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Firesign Theatre Cover

Firesign Theatre Book Cover Rough
Firesign Theatre Book Cover Rough

While I’m a guest at Baby Tattooville (see previous Journal entry) I thought you might like to see a cover rough I just drew for my ol’ pals the Firesign Theatre.

For those of you who are too young or just not in the know, the Firesign Theatre is a group of four very funny guys: Peter Bergman, Philip Proctor, Phil Austin and David Ossman. They produced comedy LPs that were enormously popular in the late 1960s/early 1970s (The Guys are still recording and touring; go to: Their LPs were unique among other comedy LPs in that you could listen to them over and over again and discover new stuff each time. Their counter culture and above ground cultural spoofs were the audio equivalent of a Harvey Kurtzman/Will Elder MAD comic book story — but with an often Kafka-esque nod to the drug and hippy realms. Incredible stuff!

With my background and shared cultural references, I always felt my graphic work and talents fit the Firesign like a glove.

I created some LP covers for them as well as a bunch of advertising and T-shirt designs. I designed and built props for their movie Everything You Know Is Wrong and appeared in that film as an extra.

This cover is for a book and disc set that contains a gigantic selection of their radio shows from back in the day. The cover I designed is extremely text heavy because that was what was called for in the original specs I was given. I think I found a good solution to all that text on the cover by turning it into very readable comic book word balloons.

This cover came back to me with so many fundamental changes to my concept (although, happily, most of the text was eliminated) that I no longer understood it (and I’m a pretty smart guy). The fun gig I was so looking forward to had become work. I bailed on it and won’t be doing it but I thought you might like to see what the rough looked like (one of the perks of visiting my site).

The illustration part of the cover is a nod to one of Jack Davis’ It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World movie posters. My intent was to fill the crowd with the Firesign’s most popular and enduring characters. That’s The Guys themselves hanging from the bottom of the earth.

I’m sorry this particular one isn’t going to happen but, nevertheless, I look forward to future collaborations with the Firesign Theatre. I highly recommend that you seek out their first four LPs (out on CD): Waiting for the Electrician Or Someone Like Him, How Can You Be Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All, Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers and I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus. Fire up a fatty, put one of these babies on and you’ll never be the same.

14 thoughts on “Firesign Theatre Cover

  1. Thanks for sharing this Bill. The Firesign Theatre album covers have always been some of my favorites of yours. The “In the Next World” cover has that amazing Stout detail and on the other hand you have the “Nick Danger” cover that is so simple and so far away from the normal Bill Stout.

    I f you watch “Seinfeld” enough you can see behind the bar at the comedy club Jerry performs at they have a Firesign Theatre poster. I don’t think it’s one that you did but still kinda neat.

  2. Ahhh, Nick Danger, Third Eye….I hadn’t thought about it in years and saw those CD’s in Michael Kaluta’s apartment a year ago and really do need to grab one up and check it out.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Bill. The Firesign Theatre album covers have always been some of my favorites of yours. The “In the Next World” cover has that amazing Stout detail and on the other hand you have the “Nick Danger” cover that is so simple and so far away from the normal Bill Stout.

    I f you watch “Seinfeld” enough you can see behind the bar at the comedy club Jerry performs at they have a Firesign Theatre poster. I don’t think it’s one that you did but still kinda neat.

  4. Terrific work, Bill. Love the Firesign and love you! Thanks for sharing.

  5. This is a swell cover concept indeed. Too bad the art director didn’t know what he was doing…and, er, that would be me. Apologies all around for driving this car in the wrong direction, as I ended up wasting a national resource here. Gah, the text…! But as my framed copy of the LP cover for “In The Next World You’re On Your Own” continues to remind me, this Stout character tends to bring the goods every time. Here’s hoping there’s an “Everything You Know Is Wrong” DVD and we can reengage at some future date.

  6. You’re a good sport, Taylor. I gotta give you props for getting me the reference material so quickly (and so much of it!). It tickled me to see my old Mixville Rocket and one of the ads I did for The Guys back in the day.

    You’ve got an enormous and pretty thankless job, dealing with all of us creative types — it’s obviously a labor of love. This project is nothing if not VAST! I do not envy you the hard slogging of putting all of this together in coherent form.

    Despite this particular hiccup, I do indeed look forward to future collaborations, amigo! Forward into the past!

  7. Hey Bill did you use Photoshop for the tones?… just wondering, I do love the looseness of the concept piece.

  8. Hi John,
    Yes; I scanned in my sketch and then added the grays and gradations in PhotoShop. See…I’m not a complete Luddite!

  9. Bill

    LOL…just real good to see, Bill… I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you do anything digital… that’s what struck me when I saw the comp… be great to see you do the traditional line work and then color the piece completely in Photoshop… but NEVER stop doing pieces in your traditional way, it’s just a pleasure to see, your HALLUCINATIONS book is just so impressive, Bill

    Hey if you haven’t already… catch HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON… excellent animation, character designs and a real good story… I know PIXAR get’s all the praise… but DREAMWORKS puts out some good product.

    Have a great weekend, Bill and the best to you.

  10. Hi John,
    No, I’ll never stop creating art using traditional methods. One reason is that, besides enjoying the look and feel of a color original, color originals go for much more money than black & white pics, despite the fact that the coloring takes a mere fraction of the time that it takes to do the line work.

    I have been coloring my comic book style art digitally for several years now, though, so you don’t have to wait to see what that looks like.

    I reluctantly (I wasn’t impressed by the weak “how many times have I seen this before” trailer) saw “How to Train Your Dragon” after I began receiving the same incredible word-of-mouth from my animator friends that “Iron Giant” got back in the day. I’m happy they convinced me because I think “How to Train Your Dragon” just might be the best film of the year — and that includes live action pics, too. The brilliant story has an unexpected depth and the design is fully realized and absolutely superb. I’d have been proud to have been involved with this film (I wasn’t). “How to Train Your Dragon” and Thomas Jane’s “Dark Country” easily had the best 3-D of the year as well — much better than that of “Avatar”, for example. The flying scenes and the drifting embers at the end of “…Dragon” were especially effective. See it (although it really should be seen on a big screen — and in 3-D — to be fully appreciated)!

  11. Bill

    I had the same thoughts about TAME YOUR DRAGON as well… “How many times have we seen this”…. as I said I really was impressed by all aspects of the flick… I did not see it in 3-D… I also enjoyed the SHREK flicks (for the most part)… very MADish with all the cameos and spoofs… and again, excellently animated.

    On going digital… yeah, from what I’ve read MANY of the comic artists (DAVE GIBBONS, BRIAN BOLLAND) are saying that a MAJOR downside is that there is no original art… and they actually re-do some pages traditionally to generate sellable original art.

    Hey being an illustration connoisseur… I thought you might get a kick out of what this UK artist (from the 60’s) CECIL VIEWEG sent me… he saw the STERANKO site I designed and said he might want to do something in the near future.

    Here’s a link with some of his images that are in a zip file… If the link below doesn’t open you can cut and paste into your browser, and it should download.

    Here’s his email address if you’d like to chat with him:

    Be well, Bill


  12. I can’t bring myself to watch the Shrek flicks. The design is just too ugly.

    I was pleasantly surprised when DreamWorks Animation finally got their act together design-wise with Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon.

    I will check out Cecil’s work as soon as I can grab some spare time.

    Back to Work,


  13. Bill..the Next World cover was truly amazing. Been a FT fan for 38 (!) years. One of the thrills of my life was a phone converstion with Phil Austin many years ago. FT still rules!

  14. I find the things you stumble across in life to be really amazing. Until now I had never really ‘known’ about your work but had actually grown up with it. That may or may not sound a bit strange so I’ll continue.

    I grew up listening to Firesign, or more appropriately, listening to my father’s LP’s of Firesign. Usually I would find hours of fascination in looking at the covers of these records while listening. I never knew who created any of these images and as a kid it never occurred to me to find out either.

    So it was a great surprise and delight that I came across this journal entry. Oddly enough after an image search for sabertooth tigers that led me to an earlier entry in your journal.

    Thank you for some of the colorful memories from my childhood. I hope to see more collaborations between you and FT because it just looks so good together.

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