Amoeblog


Vintage, Original Rolling Stones 'Licks' Memorabilia & More on Sale at Amoeba + Chat With Designer Craig Braun

Posted by Rick Frystak, December 8, 2016 11:06am | Post a Comment
Rolling Stones Licks belt buckle
Exquisite, Original, Vintage 1971 Licks Silver/Enamel Belt and Buckle
Available in sizes X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
 
The record business is home to many people who are a kind of hero to me, often behind the scenes in unspoken nine-to-fives. I have my heroes of album cover design: Tadanori Yokoo, Reid Miles, Jim Flora, Dirk Rudolph, and Barbara Worjisch to name a few.

Add to this list a Mr. Craig Braun, a quintessential ''Man Behind the Curtain," a luminary of mostly-unsung parts of the music establishment of the 1960s and '70s. And even more paramount than Craig's resume and bone-deep knowledge of the record business is that he's a refreshingly witty, wonderful human being with umpteen stories to tell.

Rolling Stones Sticky FingersMr. Braun is world renowned for his design of the Rolling Stones' zipper-covered Sticky Fingers album package with pal Andy Warhol, and with John Cage and Lou Reed for the Velvet Underground's Velvet Underground & Nico LP with the magnificent, famously peel-able "banana cover" but also constructing other epochal stuff like Joe Cocker and Leon Russell's Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Cheech and Chong's Big Bambu, Grand Funk Railroad's E Pluribis Funk, minted in a giant coin packageand countless others, bringing to bear just the iceberg's tip of his remarkable feats of memorabilia production and licensing, pioneering promo prowess, triumphant negotiating and preeminently, his record cover manufacturing operation, Sound Packaging, all of this residing under the Craig Braun, Inc. umbrella. Braun's companies are credited with the design and manufacturing of a monumental portion of memorable records of the '60s and '70s. In 1972 Craig partnered with legendary art director Tom Wilkes, Wilkes & Braun, won a Grammy Award for packaging in 1974 for the London Symphony Orchestra's version of The Who's Tommy! They were nominated for the same Grammy in 1973 for Alice Cooper's School's Out, which had a school desk opening into a real pair of girls panties wrapped around the disc! And in 2003 music channel VH1 declared Sticky Fingers  the '' No. 1 Greatest Album Cover of All Time"!! 

And it was then, in 1971, inspired by the Stones' new logo (more on that below), Craig launched the "Rockreations" division of his company consisting of fine jewelry, badges, belts, stickers and other swag resplendent with logos of the Rolling Stones, Shelter Records, Apple Corps, and a rare, exquisite Black Panther Party pin. We've got them for sale at Amoeba!

Amoeba has acquired Craig's very last stash of these original, early '70s vintage Rockreations pieces of music history, and we're thrilled to be able to offer them for sale. Just CLICK on the item you see here to take you to our web store!

Each piece is signed by Craig on the back or comes in a signed package, with a Certificate of Authenticity (C.O.A.) with the larger items. ALL the items you see here are available for purchase online at Amoeba.com.

Craig Braun Certificate of Authenticity

Vintage, Original Licks Lenticular 3'' Pin

The ''Licks'' belt (pictured at the top of this blog) is a chrome and enamel masterpiece of branding-meets-commitment of style. Wearing it says that you subscribe to an attitude, a view of the world most accurately described by The Rolling Stones in their music, and the ''We do what the fuck we want'' point of view, figuratively sticking your tongue out at the world. So envisioned the creators of this simple, symbolic archetype.

Rockreations' objective was to begin marketing the Rolling Stones' keepsakes with a hipper integrity than a badge or t-shirt, so he sent one of his colleagues out and about, seeking a manufacturing company that could make his design ideas into handsome pins, necklaces, and other jewelry types. He found a company that could manifest his idea of a sterling silver and cloisonne enamel medallion with the Stones' logo. He manufactured those pins and medallions, and also canvas bags, keychains, stickers and other ''merch'' licensed from Musidor B.V., the Rolling Stones-administered brand.

So began the ''Licks'' series of merchandising based on the glorious, inimitable lips and tongue logo {more on that below} of the Rolling Stones. He had signed a five-year license to manufacture and distribute merchandise with the Stones' logo on it because "...at the time the band had already been around awhile and there was no telling what their ultimate lifespan would be." He viewed it "...like a hit record, that they could only last 'so long' before something new came along and captured the world's interest. Well, the merchandising for the Rolling Stones is in the billions [of dollars] now," Craig says regretfully. "Maybe I should have stayed with it and made a longer deal!"

Rolling Stones Licks Medallion
Vintage, Original Licks silver / enamel Medallion!

In those days, there were no large "merch" areas at a rock concert. You may get the band's tour book from that year, but that was it. You had to get your favorite band's t-shirt and poster at your local headshop or maybe small, mom-and-pop record stores. Like now; many music retailers don't sell buttons or posters. It was almost impossible to get this type of fan-based merchandise into big retailers like Macy's, so he focused on headshops and small mom-and-pop businesses who took a good amount of his stock. Nowadays, rock bands make no small amount of cash from merchandise carried with them and sold at gigs, basic retail, or the web. 

If you've followed me here at all you'll know that I greatly admire what I consider the fine art (in fact called "commercial art") of album cover design. And there's no doubt that I've purchased records based on the artistic appeal of the cover with hardly a concern about the music. I see interesting new album or sleeve artwork every day, and also the old great ones that warm my soul each time I see them.

Apple Sticker
Vintage, Original Apple Sticker

In fact, record stores became art galleries in the sense that the myriad of LP cover design styles, photography, and boundless artistic ideas are on display, in full view in the bins and display racks. "Here it all is" for those who enter.

But beyond an album package trumpeting the goods within, a cover can become a far-reaching crux in the forward motion of an artist's career.

STICKY FINGERS

Without a doubt, for the Stones' next album, Sticky Fingers, Craig was not just designing a cover, but also further establishing and enhancing the band's reputation and image. The instantly-recognizable cover and new logo took the Stones' sex appeal to a fortuitous new level, and implied in its edgy, in-your-face symbolism, perhaps a big "we don't give a fuck" attitude. This just months after the shocking events at the Altamont Speedway that sent shivers down the music industry and the concert business. So many factors were driving Sticky Fingers into legendary status, and it truly was to be a landmark that did shock many - his final version of the logo, the integration of the elements around Warhol's dressage photographs, conceiving the overall construction of the cover's parts, choosing the paper type, the zipper, the cardboard thickness and all other components that would become the final assembly of the LP, which he manufactured as Sound Packaging Division. And it was/is a great record, one of the Stones' best works, just killing DJs and the public and taking them up, up, up!

Keith Richards poster Craig Braun and friend
Keef wearing a Licks Medallion, 1973.
Click to buy poster!
Craig Braun and Diane Metcalf, 1972
Rolling Stones Licks Sticker
Original, Vintage Licks 3'' puffy Sticker

"I had decided that because it was it was the Rolling Stones' first release under their own label after leaving Decca Records (London in U.S.), to use this logo on the cover," Craig says. "Mick had commissioned a young art school student [John Pasche, who has since earned six figures for his sketches] in London to design a logo, but he had not completed a design. He'd only completed some sketches, rough sketches of it. And Marshall Chess [a Braun family friend and son of Leonard Chess, co-founder of Chess Records], the newly-named president of Rolling Stones' Records [distributed by Atlantic Records], was in London, and I said to him, 'I want to put the design on the inner sleeve.' He said, 'Well, all I have is a rubber stamp from the sketch!' So I said for him to stamp it a few times, put it on a fax which, on a thermal fax machine, the quality is just shit, but I could see the silhouette of it, where the art student was going, very fuzzy, and about 3/4 of an inch, so I blew that up to about 12" and I had an illustrator working for me and I said, 'I want you to re-draft this for me.' After many a back-and-forth, trial-and-error fleshing-out with the illustrator, the Rolling Stones' tongue and lip logo as we now know it was being hatched."

The Licks logo itself was only planned to be one side of the inner sleeve of the U.S. version of the LP. "I hadn't shown anyone, including the record label, Marshall or the band my new version of the tongue and lips logo," he says. So he decided to present the comprehensive mechanical [mock-up] of the logo with a complete LP package, so far unseen by anyone outside of the design studio, in a rather foxy way.

"I had my guy, Mark Fennell, fly to London and instructed him to not to say a thing, not even to the account guy, don't say a thing, just lay it out in front of Mick, Keith, and Marshall, just ask them what they think. So he shows up there at their office first thing in the morning after a red eye flight, chats with Marshall [they knew each other from the U.S. office] and lays out the artwork. Then Mick walks in the door and Marshall says, 'Hey Mick, we've got the final artwork here, whattaya think?' Mick looks and says, 'Great, let's go with it!'"

Rolling Stones at Desert Trip
Desert Trip 2016.  Photo by Mark Winter.

Having secured the most crucial part of the process, the client's final approval, was more than exciting. Craig says, "Mick had quickly approved the whole cover design and the finished version of the logo I had done." And it wasn't just Rock history...

That logo is, now, probably more recognizable to the average person than those of AT&T, Walmart or Ctitbank! Oh, and...gee. The Stones chose it for their new album, Blue & Lonesome, when they could have chosen thousands of other covers. To remind everyone even more who they are, Mick wore the logo on his shirt under his jacket at the recent Desert Trip concerts, where the Licks logo was all over the backdrop. Promotion, marketing, timeless attitude and imagery.

Rolling Stones Blue & Lonesome

Anyway, it's no secret that the front cover of Sticky Fingers delivers a rather sexual image of a well-endowed man's crotch filling up some tight jeans [think Spinal Tap], and the Stones loved it. LOVED it.

And because Mick and Keith were insistent that the cover include the real working zipper on the jeans, the back of the zipper's proximity to the actual disc inside created a problem that Craig felt was a solvable one - he would need another cardboard panel between the zipper and the thin inner sleeve: the guy in the jeans' underwear!! {absolutely brilliant!} So he took the potential impact of the cover another step further:

"I called the Factory and talked to Andy or Fred Hughes, whoever was there at the time, and answered the phone, and I said I needed some pictures of the same guy who is on the cover, whoever that is, and he said he wasn't even sure, it could have been Paulie, it wasn't Dallesandro, it could have been Jay or Corey Tippin, because I knew all these people, and I said find the guy who did the cover! And when you shoot the pictures, have the guy play with his privates because the model on the cover has a semi-erection on the right side, dresses right! Andy said,'Ohhh, that's such a great idea yes, we'll do that!' "

''So he sent me an envelope, a regular business envelope, and Andy wrote on the outside, 'Here's some good ones.'" Craig still has the Polaroid pictures and the envelope. A fascinating story by Dave Dyment about these pictures and more photos here!

"3 days after the first fifty or sixty thousand copies of the Sticky Fingers LP had been shipped," Craig says, "I got a call from [Atlantic Records'] Nesuhi Ertegun's assistant saying, 'He hates you!' I said 'why?'. He says 'the zipper on the front cover is denting the 'Sister Morphine' track!'" The LP shipping boxes were stacked about 20 high, and the bouncing of the trucks during shipments was causing the zippers to dig through the covers' cardboard and create horrible divots on the record. 'The stores are returning them!' Nesuhi got on the phone and said, 'I told you to print that [zipper]!' I said, 'Nesuhi, it's not me - Mick wanted it and Marshall wanted it. I had to do what they wanted.' He said, ''No, you could have stopped them, told them it's impossible! You're the guy who made the package and now you have to stand behind it.'"

Craig continues, "In my mind I saw all those albums coming back, running a full-blown obsession, seeing the returns coming back over and over and the financial ramifications. Later that night I was fooling around, playing with the zipper and I pulled it down, held up a disc and noticed that the zipper could go down to the label's level. The next morning I called Nesuhi and I said, 'I've got it!,' and he said, 'No, you don't,' and I said, 'We'll have people in the pressing plants pull the zipper down right before its shrink-wrapped! It won't dent the grooves, and it'll look even better!!' And we tried it and it worked!'' Necessity is the mother (fucker) of invention.

Black Panther Party Africa Pin
Vintage, Original Black Panther Party pin 1972

Shortly before Sticky Fingers was released, Craig came up with a bit of a teaser for the LP aimed at radio stations, who were itching badly for any new Stones music. He says, "I got ahold of some regular, stock zippers and some of those D.O.A.-type tags attached, the big beige ones with the reinforced hole in them, and we wrote...we had printed something in bright red like 'Stones' or 'Sticky Fingers you know, they all knew that a new album was coming out, and I showed it to Marshall and said, 'You should send these out to all the disc jockeys! So we sent out 2500 tags and they were all talking about it on the air."

Craig closes his eyes "Ooohhh man", he barks.  "if you could find one of those, it would be worth some bread." I've never found one.

And what could be hipper than a vintage, original Black Panther Party pin! Stone rare, Craig made it, and we have a few!! Click on it!

Craig had a good relationship with Denny Cordell, Leon Russell, and Shelter Records. So for Tom and I, this was another fun gig, the design of the Shelter Records logo. But when DC comics got wind of the logo, they sued for trademark infringement, but not before Craig had made some beautiful medallions and stickers!

"We had trouble with DC," Craig chuckles, "because the Shelter Records logo was basically the Superman logo upside-down on an egg. So we put a black mark across it! I know, very clever. We then executed the final version...same egg with a scraggly 'S' written in ink." 

We have the vintage original Shelter Records puffy sticker and silver/enamel pin!


Shelter Records Pin
Shelter Records SuperEgg Logo Sticker
Shelter Records SuperEgg Logo Pin Shelter Records SuperEgg Logo Sticker

Craig also made an instant treasure - a gift to celebrate the opening of Apple Corps' New York office. It's an exquisite sterling silver/enamel apple medallion! We also have puffy apple stickers.

Apple Corps Logo Medallion
Vintage Apple silver/enamel Medallion

Stickers you say? Hype stickers, as they are known, placed on the outside of the cellophane, had a great effect on sales by delivering highlights of a record and grabbing the attention of a buyer. Craig pioneered the sticker concept after coming up with a nice one for an Elvis LP that trumpeted a big single within. That one began the demand for stickers for the likes of Janis Joplin, Big Brother, Grand Funk Railroad, the Carpenters and countless others. At one point, Craig was known in the biz as he "Sticker King" by the record industry

And guess who designed and concocted the LP-sized rolling paper to adorn that nutty,  iconic Cheech and Chong album Big Bambu, an idea out of the blue almost suggesting the use of illegal weed. This was 1972!

Craig ''Sticker King'' Braun's stickers

Craig has had a checkerboard career after 1978. He became the Advertising and Public Relations Director for Les Must de Cartier in 1979. In 1988, Ivy Hill a division of Time/Warner offered Craig the opportunity to set up his own Special Packaging division for the Warner Music labels to create limited edition, collectible CD packages and box sets for Warner’s major artists. He has been a professional actor since taking early retirement from Time/Warner in 2001, where he was a Creative and Marketing Director. New York theater credits include Other Desert Cities, Macbeth, Deathtrap, and Merchant of Venice. Los Angeles stage credits include Vivien, Our Lady of 121st Street, and Proof. Among his many TV guest starring roles are Cold Case, ER, The Practice, Third Watch, and Law & Order, as well as the lead role in the acclaimed ZDF German miniseries Betrayal in Paradise. Film work includes Swordfish, Great Expectations, Flawless, and The Associate to mention a few. In 2008, Craig became a lifetime member of The Actors Studio. Check out his demo reel here.

Special thanks to Rachael McGovern for invaluable assistance.
 

Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers

 

 

* I saw this fantastic,1972 tour at the Long Beach Arena, CA, with Stevie Wonder opening. Unforgettable!

DID YOU SEE THIS TOUR? COMMENT BELOW!

Relevant Tags

Andy Warhol (12), Leon Russell (2), Denny Cordell (1), Apple Corps (1), Shelter Records (1), Mick Jagger (8), Keith Richards (1), Memorabilia (2), Braun & Wilkes (1), Apple Records (2), The Rolling Stones (14), Craig Braun (1), Banana Cover (1), Velvet Underground (8), Big Bambu (1), The Factory New York (1), Cheech & Chong (6), Tom Petty (9), Rolling Stones (32), Rolling Stones Records (1), Tongue And Lips Logo (1), Licks Logo (1)