The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ Designer, Ray Lowry, Passes Away

Because not everything can be as fun as weddings and hurricanes and suing Bill Kurtis around here, we turn to some sad news from over the weekend while this writer was away. It’s been reported that designer and cartoonist Ray Lowry passed away recently. You might not know the name immediately, but if you’re at all into music, you likely remember his work. He’s remembered as being a big influence with his work at the magazine NME, but even more so for creating the album cover to the Clash‘s album London Calling, using a photograph thought to be unusable and creating a hand-drawn type treatment on top. Here’s a bit from that famous piece of Lowry’s music iconography:

The photograph that dominates the sleeve shows Paul Simonon pounding his bass guitar into the stage after a show at the New York Palladium in September 1979.

Pennie Smith, who took it, thought that the shot was too grainy to blow up. It needed Lowry, serving as the band’s “official war artist” on that American tour, to persuade her that it would work as a cover. Lowry then framed the shot with the words “London” and “Calling” in a typeface, colour scheme and design that recalled the sleeve of Elvis Presley‘s debut album, the underlying suggestion being that the Clash’s music offered the same sense of swagger and danger that Presley’s had 20 years earlier.