When I was at art school in New York, one of my best mates was a guy called Artie Kane.
We shared a flat in Brooklyn for a couple of years.
Later, he went on to form a group called The New York Dolls.
Artie’s constants were dope, sex, and rock music.
He was fascinated by the decadent, the debauched.
He thought the most erotic song he’d heard was “Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire” by Jimi Hendrix.
This was obviously an allusion to burning carnal lust, a metaphor for the consuming flames of sexual passion.
He particularly liked the line “Move over Rover, and let Jimi take over.”
To Artie that was the height, or depth, of debauchery.
The picture it conjured in his mind.
“Move over, Rover. And let Jimi take over.”
Said suggestively, with hands slightly apart and hips moving slowly.
Many years later I heard Jimi Hendrix being interviewed on the radio.
He was asked where those lyrics came from.
Hendrix said, when he wrote it, he was at his manager’s house in the country.
England in winter is freezing and all he wanted to do was warm up by the big open fireplace.
But his manager had a large dog that was lying there and wouldn’t move.
In his mind, Hendrix thought “C’mon, move over Rover, and let Jimi take over.”
Then he thought, hey that’s a good line for a song.
And that was that.
Until it became the lyrics for a rock song and meant something completely different in a different context.
About the same time there was a Beatles record I liked called “And Your Bird Can Sing”.
John Lennon had written the opening line “You tell me that you’ve got everything you want, and your bird can sing.”
This was obviously a reference to the culture of flower power, hippies, and the love generation.
The metaphor that everyone has their own spirit, like a bird, that should be free to express itself.
Many years later I heard John Lennon being interviewed on the radio.
They asked him about the meaning of that song.
He said he’d just met Mick Jagger in a night club in Soho, and asked him how he was doing.
Jagger started going on about how everything in his life was fabulous.
He had money, cars, hit records, everything.
Not only that, he’d just got a new girlfriend, Marianne Faithful, who was amazingly beautiful and had a hit record, too.
Lennon thought “You tell me that you’ve got everything you want, and your bird can sing.”
Then he thought, hey, that could make a good line for a song.
And that was that.
Until it became the lyrics to a rock song and meant something completely different in a different context.
You can do that in Fine Art.
Put something out there and let people interpret it how they want.
It doesn’t matter what it means, as long as they like it.
We can’t do that in Applied Art.
We can’t be random, arbitrary, and trust to luck.
Just hope people repeat it and never care if they get it right.
Never worry if they get the message, product, or brand completely and totally wrong.
We can’t do that.
Because unlike Pure Artists, someone is paying many millions of pounds for us to get it exactly right.
So that’s what we do, Applied Art.
What we do has to deliver a message.
We have to control the message.
We have to make sure that what goes in, comes out.
Otherwise it isn’t communication.
Werner Erhard said “In communication, it’s not enough to make sure we speak correctly, we must take responsibility for being heard correctly.”