M1 — The Monkees
There’s a grain of truth in the urban myth that the Monkees’ logo was originally designed to appear on a school lunch box.
This classic guitar-shaped logo was the brainchild of Ed Justin, publicity man at Screen Gems, the Monkees’ TV production company. In 1966, he paid designer/illustrator Nick LoBianco $75 to bring his nascent idea to life.
At the time, LoBianco was the go-to man for merch-based lunch boxes in the US, having created designs for a raft of classic (and now highly collectable) lunch boxes for the likes of ‘Lost in Space’, Peanuts, ‘The Munsters’, Hot Wheels, Superman, and many, many more.
However, LoBianco’s considerable skills were by no means limited to lunch boxes — in fact, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was so impressed with the designer’s artistry, that he farmed out all Peanuts merchandising to LoBianco and even occasionally allowed him to ‘ghost draw’ some of his syndicated cartoon strips. A cartoonist needs a day off, after all.
The Monkees logo itself has a groovy, looping, loping Sixties vibe, with its morphing type seemingly doing an impression of a lava lamp. The counter of the O works as the sound hole of the guitar, while the leg of the K provides a perfect shape for the fretboard cutaway. Another nice touch is the heart-shaped tuning pegs are, with their suggestion of blissed-out peace and love. Is it a tad obvious? Perhaps. But remember, this was the logo of a goofy, cartoonish fictional TV band, and in this context, it fits the bill perfectly.
There’s a slight irony that despite having a guitar as their logo, the Monkees started out pretending to play their guitars on the TV show (the songs being re-recorded later by session musicians in a music studio). However, Mike Nesmith, who regarded himself a musician first and foremost, had other ideas, and pushed hard to turn the ‘Pre-Fab Four’ into a real band. The producers finally relented.
The LoBianco logo appeared on their second studio album, ‘More of The Monkees’ and their third, ‘Headquarters’ (both 1967), as well as a rack of compilations. It was last dusted off for ‘Good Times’, the Monkees’ 12th studio album, released in 2016 as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. Sadly though, this was without the services of Davey Jones, who’d passed away in 2012.
In between times, the Monkees logo had made its way on to countless items of merch from hand puppets and pyjamas, to dolls, badges, comic books, T-shirts, caps, ponchos, maracas, bottle openers, keyrings, underwear, trading cards and toy cars.
Oh, and lunch boxes of course.