Virgin Records at 40: Interview with Brian Cooke

As the record label celebrates four decades of ‘disruption’ we interview one of Virgin’s key creative collaborators, Brian Cooke

Virgin Records turns 40 this year. The label which made defying convention its enduring philosophy has now become thoroughly absorbed into the mainstream music business. Its famous founder has long since departed, selling first to EMI which then, in 2012, sold the label on to Universal. But with help from creative studio This is Real Art, Virgin is marking its anniversary by reminding us of the contribution it made not just to music but also to the visual culture of the past four decades. To begin, Daniel Benneworth-Gray interviews one of Virgin’s key creative contributor Brian Cooke.

The Knavesmire, a vast wedge of green on the outskirts of York. Every weekend, this is the launch site for a pair of tourist-packed hot air balloons. They inflate, they rise, they serenely bob over the city. Silent and graceful except for the vast word emblazoned on each one, screaming down at all below. Virgin.

Nearby is the studio of Brian Cooke. In the late 70s and early 80s, he and partner Trevor Key were Cooke Key Associates, design agency to the burgeoning Virgin Records. In their time working for the label, the two photographers were responsible for more than 150 album covers and related marketing materials.