I know nothing about the artist known as Banksy’s art training. He was involved in the street art scene in Bristol from the late nineteen eighties and has admitted that 3D and the Wild Bunch were early influences. Perhaps he had also seen Blec le Rat’s art and borrowed his signature rat images. Monkeys were another early Banksy motifs.
Although he had been active since the mid nineteen nineties, Banksy first came to fame in 2006 when he and associates succeeded in placing 500 spoof CDs satirizing Paris Hilton’s newly released Paris album on the shelves of 48 HMV stores across the United Kingdom. Banksy had reimagined the CD booklet, rendering Paris Hilton topless on the front, and DJ Danger Mouse had created a special album to replace Paris Hilton’s songs. This made frontpage news in several newspapers and started a hunt to try to unmask the artist, led primarily by the Daily Mail.
But Banksy’s career had started at least ten years earlier in his native Bristol, where he followed other street artists in decorating walls in the city. He started painting murals but soon found that stencilling was faster and meant he could better avoid discovery and possible arrest. The story goes that he was in the process of painting a mural when he was spotted and to avoid capture hid under a lorry. On the lorry’s underside was a stencilled message and Banksy realized that stencilling would allow him to work faster.
There is debate about when Banksy first designed a cover for a record. In 1993 and 1994 someone called Robin Gunningham – suggested by the Daily Mail to be Banksy’s real name – designed the covers for two cassettes by the Bristol band Mother Samosa. The first, Oh My God It’s Cheeky Clown (1993) was also released on CDr. The second, The Fairground of Fear (1994) doesn’t seem to have been released in any other format. Printer’s proofs of these cover designs have circulated and been suggested to be the earliest cover art by the artist known as Banksy. However, I have never seen the cassettes.
There is no doubt that the covers for One Cut’s records on the Hombré label, and the covers produced by Wall of Sound Records and its offshoots; Ultimate Dilemma and We Love You use Banksy’s images authorised by him, later releases on other labels or on bootlegs are almost certainly unauthorised. Sometimes, as in the case of Benjamin Zephaniah’s Naked CD or Liberation by Talib Kweli and Madlib, it is not certain that the cover images were authorised by Banksy. I won’t separate authorised from unauthorised covers in this list.
I have a nasty feeling that more recent bootleg releases, such as the two Boys in Blue 12” singles and TV-Age’s 12”, seem to have been produced in limited editions, often beautifully made, exclusively to lure collectors to part with large sums. An Israeli group is even producing picture disc singles with Banksy images that are being sold at exorbitant prices. I would not advise serious collectors of Banksy’s record cover art to fall for these.
In the mid-to-late nineties Banksy was an amateur footballer, apparently goalkeeper for the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls and toured with the team to Chiapas, Mexico in 2001 where he painted a mural and provided images for a very limited cassette by a Mexican band called Revolucion X, titled Canciones electorales, that was probably pressed in the U.S.. There seem to be three colour variations of the cassette, yellow, red and white.
Then there is the story told by Steve Gibbs, a.k.a. Steve Vibronics that an artist called Robin designed the logo for his Vibronics dub band in the latter half of the 1990s, while in Leicester and there is some evidence that Banksy visited at that time. Steve is certain that this Robin was Banksy, but we have no definite confirmation. The Vibronics logo appears on three record covers: The Outernational Dub Convention, Vol 1: Jah Free Greets The Vibronics (1998), Dub Italizer (2000) a sixteen-track double LP that shows part of the logo, and The Return of Vibronics (2015).
The first official cover designed by Banks was for Jamie Eastman’s record label Hombré Records. He designed the cover for hip-hop group One Cut’s Cut Commander 12” EP in 1998 and their remix CD album Hombrémix.
He went on to design five more covers for the band in 2000 including their double album Grand Theft Audio, and a 12”, four-track sampler EP, called simply Grand Theft Audio Sampler. There are two versions of the promo 12”, one with a plain white label and the other with Banksy’s Abseiling Thief image together with track titles on each label.
It is said that Banksy had a studio in Bristol in the same building as John Stapleton, who started BlowPop records, and Stapleton asked Banksy to design a cover for the promotional single by his new band the Capoeira Twins. Banksy produced a Matador and Car stencil and spray painted 100 covers for the 4 x 3 / Truth Will Out 12” promotional single.
There is a rumour that there was also a promotional CD-r for the album entitled Armour Plated, X-rated. This was produced in very limited quantities.
The other covers were for the 12” EPs Mr X / Rhythm Geometry and Underground Terror Tactics. I have a promo version of the Mr X / Rhythm Geometry 12” in a generic black cover but with Banksy’s logo on the record label.
In 1999, Wall of Sound records licensed a compilation CD to Sleazenation magazine. Steve Lazarides photographed Banksy’s image for the cover of The Next XI, a compilation CD that was attached to the September 1999 issue.
Banksy collaborated with Insect to design a poster for Monk & Canatella’s Do Community Service CD in 2000 and this was reproduced on the cover of the duo’s CD.
In 2000 Banksy was approached by the newly formed Clown Skateboards to design a logo that would be applied to a limited edition series of skateboards. Banksy came up with his Insane Clown image and Clown Skateboards produced a promotional CDEP called Skateboards, with the Insane Clown image on the cover. And the logo appeared on the label of a split 12” EP Styles by the Dozen by The Dynamic Duo (who are Niall Daily and Bryan Jones) and Nasty P (Paul Rutherford) the same year.
In 2000, Wall of Sound Records launched a subsidiary label called We Love You and released a compilation album called We Love You … So Love Us, with Banksy’s famous Rage – Flower Thrower image on the cover. There are two further We Love You compilations. We Love You … So Love Us Too was released the following year on CD and there is also a four-track 12” that comes in a red generic cover with the same image as on the CD on the record label. The third compilation, imaginatively titled We Love You … So Love Us Three, only available on CD, appeared in 2004. There are copies in jewel cases and promotional copies in card sleeves.
Ultimate Dilemma, another record label associated with Wall of Sound Records released a series of compilation albums and a 12” single between 2001 and 2003 with design by Tijuana Design and incorporating various Banksy images. All were released on vinyl and Digipak CD. Roots Manuva (Rodney Hylton Smith) released a single-sided 12” version of Yellow Submarine (2001). He also remixed tracks for the compilation Badmeaningood, Volume 2 (2002). Skitz (DJ John Cole) remixed the compilation Badmeaningood. Volume 1 (2002). Peanut Butter Wolf (Chris Manak) remixed Badmeaningood, Volume 3, and Scratch Perverts (Prime Cuts and Tony Vegas) remixed Badmeaningood, Volume 4 (both 2003).
In 2001 the Norwegian duo Röyksopp (Torbjörn Brundtland & Svein Berge) released their first album Melody A.M. on the Wall of Sound label. A promotional double album was released to promote the album in a cover that was hand-sprayed by Banksy. One hundred hand-numbered copies were produced at Wall of Sound’s London office. The first fifty used a dark green paint while the final fifty were sprayed with a paler, olive green, paint.
Magic Records was another label associated with Wall of Sound records and Hip-hop artist Blak Twang (Tony Alabode) recorded his Kik Off album for the label in 2002. Three 12” singles were released from the album: Kik Off, Trixstar and So Rotten (Tony Rotten being another of Alabode’s aliases) There was also a remix version of Trixstar featuring Estelle (Estelle Swaray, who wrote the song). All four releases credit design to Mitch Design with art direction by Banksy. Steve Lazarides is credited with the photography.
Sometime in 2002 Seven Magazine produced an issue with a compilation CD in a card cover attached called The Soundtrack to the Sizzler Parties that used Banksy’s Dynamite Ice Cream image on the cover. There were even small flyers with the same image but with different coloured backgrounds. I haven’t seen the magazine.
Banksy first showed his painting I Fought the Law at his Peace is Tough show in the Glasgow Arches in 2001 and two editions of screenprints, an unsigned edition of 500 and a signed edition of 100, were released in 2004. There were several colour variations. The original photo from which Banksy made this design came from the video of John Hinckley’s 1981 failed assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Amazingly, the American hardcore band The Promise were quick off the mark and the designer J. Bannon modified the I Fought the Law image for the cover of the band’s Believer album released in November 2002. The album came in two limited editions, 100 copies on clear vinyl and 900 copies on red vinyl, and included a double-sided poster. The album was also released on CD; the U.S. version had a black and silver cover image with the album title in red, while the European CD has a black and grey cover image, with the album title in green. The European version also includes two extra tracks.
But 2003 was when Banksy’s art first came to the attention of a broader record-buying public with the release of Blur’s seventh album Think Tank on 5th May. The album release was preceded by a promotional CD in a hand stamped card cover that featured Banksy’s Petrolhead image. As the cover was hand stamped the positioning of the Petrolhead varied from cover to cover, sometimes being stamped upside down and, on a few covers, was missing completely. There is also a very rare variation with Petrolhead being replaced by an infant’s handprint. I have seen two copies of this with the handprint in slightly different placings.
The release of this Blur album in May 2003 was awaited with almost Beatles-like expectation and four months later, on 21 September, the Observer newspaper produced a five-track CD in a card cover with extracts from the album to accompany their Sunday Magazine again with Banksy’s art on front and rear covers. The image of a child wearing a diver’s helmet also appeared on a page in a Royal Mail stamp booklet issued January 7th, 2010 celebrating ten classic record covers, though the actual cover of the Observer CD wasn’t shown, and the only Blur cover was the Parklife cover, not Think Tank. The Think Tank album was reissued in 2012 on heavyweight (180 g) vinyl.
Three singles with cover art by Banksy were released from the Think Tank album: Out of Time, Good Song, and Crazy Beat, were released as limited edition vinyl singles, with Good Song and Crazy Beat on red vinyl. All were designed by Tijuana Design. Out of Time had Banksy’s Out of Time image; Good Song used his Kids on Guns and Crazy Beat had Insane Clown on Balcony. There was also a collector’s edition in a red book cover with a gold Father Holding Daughter with both wearing divers’ helmets stamped between “Think” and “Tank” on the front.
Wall of Sound Records released a compilation album called Off the Wall: 10 Years of Wall of Sound, celebrating its tenth anniversary on 13th September 2003. This was released as a triple LP set and a double CD in a gatefold card cover. The covers had some of the Wall of Sound artists posing in front of a wall and on the cover the figure spraying over the Tenant Parking Only sign on the wall is Banksy.
The label released a follow up to the We Love You … So Love Us Too with the imaginatively-named We Love You … So Love Us Three in 2004. Again, this was only available on CD with booklet art by Banksy. There is also a vinyl 12”, four-track sampler of the We Love You … So Love Us Too.
The February 2004 issue of the magazine The Big Issue included a compilation CD called Peace Not War to celebrate the Peace Not War festival to be held 12-15 February the cover and the CD showed Banksy’s Bomb Hugger Girl. The CD, in a card cover, was Sellotaped to the magazine’s front cover and copies of the CD usually bear marks after the tape. This is the first of several CDs that have used the Bomb Hugger Girl motif.
An album by the German band The Apoplexy Twist Orchestra released a white label, white vinyl LP in 2004 entitled Create the New. This came in a transparent cover with an obi with Banksy’s Bomb Hugger Girl and an insert had a picture of Banksy’s Nipper with Rocket Launcher.
Between 2004 and 2005 Bow Wow Records released four 12” singles / EPs; three of which used a modified version of Banksy’s Nipper with Rocket Launcher on the covers, subtly changed to Nipper holding a Tops. The fourth 12”, by Buckfunk 3000 had the same image on the record label.
Benjamin Zephaniah, vegan, poet, musician, activist and anarchist recorded a number of albums between 1982 and 2017. His 2005 album Naked was released in a Digibook that contained photos of many of Banksy’s images. It is unclear whether these were published with Banksy’s approval, but considering Zephaniah’s endorsement of Palestinian issues and BDS, similar to Banksy’s, it seems likely.
The same year a Mr Bird released his CD Know Your Rodents with a collage of various Banksy images on its cover and on the disc.
Dirty Funker (Paul Glancy) is a DJ and remix artist who remixed Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and Lithium in 2004 and the following year remixed The Knack’s My Sharona on a limited edition 12” single on his own Spirit Records label, calling it Let’s Get Dirty. He used Banksy’s portrait of Kate Moss on front and rear covers. The very limited first pressing used the portrait without any text. While but on the cover of a larger second edition he Dymo strips across Kate’s eyes on the front and over her mouth on the rear. At least two copies of a printer’s proof of the cover art from the first pressing have appeared.
And so to the famous Banksy / Danger Mouse remake of Paris Hilton’s 2006 Paris CD. Five hundred copies of this artwork were produced and Banksy and associates succeeded in placing them in the racks of a number of HMV stores across the United Kingdom and many unsuspecting customers mistook them for the genuine article and must have been mightily surprised when they got to play the CD. The original Banksy / Danger Mouse version was released as a CD-rom with Paris and a heart handwritten on the CD-r in marker pen (purportedly by Banksy.) It came in a jewel case with a booklet that Banksy had reimagined based on Paris Hilton’s original. This prank made national headlines in the United Kingdom and made Banksy a household name.
Sometime later, a second edition was released in a limited edition of 1000 copies. This time with a properly pressed CD. This edition has been called a fake, but in reality it is a reproduction. It can be distinguished from the first edition by the sticker present at the top left on the outside of the jewel case is printed top right on the booklet’s front cover on the reproduction and the fact that the CD is not a CD-rom.
A bootleg white label 12” single I’m Not Your Friend by Hoxton Whores was released in 2006 with Banksy’s Rude Copper image on the record label.
Talib Kweli joined Corey Smith joint founder of Blacksmith Music, to form a production company. In 2006 Blacksmith released the album Liberation, a collaboration between West Coast producer Otis “Madlib” Jackson, Jr. and East Coast rapper Talib Kweli. Banksy’s painting ”Flag” was used on the cover. A coloured vinyl re-issue has been promised for early 2022.
Me&You (T.M. Juke and Robert Luis) released a 12” single called Floating Heavy (Edits) in 2007. This remix single has Banksy’s One Day We’ll Be in Charge on one label and Grannies image on the other. They also released a double CD called Music for Birthdays with a cover image of Prince Charles wearing a paper crown inscribed Burger King that has been suggested to be by Banksy, though it was done by the Norwegian street artist Dolk.
In 2007 Ashley Beedle remixed Kate Bush’s Running up That Hill and released it on a 12” single that had Banksy’s Kids on Guns image on the record label.
A Canadian band from Saskatoon called One Bad Son (mainly Shane Connery Volk (vocals) and Kurt Dahl (drums)) released its second album Orange City in 2007 and used Banksy’s Bomb Hugger Girl image on the CD.
DJ Danger Mouse released a double LP the same year with cover art credited to Banksy. The front cover shows a CCTV camera pointing at a wall inscribed with Danger Mouse – From Man to Mouse a modification of Banksy’s What Are You Looking At. The rear cover shows Banksy’s Child with Divers Helmet Holding a Canary; the same image as on the Observer Blur promotional CD from 2003.
A relatively recent discovery is the seven-inch EP by the Belgian band SL-27 called simply SL-27. The fold-out cover has Banksy’s Love Is in the Air: Flower Thrower on the inner spread, Banksy’s Laugh Now, But One Day We’ll Be in Charge on the record label on side A and Banksy’s Children on Weapons Heap on side B. And this also appears on the back cover.
Bristol used to host a poetry festival and one year – probably 2008 – a CD entitled Monkeys With Car Keys was privately produced of the fifteen poets reading forty-two poems. I was first alerted to the existence of this CD in 2010 when I saw an image of the cover on a thread on UrbanArtAssociation’s site. I started to search for it contacting the Bristol main library, the Bristol Museum, and several Bristolian antiquarian booksellers without success. In fact, no one I contacted had ever heard of it. Eventually I sent a picture of the cover art to an ex-Bristolian Banksy collector who recognised the cover painting as one done by Banksy in Bristol in around 1999 but that had disappeared. My friend managed to confirm that the CD did exist and, after a few weeks, also found a copy.
This seems to be last release with cover art authorised by Banksy. All covers and record labels with Banksy’s images released from 2008 are all unauthorised.
The first of these is Dirty Funker’s Future, released on Dirty Funker’s own Spirit label. The 12” single was released in a cover that used Banksy’s Radar Rat. There were five limited editions (each said to be of 1000 unnumbered copies) printed on white, grey or brown card and Radar Rat was in three colours. There was also a 12” test pressing with a black and white cover as well as a promotional CD in a paper cover with the black and white Radar Rat.
The next bootleg was an interview LP called The Banksy Years (2008). Again, this was a limited edition of 1000 copies pressed on orange vinyl.
Another bootleg that used Banksy’s Queen Victoria as a dominatrix was a cover of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now by a group calling themselves Queen and Cuntry [sic] (2008).
The next 12” was a split single by Hot Chile and Anarchist, again in a white cover with Banksy’s Love Is in the Air: Flower Thrower on the front cover and Hip-Hop Rat on the reverse.
Danger Mouse released a new single called Keep It Real / Laugh Now in four numbered limited editions of 1000 copies each with Banksy’s iconic Monkey design against a coloured background. There are 1000 copies each with gold, silver, brown or dark green backgrounds. Unusually, the numbers are on the record labels rather than on the covers. Apparently, he had planned a seven-inch single release as well and a series of covers with the same design but against a white background were prepared but the single was never issued.
Dirty Funker released a further 4-track 12” single called Flat Beat on his Spirit label in 2009 and appropriated Banksy’s Happy Choppers image for both front and rear covers. The choppers flew against a blue sky on the front cover and against a yellow sky on the rear. I must say that Dirty Funker had the good taste not to add any typography to spoil the artwork.
The German band Gottkaiser released a Digipak CD in 2008 called Krieg & Frieden with Banksy’s Bomb Hugger Girl on the cover and CD.
When the Time Comes, a limited edition five-track CD by a band calling itself The Lonely Kids Club came out in December 2011. I haven’t seen one of these yet.
A band from Hitchin, U.K., called Frog Stupid released their CDEP Love and Amnbition Won’t Get You a Payrise in 2011. This seems to be a private pressing not on any label. The cover shows Banksy’s Girl With Balloon.
In 2012 a New Orleans brass band called The Hot 8 Brass Band released its third album, called The Life and Times of… The band had approached Banksy for permission to use some of his art on the cover but heard nothing. However, just before the CD was going to press, the band reached out again and this time Banksy agreed to allow the use of his images, though not permitting the band to use his art on the CD cover. The booklet’s inner spread has several Banksy images.
Desy Balmer, an Irish DJ and producer, and co-founder of Nice & Nasty records, released a 15-track compilation as a digital release in 2012 on his own Nasty & Nice label with a cover painting by Banksy modified from an image from the Palestine Wall.
TerranceK (Terrance Kerti) is a Detroit-based DJ who produced a digital EP in 2013 called Hot Line that used a photo of Banksy’s London Phone Box #2 on the cover.
Banksy’s I Fought the Law image appeared for the second time on the cover of a test pressing of Embalming Theatre’s and Tersanjung 13’s split seven-inch EP titled Mommy Died – Mummified / Hellnoise on the Rotten to the Core label in 2013. The test pressing cover was designed by Robert Janis, owner of the label.
Warrior Soul released a CD in 2008 called Destroy the War Machines with a modified image of Banksy’s CND Soldiers. The album was reissued in 2013 in a limited edition of 333 numbered, white vinyl LPs. Design is credited on the inner sleeve to Ballsy [sic] and collage by Joachim Ljung. Band photographs by Tim Hodgson & Dajana Winkel.
Junichi Masuda is a producer and composer for Pokèmon and produced an LP called Pokèmon in 2015. There doesn’t seem to have been an official release as all editions are listed as test pressings. There are three main cover variations, all released on the Moonscape label. Several coloured vinyl editions came in a cover that was a pastiche of Peter Blake’s and Jann Haworth’s Sgt. Pepper art with the famous Sgt. Pepper drum replaced by a Pokèmon ball. However, there was a further limited edition planned to be 100 copies with a hand-sprayed recreation of Banksy’s Love Is in the Air – Flower Thrower art. The story goes that the stencil used broke after about ninety covers had been sprayed and another stencil with a rabbit and balloon take on Banksy’s Girl with balloon was substituted for most of the remaining ten covers, although there may also be a few with another image instead of the rabbit. Both covers were designed and made by Sean Patrick Dagle. Dagle wasn’t satisfied with the initial run of covers as there was much spray paint outside the actual image and he remade the stencil and produced a further series of 150 numbered covers that he sold without records.
In 2015 a band calling themselves Boys in Blue released Funk da Police, a bootleg 12” single in a cover with Banksy’s Rude Copper design, ostensibly in a limited edition of 100 unnumbered copies. The band released a second bootleg 12” single called Strawberry Donut / Thick as Thieves as a limited edition (250 copies) in 2021.
A band calling itself Minraud released a CD in 2016 titled Vox Populi on the Hidden Stone record label. This is probably a bootleg but the cover art uses Banksy’s Radar Rat image.
American DJ Romanowski release a CD called Tracks from the Movie “Saving Banksy” in 2018 with a Banksy rat on the cover.
Another German release arrived in 2016 from a band calling itself TV-Age. This was The Player EP with a beautiful, hand-screened cover of Banksy’s Every Time I Make Love I Think of Someone Else.
There is also a CD from Belgian band Fist2Fist entitled Hold the Gun with Banksy’s Girl with Rocket Launcher art. There is no information on when it was released.
Banksy designed a protective vest for rapper Stormzy (Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr.) and this was featured on the cover of his December 2019 album Heavy Is the Head. The album was available on CD, a limited edition double vinyl LP, with the vest pictured on one on the inner sleeves, and as a double picture disc. The cover was designed by Hales Curtis design studio. The album was later reissued as a double black vinyl LP.
In 2020, John Brandler bought Banksy’s Port Talbort mural Seasons Greetings and celebrated it with by producing a CD called Seasons Greetings by the Climate Change Sound Project. (Gwyn Griffiths and Frankie Oldfield).
I am certain that more covers appropriating Banksy’s art will appear – both newly discovered records and CDs (and even music cassettes) as well as speculative new productions akin to the Boys in Blue and TV-age releases.