I’ve been a fan of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion since I first heard the late radio DJ and tastemaker John Peel play “Cowboy” from the LP Orange. It sounded amazing, like Exile On Main St.-era Stones being deconstructed by a bunch of punks raised on Elvis and Captain Beefheart. Due to the miraculous powers of the Internet, I can even tell you that this was on Friday, Nov. 18, 1994. I remember turning the radio up, and grabbing a pen and paper to make a note of who this was, and probably had to wait while Peel played several other tunes before he put a name to it. This was a regular occurrence, I don’t think I ever made it through a Peel show without the same thing happening once or twice a night, right up until the man’s death in 2004. Every now and then I might still find a notebook with a list of band names or song titles somewhere in it.
The JSBX is currently on tour, and approached Alex Fugazi’s Texas design powerhouse Nakatomi Inc to produce a gig poster for its July 18 concert in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Fugazi engaged Deadline Magazine/Bulletproof Coffin artist Shaky Kane, who produced this glorious work of pop art.
The image seems to be something of a zombified self-portrait of Shaky (it somehow seems wrong to call the man, stuck so deep in character, by his real name, or even by his pseudonymous surname “Kane”), though drawn very much as an extension of the “Hateful Dead” bubblegum card designs to be seen in The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred. When I think back and remember what musical motifs appeared regularly in Shaky’s past work, it was almost always references to Elvis Presley. This seems fitting, considering Spencer’s love of mimicking The King’s vocal mannerisms. Everything Shaky produces these days seems to be an extension of his eccentric persona: this print comes with an autographed “Certificate of Reality.” And dig Shaky’s copping of the lettering style of Jack Kirby’s one-time assistant Mike Royer.
Spencer has got previous form for collaborating with comics artists, most notably Paul Pope, who has created art for three bands the veteran rocker has played in. Pope has produced two gig posters in the past for the Blues Explosion, a T-shirt design for Boss Hog, as well as cover art for Spencer’s other going concern, the rockabilly-flavored Heavy Trash.