Shusei Nagaoka, "Out Of The Blue" cover artist, dies

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    The artist who forever joined ELO at the hip with sci-fi by turning the band’s Wurlitzer jukebox-inspired logo into a flying saucer has left us. [LINK]

    Shusei Nagaoka, an illustrator best known for making the imaginative, fantasy-based album covers for Earth, Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra and other bands in the 1970s and ’80s, died of a heart attack Tuesday at a hospital in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, his family said Saturday. He was 78.

    After moving to the United States in 1970, Nagaoka based himself in Hollywood and produced album covers for the popular artists and bands at the time, including Earth, Wind & Fire and the Carpenters. Some of his best known work appeared on the Earth, Wind & Fire albums “All ‘N All” and “I Am,” as well as Electric Light Orchestra’s “Out of the Blue.”

    If you think “eh, so what, he painted one album cover,” consider this: that album cover forever changed ELO’s live show by inspiring a “flying saucer” stage set that hounded them throughout their 1977-78 tour. That thing had to be carted everywhere, and by all accounts, the band hated it – it was dangerous to move around in without looking where you were going, and the shape resulted in weird echoes and acoustics. And yet when Jeff briefly revived ELO in 2001, what did he play two live shows in? A simplified version of that damn spaceship. 😆

    The “ELO flying saucer” image has become an unshakeable meme of sorts – even though artists other than Nagaoka were responsible, the ELO logo was turned into a spaceship for the Flashback box set (2000) and Zoom (2001) album covers. Virtually every best-of collection reheated in the past decade or two has “spaceshipped” the logo as well.

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