Vogue’s February 1977 green jelly cover was by Terry Jones
I always get something out of interviews with Terry Jones because he always wants to spill the beans about something. The details make life at Vogue come alive behind the oh-so-made-up corporate face of Condé Nast, with stories of cover transparencies being lost in bins, rows with all the ‘suits’ who want to push in and change things, and his attempt to get a nipple onto his last cover as art director.
I wrote a piece last year for the sold-out last issue of Gym Class about cover design rules, and Jones epitomises the final rule – break them all!:
For every rule, there’s a cover that broke it yet was a tearaway success. Black for the cover didn’t work for Talk in the US – yet it was the signature colour for Willy Fleckhaus on Twen. He produced a classic, but who’s done it since? … One day the rules here will be built into InDesign and Photoshop. For now, and probably even then, it’s up to you to test the rules, make mistakes and learn what works for your magazine.
Jones – who was made an MBE in the 2017 honours list for services to fashion and popular culture – founded the punkish, dot-matrixy i-D magazine after he left Vogue, with later help from Tony Elliott to turn it into a mainstream title.
Jones has identified his favourite Vogue covers in interviews with Ludovic Hunter-Tilney (FT, ‘Happy birthday i-D magazine’, 19 November 2010) and for i-D/Vice. Among his three favourites is the green jelly cover from February 1977 shot by Willie Christie:
The image was originally for an inside editorial that Grace [Coddington, fashion editor, who was previously a model] and I convinced Beatrix [Miller, then editor] to run with. We got approval from Bernie Lazer, the managing director at British Vogue, who had to defend the decision when Daniel Salem, the European company director, demanded to have it stopped on press.
Vogue itself described the issue so:
The cover is entitled ‘first taste of spring’ and features ‘Rowntree’s jelly… full of gelatine, a valuable source of protein and good for strengthening nails.’ Green is the colour of the fashion moment inside, modelled by Jerry Hall, while Maria Schiaparelli Berenson’s wedding to James H Randal is featured, wth Anjelica Huston, Jack Nicholson, Liza Minelli, Halston and Andy Warhol all there to see it. ‘If there was ever such a thing as a groovy wedding, that was it,’ said Nicholson.
So un-Vogue: January 1974 cover shot by David Bailey for Terry Jones
Jones was given space to experiment on covers, but he was also aware that ‘there were rules you were meant to abide by’.
Another cover he’s amazed that he and Coddington managed to ‘smuggle’ through was a full-length portrait by David Bailey of Anjelica Huston and Manolo Blahnik drinking champagne on a beach at sunset (Jan 1974).
As he says, ‘It was so un-Vogue. I don’t think Vogue have done a full-length since.’ Sometimes, it’s by breaking the rules that you set them.
So grainy: Vogue 1974 cover of Bianca Jagger blown up from 35mm
The third cover he rejoices in is ‘the accidental cover’ of Bianca Jagger photographed by Eric Boman (March 1974). Boman took a 35mm shot of Jagger at the Paris Opera that Jones liked, but the model was very small in the photo.
So Jones had a 10×8 transparency made up that was cropped to the head and then blown up to the cover area. This blow-up made the image very grainy, a feature that Jones wanted but that would have been regarded as unusable by the normal production standards at Condé Nast.
‘The print production manager still complained,’ said Jones, ‘but it remains one of my favourite covers alongside the the green jelly cover from February 1977.’
To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design