Skip navigation

A dedicated home for music memorabilia, exploring the past, present and future of music archives. Find your own piece of the story.

Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Albert King at Fillmore. Poster by Rick Griffin

Creating an everlasting icon

Rick Griffin’s art is iconic in every sense of the word. Originally emblematic of 60s surfer culture, his art, poster design and lettering have come to embody the very essence of the word “psychedelic”. Although he used a huge range of iconography, it is Griffin’s Flying Eyeball, adorned with wings, fire or a serpent’s tail, which has become one of the most recognisable images of the era.

Then, transformation. The details are hazy, but what is certain is this: while hitchhiking with nothing but his art supplies, Rick Griffin was ejected at great speed from an automobile. He skidded down the road face first for several yards before coming to a stop and seeing, according to his own recollection of events, his eyeball popped out of its socket. In his subsequent coma, he saw horrors of a different kind: apocalyptic visions which would provide inspiration for his art once he emerged. Extensive reconstructive surgery followed, but Griffin’s left eye was permanently changed, staring wide with a fixed intensity at whatever he focussed his attention on. In this sense, the original Greek meaning of the word apocalypse, to uncover, is particularly apt.

Painted flying eyeball study by Rick Griffin

It’s possible that his most famous icon, which he returned to repeatedly before his life was tragically cut short in 1991, was completely unrelated to this life-changing event. But it seems unlikely. Either way, Griffin’s Flying Eyeball, adorned with wings, fire or a serpent’s tail, is one of the most recognisable images of the era. Inspired by Kenny “Von Dutch” Howard’s design, which Griffin saw printed on the side of an abandoned car during his teenage years, this symbol would soon become closely associated with the very essence of music in the 1960s.

I wanted every poster to have the sort of heraldry found on family crests. It was for that reason I continually used bold and powerful central imagery.

  1. Griffin’s ‘eyeball’ image has become sought after with a new age of clients, being licensed by top labels such as Converse, Levi’s and Dr Martens who used the image in 2019 for a limited edition range of their iconic DM boots!



    Limited edition Doc Martins with Rick Griffin design. Courtesy of Peter Golding