Too Much, Too Late was probably like the second or third cover I ever worked on. I designed it roughly in the spring of 2005 for Crown. At the time, I had been sending out lots of promotional stuff and my stuff at the time was very influenced by the punk aesthetic. Especially Art Chantry, who is still a hero of mine.
The book itself is the story of an early ’90s indie rock band who never quite made it during their time but blew up well after they had broken up. It almost reminded me of the band Big Star, who never really quite made it the first time around. All of the images on the cover were cut and pasted together from with tape and a photocopy machine. I later went in and colored it in photoshop. Being that this was about an early indie band, it seemed to be the right way to go.
As for the image itself, I juxtaposed a sort of traditional Sears magazine-looking father and put a bad-ass Flying V guitar in his hands. I got lucky that I found a father that looked like he was doing a sort of Chuck Berry pose when I added the guitar.
Something that I also realized after the fact: this is a twin book cover to my later covers for Brave New World and also Final Exits. I am not sure why the overall composition speaks to me, but if you look at all three, they are a single figure with the title in a hold going over the middle of the figure.
—Gregg Kulick, designer
THEN: There’s a New York Dolls album called Too Much Too Soon, which is, I believe, their second, after the much more iconic self-titled first album. I cribbed my title from the Dolls, who cribbed it from Diana Barrymore’s book.
Diana Barrymore was John Barrymore’s daughter. I’m not sure what that makes her in relation to Drew but you can probably figure it out. She died young, at 38 from pills and booze, and I was writing the book at a time when I had the fear that I would do the same. As far as pills, booze, drugs, and the rock and roll lifestyle went, I had the fear. I wanted out of the scene. I think if you read the book that’s pretty evident in the rise and fall of the Jane Ashers. Part of me still wanted in, but I was scared I was going to die.
I’d cleaned up by the time the book was done. I’d left Spin magazine. I was doing things like buying silverware for the first time (instead of eating off plastic), or not smoking in doors. I gave up hard drugs. I began a serious relationship. I got a dog. Then another dog. And a few plants. I stopped going to rock shows. I wanted nothing rock and roll in my life. So my first reaction when they showed me the cover to the book (which I believe was also the cover of the Crown catalog for the fall of 2006) was, “Oh, God…rock and roll. Leave me alone, rock and roll.”
It’s hard for a writer who dips into a lot of styles and genres because the rock and roll aesthetic is always going to upstage them and to an outsider is always going to be the thing they seize on, even if they read and understand the complexities of the book, and even if it’s appropriate (which it may be here) it’s always going to be guitars, guitars, guitars. If it’s a punk affair, it’s even worse. You’ll get safety pins and the Jamie Reid-style designs or the cut-and-paste ransom note lettering because it’s “punk, man.” (Ransom note lettering to a rock book is like letters dripping blood on a mafia book.) Whereas at the time, I wanted, like, a bunny on the cover. Or a Magnolia cupcake. A bed of wild flowers. A guy in a fishing hat. Diana Barrymore’s book cover, or the edition of it that I have, is just a black jacket with the title in big red letters, and I guess I needed, psychologically, something just as simple because I’d been living, like Diana, a chaotic existence.
Anything but a fucking punk…anything. And a guitar.
NOW: I not only don’t have a problem being identified as a rock writer like some of my writer friends do, I’m proud of it. And while guitars or punk or anything like that at the time seemed like a genuine threat to my health, now at almost 43, I look at this cover and at some of the others of that phase in my writing career and am like, “Well, yeah…that’s what it was.” And I feel, as I said, proud, defiant, like a survivor.
I always appreciated the cover as a well-crafted and interesting one as far as the thought and skill that went into it. I just couldn’t live with it until now, or even look at it. I had to complete my growing up or growing out of this dangerous rock persona I invented for myself.
This isn’t entirely true. I’ve always been a fan of the pink-and-black color combination. It’s very new wave rockabilly, and that’s never bad, and even then I was down with the colors.
I’m grateful that it’s an instantly recognizable cover—on my Amazon page my eye goes to it—and now that I actually NEED a little more rock in my life for balance, I’m even more thankful that it’s evidence that I wasn’t always the domestic wimp shut-in I am now.
Also, doesn’t he look a little like Art from Everclear to you?
—Marc Spitz, author