Collecting Record Cover Art as an Investment.

This post is going to be rather philosophical. Why collect record cover art? Well, I started as I was interested in music and I found that I would prefer to buy a record with music that I liked if it had a more attractive cover. My collection began with a collection of cover art by Vaughan Oliver and his collectives 23 Envelope and V23. I built up a super collection of releases primarily on the 4AD label — not only records and CDs — but also a large number of posters. I had all the really rare items designed by Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg including the famous Lonely Is an Eyesore wooden box and two copies of the Lilliput CD promo book. Vaughan Oliver autographed both the Eyesore box and a Lilliput book when I went on a pilgrimage to his studio in South London in 2001. I sold my whole Vaughan Oliver collection in 2010-2013.

I started collecting Andy Warhol’s record cover art in 1967, when I bought the Velvet Underground & Nico album at One Stop Records in London’s South Moulton Street. I confess I didn’t realise its greatness until a couple of decades later, but that didn’t stop me from buying White Light / White Heat the following year — again on US import at One Stop. So I had two Andy Warhol covers. That was the start of the collection. I bought the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers when it came out in April 1971 and their Love You Live in 1977. I got my fifth Warhol cover in 1982, when my family bought me Diana Ross’s Silk Electric as a Fathers’ Day present. From there I started looking for Warhol covers and gradually (and with the help of ace Warhol collector, Guy Minnebach) managed to collect every known Warhol cover by 2008, when Guy and I curated an exhibition of Warhol’s record cover art at Piteå Museum in northern Sweden arranged to celebrate what would have been Andy Warhol’s 80th birthday on 6th August 2008.

At the same time I had collected a representative collection of Peter Blake’s record cover art, including records, posters and books with a few rarities. I also noticed that I had several records with covers designed by Klaus Voormann; the Beatles’ Revolver (of course), Manfred Mann’s As Is, the Bee Gees first album and all three Beatles Anthology albums (on vinyl) and, when Klaus visited Stockholm in 2003 he kindly signed several album covers for me. So I continued collecting his covers, too, and now have almost every cover he has designed.

Around 2008, my son-in-law wondered if I would like to invest in a print by a street artist called Banksy, who had an exhibition in Stockholm. I passed on that (stupid, or what?) But, I had seen Blur live at Hultsfred’s Festival in 1996 and had all their albums and I had even bought the Think Tank LP in 2003 — my first Banksy cover. Then, in around 2008, I happened to find a couple of record covers designed by Banksy and found a contact on the Internet who was trying to offload his collection of Banksy-designed record covers. They were cheap at that time and I bought quite a few. As my Bansky collection grew, so did the prices for the rare items. A DJ, who was about to get married and needed money, offered me a copy of Röyksopp’s Melody A.M. promo double LP with the Bansky-sprayed cover for what was an exorbitant amount back than, but which I’m today glad I paid. I later added both versions of Banksy’s / Danger Mouse’s Paris Hilton CD (the original first issue and the reissued second release.) Since then my Banksy collection has been exhibited in a number of Banksy retrospectives.

I started to collect Andy Warhol’s record cover art as I am a Warhol fan. I have always loved his art and found I couldn’t afford to buy any original works. But his record covers were affordable and easy to store, much easier that hanging prints or paintings. I started collecting his covers when they were affordable and could even trade rare covers for others that I didn’t have. I had no idea that many would become valuable. I have been lucky to find several covers signed by Warhol to add to my collection.

A similar situation has happened with my Banksy collection. Bought first for the art and in an attempt to collect a complete collection of Banksy’s official and inofficial covers I found that I had made an investment. I have no idea what my collection is currently worth.

But what about my other collections? My Peter Blake collection of record and CD covers could still be bought for only a little more that I originally bought the covers for. Similarly, I don’t think there would be much interest in my collection of Klaus Voormann’s covers; although I treasure them both.

I have recently started to collect record, cassette and CD covers designed by David Shrigley. A couple of years ago, my wife and I had a wonderful meal at Sketch, a London restaurant who’s walls were decorated with Shrigley’s paintings and posters. As I have said in a previous post, I was lucky to get David Shrigley to sign my copy of Castle Face Record’s version of Velvet Underground & Nico cover, and so started my collection of David Shrigley’s record cover art. His posters and prints are now well beyond my budget, but his record, tape and CD sleeves are still very affordable. I wonder if they will one day, like my Warhol and Banksy covers, prove to be a sound investment, too.

I should emphasise, though, that I didn’t start collecting record cover art as an investment, but because I liked the art. That it has proved to be an investment only adds icing to the cake.

Billie Holiday — Volume 3. Unreleased covers by Andy Warhol REIMAGINED.

Last October, I posted an article about Andy Warhol’s unreleased cover art and described my attempts to reproduce the Billie Holiday, Volume 3 covers. Warhol made four designs for a possible Billie Holiday EP or LP entitled Volume 3.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday’s birth, Guy Minnebach published his research on the four covers. The first he found from a sale catalogue, it seems that two are in the Warhol Museum’s collection and the fourth was shown at the Robert Miller Gallery (New York) in 2011 according to Olivia Feal‘s blog.

A careful look at these covers shows that they are really collages — various bits of paper stauck together to make the finished design and then painted. Song titles are written in Warhol’s hand style. So, when were they made? Guy Minnebach, in his 2015 blog post, suggests that they were made in the early fifties, about the time he illustrated Margarita Madrigal’s book Magic Key to Spanish (published in 1953.) He points out that all the titles, were recorded in the 1930s for Columbia Records or its subsidiaries. I speculate that the covers may have been made later, towards the end of the fifties when Billie Holiday had left Columbia Records. Perhaps we will never know for sure.

I realize that these designs are unlikely ever to grace a real record and so I decided to try to make reproductions of Warhol’s designs. I’m in good company here. Many artists have reproduced Warhol’s art, starting early in the late sixties with Elaine Sturtevant’s copies of well-known Warhol works and continuing up to the present with Richard Pettibone’s miniature reproductions and Gavin Turk’s reinvention of Warhol’s Fright Wig Self Portrait.

So here are the results:

These are my renditions of Warhol’s originals.

My printer has managed to print up a limited edition of ten copies of each cover as ten-inch covers.

I am very happy with the results and to be able to add these to my other reproductions, such as the Progressive Piano ten-inch LP and seven-inch that I made several years ago. Wouldn’t it be nice if Columbia Records actually issued these records?

Visual Vinyl– An Exhibition of Jan van Toorn’s Amazing Collection of Record Cover Art.

Record cover art has become a recognised field of collecting and exhibitions of record cover art are now quite common. Some of us collect specific artists, some collect a particular type of music (heavy metal or hip hop seem popular) while others collect more generally and have collections solely based on record covers’ artistic merit. The first collector I came in contact with was Guy Minnebach, who has an amazing collection of Andy Warhol’s record cover art. Through him I got to know to know Frank Edwards who at first collected Warhol’s record covers but later branched out to collect more generally, including a wide variety of covers by various artists. Frank Edwards’s collections have been exhibited at the Cranbrook Art Museum.

As a follower of Mike Goldstein’s Album Cover Hall of Fame blog I have had the opportunity to see a number of record cover art exhibitions online and Mike recently tipped me off about one he thought I should have seen — the Visual Vinyl exhibition at Schunk, Heerlen, The Netherlands, which ran from 28th November 2015 — 6th March 2016. Mike had just got hold of the exhibition catalogue. A beautiful 232 page hard cover book. The exhibition, curated by Lene ter Haar and Cynthia Jordens, showed hundreds of record covers from Jan van Toorn’s amazing collection ranging from the commonplace, like Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground & Nico Banana cover to more obscure releases by the Fluxus group. Many very rare covers were included and the book has pictures of a whole host of them. In the book’s final pages Jan van Toorn describes his collecting philosophy and then presents a discography of his collection listing 2200 covers ordered alphabetically by designer/artist. You won’t find any record industry designers — no Steinweiss, Jim Flora, Aubrey Powell, Roger Dean — but Peter Blake & Jann Haworth (Sgt. Pepper) and Richard Hamilton (The Beatles) are in. So are Banksy and Damien Hirst. Art bands like Sonic Youth get included.

Jan van Toorn lists several covers by David Shrigley in his discography, but none is pictured in the book. He also has one of Andy Warhol’s Giant Size $1.57 Each covers from the numbered limited edition of 75 copies made by Billy Klüver for German gallery owner Heiner Friedrich in 1971.

However, van Toorn doesn’t seem to know the history behind this record cover. He suggests that these 75 covers were all that Warhol produced. In fact, it was Swedish engineer turned artists’ assistant. Billy Klüver who had made the eleven interviews with the pop artists included in the Popular Image Exhibition in Washington D.C. in 1963 who asked Warhol to help make covers for the LPs of the interviews that he had had pressed for the exhibition (at the show, they were sold in envelopes designed by Jim Dine, together with the exhibition catalogue.) Klüver obviously had records over and in 1963 he and Warhol screen printed hundreds of covers, some with white backgrounds, others with green, red, orange or green spray-painted backgrounds that Billy Klüver took charge of. When Heiner Friedrich, a German gallery owner, asked for a limited edition, Klüver took 75 white covers with records and asked Warhol to sign and number them and Friedrich sold them at his gallery. Klüver later sold copies of the coloured covers, some with records, some without. And a few of the white variety were sold at Andy Warhol’s first international retrospective at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet in January-February 1968.

The Visual Vinyl book is a great addition to my library.

Records as Art — David Shrigley.

David Shrigley is a hugely popular artist, sculptor and poet. He has recorded a number of singles, albums, CDs and cassettes with a variety of coworkers. Other artists have recorded his poems. As I wrote in a recent post, I first came into contact with Shrigley’s art when I bought Castle Face Record’s cover of the Velvet Underground & Nico‘s seminal album, for which Shrigley had re-imagined Andy Warhol’s Banana cover.

Since then I have so far come across twenty-one records, books (with records), cassettes and CDs that feature Shrigley’s conceptual art.

BallboyA Guide for the Daylight Hours2002
BlurGood Song2003
David ShrigleyForced to Speak With Others2006
David ShrigleyDing Dong2006
DeerhoofThe Perfect Me2006
DeerhoofFriend Opportunity2007
CompilationHallam Foe (Soundtrack)2008
CompilationWorried Noodles2008
White NightWhite Night (7-inch picture disc)2008
Jason MrazWe Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.2008
David Shrigley / Thee Oh SeesGallerie Fieber edition (2 x 7-inch singles)2011
David ShrigleyBrain Activity (book + 7-inch single)2011
Castle Face & Friends Velvet Underground & Nico 2012
Stephen Malkmus & FriendsCan’s Ege Bamyasi2013
Iain Shaw & David ShrigleyAwesome2013
David ShrigleyI Am an Actor (7-inch picture disc)2013
Malcolm Middleton & David ShrigleyMusic + Words 2014
Iain Shaw & David ShrigleyListening to Slayer (7-inch EP)2016
Lord Stornaway & David ShrigleyDon’t Worry (pink vinyl 12″ LP)2018
David ShrigleyGoat Music (Book + 12″ LP)2019
David Shrigley & Régis LaugierPlay Something Awful2020
David Shrigley’s discography

Several of Shrigley’s records were released in association with exhibitions of his work in galleries and museums. The earliest release that I have thus far found that features Shrigley’s art is for a 2002 CD A Guide for the Daylight Hours by Ballboy. Paul Coombs tipped me off about the second David Shrigley cover for Blur’s Good Song DVD release. David Shrigley had directed the music video and drew the cover art for the DVD single.

In 2006 Shrigley released an LP and CD entitled Forced to Speak With Others: the LP included a poster. The same year he released a seven inch single, Ding Dong, that played a doorbell’s DING on side A and the same doorbell’s DONG on side B. Brilliant conceptual art! This single was released in connection with Shrigley’s exhibition at the Dundee Contemporary Arts museum. In December 2006, Deerhoof released a picture disc single, The Perfect Me, from their forthcoming Friend Opportunity album and original copies contained twelve different cover variations which Shrigley painted .

Three releases with Shrigley’s cover art appeared in 2007: Deehoof’s Friend Opportunity in January and a soundtrack collection CD called Hallam Foe. In addition a book with a series of tracks by a variety of artists recording of Shrigley’s lyrics called Worried Noodles was released. Shrigley had had an exhibition at the Center for Curatorial Studies’ Bard Museum between September 30 – December 14, 2001. Apparently the museum released a book called Worried Noodles in the form of an LP record, though it only contained a card printed to look like an LP.

More recent exhibitions include one at the BQ Gallery in Berlin in 2018. The Gallery had already released Shrigley’s I Am an Actor 7-inch picture disc single in 2013 and released an LP for this exhibition called Don’t Worry. This was a further collaboration with guitarist Iain Shaw.

Probably the rarest of Shrigley’s exhibition releases is the split release together with the band Thee Oh Sees (a.k.a Osees), released as a limited edition (200 copies) double 7-inch on pick vinyl in special packaging drawn by Shrigley.

I suspect that David Shrigley is as obsessed with records as I am. He has designed a frisbee with the text I Collect Records — I Am Obsessed With them.

I Met David Shrigley Once.

I don’t like to comment on people’s appearance, but David Shrigley is about ten centimetres taller than me. He is well-known for his often comical drawings and artworks. He was born in Glasgow, studied art at the Glasgow School of Art and has had many solo shows both in the U.K. and internationally. He had an exhibition at Stockholm’s Spritmuseum from 27 September to 28 March, 2019 where he filled the exhibition space with inflatable swans. It was quite exciting to see the twenty-or-so giant swans slowly inflate and raise their heads and then slowly deflate again. Shrigley attended the opening and the closing of the exhibition and I made sure I would be on the final day.

Spritmuseum¨s curator Mia Sundgren interviews David Shrigley.

My interest in David Shrigley’s art was peaked when I discovered that he had designed the cover to Castle Face & Friends’ rendition of the Velvet Underground & Nico’s eponymous album in 2012.

Castle Face & Friends — Velvet Underground & Nico cover signed by David Shrigley on 14th March 2019 at Spritmuseum, Stockholm.

To round off the evening David Shrigley offered to design tattoos for anyone attending and many people let him draw little figures on arms, legs or anywhere they wished. Then a tattoo artist fixed the designs permanently. Somehow I didn’t manage to get a tattoo, but I did manage to get David to sign my LP cover.

David Shrigley signing my album cover.

Just recently I bought David Shrigley & Régis Laugier’s Play Something Awful LP with cover design by David. I realised that he’s been involved in writing lyrics as well as designing record and CD covers. He wrote lyrics for the San Francisco band Deerhoof’s Friend Opportunity LP in 2007 and even did the cover for Jason Mraz’s 2008 We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things LP/CD.

There are a few rare covers that Shrigley has designed. The one I would most like to get is Stephen Malkmus & Friends Can’s Ege Bambyasi LP released for record Store Day 2013. I’m sorry I missed it.

I’ll return to David Shrigley’s record cover art in a future post as I research his designs further.

Eve Babitz — A Los Angeles Icon.

I first saw Eve Babitz’s name on the Buffalo Springfield Again album in 1967 and again on the Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield (1969). She also took the photograph of Linda Ronstadt for the cover of Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel LP (1974). Discogs has a list of eighteen covers that Eve Babitz has either designed, illustrated or photographed (although two were in recent collections.) I had a few of them, including Heart Like a Wheel, The Byrds (Untitled) and, of course, all the Buffalo Springfield albums. There were also other covers including Noel Harrison’s 1968 album Santa Monica Pier, Earth Opera’s self-named album from 1968 and Danny O’Keefe’s album titled Danny O’Keefe from 1971. She also designed the cover for Leon Russell’s Hank Williams is Back, Vol I.

However, I knew nothing about Eve Babitz until I recently heard a radio programme on Swedish Radio that outlined her life and work (only a passing mention of her record cover design, though) focusing mainly on the resurgence of interest in her writing. Eve was born in May 1943 to Sol and Mae Babitz. Her father was a classical violinist, of Russian Jewish descent and friend of Igor Stravinsky, who became Eve’s godfather, and her mother, an artist, had cajun descent.

Eve Babitz — Photo booth phots (collection of Miranda Babitz)


Through her parents, Eve met many Hollywood stars and people from the music and art worlds and she was known for having affairs with many soon-to-be famous people. But she became best known for her writing, as Wikipedia says: Her articles and short stories have appeared in Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Esquire magazines. She is the author of several books including Eve’s Hollywood; Slow Days, Fast Company; Sex and Rage; Two By Two; and L.A. Woman. Transitioning to her particular blend of fiction and memoir beginning with Eve’s Hollywood, Babitz’s writing of this period is indelibly marked by the cultural scene of Los Angeles during that time, with numerous references and interactions to the artists, musicians, writers, actors, and sundry other iconic figures that made up the scene in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

Babitz’s first claim to notoriety came when she crashed the 1963 opening of the exhibition Pop Art: New Painting of Common Objects at the Pasadena Art Museum. Artists included Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. Babitz had affair with the Gallery’s head, Walter Hopps, and Hopps had forbidden Babitz to attend as his wife would be there. Babitz was invited by a friend and asked if she would play chess with Marcel Duchamp and she agreed only appearing in an overcoat that she dropped to sit nude to play the game.

Apparently, however, Duchamp didn’t notice Babitz’s nakedness and concentrated on the game, going on to win.

Eve Babitz was severely burned in an accident in 1997. She was driving her car trying to light a cigar when she dropped a lighted match into her lap igniting her dress and causing her 30 percent third degree burns to the lower part of her body and legs. She became a recluse thereafter.

There has been a resurgence of interest in Babitz’s writing in recent years though it is her record cover design that most fascinates me. She knew Ahmet Ertegun, head of Atlantic Records, who, presumably, gave her the opportunity to design covers for that label, though she also did covers for Capitol Records (Linda Ronstadt), Warner Brothers and Reprise Records (Eric Anderson, Noel Harrison), and Elektra Records (Earth Opera, Lord Buckley), Columbia records (The Byrds).

Another indication of Babitz’s fame comes from a band calling themselves Misery Loves Company which released a CD in 2006 called All About Eve Babitz, with a cover picture recreating that famous chess match! A CD I must try to get hold of.

Marred for Life! — More on Defaced Record Covers.

Are you a record collector? Do you search for records with record sleeves in perfect or near perfect condition? I certainly do. But I’m prepared to allow my covers to be defaced by allowing the artist or cover designer autograph my covers, and I have many covers so defaced. Recently, I heard about an exhibition in the Netherlands called Vinylize! that showed covers that many graphic artists had “re-imagined” record sleeves by creating new cover art by painting the original sleeves. The exhibition was accompanied by a book that illustrated the covers and included a potted biography of the designers who had re-imagined the original designs.

The cover of the “Vinylize!” catalogue.

Stimulated by this exhibition, I took two of my Andy Warhol covers to artist and record shop owner Romain Beltrame to re-imagine the designs.

Even more recently, I heard about Greg Wooton’s book Marred for Life! A pictorial collection of record sleeves defaced by their owners.

Greg Wootton’s book Marred for Life!

Some of the record covers illustrated in the book are simply doodles while some have some artistic quality. Here are three examples from the book.

I must have come across many covers defaced by their owners and felt that the covers had lost their charm. Now I’ll have to rethink my attitude, but not so far as to start collecting defaced record sleeves! I appreciate that even my autographed sleeves are defaced.

Marred for Life! and Vinylize! find their place on my bookshelf where I keep books on record cover design.

Gaby Moreno and Van Dyke Parks — iSpangled! and a Voormann cover that I haven’t been able to find.

Back way back when, I was a Van Dyke Parks fan and I had his albums Song Cycle, Discover America, Clang of the Yankee Reaper and Jump! I also picked up the single The All Golden / Sassafrass (that one because of Klause Voormann’s pastural cover painting.)

A year (or more) ago I received Klaus Voormann’s limited edition book It Started in Hamburg and therein were pictures of Klaus’ record cover designs I had never seen, among them were Jesper Munk’s Favourite Stranger and Gaby Moreno & Van Dyke Parks iSpangled! I emailed Klaus to ask whether these records actually existed or were just designs, and he replied that they were soon to be released. I found the Jesper Munk album relatively quickly but I have been looking out for the iSpangled! album for some considerable time. It was finally released on 4th October 2019, but I didn’t get my hands on a copy until 1st August 2020, when I popped into Bengans Stockholm record store and found a copy with the blue background. I knew there were two colour variations of the cover picture, The one I found with a blue background to the aeroplane and the a grey, ghost-like figure on the left and a cover with a purple backgound for the plane and a beige figure on th eleft who looked less like a ghost. However, the salesperson at Bengans couldn’t order a copy of the purple cover for me.

I saw copies of the purple cover on Ebay and emailed a record store in England whether their copies were blue or purple but never received an answer. I finally tracked one down from Chalkys_UK and it arrived in pristine condition on 29th October 2020, a little more than a year after its release.

There are a couple of Klaus Voormann record covers that seem impossible to find. The first is his cover for The Typhoons’ 1964 single Walk…Don’t Run–a cover of the Ventures’ hit–and the second is a 1979 bootleg with the (at least for me) tongue-twisting title Wir nie im Bett Programm gemacht. I once saw a copy of the Typhoons single for sale on Ebay (without the record) that sold for a whopping €110! The record is quite easy to find without the cover and can be bought for abut €5-10. So I bought the record.

Then decided to make my own cover and found the design on Klaus Voormann’s site. So that was easy!

The Typhoons’ “Walk Don’t Run single cover.

Finding a good quality picture of the Wir nie cover wasn’t so easy. And I had to photoshop the pictures I finally found to make a reasonable facsimile.

My facsimile Wie nie cover. Not perfect, but okay.

I’m sure there ar still more klaus Voormann covers waiting to be discovered. The man himself doesn’t have a list of all the covers he has designed, so I’ll just have to keep looking to see if any new ones turn up.

Record sleeve art by artists I collect