Last week, almost 50 years after they broke up, The Beatles released Now and Then – their final song. This record was an incredible 30 years in the making, and is billed as, ‘the completion of the last recording that John, Paul, George and Ringo will get to make together’. The record is a double A-side, pairing this final track with their very first single – the legendary 1962 debut, Love Me Do.
Ed Ruscha, cover art for The Beatles’ “Now and Then,” 2023. Courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd/Capitol/UMe.
While The Beatles are beloved for their music, their distinctive visual style is also something to celebrate. From matching outfits (and haircuts) to album covers that double as works of art, images of The Beatles are some of the most influential of the 20th century. It’s no wonder then that for the cover of their final record, they turned to the art world, and to legendary American pop artist, Ed Ruscha.
In today’s blog, we’re diving into the world of Ruscha to explore his work and his pop art connections to the artist behind the most famous Beatles cover of them all, Sir Peter Blake.
The King of California Cool
Ed Ruscha is an American artist known for thoughtful text-based works that have been linked with both the Pop Art movement and the Beat Generation. Like all good pop artists, Ruscha’s oeuvre is inspired by that which surrounds us, from advertising and common expressions, to the businesses we frequent and products we consume.
This Beatles cover is a perfect showcase of what Ruscha does best – taking popular words and turns of phrase and elevating them into philosophical works of art.
Ruscha’s career spans an incredible six decades, and right now he’s enjoying the heat of the limelight not only with this historic record cover, but also via a landmark exhibition at the MoMA in New York. The exhibition features over 200 artworks spanning his 60-year career, offering attendees an incredible perspective on a vast body of work that has influenced generations of artists, designers, architects and writers.
The Godfather of Pop Art
Ruscha’s career has run parallel with our very own Godfather of Pop Art – Peter Blake – an icon of the art world whose entire oeuvre is based on the idea that anything can be art. Alongside their interest in popular culture and the everyday, this pair now have another thing in common…The Beatles!
While every Beatles cover has made an impact, no image is more iconic than that of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Together, Blake and McCartney came up with the idea of taking a photograph of the band decked out in their band uniforms, surrounded by over 60 cut-outs of friends, heroes, gurus and stars (and the band’s waxworks). This was before the days of Photoshop, so it involved a life-sized, physical creation that Blake described as, ‘like theatre design’.
The cover sparked a revolution that saw record packaging elevated to the level of visual art, paving the way for a generation of artists to aspire to the same standards. Speaking of which...you can discover Enter Gallery’s 20 favourite album covers designed by artists here.
Given Blake was only paid £200 for the cover, it’s incredible to see how the image has endured. Fortunately, the collaboration made Blake a household name, sparked some of his most famous works, including his BBC Series, and led to a number of album covers including Who by The Who, Paul Weller’s Stanley Road, Brian Wilson’s Gettin’ In Over My Head, and Manhattan Boogie Woogie by Landscape.
Enter Gallery has one of the UK's most extensive archives of Peter Blake artworks. If you’d like to discuss adding a Blake work to your art collection, call the gallery on (+44)1273 724829.