By Kosmo Vinyl
It was Mick Jones idea to see if I had any art that would work as a new cover for the first official release of If Music Could Talk, which was first pressed as a radio promo LP in 1981. Mick’s thinking was “Kosmo did the interviews,” (featured on the records) “so it would be great if he did the cover art, too.” I responded that I would make a piece specifically for the cover and everyone involved was happy.
Straight away I felt that the Nicaraguan revolutionary Augusto César Sandino (1895-1934) should be featured on the cover. After all, Sandinista!, where the music on this LP originates from, was named after the movement he inspired, that overthrew the dictator Somoza in 1979. It was only when I found the photograph of him taken in 1927 that I used, did I know how prominent he would be.
Behind Sandino is a deliberately not easy to read collage colored red and black, the colors of the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, and not by accident, The Clash’s 3-LP set from 1980. I’m hoping that some Clash fans will have fun, trying to figure out what the images in the collage are and how they relate to what’s on the record.
At some point, while working on the cover, I was asked if I might do the liner notes, too, and at that time I said no, thinking that I had enough on my plate to finish the cover by the required deadline. Once I had the cover under manners, I asked if the offer still stood and as it did, I agreed to write those as well. After consulting with Robert Gordon McHarg, who was overseeing the project and taking charge of the back cover, I got an idea of how much should be written. In no way did I want to take away any space from the Pennie Smith photograph of the band that features on the back.
As far as the interviews that appear on the discs, I’m afraid the specifics as to where they were done are long forgotten by me. But I do recall that their purpose was that radio could play parts of them to accompany the music. Were they aired? I have no idea, but I would like to think so.
This is not the first Clash record cover I have been involved in. It was my very rough drawing “fixed up” by Julian Balme, that became the “Know Your Rights” logo and single cover. I worked closely on the concept and execution of the “Rock the Casbah” single cover (get the 12-inch), which spilled over into Don Letts’ video, and it was from elements suggested by me that Eddie King painted his “Straight to Hell” cover. Years later, in 2018, I made a “one off” cover for the London-based charity Secret 7-inch of The Clash’s “I’m Not Down,” an edition of 100 each with a handmade original cover.
The Clash were always open to creative contributions, from anyone within their camp or anyone involved in a particular project and it’s encouraging to know that Paul, Mick and Topper are still as open as they ever were. I believe it was that open environment that encouraged me to value my own creativity and eventually to become a visual artist myself, many years after The Clash were no more.