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.
You should know by now that I collect record cover art. I have twice in my life designed record covers. The first was when I bought a copy of the Rolling Stones’ bootleg Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be sometime in around 1970. The original cover was white with the title stamped on in black, and I thought it would benefit from a bit of colour.
As I was in poster-painting mode, I decide to “improve” the design:
The second cover, the one I designed myself, was for a student review called Tower Power at Guy’s Hospital in 1969:
Otherwise, the art on record covers has been sort of “holy”, to be appreciated and enjoyed, and not to be tampered with. However, I have begun to realise that not everyone shares this view.
Vinyl records have been recycled in various ways — made into wall clocks, melted into decorative bowls or other items or lazer cut into designs. But I thought the covers had escaped recycling until i saw the work of artists Mike and Doug Starn (see my post from 21 June 2019) who use record sleeves as the background for their, sometimes abstract, large-scale paintings.
Then I passed a little shop called Triphopshop that had three redesigned record covers (two Grace Jones and a David Bowie covers) in the window that I thought quite exciting. Then I read of a Dutch project that asked artists to rework record cover designs called Vinylize!, a cooperation between Bert Dijkstra (of Shop Around) and Dick van Dijk (owner of Concerto record store). They put on an exhibition of the reworked record covers together. I found out about this from an Album Cover Hall of Fame blog post and and learned that they had published a catologue of the exhibition. Of course, it’s now out of print, but I was lucky to find a copy on Amazon. It arrived yesterday!
Front and rear covers were shown in its 106 pages, with the rear covers altered to include a short biography of the artist who reimagined the cover with a list of that artist’s ten favourite albums. The artists include Bart Aalbers, Eric Huysen, Jillem, Typex (I just last week bought Typex’s book Andy – A Factual Fairytale. The Life and Times of Andy Warhol), Loudmouth, etc. Naturally, mainly Dutch artists, but all with a history of designing record covers. Olla Boku had reimagined Andy Warhol’s cover portrait of Billy Squier:
Eric Huysen had reimagined Barbra Streisand’s Guilty cover:
Jillem had a humourous turn on the Pink Floyd’s The Wall:
Having looked through the Vinylize! catalogue, I went back to Triphopshop and talked to owner and artist Romain Beltrame. He is into street art and sells clothes that he has embellished with his own paintings: many jeans jackets that he has redesigned. He also sells posters by other artists — much in the style of Blek le Rat or Banksy. But it’s his reworking of record covers that interest me.
Here are just some of the covers he has re-designed.
I am trying to work out how I feel about artists reworking cherished covers. Some of the covers pictured in Vinylize! are clever, others strike me as rather destructive. It could be a new field for collectors or amateur artists! But perhaps I’ll be tempted to buy some secondhand covers and try to remodel them myself, who knows? I have asked Romain to reinvent a couple of Andy Warhol covers — Aretha and Miguel Bosé’s Milano–Madrid. It’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with.
I was first made aware of two of Andy Warhol’s seminal publications the Aspen Magazine Pop Art issue of December 1966 (#3, “FAB”) and “Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)” late in 2008, when I first saw Paul Maréchal’s “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers 1949–1987. Catalogue Raisonné“, which listed both as record covers. Both do contain records; the former a double sided flexidisc and the latter a single-sided 7” single, but I wouldn’t consider either package to be a record cover in the true sense of the words.
The pop art edition of Aspen Magazine produced by David Dalton and Andy Warhol in December 1966.
The hardcover version of Andy Warhol’s Index (Book) with is lenticular cover.
Andy Warhol was a polymath–commercial artist, “fine” artist, Photographer, film m,aker, diarist, would be sculptor and, not least,Author, illustrator and publisher. An exhibition at the Museum Brandhorst in Munich from September 2013 to January 2014 showed Warhol’s publications, ranging from one-off illustrated books to his popular mass produced publications. The exhibition was called “Reading Andy Warhol” and included over eighty books and the hard cover catalogue (with the same title) opened with a series of erudite essays on Warhol’s literary career as a publisher of his own books (such as “25 Carts Name[d] Sam and One Blue Pussy“, written together with George Lisanby) or one-offs like “Play Book of You S Bruce From 2:30 to 4:00“. There is a short section on “Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)” in a chapter entitled “Trash, Gossip, and Porn–Warhol’s Transgressions in Photography” written by a professor Burcu Dogramaci, There doesn’t seem to be too much written about the December 1966 Pop Art issue of the Aspen Magazine (#3) titled “FAB“, edited by David Dalton and Andy Warhol. However, the catalogue of the current Warhol retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum, called “Andy Warhol – from A to B and Back Again” goes some way to rectifying this in an essay by Brandon W. Joseph called “White Light / White Heat“.
Aspen Magazine #3
The Aspen Magazine was produced by Phyllis Johnson between 1965 and 1971. It was billed as the first 3D magazine as it was produced as a box containing various printed items and ephemera. Ten issues were published and the third was the Pop Art issue edited by David Dalton and Andy Warhol and published in December 1966. I think it is significant that a publication on Pop Art in 1966 would be entrusted to Warhol as there were numerous other pop artists who could have been invited to compile a box to illustrate Pop Art.
David McCabe & David Dalton “A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol”.
But who was David Dalton? I have had to do some considerable research to find out about him despite him being a much published author of rock-related biographies.
Dalton (born 15th January 1945) was a founding editor of Rolling Stone magazine. He is the son of a British physician, Dr John Dalton, and elder brother to sister Sarah. When Sarah was 13 years old (and I suppose David was a couple of years older), the family moved to New York and–according to Sarah began visiting art galleries, in particular Leo Castelli Gallery where they met Ivan Karp
In a The Guardian review (on Sunday 5th October 2003) of “A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol English author and, according to Peter Conrad, writing in , was co-author of “A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol” together with photographer David McCabe. Dalton, according to Conrad, had been taken to New York from boarding school by his sister Sarah. In fact, as David, himself, writes in the book, he is Sarah’s older brother, and the family arrived in New York together. Both David and Sarah and their father, Dr John Dalton, appear in McCabe’s photos in the book. Exactly how David became one of Andy Warhol’s first assistants is not clear. He stayed at The Factory for over a year. Dalton, by his own admission was besotted with Bob Dylan and managed to get at least six mentions of his hero in the Aspen package. Also included were ten “trip” tickets, A newspaper entitled “Plastic Exploding Inevitable”, 12 pop art picture cards and a 7.-inch flexidisc with Peter Walker’s “White Wind” on the “A” side and “Loop” by the Velvet Underground on the “B” side (more correctly is was John Cale playing the noise).
The “A” side of the Aspen Magazine flexidisc. Peter Walker’s “White Wind”.
The “b” side of the Aspen Magazine flexidisc. The Velvet Undergrund’s “Loop”..
Andy Warhol’s Index (Book) Published in December 1967 “Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)” is primarily a book of photographs by Billy Name (Billy Linich 1940-2016), Nat Finkelstein, Steven Shore and others.It is decorated with several pop-up figures: a castle, a biplane, a can of Hunt’s Tomato Paste and includes the single-sided 7″ picture disc with a portrait of Lou reed on one side. The record plays an interview with Nico while the Velvet Underground play in the background.
“Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)” was published in three editions. A hardback edition of (I think( 2000 copies), a Limited edition of the Hardback book signed by Warhol (365 copies) and a soft cover book. The hardcover book cost $12.95 and the soft cover $4.95.
I decided that I should include these seminal Warhol publications in my collection of Andy Warhol’s record cover art, though I do not consider the box or the book to be true record covers. And in January 2019 they arrived.
Yesterday I went to a couple of art exhibitions. First I went to Sven-Harry’s to see the excellent Jenny Nyström exhibition and then went on to Bonnier’s gallery to see what was on there. But it’s not the exhibitions that I want to talk about here. To get to the exhibition rooms at the Bonnier’s gallery one has to go through the shop. They usually have loads of interesting books for sale there and yesterday was no exception. I saw Rock Graphics Originals by Peter Golding & Barry Miles with great poster and record cover art and a book Emigre Fonts 1986-2016 cataloguing Emigre Magazines typefaces. I still have two or three copies of Emigre with David Carson’s often confusing fonts.
Peter Golding & Barry Miles “Rock Graphic Originals”
Ginko Press – “Emigre Fonts 1986-2016”
The third book to catch my eye was Imagine — John Yoko with the famous Imagine album’s cover image on the front. I had not seen the book, published in October 2018, before, so I started rummaging through it to see if Yoko discussed the album’s cover art.
And, on page 190, she goes into explicit detail. There John’s quote is published:
“My album front and back is taken by Yoko as a Polaroid. It’s a new one called a Polaroid close up. It’s fantastic. She took a photo of me, and then we had this painting off a guy called Geoff Hendricks who only paints sky. And I was standing in front of it, in the hotel room and she superimposed the picture of it on me after, so I was in the cloud with my head. And then I lay down on the window sill to get a lying down picture for the back side, which she wanted with the cloud above my head. And I’m sort of ‘imagining.‘”
However, collectors of Andy Warhol’s record cover art noticed that a couple of Andy Warhol’s Polaroid pictures of John, sold at Christie’s in 2013, looked suspiciously like the photo used on the Imagine album cover and were advertised as “Two unused and previously unseen photographic proofs of artwork for the front cover of John Lennon’s 1971 album Imagine“. However, it doesn’t specifically state that these Polaroids were taken by Andy Warhol, so they could be Yoko Ono’s.
Yoko Ono’s Polaroids of John for the “Imagine” cover.
After reading this book I have removed Lennon’s “Imagine” album (and the various singles that use the same picture) from my list of Andy Warhol’s record covers and I credit the cover design to Yoko Ono.
Klaus Voormann celebrated his 80th birthday on 29th April 2018. He has given his many fans a belated birthday present in the form of a book reviewing his more than 60-year career as a graphic artist. He calls the book “It Started in Hamburg” and is available from his website.
The slipcase for the limited edition of “It Started in Hamburg”.
The cover for the limited edition of “It Started in Hamburg”.
Klaus Voormann‘s career started at art school where he obviously developed a special interest in record sleeve design, making–as he states in “It Started in Hamburg“–with a fascination for the cover art of Blue Note Records. The book features a number of mock ups of record sleeves by jazz artists including Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Guiffre, Sonny Stitt, Bob Cooper and Bud Shank.
Voormann was truly the right man in the right place in 1960s Hamburg. Together with Astrid Kirchner he stumbled on The Beatles playing Hamburg’s Star Club, befriended them and showed one of his record cover designs to John Lennon. He played in the German group The Eyes, designing the cover of one of their singles and designed the cover for British band The Typhoons‘ German release of The Ventures hit “Walk Don’t Run“.
In 1962 he was asked to design the covers for a series of twenty jazz EPs called “Pioneers of Jazz” on Deutsche Grammophon’s German subsidiary Coral Records. At about the same time he drew the cover for an LP entitled “Ver nie in Bett Programm gemacht“, said to be a recording of a radio programme.
Voormann moved to London in the mid sixties. In March 1966 John Lennon phoned him and asked him to design the cover for The Beatles’ album “Revolver”, for which he was to win a Grammy. Besides graphic design, Voormann continued his musical career joining Manfred Mann‘s band in 1966 when Paul Jones left and Mike D’Abo took over the role of singer. He designed the cover for the band’s 1966 album “As Is“, released in October that year.
“It Started in Hamburg” summarises Voormann‘s career. The 221 pages are divided into two sections: open the book one way and the text is in English. Turn the book over and you can read it in German. However, there does not seem to be any duplication of pictures. A few of Voormann‘s early attempts at producing jazz covers (see above) are included along with thirty-four of his published covers. There are pictures of the covers of ten of the “Pioneers of Jazz” series, along with one of the two Bee Gees covers (“Idea“)he designed and details of how cover art for The Beatles “Anthology” series came about. The limited edition comes with a USB with excerpts from Klaus’s film “Making of The Beatles “Anthology” artwork”, and little additions like an original drawing from the serial “Revolver–Birth of an Icon” and some film negatives.
His poster design and the design for his recent book “Revolver–Birth of an Icon“, about the design of the cover for “Revolver“, are also represented. His graphic self portrait and portrait of John Lennon remind me of some of Chuck Close‘s portraits, graphically breaking down their faces.
Voormann’s 2017 self-portrait for Zeit magazine.
Voormann’s portrait of John Lennon.
“It Started in Hamburg” is an important addition to any collection of Klaus Voormann’s art–my copy of the limited edition of turned out to be No. 3/80. I offer my sincere congratulations to Klaus on his 60 years of art and music. May he continue for many more!
Robert del Naja, a.k.a 3D, is a musician, artist and composer probably best known as being a founder member of the trip hop group Massive Attack. He has also other musical projects. del Naja was born in Bristol in 1965 and has been credited as the the city’s first graffiti artist and Banksy has named him as a major influence–it can be noted that suggestions have been made that del Naja IS Banksy! A real fact about him is that he is colour blind. Something that caused him problems in his early works–painting a self-portrait with green hair and brown Christmas trees.
I really liked the deceptively simple cover art for Massive Attack’s “Mezzanine” album, with its stag beetle image. Otherwise I had not paid particular attention to the group’s cover art. I was completely unaware that del Naja had a separate career as a record cover artist. He admits to have been designing covers for Mo’ Wax records for eight years–I once owned the 1994 Mo Wax vinyl samplers “Headz 1” and “Headz 2” with cover paintings by del Naja, though I then had no idea who he was.
Mo Wax 1996 compilation Headz 2A, with cover art by Robert del Naja.
Mo Wax 1996 compilation Headz 2, with cover art by Robert del Naja.
Just recently, The Vinyl Factory published “3D & the Art of Massive Attack” by Robert del Naja and Sean Bidder–a 400 page book of Robert del Naja’s art. There are two versions, a popular edition selling for £50 or a limited edition of 350 signed copies selling for £350. I have the popular edition, which came sealed in cellophane with the Vinyl Factory sticker with bar cove on the outside. The book only contains pictures of del Naja’s artworks with no text apart from a three page interview in a separate 12-page booklet included in the package. Reviews of the book state that Banksy has written the book’s introduction, but I couldn’t find it in my copy–perhaps that’s only included in the limited edition…
I was fascinated to find out that Robert del Naja has cooperated with photographer Nick Knight to produce record cover art. The “Mezzanine” cover is one example.
Del Naja again approached Nick Knight for the cover photo for Massive Attack’s “best of” compilation “Collected”.
Nick Knight’s most famous cover photographs are probably David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” cover, Björk’s 1997 “Homogenic” or Nick Cave & The Bad Seed’s “The Boatman’s Call” covers, but he has also photographed Miguel Bosé (see a previous recordart post for another Miguel Bosé album) for the cover of his 1987 album “XXX” among many others.
I was disappointed with the book at first, but it lead me to start looking for more examples of Robert del Naja’s record covers and that has proved to be an interesting journey. I will have to try to contain my interest and NOT start collecting his covers.
Gröna Lund is a permanent attraction in Stockholm with exciting rides, restaurants, bars and an important concert stage on which most of the world’s more famous artistes–ranging from Birgit Nilsson via Chuck Berry to The Clash–have performed.
Posters for events and concerts at Gröna Lund have become highly collectible. Between 1971 and 1988 they were designed by one man, Nils Sture Jansson–who produced about 800 individual posters, sometimes with incredibly short deadlines. In 2012 Premium Publishing produced a book containing 200 of Nils Sture Jansson’s poster designs edited by Nils Sture Jansson’s son, Jonas, and Gröna Lund’s own historian Andreas Theve. The book rapidly sold out when it was published–but I was lucky to find a copy in Söders Bokhandel– a little, but extremely well-stocked bookshop in Stockholm. The book has also become highly collectible.
Nils Sture Jansson’s relatively simple illutrations capture the spirit of the artists and, according to the introduction, were much admired by them. Only a few were unhappy–and that was sometimes due to the fact that his or her name was misspellt.
Here are some samples (posters for artists I personally like):
Jansson would be supplied with photos of the artist(s) and deconstruct them to make his poster designs.
Kristian Russell has taken over and is continuing the tradition of Gröna lund posters.
Poster for Henrik Berggren’s concert on the 50th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s concert on the same stage.
As you all know by now, record cover art has become highly collectible. The long player, invented by Columbia Records in 1948 allowed graphic artists a 31 x 31 cm canvas on which to apply their art.The arrival of the compact disc in 1982 was predicted to banish the LP forever and, in the mid 1990s many artists had abandoned the format. However, the vinyl LP didn’t die; it faded away for a time, but has made a dramatic recovery in the last few years and artists are once more releasing albums on vinyl. And this has made designers and artists return to the medium and produce many great works of cover art.
Some record covers by famous artists now change hands for extraordinary sums. Nowadays, collectors will only pay top buck for a record cover if it is in pristine condition and preferably for an original pressing. One can only congratulate those who bought some of the rarer records when they were first released as the cover art has proved a surprising investment.
There have been many exhibitions of record cover art over the past thirty or so years. The first one I heard about (and visited) was produced by Aarhus Kunstmuseum in 1981 (shown there from 5th September until 4th October 1981), which then transferred to Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, where it was shown from 24th October 1981 until 17th January 1982 and later to Bildmuseet in Umeå. I saw both the exhibitions in Stockholm and Umeå (and lent 30 covers to the Umeå exhibition) and I still have the exhibition catalogue and even a poster from the Stockholm exhibition, signed by Andy Warhol!
Catalogue from Nationalmuseets 1981-2 exhibition “Skivomslag” (record covers).
Poster from Nationalmuseet’s exhibition, signed by Andy Warhol.
Many books have been published illustrating “great” record covers, “The 100 (or even 500) best record covers of all time” or just plain record covers. There have been a few good books on the history of record cover art. My favourites are Steven Heller‘s, Alex Steinweiss‘ & Kevin Reagan‘s “Alex Steinweiss Inventor of the Modern Album Cover“, Nick De Ville‘s “Album: Style and Image in Sleeve Design” and Richard Evans‘ “The Art of the Record Cover“. There have been even fewer books devoted to a single designer: Paul Maréchal‘s pioneering “Andy Warhol–The Record Covers 1949-1987. Catalogue Raissonné” from 2008 and updated in 2015 as “Andy Warhol–The Complete Commissioned Record Covers 1949-1987” and, again, the “Alex Steinweiss Inventor of the Modern Album Cover” are wonderful examples. Fewer books focus on the artists behind the record covers.
In January 2017, Taschen published Francesco Spampinato‘s “Art Record Covers” edited by Julius Weidemann. This book with over 400 pages provides an overview of artists who have produced record cover art, ranging from the early days of record cover art with covers by Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol to currently active artists including Banksy, Jeff Koons, Karin “Mamma” Andersson and with in depth interviews with Tauba Auerbach, Shepard Fairey, Kim Gordon,Christian Marclay, Albert Oehlen and Raymond Pettibon. Thereafter the bulk of the book, over 300 pages, is an alphabetical presentation of, I guess, 500 artists with selected illustrations of their work.
Spampinato must have an enviable collection of record cover art! Many (most?) of the photos are of records from his personal collection. The book is beautifully produced, being almost LP sized (30 x 29.5 cm) and on heavyweight paper. Many of the covers are reproduced almost full size.
Do I have any criticisms? The book concentrates on artists not affiliated with record companies, so there are no Reid Miles or Vaughan Oliver or Peter Saville, or even Alex Steinweiss covers. The covers chosen for the book are all art works and there are no photographic covers. there are a couple of artists that I miss: Anton Corbijn has designed loads of covers for U2 and Depeche Mode that aren’t purely photographic. And there is Klaus Voormann who has designed record covers for over fifty years for artists such as The Bee Gees, Manfred Mann and, not least The Beatles‘ “Revolver“. These are really only petty quibbles though. The “Art Record Covers” is a magnificent book and a snip at its recommended price of £49,99. So, go out and buy it! But be warned, it’s heavy so take a cart with you.
I just found out that I had missed yet another major exhibition of record cover art, this time in Arles in southwest France. The exhibition, called “Total Records” was first presented at Les Rencontres d’Arles from June to September 2015 and is said to be travelling round France. The exhibition catalogue has just (October 2016) been published as a free-standing book also called “TOTAL RECORDS – Photography and the Art of the Album Cover”.
I bought the 448 page book as it promised an introduction to how photographers and the record covers they took photographs for came together. However, the short introduction in English at the start of the book doesn’t live up to the promise. You have to turn to the end of the book for the full stories but, unfortunately for me, this section is only in French. Quelle horreur! Zut alors! and all that.
The book is divided into twenty-five “chapters”, some devoted to a single photographer and others more thematic with titles such as “Below the Belt” and “B-side America: Riverside, Bluesville and Yazoo”. There is a section called “Photo-Copy” which shows how some cover art has spawned plagiarism (The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers“, The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“.)
But the photographs are great. Most pages picture a single cover. Not surprisingly, as the exhibition is French, there are many French covers. Johnny Halliday and Sylvie Vartan figure prominently alongside less well known French artists including a lovely cover of Catherine Deneuve’s “Souviens-toi de M’Oublier” with cover photo by Helmut Newton. There are also Newton’s photographs on the cover of Sylvie Vartan’s album “Au palais des congress“.
The first cover pictured in the book is Alex Steiweiss’ “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers and Hart“–Steinweiss’ first picture cover for Columbia Records from 1940.
The first two chapters in the book, “The Sound I Saw” and “Aural Reappropriation” act as an introduction to the variety of photographs in record cover art and include covers by a multitude of photographers and make up nearly 30% of the book. These include cover photos by Andy Warhol (“This Is John Wallowitch“), Nobuyoshi Araki (Björk’s “Enjoy” and “Possibly Maybe” and Mango Delight’s “Conglomerate of Crazy Souls“), Annie Liebowitz (Cyndi Lauper’s “Change of Heart“, John Lennon’s “Interview Disc” and The Jim Carroll Band’s “Dry Dreams“), Herb Ritts (John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John “Two of a Kind” and Madonna’s “True Blue“). There is even Arthur Doyle’s “No More Crazy Women” with its Cindy Sherman cover photo (see my previous post on Cindy Sherman’s record cover art). Robert Mapplethorpe is represented with the classic Patti Smith cover for “Horses“, Taj Mahal’s “Taj” and Laurie Anderson’s “Strange Angels“.
Following these introductory chapters are sections/chapters devoted to individual photographers. First off are Jean-Paul Goude and Anton Corbijn. Corbijn is, of course, well known for his covers for Depeche Mode and U2. Jean-Paul Goude is best known for his cover photos of Grace Jones and eight of them are pictured in the book. It is a selection of Corbijns photos for U2 that are featured–mainly from the “Joshua Tree” sessions.
Next are eight of Jean-Baptiste Mondino’s covers, including covers of albums by Madonna, Björk, The Eurythmics and Prince.
The chapter after is reserved for Andy Warhol’s photographic covers. “This Is John Wallowitch” appeared in the first section of the book and this section includes the covers for “The Velvet Underground & Nico“, Miguel Bose’ s “Milano/Madrid“, Paul Anka’s “The Painter“, “Silk Electric” by Diana Ross and the cover of the “Muscles” single from the album and finishing with the cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Love You Live” album with a page devoted to the polaroid pictures on which Warhol based the cover design. “Sticky Fingers“, the other Stones album Warhol designed, appears in the section Photo-Copy along with several pastiches.Obviously, in a book on the photography and the art of the album cover, I wouldn’t expect any of Warhol’s graphic covers to be included–and there aren’t any, with the possible exception of “The Velvet Underground & Nico” cover. I’m not sure how much photography was involved. Did Warhol actually photograph the famous banana?
More chapters are devoted to the work of David Bailey (more Rolling Stones covers), Lucien Clergue And Lee Friedlander’s photography for jazz artists on the Atlantic label. The jazz theme is logically continued with a chapter devoted to some of the Blue Note label’s photographic covers with photography by Frank Wolf. And the label theme continues with a chapter on covers from the ECM label photographed by a variety of photographers. Other labels highlighted include Brazil’s Elena Records, ESP-dosc and a chapter devoted to the American Bluesville, Riverside & Yazoo labels before moving on to a chapter of Hipgnosis designs including the usual Pink Floyd covers (but happily, not the “Dark Side of the Moon” cover which I feel has become a cliché).
In the next chapter, aptly titled “Transartistic” there are covers by Robert Rauschenberg (Talking Heads’ “Speaking in Tongues”), Paul Bley (“Paul Bley Quintet“) and Andy Warhol’s “Index” book with the Lou Reed flexidisc. Even Jeff Koons’ cover for Lady Gaga’s “Artpop” and Damien Hirst’s cover for Dave Stewart’s “Greetings From the Gutter” are included.
One of the best chapters is entitled “Propaganda and Slogans” which includes thirty eight covers ranging from the clenched fist on the cover of The BlackVoices album “On the Streets in Watts” to Rage Against the Machines album with the self-imolating buddhist monk on the cover.From this provocative chapter with covers portraying Che Guevara, Charles de Gaulle,Malcolm X and Martin Luther King the book goes “Below the Belt2 with a selection of “racier” covers such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s ” Electric Ladyland” (The British cover with the nude models photographed by David Montgomery), Roxy Music’s “County Life” and more Rolling Stones in the form of both versions of the “Beggars Banquet” cover (the originally released version with the white cover which simply stated the group’s name and the record’s title as well as the version The Stones originally wanted with the lavatory interior scene, first released in 1986.
The final three chapters, “A life on Vinyl:David Bowie and Johnny Halliday”, “Word and Image” with many spoken word albums (Allen Ginsberg, Albert Camus, Jack Kerouac, etc.) and “from Grain to Groove”, a homage to the Soundtrack album cover, round off this nice book.
I think this is one of the nicest books on record cover design which I will keep alongside Alex Steinweiss’ “The Inventor of the Modern Record Cover“, Nick de Ville’s “Album: Classic Sleeve Design–Style and Image in Sleeve Design” and Richard Evan’s “The Art of the Album Cover“. I would have been thrilled to see the exhibition and have been able to see the covers full size. But the covers in “Total Records” are beautifully photographed by Romain Riviere and do them justice.
Okay, as you probably have gathered if you read my blog, I live in Sweden. This is not a very important piece of information, but it explains why this post was inspired (probably not the right word) by a recent book and a magazine number. The book, by Olle Johansson, is called “En skivsamlares memoarer” (ISBN 9789163776618, Rabarber förlag, Stockholm, 2015), which translates to “A Record Collector’s Memoirs” and the magazine is the Spring 2016 number of the Swedish music magazine Sonic–a 116 page special number entitled “Alla talar om skivsamlande“, again in translation “Everyone is talking about record collecting“.
Most people would not see any difference between a record collector and a music collector, but there is huge difference and these two publications illustrate it perfectly. Olle Johansson is a MUSIC collector. He is not interested in the format the recording is presented on. He does not care about record labels, catalogue numbers, or the cover art. He wants the music, and it doesn’t matter if it is a reissued CD or vinyl. He doesn’t search for original pressings or special editions. He just wants the music or the artist.
A record collector, however, cares about all, or at least some, of these things. There are those who collect a particular artist–and must have EVERYTHING released by that artist, including unofficial (bootleg) releases. Alternatively, the collector may collect a particular record label, quite independently of the type of music released (though the label will probably have released music that suits the collector’s taste). Then there are collectors who will collect a particular format– say 1960s EPs, or picture discs; the options are endless. And there are strange types, like me, who collect record cover art. Even here there are subdivisions; record cover art by a particular artist, cover art by any famous artist, or cover art that uses a particular design feature or a certain typography.
There are loads of books on record cover art and others on greater or lesser celebrities’ record collections. One recent, almost encyclopaedic one is Eilon Paz‘s “Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting“. Paz visited record collectors and photographed them with their hoards of vinyl–everything from rare 78s to the world’s largest collection of coloured vinyl records. Sonic magazine interviewed musicians, DJs, record collectors and record buyers at record stores. I used to have a library of books about record cover art. I have only kept a few that I really treasure. These include Nick de Ville‘s “Album: Classic Sleeve Design: Style and Image in Sleeve Design“, Richard Evans‘ “The Art of the Record Cover“, Paul Maréchal‘s “The Complete Commissioned Record Covers“, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz’ & Alex Steinweiss’ “For the Record: The Life and Work of Alex Steinweiss, Inventor of the Album Cover” and the catalogue from Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum’s 1981-2 exhibition “Ytans innehåll: utställning av skivomslag” [“The Surface’s Contents: An Exhibition of Record Covers“].
Where did my collection begin? Born in the mid forties, I was raised on vinyl records. My father loved music and had a few hundred LPs and a few 78s. In my late teens I had a friend, Chris, who worked on Saturdays at The Chelsea Record Centre, a shop on The King’s Road, Chelsea. We used to go to pubs and listen to R ‘n’ B and, when I went to University we started going regularly to the 100 Club on Oxford Street. We could see The Pretty Things, The Graham Bond Organisation or The Artwoods. One night–I suppose in 1964 or 1965– we went to see Bo Diddley and his famous band (who I had at that time only heard of through some Buddy Holly recordings.) Well, to call that concert mindblowing was an understatement.
The first records I bought were LPs–Eddie Cochran‘s “Memorial Album“, “The Buddy Holly Story” and John Lee Hooker‘s “Don’t Turn Me From Your Door“. One evening in late November 1963 my friend Chris came home with a copy of “With the Beatles” and we spent an evening just playing and replaying the album. And almost a year later on the 24th October 1964, Chris and I went to the Gaumont State Cinema in Kilburn to see The Beatles–I can’t say we heard them because of all the screaming. I still have the “Four Aces” programme from the concert! I started buying records and became a regular at two of London’s independent record shops that imported American albums; One Stop Records in South Moulton Street and Musicland in Berwick Street.
In early 1967, My brother, who had been living in America, returned to England and presented me with a bundle of records including Big Brother & The Holding Company‘s eponymous first album (on the Mainstream label), Country Joe & The Fish‘s “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die“, The Jefferson Airplane‘s “Takes Off” and “Surrealistic Pillow“. I bought The Doors‘ first album, which was one of the greatest albums of 1967, at One Stop, and they recommended an album by The Velvet Underground & Nico, which I bought but didn’t really get into. I liked the cover, though. Then I discovered bluebeat, ska and reggae and for the first time bought singles. Prince Buster, The Ethiopians and Desmond Dekker before finding Phil Spector and then soul music in the form of Doo Wop with Clyde McPhatter & the Dominoes, The Coasters, The Drifters, Don Covay, Joe Tex and, of course, Otis Redding. Thus far, I was still a music collector.
Then in April 1971, I bought The Rolling Stones‘ “Sticky Fingers” with its Andy Warhol designed cover. I already had The Velvet Underground & Nico, so this was my second Andy Warhol cover. I also had two covers by Peter Blake: “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and The Pentangle‘s “Sweet Child“. So I had the beginnings of two cover art collections. In the early 1980s I stumbled across an album by The Cocteau Twins and soon started collecting albums on the 4AD label designed by Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson (as 23 Envelope) and Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg (as v23). I also found Fetish Record‘s “Final Testament” and collected every cover I could find with Neville Brody‘s art.I also had all three of Joy Division‘s albums but didn’t start collecting Peter Saville‘s record covers in any systematic way, though a few did find their way into my collection. In the early 2000s I fell for Rob Jones‘ work–both as a poster artist for the White Stripes, The Raconteurs and Dead Weather–and for his record cover art. I also collected Swedish designer Martin Kann‘s covers for the band bob hund. All the while my collection of covers by Warhol and Blake grew. I also found that I had many covers by Klaus Voormann and then Damien Hirst produced a few record covers that found their way into my collection. In about 2008 I picked up a couple of albums with cover art by the artist known as Banksy and managed over the course of two years to collect almost all the covers bearing his art.
When I retired in 2010 it was apparent that my wife and I would have to move to a flat and that I would not be able to take my collection of records, posters and CDs with me. I had to downsize. I decided only to keep my collections of record cover art. I said “good bye” to my 4AD, Martin Kann, and Rob Jones records and kept only my Banksy, Blake, Hirst, Voormann and Warhol collections. So now I am a RECORD collector rather than a music collector. The music is secondary to the cover art.