Bands and artists are usually recognized by their sound, but there are a select few who have established their image by, well, another image, one that is often repeated on album covers, promotional materials, concert stages, and/or bathroom stalls. Typically a person or object, this mascot may speak to fans and listeners about the kind of music the artist produces, or it may be the only comprehensible way to describe the band. These mascots are long artistic statements in a nutshell.
The following are five mascots that are so instantly recognizable that, even if you don’t to listen to the bands they’re associated with, you likely at least know who they are (of course, I highly suggest that you DO listen to the bands). These figures have stood the test of time to become iconographic, and I’ve ranked them by how deeply associated the mascot is with the band and especially their fanbase. Let’s start off with:
5. Kanye West’s College Dropout Bear
Kanye West is at the absolute opposite end of the musical spectrum from most of the other artists mentioned on this list, but it just goes to show that even the hip hop and rap genres have their share of mascots, too. This bear was first featured on West’s debut album, The College Dropout, under little suspicion that it would appear on his two subsequent albums to form a “College Trilogy.” The bear appeared to symbolize both the thematic territory of these first three albums as well as West’s trendy fashion sense, as he would go from amateur great to fully mature master of the craft.
While we haven’t seen the bear since 2007’s Graduation, this mascot has made his mark on a genre with too few mascots involved and has represented the artist’s mantra that would be perfectly glorified on 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. As it came to symbolize West’s first few albums, I can’t say we’ll be seeing this bear again anytime soon, but maybe he’ll appear in another iteration to represent something else entirely. This is Kanye West, after all, so predictions are hard to make.
4. Radiohead’s Modified Bear
Another bear, you say? Try a killer-looking teddy bear. In creating the chilly and nightmarish landscapes of Radiohead’s landmark album Kid A, graphic artist and frequent Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood drew up a seemingly happy teddy bear, but with just enough sinister detailing to make it look like it walked right out of a horror shop, and that’s exactly the point. Radiohead’s radical change of musical style was fully emblazoned on this face of real and unknown terror, and the bear was soon emblazoned on every bit of promotional material for the album.
3. Megadeth’s Vic Rattlehead
The three wise monkeys’ motto — “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” — has been embodied in all kinds of art throughout the ages, but monkeys don’t necessarily scream “thrash metal.” That’s why Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine created Vic Rattlehead, a skeleton figure whose eyes, ears, and mouth are completely shut out with metal caps. Vic has appeared on many of the band’s album covers, from their debut to the recently released TH1RT3EN.
Vic symbolizes exactly what Megadeth’s music embodies both sonically and thematically. As a very political band, Megadeth has used Vic (short for “victim”) as an icon of the establishment’s errors — of the big wigs in power of seemingly deteriorating countries — whilst capturing the radical and high-energy spirit of metal that’s loud and gets the word out there.
2. Iron Maiden’s Eddie the Head
What started as a papier-mâché mask and a mispronunciation of “head” has turned into one of the most significant band mascots in memory. Eddie the Head is a zombie-esque figure who has appeared on every one of Iron Maiden’s album covers starting with the artwork for the single “Running Free” back in 1980, and he has become synonymous with the band’s edgy but consistent image.
Though Eddie doesn’t technically always appear as the same figure, each incarnation of the mascot represents an album’s thematic structure and provides a basis for its lyrical content. He doesn’t look the same, but that’s not necessarily a negative. Iron Maiden likes to switch things up, which makes seeing different versions of Eddie feel rather refreshing. Either way, he’s here to stay, in one form or another.
1. Misfits’ The Crimson Ghost
Misfits. Say no more. Their iconic image is as recognizable as the back of my hand. Misfits’ brand of horror punk is epitomized in their version of The Crimson Ghost, the title character from the 1946 film serial of the same name. Ever since appearing on the cover of the single “Horror Business,” this skull mascot has taken on a presence as prominent as the Andre the Giant “OBEY” stamp and has been featured on almost every single piece of Misfits merchandise imaginable.
Why does it work? It clearly defines the band’s style and proudly states their boldness, given the image’s monochromatic scheme. There’s a bit of fear in its blocking, but with that slight grin, fans can really understand the band’s moniker. The Crimson Ghost says everything and anything one needs to know about the band without their even having to listen to a single piece of music, and the image’s popularity has not waned since its inception.