Steve Douglas on March 8th, 2008

Stumbled on this nifty list of the 25 Best Band Logos and scrolling the featured designs brought back fond memories of my misspent youth. I’ve always been a fan of band logos (as well as album art) and while I question some of their choices (Prince logo number 1? Nuh-uh) some of my faves score quite well. Back in the day, my fascination with band and music logos helped get me an early start into the logo design game and even led to my first ‘professional’ gig – designing the logo for my high school radio station. When I was a teen I loved merch emblazoned with the logos of my rock-n-roll heroes and while there were many over the years, my all time favorites belonged to KISS and the art-rock kings of the time, Yes.

Kiss Band Logo

A devoted member of the ‘KISS Army‘ (gawd, I was such a geek) I plastered the KISS logo on everything I owned – drawing it on duotangs, binders and doodling it on scraps of paper while I chatted with pals about weekend plans. Designed by original lead guitarist Ace Frehley, the iconoclastic typography first appeared on KISS’ second album Hotter N’ Hell (I didn’t get into the band until I heard the classic KISS Alive – still one of the best live albums evah) and has been a cornerstone of the KISS legend ever since. Duplicating the logo by hand (this was long before PCs, the internet and desktop publishing software) was no easy feat. Getting the curves of the K and the angle of the lightning bolt double-’S's just so required a lot of practice. Very important too. While it’s claimed that the logo was meant to represent lightning bolts, the similarity to the Sig Rune German Nazi SS logo was just enough to give parents kittens (some religious groups claimed that KISS was an acronym for Kids In Service to Satan) – a prerequisite for any rock and roll band worth their sand. In fact, The band had to redesign their logo for the German market – where use of any Nazi iconology is illegal – and albums sold in Germany bore the alternate design. While I don’t have any hardcore stats, I’d imagine that the KISS logo is among the most reproduced logos of our era having been featured on every type of merchandise imaginable including, most recently, a coffee shop and a fragrance line (No. I’m not kidding).

Yes Band LogoThe Yes logo was just so Roger Dean, my favorite designer/illustrator of the time. The ‘bubble’ logo, as it become known as, first appeared on the band’s 1972 Close to the Edge album where it became a permanent part of the group’s brand. It reflected Yes’ musical stylings perfectly and complimented the album art (also designed by Dean) in a way that Fortune 500 companies could only hope to achieve. The way the ‘Y’ tucked into the ‘E’ and went on the graphically form the letter ‘S’ was inspired brilliance. As well as developing the entire Yes brand, Dean was also responsible for the logos of Uriah Heep, Gentle Giant, Asia (nice logo, not so great band) and Pygnosis, a software company that developed games for the now defunct Amiga computer system. You can see a variety of Dean’s highly stylized logos here.

As a sign of my alligence, both of these logos were painted eight foot wide on the ceiling of my teenage bedroom using huge cardboard templates, drawn and cut out by hand from refrigerator boxes. My father and I worked many hours on reproducing the logos as faithfully as possible and they remained intact for many years, even after I had moved out. Required a dozen coats of paint to cover when my folks finally decided to redecorate my former teenage lair a few years back. In fact, if you’re at the right angle, you can still seen the faint outlines of the KISS lightning bolts where they were originally laid down over 30 years ago.

Rush Band Logos

I’d be remiss if I didn’t a least mention another of my fave band logos – that of Canadian rock legends Rush. Must admit the love affair with the band happened in spite of their original design, not because of it. The first Rush text logo (as it appeared on their 1974 self-titled debut) wasn’t the greatest (above left), but with the release of the classic 2112, the new ‘Starman’ design by Hugh Syme (above right) finally saw a Rush logo that I was proud to wear on a T-shirt. Naturally, parents freaked cause they could only see a pentagram. And a naked bloke. Good times.

Nuts and Bolts Toronto NightClubA few years later, I drifted into the alternative music scene (it was referred to by others as New Wave) and it wasn’t hard to notice that save for a few, new generations of bands didn’t embrace the same kind of iconoclastic branding as their predecessors. Bands had become more disposable and with a few exceptions, eschewed logos and branding for a more generic look on albums and 12″ EPS (remember them?). For what it’s worth, here’s the logo of my favorite nightclub during that time – Toronto’s Nuts and Bolts, a trendy (though arguably seedy) dance spot that I hung out at for several years back in the 80′s (I’d love to credit the original designer, so if anyone has a clue, please let me know). Lot’s of cool memories of weekends there, which led to a design gig with CFNY 102.1 – arguably the first alternative radio station in North America.

But I’ll save that for another post.


Ed Jandrisits, one of the founders of Nuts and Bolts kindly left a comment in which he identifies the original designer of the nightclub logo as cartoonist Ian Carr.




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13 Comments to “Best Band Logos. Evah.”

  1. Ryan James says:

    Great article! I remember Nuts and Bolts from my University of Toronto days (daze?). I used to hang out there most weekends and it was one of the only clubs that was open until 4 am. I remember the under-the-dance-floor lights and the really bad copies of Brit Pop videos. Nuts and Bolts lost it’s charm when it moved to Yonge Street from the original Victoria Street location. Can’t help you with the logo designer but remember the design well. Was a fan of CFNY too before it become The Edge which is dreadful now. If you don’t know it, there’s a web site for old school CNFY fans at There’s also a Face Book group for the Nuts and Bolts Dance Club gang.

  2. Hey Ryan – thanks for dropping by. I had ‘moved on’ when Nuts and Bolts moved to Yonge Street and IIRC, I think I only went once or twice. Another alternative spot was Domino (originally on Isabella Street until it too moved to Yonge). Bloody dance floor was steel and turned into a safety hazard with spilled drinks as the nights wore on.

    I agree about The Edge – never a big fan after 102 was bought out and ‘rebranded’. Just yer typical FM station now. Ah well – have itunes loaded with classic 80s tracks and remixes that’ll do in a pinch. I’ve spent quite a lot of time over at the CFNY fan site. There’s some terrific news pieces and other parapheneilia including some orginal broadcasts that are available for download. Funny you should mention it, but The Nuts and Bolts Face Book group is where I pinched the logo from (looks like it was scanned from a matchbook cover).

  3. Marcy says:

    There are lots of alternative bands with great logos. For example – Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus and Scissor Sisters. The Sex Pistols logo set a trend for the entire punk movement for heaven’s sake. Kiss logo – meh.

  4. jim says:

    Check out this new book. Over 1000 band logos.

  5. [...] made up for their small numbers with a ferocious loyalty (I even drank Carlsberg beer at my fave weekend haunt, Nuts and Bolts Nightclub, because they were a major sponsor). Alas, CFNY was sold to some corporate interests in the mid-90s, [...]

  6. Art says:

    Asia is not so great of a band? Are you kidding me? They are an amazing band with some of the best talent in Progressive British Rock! They created a new genre of music back in 1981…the first band to ever fuse Progressive Rock and Pop. They are better today than they have ever been!

  7. Eddie J says:

    In response to “Toronto’s Nuts and Bolts, a trendy (though arguably seedy) dance spot that I hung out at for several years back in the 80’s (I’d love to credit the original designer, so if anyone has a clue, please let me know). Lot’s of cool memories of weekends there, which led to a design gig with CFNY 102.1 – arguably the first alternative radio station in North America.”

    Nuts and Bolts was created by Jody Colero (musician) and myself, Ed Jandrisits, (Operator) when we convinced Frank Cutajar to convert his dying Disco Dance Club to new wave. We traveled to NYC to buy records at 99 Records close to Washington Square to start us off. We drew inspiration from CBGB, The RITZ, The Mud Club, Eighth St, and the city’s music scene itself. We worked with David Marsden and Ivar Hamilton at CFNY on sharing music ideas. Thanks also to the Record Peddler for their Import selection. The logo was penned by cartoonist Ian Carr who also did a weekly comic strip.

    Cheers, Ed

    • John H says:

      Hey Ed;
      I used to go to Nuts and Bolts every Friday for years back then, just wondering if there is going to be a reunion set up somewhere and if its possible to get the playlist from those old days…

      Thanks for any help with this
      John H.

  8. @ Eddie Thanks so much for dropping by and telling us a little about the Nuts and Bolts back story, as well as telling us about Ian Carr – the night club’s logo designer.

    You bring back a lot of memories. I went to school with Ivar Hamilton and was a fan of his Sunday night “Sunday Night Import Show” (I still have a mess of cassette tapes of the show in my garage somewhere). I remember the Record Peddler well – often spent hours (and a good chunk of my meager pay check) rummaging through their 12″ import sections for the latest Brit Pop releases, dub versions and remixes. I think CFNY died a little when Marsden left as music director, but for years, our dial was turned to his Christmas Eve special – one of the best on the airwaves at the time.

    Once again, thanks for giving us a little insight to Nuts and Bolts, an extremely important part of Toronto’s music and club scene history. Even though it’s been 20-odd years, I still have fond memories of the time (and it was a lot of time) I spent there.

  9. Dave O says:

    I still have great memories of my weekends at Nuts & Bolts.
    The first time I walked down the stairs and into the dark and crowded club, Gangsters by the Specials was playing and the dance floor was packed with people dancing with abandon and having an absolute blast!
    From the red vinyl seats, to the under-lit dance floor and the fry kitchen in the back (which used to offer free burgers with admission!), the club was as unique as it’s playlist and clientelle.
    It was my first experience with downtown nightlife and left an indelible impression on this sheltered lad from the suburbs.
    It also happens to be where I met my future and current wife of these last 25 years!
    Like any perfect moment in time, Nuts & Bolts could only last for a brief moment. Changing styles and times left it behind, and renovation and relocation could not save it from it’s inevitable and lamented demise.
    Still, as obscure as it has become, it’s nice to see that at least *some* people remember Bolts as fondly as Jen and I! :)

    • Steve Douglas says:

      Hey Dave – thanks so much for dropping by. Your experience was very similar to mine (except the song they were playing while I stood on the stairs was Sound of The Crowd (dub mix) by Human League). I was also from the suburbs, and Nuts and Bolts was my weekend downtown haunt for years.

    • Kerry says:

      Hi Eddie, Jody Colero!
      Dave, Steve and to all you Nuts and Bolts fans from the early 80′s
      Steve, I think I remember you asking for that 12″ dub from the Human League on a regular basis-LOL
      I am proud to say that I was proud to be part of the great music delivery system of new music and soul at this ground breaking club that brought so many people together who enjoyed the time and research that we all put into the original venue at Dundas & Victoria.
      Feel free to buzz me on facebook Kerry Phillips
      Stay beautiful and keep on dancing.

  10. Art says:

    Sorry. Asia is a great band. In fact…my favorite band ever. John Wetton, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer, and Geoff Downes are master musicians that created a new genre of music….Progressive Pop. They reformed in 2006 and have been active ever since. Great band and logo.