When billboards rocked

Photographer Robert Landau started documenting the billboards of LA’s Sunset Strip in the 1970s, and has published a book collecting together images of some of the most iconic LA billboards of the 70s and 80s…

Photographer Robert Landau started documenting the billboards of LA’s Sunset Strip in the 1970s, and has published a book collecting together images of some of the most iconic LA billboards of the 70s and 80s.

In his latest publication photographer Robert Landau recalls a time when rock ‘n’ roll billboards dominated LA’s Sunset Strip. Moving from the early 70s and into the late 80s, the book collects together images from some of the greats, including The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones.

Landau emphasises the level of craftsmanship that went into creating such huge billboards, with a team of illustrators, typographers, retouchers and painters – amongst others – responsible for getting the billboards ready for final installation. Outdoor advertising companies often employed artists to hand paint billboards, which were referred to as ‘spectaculars’. The book also documents some of the more extravagant creations, including ELO’s $50,000 billboard from 1977, which featured a custom-made neon space station.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip is published by Angel City Press, and can be purchased online here.

The Rolling Stones, 1977, by Robert Landau

Joe Cocker, 1969, by Robert Landau

Smokey Robinson, 1978, by Robert Landau

The Band, 1970, by Robert Landau

The Knack, 1981, by Robert Landau

This Electric Light Orchestra billboard, seen below, included a custom-made Plexiglas and neon space station, which was based on designer John Kosh’s logo for the band, and carried a price tag of $50,000.

ELO, 1977, by Robert Landau

Linda Ronstadt, 1978, by Robert Landau

Donna Summer, 1978, by Robert Landau

UFO, 1978, by Robert Landau

10CC, 1977, by Robert Landau

Joni Mitchell, 1971, by Robert Landau

This Beatles billboard, designed by Roland Young, used a cut-out extension of the band’s heads, which prompted a bit of thievery from an overeager Paul McCartney fan.

The Beatles, 1969, by Robert Landau

John Lennon, 1971, by Robert Landau

John Lennon, 1971, by Robert Landau

Blue Note Records, 1972, by Robert Landau

Pink Floyd, 1979, by Robert Landau

Pink Floyd, 1979, by Robert Landau


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In our November issue we look at ad agency Wieden + Kennedy in a major feature as it celebrates its 30th anniversary; examine the practice of and a new monograph on M/M (Paris); investigate GOV.UK, the first major project from the Government Digital Service; explore why Kraftwerk appeals so much to designers; and ponder the future of Instagram. Rick Poynor reviews the Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design; Jeremy Leslie takes in a new exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery dedicated to experimental magazine, Aspen; Mark Sinclair explores Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery show of work by the late graphic designer, Tony Arefin; while Daniel Benneworth-Gray writes about going freelance; and Michael Evamy looks at new telecommunications brand EE’s identity. Plus, subscribers also receive Monograph in which Tim Sumner of tohave-and-tohold.co.uk dips into Preston Polytechnic’s ephemera archive to pick out a selection of printed paper retail bags from the 70s and 80s.

The issue also doubles up as the Photography Annual 2012 – our showcase of the best images in commercial photography produced over the last year. The work selected is as strong as ever, with photographs by the likes of Tim Flach (whose image of a hairless chimp adorns the front cover of the issue, above); Nadav Kander (whose shot of actor Mark Rylance is our Photography Annual cover); Martin Usborne; Peter Lippmann; Giles Revell and more.

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  • http://workthatmatters.blogspot.ca/2012/11/cocker-is-coming-on-records.html?spref=fb Tom Megginson (@CreativeTweets)

    “Cocker is coming on A&M Records”


  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/SecretHeartsGifts Allison

    Great display! I wish I’d ever lived in a city cool enough to advertise big artists on billboards – all we ever get in Ottawa is ads! Cool showcase.

  • http://www.dr-me.com DR.ME


  • http://www.reynoldsdigital.com Barry Reynolds

    These are awesome billboards, I remember some of these actually in the flesh! Mind you the best thing now is being able to look back on these wonderful designs and be inspired by them to make the next big thing. In a way building sites at http://www.reynoldsdigital.com is kind of like building the modern billboards. If in years to come someone is referencing my work I’ll be very proud indeed.

  • http://www.JostenDooley.com Josten Dooley

    These are billboards that i would actually look at. John lennon is available so is yoko haha. But In North carolina rarely do I ever see a creatively done billboard.

  • JC

    Hopefully the documenting photographer credits (or attempted to credit) the *designers* (and illustrators and photographers) whose work is or is in these billboard designs!

  • http://Www.rockandrollbillboards.com Robert Landau

    A note from the author and photographer (Robert Landau): This book pays tribute to all the great designers, photographers , art directors and even the billboard painters who were responsible for this unique art form. I was fortunate to track down and speak with many of them for the book including Kosh (Abbey Road ), Roland Young (A&M Records), Gary Burden, John Van Hamersved, Norman Seeff and others. All of these folks are living in the Los Angeles vicinity.There is also a table in the book that attempts to credit all the artwork that appears in the book.

  • http://blogfreakz.com/ archaznable

    this would be an awesome meme …

  • john


  • http://www.badini.com/ badinicreateam

    wow! it reminds me also of the movie XANADU, the movie was crap but the guy worked in a studio where they created this kind of billboards, i found it so interesting at the time!

  • Jean Grogan

    …but who knocked Paul McCartney’s head off?

  • http://www.landonmarketing.co.uk/graphic-design-salisbury-wiltshire/ Steve

    I miss these types of billboards. Stylish and cool – something that modern billboards seriously lack.

  • http://www.prefab77.co.uk/ Prefab77

    The band stage fright is the best one, really cool design.

  • http://www.stylecompare.co.uk/about-us/jonny-challenger Jonny Challenger

    Awesome. Would love to see them brought back. I wonder how much one of the originals here in mint condition would fetch for now.

  • http://www.corporatephotographylondon.com Corporate Photographer

    love the way they use the format of the billboard but always bleed over the edges to make the image/logo stand out

  • mncedisi

    simply ideas – rock

  • http://www.lovedesigninspire.com LoveDesignInspire

    These look amazing! don’t do them like this no more.

  • http://www.stunningmesh.com David Pascal

    Very Creative Sign !!!

  • http://www.fallingbrick.co.uk/ Tom


  • http://ignite-images.co.uk Philip Atkinson

    These are great!

    Pity the ones around me are rubbish.

    Bring great signs to Walthamstow :-)