Today was a bit of a special day! I discovered two CDs with Banksy artwork that I had never seen. I was casually surfing the Internet when I came across a picture of a CD cover that I didn’t recognise but that had classic Banksy artwork. The CD in question is an 11-track compilation released by Seven Magazine and called Seven Magazine Presents the Soundtrack to Sizzler Parties, and contains tracks by Blak Twang (Twixstar) and the Röyksopp remix of The Mecons Please Stay. This CD was released in 2002, so I don’t really understand how it has eluded me for so long!
The second CD, Orange City by a Canadian band called One Bad Son, was released in 2007. The front cover didn’t look promising — probably explaining why I had missed this release.
It isn’t until you open the jewel case and see the CD that the Banksy connection appears.
Here the Bomb Hugger girl image appears both on the CD and on the inside of the rear of the jewel case. I suspect that this is an unofficial use of this particular Banksy image that appeared officially on the Peace Not War compilation CD that accompanied the February 2004 number of the Big Issue magazine.
As I write this, my collection of Banksy records and CDs is moving from the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa to the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara until September 2020 and then from September to December to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto. Perhaps I should add these rare CDs to the exhibit.
Vinyl records with cover art by the artist known as Banksy were released in relatively limited quantities and have become very collectible. Two promotional records are particularly interesting for collectors as their covers are hand sprayed by Banksy. These are the Capoiera Twins‘ 4 x 3 / Truth Will Out 12″ single released in 1999, and Röyksopp‘s Melody A.M. album issued as a double LP in 2001. Both were editions of 100–the Capoiera Twins single unnumbered and Röyksopp‘s album hand numbered. I have previously written about the 4 x 3 / Truth Will Out cover and how I was swindled by what I now consider an unethical dealer here.
In this post I want to discuss the Melody A.M. cover.
I bought my copy of this album (No. 84/100) in 2011–before prices really started to skyrocket. It was sold to me by DJ who needed the money as he was getting married. All the copies I had seen up to that point had the cover art sprayed in dark green paint and I was initially disappointed in that my copy was sprayed in a much lighter green. I was suspicious that perhaps this was some sort of copy, but the records and press release were obviously genuine, so perhaps the colour had faded. Recently. however, I have seen several more covers with this light green printing.
The covers pictured above have numbers 20, 34, 46, 56 and 68. Both the olive green versions have the highest numbers and my copy is number 84. So it seems that Banksy changed the colour of the paint at about number 50 (the exact number still has to be confirmed.) Perhaps he just ran out of the dark green spray and took the next best thing.
Thus there really are TWO versions of the promo cover for the Melody A.M. album — the dark green and the pale/olive green varieties. For completeness my collection should include both — that’s how I got to meet Ed Cartwright.
Ed had advertised a copy of the dark green version and we began an email correspondence, finally agreeing a price. Ed didn’t want to trust this rare album to the risks of sending by post or even by private carrier, so he suggested he would deliver it in person, if I agreed to contribute to his flight costs. What could be safer? Done deal. Ed is an interesting character. He is heavily involved in the music industry, managing bands and doing PR work and the occasional DJ gig. He has a huge vinyl collection. Most pertinent to the Röyksopp album, though, is the fact that he worked for Wall of Sound records (Röyksopp‘s label) around 2001-2 when their Melody A.M. album was released. In his office, he apparently was entrusted with a number of these promotional albums. He sold one in 2011 and now wants to rebuild his kitchen so wanted to sell another copy.
So on Friday, March 6th, 2020 Ed flew in to deliver the album. It is number 12/100. Ed could confirm that the initial fifty or so covers were sprayed with the darker green spray paint and suggests that the can ran out and the lighter, olive green spray paint was used for the remainder. Ed says that he knew the guy who sprayed the covers was named Robin. Wall of Sound records asked him to make the covers as a PR exercise, (there may even have been a film of the covers being sprayed), but as Banksy was almost unknown at that time, the information was never used.
This cover art may not be the greatest thing the artist known as Banksy has ever produced (actually, it’s pretty crappy) but it completes my collection of record and CD covers with his art. Okay, I hear you — I should NEVER say my collection is complete! But until I find something new I’m happy.
Here are my two covers (Nos 12 and 84):
Röyksopp’s Melody A.M. promo cover, Number 84/100. Olive green version.
I was into ska and reggae in the late 60s with singles by the Pioneers, Prince Buster and the Abyssinians in the AMI Continental jukebox we had at home, alongside old rockers like Eddie Cochran (Summertime Blues), Little Richard (Slippin’ and Slidin’), Eurythmics (picture discs of Love Is A Stranger and Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)). I had albums by Prince Buster,Bob Marley & The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Burning Spear and more recent ones by T.O.K. and Capleton. And I had several albums of Trojan Records collections, but no Dub.
A few weeks ago ace record collector Raimund Floeck sent me a link to a Positive Thursday Podcast (https://www.mixcloud.com/Positive_Thursdays/positive-thursdays-episode-633-sound-system-dna-vibronics-leicester-19th-july-2018/) about the dub collective Vibronics, who’s de facto leader is Steve Gibbs, also known as Steve Vibronics—a moniker he uses as a DJ. Steve is based in Leicester, UK, where, apparently, there is a thriving Dub scene. In the podcast, Steve is interviewed about his career and how he came to form Vibronics. The podcast seems to be aimed at listeners in Poland as the first few minutes are in Polish. I can just make out ”Banksy” during these first minutes before Steve is interviewed, thankfully (at least for me), in English. 23:55 minutes into the interview the interviewer asks Steve:
”There is also a story behind your logo, the logo of Vibronics. Could you tell me from where it came, and who actually draw it?”
And over the following minute or so (23:55 to 25:00) Steve tells the story of how an artist named Robin designed the Vibronics logo. This ”Robin” Steve tells us was none other than Banksy years before he became famous. Steve tells it thus:
”… The logo, well the logo is an interesting story, because it’s made by a guy called Bansky, who’s an incredibly famous artist now. And he’s probably like the most famous kind of like street urban artist in Europe now. And he was a friend of my friend—and he was a great artist—this was years ago before he was famous, and he was a great artist then. And I said to my friend “Oh, do you think,” I knew him as Robin, that was his name then, “Do you think Robin would make me a logo ‘cos I’ve just started doing Vibronics”. And my friend said “Yeah, I’ll ask him, no problem.” So he made me this logo, painted this beautiful picture and I was completely amazed by it, really incredible, and I’ve used it ever since as a logo and then he became, years after that, this incredibly famous artist, so and now people are amazed that I’ve got this kind of Banksy logo which at the time, he was just a guy I knew in a kind of, you know, in a kind of hippy dub scene in Leicester, so…”
As far as I can find out, only two records have featured this logo on their covers. The first, from 1998, was a split LP on the Universal Egg label called ”Outernational Dub Convention Vol 1–Jah Free Greets Vibronics”, where Jah Free has six tracks on side 1 and Vibronics six tracks on side 2. The second, from 2015, is a double album called ”The Return of Vibronics” on the Scoops label. Both albums are reasonably easy to find on CD but very hard to find on vinyl.
Okay–so Steve Vibronics met an artist called Robin sometime in the mid to late 1990s. Steve probably knows that several of the names suggested for Banksy call him Robin. But it is something of a leap of faith to therefore assume that the artist Robin he met in Leicester really was the Robin who assumed the Banksy moniker. But then the information from Leicester ex-DJ Andy Billings that there was a DJ in Leicester in the 90s called Banksy might suggest that Banksy really was in Leicester and that, just possibly, he did design the logo. But what we really need is for the real designer of the logo to come forward and claim it.
I’ve added the two Vibronics albums to my collection and am tentatively adding them to my collection of Banksy record covers. I’ll take them out again if any other artist claims that they designed the logo.
I’m really grateful to Raimund Floeck for sending me the link to the Positive Thursdays podcast and to Andy Billings for the information about a Leicester DJ calling himself Banksy and to Guy Minnebach for reading an earlier version of this post and acting as Devil’s advocate.