The Rolling Stones ‘Let It Bleed’ 50th Anniversary Campaign
Updated: Aug 26, 2020
In the summer of 2019, we were commissioned by ABKCO Music to help promote the 50th anniversary release of the Rolling Stone's classic 1969 album 'Let It Bleed'. This would be the third 50th Anniversary campaign ABKCO have employed us to work on, having worked beforehand on ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ and ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’. As with the previous box set releases, we were tasked with creating a lyric video for every track on the album along with print and web advertising.
Robert Brownjohn's original sleeve design and sketches
The main direction we were given was to reference the iconic sleeve art for ‘Let It Bleed’ which was designed by Robert Brownjohn. The LP was originally destined to be called ‘Automatic Changer’ which explains why the cover resembles a stacked record player with a variety of objects piled upon each other. Incidentally, the cake sitting on top was made by the then unknown Delia Smith who was instructed to make the cake “as gaudy as possible”. Even after the LP’s title was changed to ‘Let It Bleed’, the cover art remained because the band liked it so much. Maybe because Keith Richard was a friend of Brownjohn, his figurine is the only one that remains upright on the back of the sleeve?
This famous sleeve art presented us with a challenge. How could we use such an iconic design whilst creating something new and original for this campaign? We considered a number of approaches, from modelling the cover in 3D to deconstructing the sleeve and focussing on each individual element featured - the vinyl, clock, pizza, tyre etc. Finally we settled on the idea of ripping the cover up and reassembling it. In this way the sleeve design would be instantly recognisable but with a fresh twist. With the original artwork being so ingrained in musical culture one only needs to see a sliver of ‘the cake’ to recognise it. We also felt this irreverent attitude fitted into the wider Stones aesthetic of Rock ‘n’ Roll rebellion.
The Rolling Stones 'Monkey Man' lyric video
So with this concept approved we got to work on the key video of the campaign for ‘Monkey Man’. We ripped up the front and back cover of the album, as well as the inner sleeve, along with contrasting red and black paper. These were our building blocks for the video. ‘Monkey Man’ is a snarling, in your face rock song, and we wanted the video to reflect that. Taking our cues from punk fanzines and posters, the video is a breakneck journey through rips and paint splats, punctuated with images reflecting the lyrics.
The videos for the other seven tracks on the album (ABKCO had already commissioned a video for ‘Gimme Shelter’ some years ago) all followed the same template as ‘Monkey Man’, but with pace, layout, colourisation and editing tailored to the beat and feel of each track. To further tie our creative to the original cover art we used the same typeface as featured on the original sleeve throughout our visuals.
The Rolling Stones 'Country Honk' lyric video
To give the whole campaign a coherent, unified feel and with our creative direction established we turned our thoughts to the print and web advertising.
We knew the advertising needed to be instantly recognisable in order to promote the boxset and so decided against deconstructing the cover too radically. Still incorporating our ‘ripped’ aesthetic, we ensured the cake, vinyl and gramophone arm were clearly visible, and ‘tore through’ to reveal the copy beneath.
Our web assets followed the same course, and included Spotify banners and an animated gif, that displayed the entire cover, with the rips animating off to reveal the text.
It’s always a huge privilege to work on such iconic songs. To be a part, albeit in a small way, of these masterpieces of Rock ‘n’ Roll history. It’s a real thrill to know that our creative work will be associated with these songs for years to come.