todd alcott’s repurposed quotes and old images *

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

OPEN CUL­TURE bills it­self as “the best free cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional media on the web.” They have re­cently pub­lished two pages where artist Todd Al­cott uses his com­puter and his love for old mag­a­zines and pa­per­backs to create “new’ cover de­signs that look like old mag­a­zines and paperbacks.

The point of this ar­ticle is to turn you on to Open Cul­ture and es­pe­cially to Al­cott’s fab­u­lous im­ages. So the rest of the text be­tween the two im­ages in­dented below is lifted from the two articles:


DavidBowie YoungAmericans paperback 500

BobDylan JustLikeAWoman paperback 500

Top: The first Open Cul­ture page fea­turing Todd Al­cott’s cre­ations is “Songs by David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads & More Re-Imagined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Covers.” Bottom: The second Open Cul­ture page de­voted to Todd Al­cott is “Classic Songs by Bob Dylan Re-Imagined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Covers: Like a Rolling Stone, A Hard Rain’s A‑Gonna Fall & More.”

Discarded pieces of culture

“[Todd Al­cott has] quite a knack for ex­tracting lyrics from their orig­inal con­text and ren­dering them in the pe­riod font, mag­i­cally re­tooling them as the sort of sug­ges­tive quotes that once beck­oned from drug­store book racks.

While Al­cott dis­covers many of his vi­suals on­line, he has a soft spot for the bat­tered orig­i­nals he finds in second-hand shops. Their wear and tear confer the sort of verisimil­i­tude he seeks. The rest is equal parts in­spi­ra­tion, Pho­to­shop, and a growing un­der­standing of a de­sign form he once dis­missed as the tawdry fruit of Low Culture:

‘I’d never un­der­stood pulp de­sign until I started this project. As I started looking at it, I re­al­ized that the aes­thetic of pulp is so deeply at­tached to its product that it’s im­pos­sible to sep­a­rate the two. And that’s what great de­sign is, a graphic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of ideas.

Bob Dylan is the per­fect sub­ject for this project be­cause his work has al­ways been all about quo­ta­tion and re­pur­posing. From the very be­gin­ning, he took old songs, changed the lyrics and called them his own. And it’s not just the melodies, he’s also not shy about lifting phrases and whole lines from other sources.


The aes­thetic of “pulp” is so deeply at­tached to its product that it’s im­pos­sible to sep­a­rate the two.


One of the fun things about being a Bob Dylan fan is being able to spot the in­flu­ences. It’s not just lifting lines from classic blues songs, where we don’t re­ally know who ‘wrote’ the orig­i­nals, it’s real, iden­ti­fi­able, copyright-protected ma­te­rial. And you never know where it’s going to come from—a book about the Yakuza from Japan, a cook­book, an old Time Mag­a­zine ar­ticle, or 1940s noir pictures.

So for my Dylan covers, I try to carry on that tra­di­tion of taking quotes and re­pur­posing them. So Just Like a Woman be­comes a story in a science-fiction pulp, and Like a Rolling Stone be­comes an ex­pose on ju­ve­nile delin­quency, and Rainy Day Women be­comes a post-apocalyptic ad­ven­ture story.

In a way, it’s what this project is all about, taking dis­carded pieces of cul­ture and sticking them back to­gether with new ref­er­ences to make them breathe again.’ ”

The aes­thetic of pulp is so deeply at­tached to its product that it’s im­pos­sible to sep­a­rate the two. Click To Tweet

BobDylan 1966 Australia Feinstein 1000

FEA­TURED IMAGE: Bob Dylan at the Bristol Ferry in Aus­tralia on his tour with the Hawks in 1966. Photo by Barry Feinstein.


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