Three years ago the Fondazione Roma organised a retrospective exhibition of works by the artist known as Banksy, curated by Stefano S. Antonelli, Francesca Mezzano and Acoris Andipa. I was honoured to be asked to show my collection of Bansky’s record and CD cover art at that show and when the Associazzone MetaMorfosi was planning a new show once again to be curated by Stefano and Acoris, this time at the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa planned to run from 23rd November 2019 to 29th March 2020. Acoris again asked me to lend my record and CD covers to the exhibition.
Stefano Antonelli has entitled the exhibition “Il secundo principio di un artista chiamato Banksy“, which translated means “The Second Principle of the artist known as Banksy“. Okay. But if this exhibition is Banksy’s second principle, what is his first? Stefano explains in his essay in the beautiful exhibition catalogue.
Banksy’s first principle, according to Stefano, is “If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to wear a mask“. His second principle is “If you want to be honest then you have to live a lie“. And I suppose one should bear that in mind as one views the exhibition–however, I only read the catalogue at breakfast on the morning AFTER I went to the opening.
The Palazzo Ducale in Genoa.
The exhibition is housed in the Palazzo Ducale’s cellar–eminently suitable for a show of “underground” street art. It is beautifully laid out and contains prints, sculptures and aforisms in addition to my collection of record and CD covers. The works on show have all been lent by private collectors and, as the organisers are at pains to point out in the introduction to the exhibition hall, that it is not authoised by Banksy.
The only famous Banksy prints I missed were the Kate Moss series, which Banksy had done in the style of Andy Warhol. And I was reminded of how Banksy really knows his art history as I wandered round the five exhibition rooms. My records and CDs are in Room Five.
The CDs and single records are shown in an impressively massive black trunk.
All in all a thoroughly thought out exhibition that I’m very happy to have been a (small) part of. Thank you to Stefano and Acoris for letting me share this experience. But, to return to the exhibition title “Il secundo principio di un artista chiamato Banksy“, I wonder if to be honest, I have to live a lie? This exhibition is an honest retrospective of the work by the artist known as Banksy. But is Banksy living a lie in trying to be honest?
In October 2017 I boasted that I had finally completed my collection of record and CD covers with cover art by the artist known as Banksy. The final two items were a copy of the Capoeira Twins‘ promotional single for Blowpop Records entitled “4 x 3 / Truth Will Out” and the Boys in Blue promo 12″ single “Funk tha Police“.
I was really happy to have found what I thought was a genuine copy of the “4 x 3 / Truth Will Out” promo, but I had misgivings. First, the cover was in such pristine condition–no sign of wear or discoloration that would be expected on an 18-year-old sleeve. Second, the catalogue number etched into the deadwax was BLOWP 008, not the BLOWP 001 that I had expected. I could find no reports of any record on the Blowpop label with that catalogue number. Third, there were obviously THREE tracks on the record–a single track on side A and two on side B. Much later, I managed to play the record and (thanks to Shazam) found that it was, in fact, a promotional copy of Håkan Lidbo‘s “Capoeira” single. The original matrix number DP 012 was still visible in the deadwax beside the obviously newly engraved BLOWP 008. There was also a sticker arttached to the record label on which was written “Capoeira Twins”. I guess this hides the true title of the record. So–I have been swindled!
I decided that I needed to see a genuine copy of the record for comparison. There were three copies for sale on Discogs, one of which was purported to be in near mint condition and I contacted Andy, the seller, to ask for photos, and especially photos of the engravings on the record’s deadwax. He duly sent me pictures, but still I couldn’t make out much except that the catalogue number was definitely BLOWP 001.
I made him a cheeky offer for the record, which he duly refused. I heard nothing from him for a couple of weeks and made a more serious offer. Once again a week’s silence. So, I repeated the improved offer and he accepted. I met him and he explained he was a DJ that had bought the record from a used record shop in 2000 and had used it occasionally when DJ-ing.
Once back at home I put the covers of the BLOWP 001 and BLOW 008 beside each other:
Using a jewellers’ magnifying glass I examined the printing of the covers. The black ink is much more even in the darker portions of the BLOWP 001 cover, while there are lines in the ink of the BLOWP 008 copy that could be from silkscreening (or other printing technique) but hardly be the result of spray painting. In addition the overall width of the matador/car image is almost one centimeter larger on the BLOWP 008 than the image on the BLOWP 001 cover. That would hardly be possible if a stencil had been used.
As I mentioned in my previous post about the Capoeira Twins promo, I had made a limited edition set of ten digital copies of the cover in, I think, 2010.
My 2010 digital recreation of the cover front.
The rear of my digital copy, complete with “Banksy” stamp.
I can now confidently say that I have three copies of this enormously rare promo in my collection: my 2010 digital copy, the probably fake BLOWP 008 version from 2017 and an undoubtedly genuine BLOWP 001.
Ebay is a remarkable research tool. I regularly do searches of various Ebay markets looking for records by artists I collect–and when I write “artists” I don’t mean the band or similar, I mean the graphic artist who designed the cover.
I am constantly on the lookout for new covers by the artist known as Banksy–the latest one I had found was the Boys in Blue single “Funk tha Police” from 2015. I found a Banksy pastiche by Junichi Masuda on his “Pokémon” test pressing and a limited edition copy of this cover a year or so ago. But nothing with a new Banksy design since 2013 whn a download by TerranceK used Banksy’s “Death of a Phone Booth” on this EP.
Anyway, a CD entitled “Skateboards” with Banksy’s “Insane Clown” cover image turned up a month or so ago. I had not heard of this CD before, despite it having been released in 2000, It was a promotional EP for Clown Skateboards, some of which used the Banksy image.
The CD contains two tracks each by Dynamic Duo (DJs Niall Dailly and Bryan Jones a.k.a. DJ Extra) and Nasty-P. I discovered that Dynamic Duo also released one of the tracks “Style by the Dozen” on a 12″, with the “Insane Clown” image on the label.
You already know that I am inordinately proud of my collection of records and CDs with cover art by the artist known as Banksy. Many of the vinyl releases with Banksy‘s cover art, particularly the “unofficial” ones, were released as limited editions. Dirty Funker (just one of DJ Paul Glancy‘s aliases) released two remixes as 12-inch singles with cover art by Banksy: “Let’s Get Dirty“, from 2006, appropriated Banksy‘s famous Kate Moss portrait, and “Future“, released in 2008, featured Banksy‘s “Radar Rat” design (in five different limited edition covers, probably each of 1000 copies).
a. Front of first pressing of Dirty Funker’s “Let’s Get Dirty” 12-inch single.
b. Back of first pressing of Dirty Funker’s “Let’s Get Dirty” 12-inch single.
There were two editions of the “Let’s Get Dirty” 12-incher, both limited–the first edition, which showed only Banksy‘s Kate Moss portrait with no artist, title or tracklisting, or even a barcode. The front image showed Kate‘s head against a red background, while on the rear cover she had a pale green background. This edition must have been significantly more limited than the second edition which showed Kate‘s portrait with a Dymo strip over her eyes on the front cover giving the artist and record’s title. On the rear the strip was placed over Kate‘s mouth giving the tracklisting.
a. Front of second pressing of Dirty Funker’s “Let’s Get Dirty” 12-inch single.
b. back of second pressing of Dirty Funker’s “Let’s Get Dirty” 12-inch single.
This week a printer’s proof of the first edition “Let’s Get Dirty” cover was advertised on Ebay. The seller had bought it in 2007 and now was sadly selling it. He thought there might have been about ten copies printed in 2006 (the print is dated 18th January 2006) and makes an interesting addition to both my Banksy and my collection of record and CD covers featuring Kate Moss.
I have an almost complete collection of records and CDs with cover art by the enigmatic Banksy. I started collecting Banksy cover in 2008, when prices were usually very reasonable–with many records costing as little as £6.99. A few rarer items cost up to £100. The only exceptions were the two covers ostensibly sprayed by Banksy himself. These are the 1999 12″ promotional single “Four (4 x 3)” by the Capoiera Twins and the promotional double LP “Melody A.M.” by Röyksopp. In July 2010 I was contacted by a DJ who was getting married and offered me his copy of the Röyksopp album, which I, naturally, snapped up. By 2016 I had almost all the records and CDs with Banksy cover art with the exception of the original Paris Hilton CD (the one with the sticker on the outside of the front of the jewel case), and the Capoeira Twins 12″.
When, in April 2016, I was invited to show my collection in the major Banksy retrospective “War, Capitalism & Liberty” at Rome’s Palazzo Cipolla, these missing covers irked me. I had made a limited edition copy of the Capoiera Twins cover–almost indistinguishable from the real thing–and that would fill one of the gaps. Suddenly two copies of the first pressing of the Paris Hilton CD appeared on Ebay and I was lucky enough to get one in time for it to travel to Rome with the rest of my collection.
I have been looking for a copy of the Capoiera Twins’ 12″ ever since I first heard about it in 2008 without success. I missed a couple of copies early on, but then no further copies seemed to turn up other than in art galleries at inflated prices, until August 2017.
The stencil used for the cover art was also used on a wall in Bristol–I presume after it had been used for the record covers–at Portland Square (post code BS2 8SA).
According to a seller of a copy of the record, Banksy gave 25 copies of the white label promotional record to friends and supporters, while the remaining 75 copies were sent to DJs and reviewers with no indication of the band name or the record title on the cover or record but with an A4 letter that Blowpop asked to be returned a couple of weeks prior to the release date. The record was a trip hop single that failed to garner much attention when it came out. I suppose the DJs who received copies played them a couple of times and filed them away or–as was common in the nineties and early 00s–sold them to secondhand record shops (one owner owned up to selling his copy in the early 2000s £1,99), or simply chucked them away. And–had it not been for the Banksy cover–would probably never have been heard of again.
A couple came up for sale on Ebay in around 2008 and, if I remember correctly, sold for £400-600. In the last couple of years the prices of vinyl records with Banksy art covers has increased dramatically and suddenly four or five copies of the Capoeira Twins “4 x 3” have been auctioned off for amazing prices of £5000-6000! Another sold in October for a bargain £4223.23. A further two copies appeared in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, in November and I snatched one of them, the other selling for £6,500.
There is another hand sprayed Banksy cover that has also increased dramatically in price recently. I refer to Röyksopp’s “Melody A.M.” promotional double LP.
Just as I was about to buy my copy of the Capoiera Twins record, a new record with Bnaksy art appeared. This was another white label 12″ single “Funk tha Police” by a band called Boys in Blue that had Banksy’s “Rude Copper” as its cover art. This is said to be a limited edition of 100 copies, so I duly invested.
Thus, as of November 2017, my collection of records and CDs with Banksy art is complete. I’ll have to keep watch for newer covers, of course, but it feels like my job is done here.
Readers of this blog may already have suspected that I have a serious case of OCD or just plain collectors’ mania. I aim to keep my collections of record cover art by artists/themes I collect as complete as possible. Therefore, I have compiled lists of each of these which I try to remember to update when I find or acquire new items.
So, a couple of weeks ago, picture discs with Banksy cover art began to appear on Ebay posted by a seller from Israel. The looked really cool and I could imagine hanging a selection on my wall.
The prices were high–but genuine records with Banksy covers are fetching quite amazing prices nowadays, so I didn’t reflect too much. I made an offer on one disc which was promptly accepted and I was happy. The seller informed me that he had “a couple of other Banksy picture discs” and was prepared to offer me an even “better” price if I bought those, too. He even offered free shipping, so I agreed.
Less than a week later, the package arrived.
These turned out to be single-sided singles. The “Keep It Real” is a version by Jamal, called “Keep It Real“. As shown, it came in a die-cut, black card sleeve. The other two are shaped picture discs. The Blak Twang record is the “Kik Off” single and the One Cut has the track “Mr. X“.
Examination revealed that the records are 2 mm thick pieces of perspex with a sort of thick flexidisc with the image and sound track affixed. The image is slightly blurred as if it has been copied from a picture sourced on the Internet.The sound quality is poor, probably lifted from an MP3 file.
The seller informed me that he had “bought” the discs and the person who had sold them to him said they were made in Japan and only twenty or so copies existed. He had about twenty-five different discs with Banksy cover art for sale and was prepared to let me have them for the “bargain” price of $139 each.
Further research on Ebay gave more surprises. The same seller is selling picture discs by other artists, such as Björk, Aphex Twin, Led Zeppelin and others at the same sort of inflated prices.
These records are not proper pressings. They are produced to appeal to collectors and sold at wildly inflated prices. They cannot really be called bootlegs as they are not really records at all. And the quality of the artwork, not to mention the sound, is really poor.
I decided not to “invest” in the 25-or-so Banksy picture discs the seller had on offer. I prefer “proper” records, not pieces of perspex with a flexidisc attached. And I would like to issue a warning to other collectors not to support this type of exploitation solely aimed at fleecing collectors.
As I write this, a major exhibition of The Artist Known as Banksy is being planned to open at the Palazzo Cipolla in Rome on 23rd May 2016. The exhibition is called “War, Capitalism and Liberty” is not sanctioned by or involves the artist, will show works from private collections and hopefully many record and CD covers.
Well, hearing about the exhibition prompted me to return to my collection of records and CDs designed by The Artist Known as Banksy or that use his images. I have, for the first time, made a proper catalogue of ALL my records and CDs. I don’t really know why I haven’t done it before!
The urge to catalogue my collection was further stimulated by my most recent purchase of a rare–and, dare I say–classic piece of Banksy‘s art: The infamous spoof on Paris Hilton‘s debut CD “Paris” from 2006. You probably already know the story… Heiress Paris Hilton, apparently not satisfied with being a television and American Society celebrity, decided that she should be a music star too and gathered well-known songwriters and music producers to help her make a CD. Banksy and his compadre DJ Danger Mouse got wind of the project and decided to play a trick on a series of HMV record stores throughout the United Kingdom by placing 500 copies of a CD-rom with music by DJ Danger Mouse in a jewel case with cover art taken from Paris Hilton‘s original CD but with her portrait on the front rendered “topless” and Banksy quotes placed over the pictures on the inside of the booklet. Banksy and his assistants managed to get these spoof CDs onto HMV’s shelves beside the real CDs so that customers buying the album would, by mistake, take the “wrong” version and find DJ Danger Mouse‘s music rather than Paris Hilton‘s. I suspect that many who made this mistake returned to HMV to exchange their “defect” CD for the real thing or to get a refund. No one knows exactly how many of the 500 CDs placed in the HMV stores still exist. Genuine ones have sold at auction for over £3500!
A second edition of 1000 CDs with similar artwork, but with the sticker that was on the outside of the Jewel case on the first 500 copies now smaller and printed at top right on the front of the booklet. For this edition the CD was a proper mastered CD with printed design rather than the CD-rom with “Paris” written on the front that had been included in the HMV version. I got hold of one of these “second pressing” “Paris” CDs soon after it was released in about 2008.
So, once the Banksy/Danger Mouse HMV version of the “Paris” CD arrived I invested in a copy of the original Paris Hilton CD as a comparison.
Now with my set of “Paris” CDs complete, I set about compiling a list of all my records and CDs with Banksy artwork.
The earliest Banksy artwork I have is not on a record or CD at all. It is on the cover of Nick Cave‘s 1989 book “And the Ass Saw the Angel“, originally published by Black Spring Press in 1989 and reprinted by Penguin Books the following year. I have the Penguin edition.
The first record cover to have Banky‘s art was released almost ten years later, in 1998, and was for Banksy‘s friend Jamie Eastman‘s Hombre record label. It was by the hip Hop group One Cut and was an EP entitled “Cut Commander“. One Cut, sometimes written as OneCut were a trio formed in Bristol in 1989. Band members were Riski Le Bizniz, MC Reds and Master Chef and their music is described as being made up of “crusty beats and deep sub bass”. Jamie Eastman continued to release One Cut‘s EPs, singles and sole LP “Grand Theft Audio” as well as a compilation CD “Hombremix” remixed by Riski Le Bizniz despite having left Bristol for London around 1990; in total six releases plus two promotional 12″ singles.
Banksy‘s official designs appear on only four record labels. Hombre Records owned by his friend and former flatmate, Jamie Eastman, Blowpop Records from Bristol, owned by John Stapleton. The third label that Banksy has designed for is Wall of Sound Records and the final one was Parlophone Records which commissioned him to design the cover for Blur‘s 2003 album “Think Tank” and three singles and CDs/DVDs from that release. Interestingly, Blowpop Record’s office was in the same Bristol building as Banksy‘s studio and in 1999 Stapleton just popped in to ask Banksy if he would like to design the cover for a promotional version of The Capoeira Twins first single “4 x 3/Truth Will Out“. Banksy took a stencil he had used on a Bristol wall to advertise Blowpop Records and handsprayed 100 covers.
The Capoeira Twins were unknown and this was their first single. The promotional copies were sent out to DJs, record stations and music journalists, but the record was not a commercial success and the majority of the promotional copies just got lost. A few have surfaced and are becoming increasingly sought after. This was the sole cover Banksy did for Blowpop.
The two most interesting Banksy designs for Wall of Sounds Records are the promotional copies of Norwegian group Röyksopp‘s first LP “Melody A.M.“, released in 2002. The double LP was housed in a sleeve once again handsprayed by Banksy.
The second Wall of Sound album with special interest is the label’s compilation triple LP “Off the Wall – 10 years of Wall of Sound“. The cover, designed by Banksy, shows some of the artists who recorded for the label and, at far right on the cover, with his back to the camera is a man purported to be Banksy himself!
The list of officially accredited covers thus includes those covers for these four record labels. (Note: The Bad Magic label, which released all the Blak Twang records and CDs is part of the Wall of Sound group).
In 2009 Banksy terminated his association with manager Steve Lazarides and nominated Pest Control to be his official spokespeople. Pest Control has been unwilling to assign accreditation to Banksy‘s record cover art, so I have had to guess which covers are “official” and which are not. There are some that I am not sure about. First the “official” cover list:
Then there are several covers that I cannot be certain are “official”:
And, the list of those covers whose artwork has definitely not been authorized:
So, as of April 2016, I know of a total of seventy records, CDs, DVDs with Banksy‘s cover art. While I have included Nick Cave‘s book “The Ass Saw the Angel“, however, I have not included Banksy‘s film “Exit Through the Gift Shop“. Perhaps this should make item number seventy one.
Interest in everything by Banksy has increased since 2010 and record covers are – as Andy Warhol foresaw – a way for the ordinary person to collect fine art. I hope records and CDs with Banksy designs will continue to be affordable. However, many covers, particularly those LP and 12″ covers, have become very scarce, while CDs remain affordable. One Cut‘s recordings were not released in very large numbers, the two handsprayed covers are already considered fine art prints as are Dirty Funker‘s “Let’s Get Dirty” covers with their Banksy portraits of Kate Moss. In particular, the first pressing without the title strips is extremely rare.
First pressing of Dirty Funker’s “Let’s Get Dirty” Single with Banksy’s portrait of Kate Moss.
The second pressing had the title banner across Kate’s eyes.
Banksy‘s and DJ Danger Mouse‘s “Paris” CD is also difficult to find, even the second pressing has increased in value. Complete sets of Dirty Funker‘s “Future” single with “Radar Rat” on the covers and DJ Danger Mouse‘s “Keep It Real/Laugh Now” are commanding high prices on auction sites.
An even rarer variation of the “Keep It Real/Laugh Now” single is a test pressing whose cover has a white background.
In February 2004, the magazine The Big Issue included a compilation CD entitled “Peace Not War” with Banksy‘s cover art. The CDs were taped to the magazine with sellotape and most, if not all covers were damaged when the tape was removed. This CD has become extremely rare.
I am considering returning to the subject of Banksy’s record cover art with a picture discography of all his covers. That will take some considerable time, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.