Classic Songs Re-Imagined as Vintage Book Covers During Our Troubled Times: “Under Pressure,” “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” “Shelter from the Storm” & More

Even before the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, how many of us sought solace from the tur­bu­lent 21st cen­tu­ry in cul­tur­al arti­facts of bygone eras? Our favorite records by the likes of the Bea­t­les, Queen, David Bowie; our favorite nov­els by the likes of Ray­mond Chan­dler, Ian Flem­ing, Philip K. Dick: all of them now pos­sess a solid­i­ty that seems lack­ing in much cur­rent pop­u­lar cul­ture. The work of all these cre­ators has its own kind of artis­tic dar­ing, and all of it, too, also came out of times trou­bled in their own way.

Hence the cul­tur­al res­o­nance that has long out­last­ed their first burst of pop­u­lar­i­ty — and that fuels the visu­al mash-ups of Todd Alcott. A pro­fes­sion­al screen­writer and graph­ic design­er, Alcott takes mid-20th-cen­tu­ry works of graph­ic design, most often paper­back book cov­ers, and reimag­ines them with the lyrics, themes, and even imagery of pop­u­lar songs from a slight­ly lat­er peri­od. This project is eas­i­er shown than explained, but take a glance at his Etsy shop and you’ll under­stand it at once.

You’ll also take notice of a few mash-ups espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant to the present moment, one in which we all feel a bit “Under Pres­sure.” The whole of “Plan­et Earth,” after all, has found itself sub­ject to the kind of dead­ly pan­dem­ic that only hap­pens “Once in a Life­time,” if that often.

Increas­ing­ly many of us feel the need to “Call the Doc­tor,” but increas­ing­ly often, the doc­tor has proven unavail­able. Most of us can do no bet­ter than seek­ing “Shel­ter from the Storm” — and some of us have been forced by law to do so.

In some coun­tries, all this has begun to feel like “Life Dur­ing Wartime.” Extend­ed peri­ods con­fined to our homes have ren­dered some of us “Com­fort­ably Numb,” and no few Amer­i­cans have begun to say, “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” Per­haps you’ve even heard from friends who describes them­selves as in the process of “Los­ing My Reli­gion.” Some see human­i­ty as plung­ing into “The Down­ward Spi­ral” that ulti­mate­ly means “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”

Oth­ers say “Don’t Wor­ry About the Gov­ern­ment,” expect­ing as they do a “Rev­o­lu­tion” for which they’ve already begun to arm them­selves with “Lawyers, Guns and Mon­ey.” But how many of us can real­ly say with con­fi­dence what a post-coro­n­avirus world will look like, and how or whether it will be dif­fer­ent from the one we’ve grown used to? Best to draw all we can from the wis­dom of the past — what­ev­er form it comes in — and bear in mind that, as a 20th-cen­tu­ry sage once put it, “Tomor­row Nev­er Knows.” You can pur­chase copies of Todd Alcot­t’s cov­ers (which extends well beyond what appears here) at his Etsy shop.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bea­t­les Songs Re-Imag­ined as Vin­tage Book Cov­ers and Mag­a­zine Pages: “Dri­ve My Car,” “Lucy in the Sky with Dia­monds” & More

Clas­sic Songs by Bob Dylan Re-Imag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Cov­ers: “Like a Rolling Stone,” “A Hard Rain’s A‑Gonna Fall” & More

David Bowie Songs Reimag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Cov­ers: Space Odd­i­ty, Heroes, Life on Mars & More

Talk­ing Heads Songs Become Mid­cen­tu­ry Pulp Nov­els, Mag­a­zines & Adver­tise­ments: “Burn­ing Down the House,” “Once in a Life­time,” and More

Clas­sic Radio­head Songs Re-Imag­ined as a Sci-Fi Book, Pulp Fic­tion Mag­a­zine & Oth­er Nos­tal­gic Arti­facts

Songs by Joni Mitchell Re-Imag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Cov­ers & Vin­tage Movie Posters

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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