||andy warhol? john pasch? no, it was ruby mazur??????
It's only rock 'n' roll
Ruby Mazur wants to be known for more than Rolling
Stones logo he created
By JOHN PRZYBYS
Ruby Mazur is talking with a visitor about his career as an
album designer, artist and illustrator when the phone rings.
It's his manager, calling from New York.
"We're just doing a thing about guess what?" Mazur
says, smiling delightedly at the coincidence. "The
mouth and tongue."
Then Mazur laughs, raises his voice in mock pained
frustration, and yells into the phone, "And I don't want
to talk about it anymore!"
Such is life when an artist's résumé includes creating
at least one version of what is probably the most
recognizable logo in rock 'n' roll: the Rolling Stones'
classic lips-and-tongue emblem.
Mazur designed one of the earliest versions of the logo
-- maybe the earliest, although that's where things
become a bit hazy -- for the Stones' "Tumbling Dice" single in 1972.
Actually, though, the lips-and-tongue logo is only one tiny part of the career
Mazur, 55, has forged during the past 35 years, bits and pieces of which can
be found on the walls of the Las Vegas apartment Mazur shares with Zeus and
Lucy, his very friendly, very large dogs.
There also are photos of Mazur with Billy Joel, Dennis Hopper, Alice Cooper,
Whoopi Goldberg, Harrison Ford and other celebrities. There are
announcements of past shows. There's a letter congratulating him for an
early-career Grammy nomination and a shadowbox-mounted illustration of the
And, of course, there are dozens of his paintings either hanging on the wall or
sitting on the floor.
For the Brooklyn-born and Long Island-raised former New Yorker, art has been
a passion since the age of 5.
"I was always bored," Mazur recalls. "So my mother would tell my father, `Just
give him a pencil and teach him how to draw a glass.' So I had a million glass
drawings on my fridge."
By the time high school rolled around, Mazur had "just totally dedicated myself
After high school, and an initial rejection for low grades, Mazur was accepted
into art school in Philadelphia. On weekends, he would return home to New
York, where his father owned a nightclub. Mazur says he and his brother
signed groups to play in the club, and even managed a few bands themselves.
After art school, Mazur's interests in music and art meshed nicely when he
learned Paramount Records was searching for an art director. With youthful
boldness, Mazur says he bluffed his way into the job.
"I didn't even know the size of an album cover," Mazur says, laughing. "But I
went to the printer and I asked a million questions, and by (the next day) I was
designing album covers."
Mazur's timing turned out to be perfect. By 1971, record album covers had
become a form of alternative art unbounded by convention.
As an artist, Mazur says, "you just let your mind go, and the more insane of an
idea, the better it was."
"There was freedom of thinking and of expression. And kids back then who
went into a record store looked through the racks. You could have an album
nobody heard of, but if it looked cool they'd buy it."
After a year at Paramount, Mazur opened his own design studio in New York
and eventually opened satellite offices in London and Los Angeles.
Mazur says he designed more than 3,000 album covers during a period of
about 10 years for artists ranging from Roy Clark to Joe Walsh and for genres
ranging from jazz to pop to soundtracks.
But Mazur's most famous cover came early in his career, when, he says, Mick
Jagger himself asked Mazur to design a cover for "Tumbling Dice."
"First, I started thinking about doing a thing with the English flag," Mazur says.
"Then I just kept thinking about the music and the whole attitude, the whole sex
thing, and those lips (of Jagger's) really jumped out at you.
"Then I started doing a caricature of him, and that didn't work. Then, I just
zeroed in on the mouth and tongue and it worked."
However, Mazur's design isn't the one that's most familiar to music fans.
Mazur's logo features a stylized lips and tongue, but also includes two eyes as
a sort of stylized representation of Jagger's face.
The most commonly seen version of the logo, and the one used the most by
the band itself, features only lips and a tongue. And that variance has created
confusion through the years about the logo's lineage.
Mazur says he's seen the logo erroneously credited to Andy Warhol. One
online source cites Billboard magazine as attributing the original logo to artist
John Pasch and its first officially used variation to Mazur.
Mazur disagrees. Pasch, he says, "did a derivative of mine."
Mazur's recollection is that his logo predated Pasch's, and, as far as he
knows, his design for the single was the band's first use of the logo.
Still, the father of four says, "honestly, I swear on my children's lives, I don't
know who came first. I don't ever remember them giving me a logo with a
mouth and tongue, saying, `Do a variation on this.' But, then again, I couldn't
swear to it. It was so like in the same minute."
Nonetheless, the logo's tangled history has been a source of alternating
bemusement and frustration for Mazur through the years. A few years ago, a
New York newspaper story about a Mazur art show noted the artist's
association with the logo, but ran the wrong logo with the story.
"I even saw on one of those `Rock & Roll Jeopardy!' things (the question),
`Who did the (logo),' " Mazur says. "They said Andy Warhol and that was the
How did Mazur react?
"I threw a beer can at it," he answers, laughing heartily.
On the other hand, Mazur saw another quiz show that gave him credit for the
"Hey, 50-50, I'll take it," he says, smiling.
Mazur's relative equanimity stems from the fact the logo represents only one,
and one very early, aspect of his career. In fact, he left the album design
business in the early '80s, "as soon as CDs came in," he says. "The fun was
Mazur spent a few years doing illustration work for books, magazines, ads, TV
and film projects, then decided to work for himself. He worked first in a genre
called abstract illusionism, in which surrealistic designs are given depth so as
to appear, he says, as if "the paint was floating off the canvas."
Mazur did what he calls his "Squigglies" series, featuring rounded, snakelike
forms cavorting on surrealistic backgrounds, and, in 1985, had his first show
in New York City.
"(About) 1,500 people showed up and there was major press, and not one
piece was sold," he says. "Not one. The next day I was so depressed."
Mazur's brother conducted the post-mortem. He said, Mazur recalls, that
"people just don't get what you're trying to do. If you really want to be an artiste,
keep making `Squigglies' and don't eat. Or, get off of it and paint something
people will buy."
"It was hard to hear, but only your brother could tell you that. That's when I
re-evaluated and said, `Know what? It was ahead of its time.' "
A new theme came from a friend who'd just gotten a sales job with a cigar
magazine. The friend, Mazur says, suggested Mazur have the model he was
painting hold a cigar.
Mazur gave it a shot. And, he says, the painting sold for $25,000 two days
So, Mazur says, laughing, "I started my cigar art collection," a whimsical
series featuring cigars as elements of iconic images or classic scenes: a
smiley face smoking a cigar, the Statue of Liberty smoking a cigar, the woman
in "American Gothic" smoking a cigar, even his own Rolling Stones logo
smoking a cigar.
About six years ago, Mazur also began painting a series featuring female
celebrities -- Calista Flockhart, Claudia Schiffer -- re-imagined as wild animals.
Most recently, Mazur has spent much of his time doing commissioned works
of people's pets.
"It's a huge hit," says Mazur, "and oddly enough, 9-11 has a lot to do with it.
People are retreating back to family, and pets are like kids to people."
The paintings range in price from $5,000 to $10,000 and beyond, and Mazur --
himself a serious dog lover -- clearly enjoys doing them.
"I'm doing it as an art form and not cheapie paintings," he says. "If you look at
the paintings I've done, they're really good paintings."
Mazur moved to Las Vegas two years ago with plans to open a gallery
featuring artwork created by rock stars, actors, actresses and other celebrity
friends. While an initial effort fell through, the gallery is still one of his goals.
"I have 40 celebrities who want to exhibit in my gallery," Mazur says.
"Musicians and actors respect me for being an artist. I'm not just a
While he doesn't currently show his work in valley galleries, his art is available
on his Web site (www.rubymazur.com). Soon, he hopes to add a line of
original apparel and collectibles featuring his mouth-and-tongue logo.
Still, Mazur admits he's a bit weary of still having to talk about what may be his
most well-known work.
"I'm so sick and tired of hearing about it," he says, shaking his head. "It's like
30 years ago. But you know what? I wouldn't have gotten anyplace if I didn't do
||I wonder if he gets sick of hearing about it on his way to the bank.
||What a load of crap. The original tongue was first used on the single Brown Sugar, released April 16 1971 on Rolling Stones Records (RS19100), then on the Sticky Fingers album, released April 23, 1971.
and that's one year before his version on the Tumbling Dice single.
The Rolling Stones in Review
Bootlegs for Sale
The Lowdown on the Guitars of Keith Richards
Brussels Affair 1973
Vinyl Gang Productions / The Swingin' Pig