The Story Behind the Cover Art for McCartney’s “New”

Speaking of inspirations for album cover artwork, the small print in the credits for Paul McCartney’s latest recording turns up some interesting background information on where he looked for the stylised image of the word NEW depicted on the cover.

Here’s the cover for the standard edition CD [and vinyl]:paul-mccartney-new-album

…and the different coloured “deluxe” CD variation, which contains two bonus tracks:New - Deluxe Edition

Inside, along with who played and produced what, there’s this:

Artwork information:
NEW album cover inspired by Dan Flavin with special thanks to Stephen Flavin
Logo and cover concept: Rebecca and Mike
Consultancy and design: YES
Cover Image: Ben Ib

Dan Flavin was an American minimalist sculptor who specialised in using coloured neon and fluorescent tubes. As an example, here’s Flavin’s 1987 work Untitled (to Don Judd, colorist) at the Tate Liverpool gallery in 2009 (photograph: Colin McPherson):Dan-Flavin-Unititled-to-D-007

Or this (Site specific installation 1996 – Menil Collection, Houston Texas): Flavin 2

You can easily see where the New cover is coming from. The reference to Stephen Flavin is to Dan Flavin’s son, who has overseen the activities of his father’s estate since 1997. (For an in-depth and scholarly review of a retrospective exhibition of Dan Flavin works held in London in 2006 try this). The website Artsy.net has also created a page which really captures well what Flavin’s art is all about – and it has some great images too.

So much for the inspiration for the New cover.

Turns out though that the image used wasn’t actually made of fluorescent lights. See that reference to Ben Ib? Well, he’s a music video director who has worked extensively with Paul McCartney in the past. On his website Ib says he made the piece using a computer rendering program (with a logo and concept by Rebecca and Mike, and consultancy and design by YES). He also says the cover is “…my first foray into print work…It was a great team to work with under Paul’s guidance. I’ve also created the deluxe edition (gatefold) image.”

Ben Ib has done heaps of video work for McCartney. He created visual content for the “On the Run” and “Out There” tours, and the visuals for the song “Sing the Changes” which featured Barack Obama and which Sir Paul used for his headlining set at the Coachella festival. You can see a short extract of that here.

Ib’s talents were also utilised in June 2008 when Paul McCartney came home to Liverpool to give a performance (the first in his home town in five years) for the Liverpool Sound 2008 event. Ib built a huge, beautiful 20-minute long visual collage to serve as a backdrop to the show. It charts Paul’s story – from the early Cavern club days to the present, with footage and memorabilia from Paul and Linda’s personal archives.

And Ben Ib did this short biographical documentary film featured on the deluxe CD re-issue edition of Ram. If you haven’t seen it here’s an extract:

Meanwhile….back to the cover of New and Paul McCartney has provided the following piece of advice:

“If you buy ‘NEW’ on CD, please be careful when removing the booklet and take it out through the front cover gap, rather than the inside gap; If you do it could rip the cover. I only know this because I did it three times before I realised the booklet had to come out of the front gap! I hope you enjoy the music!! And please pass this message on.”

To help illustrate his point the news page on his official site shows these two photographs. First the correct way to remove the booklet:Correct_Image

…and this is the incorrect way:Incorrect_Image

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