More on how I found out about the RATFAB cover in 2008

A recap. Between 23rd July and 31st August 2008, the first exhibition of Andy Warhol’s record cover art was shown at Piteå Museum, Piteå, in the north of Sweden. The exhibition was entitled “Happy Birthday, Andy Warhol” as it coincided with what would have been Warhol’s 80th birthday on 6th August 2008.

One month later, my friend Tomas Ersson, visited me and I told him about the exhibition and he mentioned that he had recently read an article in a magazine where a Swedish musician told a story about how Andy Warhol had designed the cover for a single by the band he had been in as a 15-year-old. Unfortunately, Tomas could not remember where he had read the article, but he promised to try to locate it. A few days later he mailed me the article and my hunt for the RATFAB single started.

I lost the article but have always credited Tomas with being the one who tipped me off on the existence of the cover. He has recently helped find the article again and here is the link:
The article is in Swedish and, coincidentally was published on Andy Warhol’s birthday, 6th August 2008, in the Swedish magazine Café. The article is actually an interview with Tomas Alfredsson, a Swedish film producer. At the end of the interview he was asked whether it was true that Andy Warhol had designed the cover for a single by the band in which he had been the drummer.

Here’s the text where he explains how Warhol came to design the cover.

Andy Warhol's design for the RATFAB single cover.
Andy Warhol’s design for the RATFAB single cover.

TAW: “Till sist måste jag fråga om det är sant att Andy Warhol gjorde skivomslaget till ditt gamla rockbands enda singel.
TA:– När jag var i 15-årsåldern var jag trummis i ett band som hette Ratfab, Roland And The Flying Albatros Band. Vår basist, Calle Häggqvist, hade en mycket originell farfar, Arne Häggqvist. Han bodde i en liten tvåa i Fruängen med sin stora konstsamling och anordnade litterära salonger i källaren. Arne var svensk­lärare, översättare, skribent och förläggare. Han introducerade Sartre på svenska, var ett socialt geni och lärde känna många intressanta, märkliga och berömda människor över hela världen. Han skrev Största cocktailboken, som mig veterligen fortfarande är den största cocktailboken. Arne var också konstexpert och skrev den första boken om hur man värderar konst.

TAW: Och han var vän med Andy Warhol?
TA: – Han hade träffat Hemingway och Salvador Dali och översatt Dalis böcker. Och så kände han Andy Warhol. Varje sommar sålde Arne en tavla ur sin konstsamling för att finansiera en resa åt honom och barnbarnet Calle. Den här sommaren skulle de åka till New York och träffa självaste Andy Warhol på The Factory. När vi i bandet fick höra det här sa vi till Calle: ”Du måste fråga om han inte kan göra vår logotype!” Och när Calle satt där med Warhol så frågade han faktiskt. Warhol sa: ”Det kan jag väl göra.” Han tog fram ett Andy Warhol-brevpapper och gjorde några olika förslag som han signerade.

TAW: Hur såg de ut?
TA: – Han skrev vårt bandnamn med fetkrita och så signaturen under. Vi blev alldeles febriga av det här och trodde att det skulle kompensera våra brister som musiker, vilket det förstås inte gjorde. Men vi tryckte i alla fall upp en singel och en t-shirt. Och det är ju angenämnt att få vara i sällskap med Velvet Underground och Rolling Stones, även om innehållet i vårt fall inte är lika rafflande som utsidan.”

Here follows a translation:

TAW: Finally, I have to ask if it is true that Andy Warhol designed the cover to your old rock band’s only single?

TA: When I was about 15 i was the drummer in a band calleed Ratfab, Roland and the Flying Albatros Band. Our bass player, Calle Häggqvist, had a very original grandfather, Arne Häggqvist. He lived in a little two-room flat in Fruängen with his huge art collection and organised litterary solons in the basement. Arne was a Swedish teacher, translator, writer and publisher. He introduced Sartre in Swedish, was a social genius and became acquainted with many interesting, remarkable, weird and famous people all over the world. He wrote “Största Cocktailboken2 (The Biggest Cocktail book), which is, as far as I know, still the biggest cocktail book. Arne was also an art expert and wrote the first book on how to evaluate art.

TAW: And he was a friend of Andy Warhol?

TA: – He had met Hemingway and Salvador Dali and translated Dali’s books. And he knew Andy Warhol. Every summer Arne sold a painting from his art collection to finance a trip for himslef and his grandson Calle. That summer they were going to New York and would meet Andy Warhol himself at The Factory. When the band got to hear of this we told Calle: “You must ask if he can make us a logo!” And when Calle satt there with Warhol, he actually asked him. “Sure I can.” He produced an Andy Warhol letterpaper and made a few suggestions that he signed.

TAW: What did they look like?

TA: – He wrote the band’s name in pastel and signed underneath. We were totally wild because of it and thought that it would compensate for our musical shortcomings, which, however, it did not. But we pressed a single and a T-shirt. And it was cool to find ourselves in the company of Velvet Underground and Rolling Stones, even if the contents in our case wasn’t as exciting as the outside.”

So, that’s the whole story. Thanks again Tomas Ersson for coming up with the goods!

A longstanding project – two impossible Warhol covers

There are some Andy Warhol record covers that just are not within an ordinary collector’s reach. One of these is his “Giant Size $1.57 Each” limited edition silkscreen, originally made for the 1963 “Popular Image Exhibition” at Washington D.C.’s short-lived Washington Gallery of Modern Art. In 1963. Warhol had a pile of record covers lying about his studio, he used these for one of his experiments and he silkscreened the “Giant Size $1.57 Each” design onto the record covers.. The image was probably taken from a simple newspaper advert. Seventy-five copies were made. They were individually screened and as the silkscreen was placed rather haphazardly over each cover, each has the image in a slightly different position. In addition, Warhol was not used to dosing the amount of ink required and the quantity passing through the screen also varied; on some copies it was so thick that it flaked off when dry (see the photo in Paul Maréchal’s book “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers 1949-1987”.)

Eleven artists were represented at the “Popular Image Exhibition” at The Washington Gallery of Modern Art. In addition to Warhol these included Tom Wesselmann, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, George Brecht, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, John Wesley and Robert Watts and each was interviewed about his contribution. The interviews were collected on an LP with a cover design my Jim Dine and sold at the exhibition. Warhol took some of the LPs and put them in his cover. The exact number is unknown, however, probably not in all 75 of them. Some copies of the record in the original Washington Gallery cover have turned up for auction and some copies of the “Giant Size” cover with record have also been sold.

Jim Dine's cover for the Popular Image Exhibition interview LP
Jim Dine’s cover for the Popular Images Exhibition interview LP

In 1971, Warhol remade the record covers – this time in three series with spray painted backgrounds, 75 copies each on red, green and yellow backgrounds. I have seen at least one red copy sold with the LP from the 1963 exhibition. According to Paul Maréchal, Matt Wrbican at The Warhol Museum discovered a bundle of seventeen “Giant Size $1.57 Each” covers in Treasure Chest box 63.

One of the 17 covers found in box TC 63 at The Warhol Museum. (Photo by courtesy of Matt Wrbican)
One of the 17 covers found in box TC 63 at The Warhol Museum. (Photo by courtesy of Matt Wrbican)

When I was curating the “Happy Birthday Andy Warhol” exhibition in 2008 I made 10 digital copies of the “Giant Size $1.57 Each” cover to be sold at the exhibition. In addition I made three copies of each of the red, green and yellow covers (however, my yellow turned out more ochre than yellow).

The second cover that is, and will forever be, impossible to find is the “Progressive Piano” 10-inch LP and double 7-inch EP. The record was never released but lithographs of the cover designs for these are in The Warhol Museum. I have thought about making mock-ups of both versions ever since I first saw these designs. I have recreated the front covers of both the 7 and 10 inch versions (they have different catalogue numbers so I couldn’t just reduce the 10-inch to make the 7-inch version!)

The 10" and 7" versions of "Progressive Piano" and the cover in progress.
The 10″ and 7″ versions of “Progressive Piano” and the cover in progress.

The picture shows the basic card cover for the 7″ version open. Under it is the card cover with the cover image superimposed. The 10″ version is shown on the left and the rear cover for the 7″ version on the right.

I have invented a rear cover for the 10-inch album as every RCA album has an individually scripted rear cover.

The most difficult part of the production of these covers has been finding the correct thickness card for the covers. Record covers nowadays are constructed of card that is considerably thinner than that used in the 1950s. Most card currently available is 1 mm thick or thicker and cannot be used for making a replica record sleeve. I had a stoke of luck while getting som photocopies made at a copy shop. They packaged my copies in an envelope with a cardboard back of exactly the right thickness for a record cover. This could be cut to size for the 7-inch covers. However,  I still had to find larger sheets of card to make the 10-inch cover. As luck would have it, I found some special card in an art shop in central London that exactly fitted the bill.

The process nears completion. All that remains is to glue the rear cover art to the ready-cut cards and then glue over the front design to complete the covers. I feel a bit sad that a project that has been in gestation for four or five years is so near its conclusion. I will need a new project to deal with.