by Gerard Huerta used as a principal design element on a number of LP/CD/DVD covers for AC/DC, including “Let There Be Rock”, a recording released in 1977 on Atlantic Records.

Released as a follow-up to their album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, the 4th AC/DC album – Let There Be Rock – was the first to be released simultaneously world-wide (Dirty Deeds was not, in fact, released in the U.S. until 1981, and went on to sell over 6 million copies in the U.S.). As with the band’s previous recordings, fans in different parts of the world received slightly different products, with U.S. fans getting a record sans the naughty “Crabsody In Blue” (which was replaced by “Problem Child”). However, while the fans in Australia received a record packaged in a pretty mundane cover, U.S. fans enjoyed a cover that featured the debut of Mr. Huerta’s classic logo (Australian fans did finally see this product a bit later when the packaging was replaced to be the same world-wide).

The last recording with original bassist Mark Evans, Let There Be Rock was eight tracks of down-and-dirty AC/DC badness. The focus then was on doing what they did to separate their sound from other hard rock bands at the time – these boys were nasty and proud of it. With singer Bon Scott telling us (from experience?) that “Hell Aint A Bad Place To Be” and that sex was best with big girls in “Whole Lotta Rosie”, these proud practicioners of the “Bad Boy Boogie” established themselves at the forefront of the emerging heavy metal scene, playing with endless energy and joining Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and others in this formidable assault on the eardrums of rock fans world wide.

In 1980, AC/DC released a live concert motion picture entitled AC/DC: Let There Be Rock (with an audio recording of this same event released on CD in 1997). In total, the band has sold more than 150 million albums worldwide (almost half in the U.S.). Their 1980 release “Back in Black” has sold 42 million units worldwide, making it the second best-selling album ever and the biggest-selling album by any rock band. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2003, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler joined them on stage during the induction (there’s another electrical term!) ceremony to perform their hits “Highway to Hell” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

The Young brothers claimed that the idea for the band’s name came to them after seeing the letters “AC/DC” on the back of a sewing machine owned by their sister. Since the boys felt that the band’s recordings and performances drew equally from their raw energy, they thought that the name AC/DC was appropriate and adopted it. Mr. Huerta was touched by that same energy as the inspiration for his designs – let’s let him explain…

In the words of the artist, Gerard Huerta (interviewed June 2007)

“Album cover design in the ’70s was the place to be if you were an artist, illustrator, photographer or letterer. The twelve and a half by twelve and a half inch surface was one of the largest areas to fill for anyone involved in graphics. What seems somewhat rare now in the digital age was commonplace then – i.e., artists actually drawing things. My role first as a staff member at CBS Records and later as a freelancer was designing albums with an emphasis on the typography. As a young and eager artist, I took any chance I could get to invent letterforms for album covers – not only for rock, but for classical and country albums as well. It was a wonderful opportunity and always a challenge to see what you could get printed. I worked on the first Boston album with Roger Huyssen, designed a number of titles for Ted Nugent¹s albums as well as for Blue Oyster Cult, Willie Nelson, Alvin Lee, Rick Derringer, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Earl Scruggs, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Isley Brothers, Stan Getz, Archie Bell and the Drells and many classical albums. After CBS, I worked on albums by Foreigner, Stephen Stills, Chicago, Firefall, The Outlaws and AC/DC.

AC/DC was on the Atlantic label and I had first drawn some lightning bolt-style lettering for an album titled ‘High Voltage‘ (which featured a photo by Michael Putland and, incidentally, was their 2nd album with that title – the first being an album released in Australia only). It was basically my typographical interpretation of the title. Bob Defrin was the art director there and I designed many pieces of art for him and his staff.

smallacdchivoltage0704.jpgUsually an album had a theme or title and it was my job to interpret that in letterforms. I was hired to design lettering for the next AC/DC album (after their hit ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap‘), entitled ³Let There Be Rock, the title providing me wit an obvious reference. I recalled a live album I worked on at CBS for Blue Oyster Cult called ‘On Your Feet or On Your Knees.’ The BOC cover featured a moody composite photo shot by Creative Director John Berg of a church with a limosine parked in front of it. The sky was dark and the limo had a flag retouched in with the BOC emblem on it. After researching religious typography and, in particular, the Gutenberg¹s bible type, I came up with some lettering based on that, with the twist being that it was metallic, as if it were a car nameplate. The lettering took on a slightly sinister look, particularly when placed over this wonderful photo.

This record featured a cover photo of the band on stage with a dark sky overhead and bright light shining down through the clouds. One of my sketches used the BOC Gutenberg-inspired lettering, but this time it was orange in color and dimensional. This lettering is probably the only typography I have designed that was made entirely of straight lines. The final artwork was produced on illustration board out of cut color adhesive backed overlay film with some starbursts airbrushed on.”

The rest, they say, is history…

About the artist, Gerard Huerta

huertaphoto2.jpgBased in Connecticut, Gerard Huerta is a designer of letter forms. From trademarks and logotypes to mastheads, from illustrative lettering to Swiss Army watch face designs, he has worked in a variety of typographic styles. Born and raised in southern California, he graduated from Art Center College of Design and began his career at CBS Records in New York designing album covers and creating letterforms for Boston, AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, Stephen Stills and Foreigner. He started Gerard Huerta Design in 1976 and has been drawing custom letters and logos ever since.

In addition to his well-known designs for the music industry, some of his logos and logotypes have included Swiss Army Brands, MSG Network, CBS Records Masterworks, Waldenbooks, Spelling Entertainment, Nabisco, Calvin Klein¹s Eternity, Arista Records, Type Directors Club, the mastheads of Time, Money, People, The Atlantic Monthly, PC Magazine, Adweek, Us, Conde Nast¹s Traveler, Working Mother, WordPerfect, The American Lawyer, The National Law Journal, The National Catholic Register, Illustration and Architectural Digest as well as corporate alphabets for Waldenbooks, Time-Life and Conde Nast. He has been featured in Money Magazine, The Penrose Annual, Typographic i, Scripsit, The Graphis Business Issue, How Magazine, Step-By-Step Magazine, Westport Magazine and the books Graphis Typography 1: Masters of Typography and Friedrich Friedl¹s reference book Typography: When Who How.

He is also a guitarist and singer in the group The Merwin Mountain Band (www.merwinmountainband.com) and his studio is in the historic Southport Freight Station.

To see more of his current work, please visit Mr. Huerta’s site at http://www.workbook.com/portfolios/huerta/

To see examples of Gerard’s work for AC/DC in the RockPoP Gallery collection, please click on the following link:

http://rockpopgallery.easystorecreator.com/items/ac-dc/list.htm?1=1

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 Mondays 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.