In a cunning attempt to read books without having to find space for them in the house, I rejoined my old uni library. It has a large number of books on my list of things I want to read which are out of print, and so ought to save me a bit of cash. It also has a motherlode of old Penguins, which is great. Unfortunately, many of them have been insensitively rebound minus their covers, which is less so.
One of my recent borrowings was an old book by John Bowen, The Birdcage, a daring-in-its-time book from 1960 about a young media couple from London who split up, and one gets involved in tracking down an old Edwardian playwright, while the other gets involved in gay cruising. It was good, not great, but a nice enough way to spend 190 pages (and has been resurrected as a Faber Find, I see).
In tracking down the original cover, I found that it was a nifty Alan Aldridge illustration, making use of phrases lifted from the novel (click for much bigger versions of all covers).
Aldridge (and his Ink Studios) is best known now as the graphic designer behind much of the Beatles' best stuff, as well as the picture book and animated film The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper Feast. The film was played frequently on Australia's public broadcaster during children's viewing in the early '80s, and I remember being mesmerised by it every time it came on.
He did a lot of work for Penguin in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the best known was for the science-fiction classics and classics-to-be which that publisher began reprinting (including Make Room! Make Room!, more recent editions of which are discussed here).
Here are some of his other Penguin covers...
..and some of his Penguin Crime covers...
Aldridge is still going strong. His website is here, and a recent exhibition of his work was a rousing success.
I'll leave you with one last cover because the title is wonderful (in a way that somehow suggests that the book itself is unreadable).