Classic Rock Corner: The Greatest Band Logos of All Time, Part 1

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Daniel Kramer

With our ears still ringing from last night's AC/DC concert at Toyota Center (I knew we should have stayed away from the end of the stage with the cannon...), we got to thinking about the Aussie boys' iconic band logo. Sketched in pen on a million different school notebooks, and gracing T-shirts, denim jackets, and bad tattoos for more than 30 years, it's as big part of the band's legacy as "Back in Black."

And so because Rolling Stone shouldn't have a monopoly on "greatest" lists that invite indignant reader response, we here in the Classic Rock Corner humbly present The Top Ten Greatest Classic Rock Band Logos Ever! Loosely defining the era as bands who made their national debuts between 1967-77, these are the logos which you know by heart even if you can't name an album title. In this first installment, we start the Casey Kasem countdown with... Yes!

10. Fantasy artist Roger Dean is indeed the Dean of Prog Rock Artists, and his work has graced the covers of records by Yes, Gentle Giant, Uriah Heep, and Asia. This logo was actually Dean's third attempt at getting it right, makings its debut on the band's 1972 opus Close to the Edge. Soft edge, psychedelia, and the art noveau style of Alphonse Mucha are all evident here, the perfect signpost to the netherworlds and fantasy lands of the band's music.

9. Aerosmith: Before there was a Brad Whitford slinging axe for these bad boys from Boston, there was Ray Tabano, who would have been merely a very hard trivia answer if he hadn't designed this letter-and-wings logo in 1974 for the band's Wings LP.

The childhood best friend of Steven Tyler, Tabano was replaced by Whitford in 1971, but continued to work for the band in its office and recording studio until his 1979 firing. Just looking at it makes you want to shoot up heroin!

8. Van Halen This durable duo of letters has managed to survive both Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone, as well as inspire rock nerd Rivers Cuomo in his own Weezer logo. The person most credited with its design is Dave Bhang, art director on the first two VH records. The logo appeared on the cover of its 1977 debut, but the band's desire for branding (or sheer laziness) led to it taking up the entire front of Van Halen II.

It also fits perfectly with the flash-and-trash attitude of the band, and in particular frontman David Lee Roth, as if it could also appear on a fast car racing down Sunset Strip. The band has played with it through the years - adding text, wraparound curves, fire, and the planet at some points - but the basic design has always remained.

7. The Who: The original lettering - only with the connected "h" and the arrow pointing upward, signifying either uplifting musical power or Pete Townshend's penis - was designed by Brian Pike in 1964 for the now-iconic posters and cards that advertised the Who's show at London's Marquee Club.

The poster's "Maximum R&B" tag has also become part of the group's lore. When paired with the red, white, and blue target, it subsequently became a mod/pop art icon adorning buttons, patches, and even T-shirts worn by drummer Keith Moon. Surprisingly, the logo itself in either variation has never actually been used on a Who record.

6. Ramones: If only the White House press corps could see this staring back at them from the podium! Longtime Ramones confidante/graphic designer Arturo Vega came up with this logo, a riff on the U.S. Presidential seal - because he wanted to position the bruddahs as an "All-American Band."

The original members' names are written around the circle (sorry, Richie!) and as a sop to the baseball-loving Johnny, the eagle holds a Louisville Slugger in his left claw. Clean, professional and at odds with fellow punk pioneers the Sex Pistols' jagged, ransom-note logo, you can now outfit your newborn infant with this logo on a jumper.

And while the Ramones are the least "classic rock" band on this list, sometimes symbols can overcome musical divisions. Now, if only a fraction of mall-roaming teens who wear Ramones shirts actually bought one of their records... Gabba Gabba Hey! - Bob Ruggiero

Join us next week in the same Rocks Off location as we reveal the Top 5 Classic Rock Band Logos Ever! And no, your e-mails won't influence the outcome. Special thanks to the Web sites of New Musical Express and Intuitive Designs for research help.

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