Now that’s what I call Illustration!

We represent illustrators, so Illustration is central to our lives. Any and every use of illustration grabs our attention. And every reference to it we see.

A few weeks ago we read how an illustration of a pig and a chicken was the inspiration for the name of the world’s biggest-selling brand of hit music compilations: the phenomenon that is NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC! Number 100 was released on 18th July 2018.

We’d be amazed if you didn’t own at least one of those albums. Since 1983, three have been churned out every year and there are over 120 million of them knocking around. The series is still going strong in these streaming days, last year outselling Ed Sheeran with 3.2 million albums.

Virgin Records put together the first album because they were getting so many requests from other record companies wanting to feature Virgin artists on compilations. Their money man realised how lucrative doing it themselves could be, especially in partnership with EMI.

They soon had all the songs and a release date for the first compilation. What they didn’t have was a name. They were getting quite desperate. Virgin Records Co-founder Simon Draper had a framed poster hanging behind his desk, given to him by his cousin Richard Branson because of Simon’s liking for cooked breakfasts.

Promoting Danish Bacon, the 1920s poster was an illustration of a singing chicken and a pig, listening with his trotter behind his ear. It was the work of prolific illustrator and designer Lawson Wood (1878 -1957).

The headline was “Now, That’s what I call Music” and the strapline “DANISH EGGS WITH DANISH BACON – EVERY MORNING”. Simon recalls that during a meeting when the name issue was discussed, Peter Jamieson from EMI was sitting in front of him. He pointed at the poster and said, “That would make a great slogan for the compilation!”

It actually became the title. Being so long, and slightly off-the-wall, some people weren’t sure. But, backed by a significant TV commercial campaign, the first album took off and was Number 1 for five weeks.

Sadly, illustration has not played as great a role as it might have in the NOW! story. To produce the cover for NOW!12, the designer Dave Wharin actually stuck a huge number to the bottom of a swimming pool, and also painted the NOW logo on three polystyrene balls and called in a photographer. These days, of course, it would be done digitally. But even then, several of our artists could have produced that image and the designer would have had much more control over the process.

Before the NOW! series, there were compilation albums featuring original artists. None was anywhere near as successful. That unexpected name struck a major chord. As the music industry celebrates the 100th NOW! compilation, illustration should take a bow. For supplying some words!

Porky Pastiche brings home the bacon!

If you want a ‘Lawson Wood’ – or rather something in his style – get in touch. Pastiche can capture any artist’s look. This is a porcine example from recent years but reflecting older artistic styles.

All copyright acknowleged.

This was originally an article from our email newsletter, Phacts and Phables. Want to receive illustration updates, insights and news straight to your inbox? Sign up to our newsletter here.


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