Sir Peter Blake is still at it! At the age of 87 he is still very productive, making a variety of works including paintings, prints, and, what interests me most, record cover designs. So far he has produced a total of 27 record covers in the past fifty-two years!
The latest record cover he designed was Eric Clapton‘s 2016 “I Still Do“, on which Eric used Peter Blake‘s portrait of him. This portrait harks back to Clapton‘s 1981 live album “24 Nights“. Peter Blake didn’t know Eric prior to being asked to paint his portrait, which was planned to be the cover picture for the “24 Nights” album. Blake watched Clapton and his band at rehearsals and concerts in Dublin, Brixton and the Royal Albert Hall and got to know Clapton well and they became firm friends. Blake sketched while watching Clapton and his band perform and produced a series of drawings, but no portrait of Clapton. It would take a further thirty-four years before Blake finally painted Clapton‘s portrait.
Just this month (September 2019), The Who announced that they will be releasing new album on 22nd November 2019 called, quite simply, “WHO” and that Pete Townsend‘s pal Peter Blake had designed the cover.
The cover design uses elements from a recent series of Peter Blake prints entitled “The Sources of Pop Art” and is reminiscent of the cover for Paul Weller‘s “Stanley Road” album cover from 2005.
100 Sources of Pop Art. Print by Peter Blake.
Sources of Pop Art V. Print by Peter Blake.
The Who‘s “Who” album will be the 28th record cover that Peter Blake has designed. The Album will be released on 22nd November 2019 and special limited editions are available on The Who’s official site.
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.
Have you sold your prized collection? Books? Records? China elephants? Anything?
Six years ago I sold my record collection. I used to say it was a life’s work, a library of great music, mainly mainstream rock but with loads of indie, classical, some jazz and some weird stuff that just seemed to appeal. Packed into sixty boxes standing in the middle of the room I wondered if I had been sick to have accumulated all this “stuff”. My wife and I moved from our house where I had a music room to house my music collection of 5000 plus records and CDs (probably more than 4000 vinyl records.) When we moved the records and memorabilia (posters, displays, and other music-related things) went into storage for a time. I would have a fifteen minute walk from home to the storage rooms in a converted garage under a block of flats. I would make the trek perhaps once a month to root around in the boxes. Almost every record I pulled out held an association. But who could I tell the stories to when I was alone in that sterile environment, unable to play the record or sit and contemplate the cover art. In addition the storage was expensive and the cost was not offset by any pleasure so I decided to sell the majority of the records.
I had lots of valuable records–a fully autographed copy of “Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You” on the red Parlophone label that I always said would be my old age pension, and both stereo AND mono copies of The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” LP with the original black and gold Parlophone labels. I also had hundreds of autographed albums by artists such as Björk, Oasis, The Ramones, The White Stripes, and quite a few rare promotional records. I offered friends a chance to buy some of these before I sold the remainder of the collection.
Then one May day in 2013 I sold the lot: records, posters and memorabilia. All collected and driven away from the storage units I had been renting. All I had to do was sweep them out and terminate my contract. I was strangely unmoved after everything had gone.
However, to be honest, it wasn’t true that EVERYTHING had gone–I kept my collections of record cover art by Andy Warhol, Peter Blake, Banksy, Klaus Voormann and Damien Hirst. So there was still a collection or sorts, though dramatically downsized.
A month or so ago I read of a book that I felt I had to read. Dave Haslam, journalist, author, and ex DJ, at Manchester’s Hacienda Club and other places has written “A Life in Thirty-Five Boxes”, subtitled “How I Survived Selling My Record Collection”.* Well, having sold my own record collection, I obviously had to read it.
The book opens with a general discussion about collecting and the (subtle) difference between collecting and hoarding. Haslam suggests that orderly storage and possibly cataloguing mark the collector, while hoarders just, well, hoard. He also suggests that there is another category of collector–a person who can’t, or doesn’t, throw things away. So someone who has shelves of books might be called a collector despite there never having been a conscious idea to collect. Haslam illustrates the idea of a record collector by describing a number of collectors. One collects José Feliciano records, others are DJs, three women DJs/collectors are mentioned an a major section of the book is devoted to a French colelctor of jazz records. Collectors can be categorised into “completists”, those searching for a particular record, music style, record label or any other aspect of recorded music. He insists that it is a love of music that underlies the collecting.
Haslam had accumulated 4,500 records in his 40-year career as a DJ. He decided to sell them in September 2015. Why did he eventually decide to sell? He asks the question towards the end of the book–answering it by saying that he’d stopped using vinyl records when DJ-ing, preferring self-recorded CDs as he’d had “incidents” affecting some records while he was DJ-ing. However, I don’t really buy this explanation. He mentions that his marriage “had hit a difficult phase and I felt isolated”. He does say, though, that he was unsure of the real reason for selling his records. He states “you can drift apart from someone and never quite work out why”. But he doesn’t say this was the reason for selling, though he used the money earned from the sale for an “extended stay in Paris”. The inference is that he went alone–divorced?
Haslam denies any post-sale depression, he rather felt unburdened. He had come to regard the records as “baggage from the past”. He says the “letting go was also exhilarating. I realised I wasn’t just surviving selling my records collection; I was surviving by selling my record collection”! He kept his books and memorabilia, so he wasn’t totally “unburdened”.
So, does “A Life in Thirty-Five Boxes” explain anything about me? It tells me that collecting is a common human endeavour and that there are many ways to collect records. I sold my collection as I didn’t have anywhere to store it and for purely financial reasons. I needed the money to help buy a flat. I didn’t feel depressed or lonely, nor was I exhilarated by ridding myself of a lifetime’s collection. Like Dave Haslam I kept a small part of the collection, which gives me joy to this day.
*Dave Haslam,. A Life in Thirty-Five Boxes: How I Survived Selling My Record Collection. Manchester, U.k., Confingo Publishing. 2019. pp53.
Street art has become mainstream. Street artists are increasingly in demand as commercial artists and recording artists are turning to these readily identifiable painters for cover art for their recordings. In America, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and designed record covers in the eighties, and Shepard Fairey, Robert del Naja (aka 3D) and Banksy (the latter two in the UK) produced covers mainly from the nineties onwards.
Covers by Basquiat and Fairey‘s art covers are very collectible and many are currently very expensive as they were produced in limited editions. Vinyl covers with Banksy designs are also rare and command high prices. I was lucky enough to start collecting Banksy’s record cover art relatively early and have managed to collect what I consider to be a complete collection of his record cover art. Thierry Guetta–better known as Mr. Brainwash–is a more recent street artist to design record sleeves. So far I have only been able to identify three such covers; all for Madonna. He designed the cover for her 2009 compilation “Celebration” which was released on vinyl as a 4 LP set in a gatefold cover.
Record Label Side 1.
Record Label Side 2.
Record Label Side 3.
Record Label Side 4.
Record Label Side 5.
Record Label Side 6.
Record Label Side 7.
Record Label Side 8.
There is also a 12″ EP of “Celebration” remixes.
Then there are a variety of CD releases. The standard double CD uses the same Mr. Brainwash image as the LP set, but there is a slightly different (more anemic) variation also.
And the 12″ picture disc and CD singles hare the same artwork:
A couple of other records turned up when I searched http://www.discogs.com for other cover art by Mr. Brainwash and I fell for one that I thought probably was by him–Travis Barker‘s “Give the Drummer Some“:
Travis Barker’s “Give the Drummer Some” LP cover front.
Travis Barker’s “Give the Drummer Some” LP cover rear.
Unfortunately, this cover is NOT by Mr. Brainwash but is by Pushead (aka Brian Schroeder, who, according to Wikipedia, is a graphic designer and record label owner.) More of his designs may be seen here. Skulls seem to be his speciality!
A while ago I went to Wetterling Gallery,one of Stockholm’s premier galleries, to view an exhibition and saw two paintings by twin artists Mike & Doug Starn. These paintings were abstract works painted on record covers which were hung with magnets onto a metal backing plate allowing each record cover to be removed and the record contained within played! Each individual record cover still had its original album inside.
On 11th June the Wetterling Gallery held an opening reception for a repeat show of Mike & Doug Starn’s art with the artists in attendance.
There were six large works and two smaller ones in the show–all painted on record covers.
Untitled: Right in the Bed Next to Mine (on 12 record covers)
Monitor: Feed Your Head (on 70 record covers).
Black & White: And it Feels Like This! (on 12 record covers).
Little Richard (on 30 record covers)
I’m Only Five Foot One (on 70 record covers–the eleventh row at the bottom had to be left off as otherwise the painting would not have fitted on the wall!)
TOP: Ravenna: NInety Miles and Hour, Girl (1 gatefold record cover). Bottom: Untitled: Come on, Come on, Come on, Come on and Take It (1 gatefold record cover).
Untitled: Burt the Rainbow Has a Beard (on 35 record covers).
According to my count there were a total of 201 record covers used for these eight artworks. I wondered if Mike and Doug raided all the secondhand record stores to source the covers. There seemed not to be any logic in the arrangement of the covers, not in the motifs painted on them, with the exception of the “Little Richard” painting. And as the exhibition was called “Iggy and Franz”, I assumed the painting with the androgyn figure, called “I’m Only Five Foot One”, pictured Iggy Pop.
These paintings were not cheap! Prices ranged from $10,000 + VAT for the two single cover works to $195,000 + VAT for the largest ones. Somewhat out of my price range.
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.
I saw the Gilbert and George exhibition at the Tate Modern about 10 years ago. It was so huge that I and my friends hadn’t the stamina to see it all at one go, so we chickened out halfway. In February 2019 Moderna Museet in Stockholm opened another Gilbert and George retrospective entitled “The Great Exhibition“, which ran from 9th February to 12th May 2019. Gilbert and George visited Stockholm in the week preceding the exhibition’s opening to design the show and I had the opportunity to meet the artists to get my copy of their LP “The Thoughts of Gilbert & George” autographed in person.
This album was released by the Museum of Modern Art in New York on 3rd August 2016 in a signed and numbered limited edition of 2000 copies. It was signed on the inner spread of the gatefold cover. My copy, No. 1145 arrived in 2017.
In addition the artists gave me a copy of the exhibition catalogue, which they kindly dedicated.
The cover of the exhibition catalogue.
The dedication on the fly leaf.
I spent a charming ten minutes chatting with Gilbert and George before hurrying away with my goodies. I visited the exhibition itself the following week and was impressed by the limited size of the show and the brilliant arrangement and hanging of the works. Often in art exhibitions ‘less is more’. Definitely true of this show.