Category Archives: Recycling

VINYLIZE! — Art on Record Covers — Art on Art.

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.

The rather uninspiring, unembellished cover for “Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be”

As I was in poster-painting mode, I decide to “improve” the design:

Liver than LP
My “improved” version of the cover.

The second cover, the one I designed myself, was for a student review called Tower Power at Guy’s Hospital in 1969:

Tower Power LP
The cover for the “Tower Power” LP.

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.

The Triphopshop on Rörstrandsgatan, Stockholm.


Romain Beltrame holding his reworked Diamond Dogs cover.

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.

My Visits to the Recycling Depot and Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man”.

I was brought up on musicals–pre Andrew Lloyd-Webber musicals–like South Pacific, Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun and West Side Story. My father’s favourite was Show Boat. I think my favourite has turned out to be Meredith Willson‘s “The Music Man“, a story of a trickster and fraud who sells boys’ bands and is himself tricked by falling in love with a town’s librarian. The show had its American premiere in 1957 and several of the songs became hits, not least “‘Til There Was You“, which was covered by many artists, including Peggy Lee. The Beatles heard Peggy Lee‘s version and it became a standard in their Hamburg days and was one of the songs they sang in their audition for Decca records in 1962. The song even appeared on the “With the Beatles” album. Paul McCartney has been quoted as saying that he didn’t know the song came from “The Music Man” until much later.

The Music Man
The cover of the 1962 original soundtrack recording of “The Music Man”.

Several times a week I trudge off to the recycling depot with detritus resulting from the shopping done in the previous days. I cannot get my head round the amazing amount of plastic, paper, metal and glass that two people can generate in such a short time. And just thinking about the environmental consequences of
a. producing all that material, and
b. recycling it all
makes my mind boggle!

I almost long for the “good old days” when one could go into the grocery store and pick biscuits out of a tin (the broken ones were cheaper), have your ham sliced in front of you knowing that it was home cooked and not delivered to the shop in a plastic pack. Meredith Willson‘s and Franklin Lacey‘s characterised this type of highstreet shop in the “Rock Island” introduction/overture to “The Music Man” as “a little 2 by 4 kinda store“.

So, what’s “The Music Man” got to do with recycling? Well, the opening scene/overture is set on a train with a crowd of travelling salesmen on their way to River City, Iowa. They get into a discussion on the conditions for notions salesmen (itinerant salesmen who went from town to town knocking on doors to sell their wares). The discussion is orchestrated to sound like the noise of a train. One of the salesmen suggests that the decline in sales is due to the arrival of the Model-T Ford, which allowed people to travel to town to buy their goods. Another suggests that it wasn’t the Model-T at all, but the establishment of department stores (“modern, departmentalised grocery stores”, in the words of the song). However, a third salesman chimes in with the REAL reason why  travelling salesmen have hit on harder times. He blames packaging of goods:

“Why, it’s the U-needa biscuit
Made the trouble
U-needa, U-needa,
Put the crackers in a package, in a package,
The U-needa biscuit
In an air-tight sanitary package
Made the cracker barrel obsolete, obsolete.”

Yet another salesman confirms that the cracker barrel indeed disappeared like a list of other things:
“Cracker barrel went out the window
with the Mail Pouch cut plug chawin’ by the stove
Changed the approach of a travelin’ salesman
Made it pretty hard.”
And the first salesman bemoans the loss of other things:
“Gone with the hogshead, cask and demijohn. Gone with the sugar barrel, pickle barrel, milk pan,
gone with the tub and the pail and the till.”

And there you have it–the link between “The Music Man” and recycling! If the Nabisco Company hadn’t put its Uneeda biscuit in “an airtight sanitary package”, packaging of groceries might never have become the problem it is now and I wouldn’t have to visit the recycling centre several times a week!