Tag Archives: Book review

A History of Swedish Music Posters from Gröna Lund.

Gröna Lund is a permanent attraction in Stockholm with exciting rides, restaurants, bars and an important concert stage on which most of the world’s more famous artistes–ranging from Birgit Nilsson via Chuck Berry to The Clash–have performed.

Posters for events and concerts at Gröna Lund have become highly collectible. Between 1971 and 1988 they were designed by one man, Nils Sture Jansson–who produced about 800 individual posters, sometimes with incredibly short deadlines. In 2012 Premium Publishing produced a book containing 200 of Nils Sture Jansson’s poster designs edited by Nils Sture Jansson’s son, Jonas, and Gröna Lund’s own historian Andreas Theve. The book rapidly sold out when it was published–but I was lucky to find a copy in Söders Bokhandel– a little, but extremely well-stocked bookshop in Stockholm. The book has  also become highly collectible.

The book’s cover. The cover picture is of The Ramones (see poster below)

Nils Sture Jansson’s relatively simple illutrations capture the spirit of the artists and, according to the introduction, were much admired by them. Only a few were unhappy–and that was sometimes due to the fact that his or her name was misspellt.
Here are some samples (posters for artists I personally like):

Jansson would be supplied with photos of the artist(s) and deconstruct them to make his poster designs.

Kristian Russell has taken over and is continuing the tradition of Gröna lund posters.







TOTAL RECORDS – Photography and the Art of the Album Cover.

I just found out that I had missed yet another major exhibition of record cover art, this time in Arles in southwest France. The exhibition, called “Total Records” was first presented at Les Rencontres d’Arles from June to September 2015 and is said to be travelling round France. The exhibition catalogue has just (October 2016) been published as a free-standing book also called “TOTAL RECORDS – Photography and the Art of the Album Cover”.

The cover of the “Total Records” book.

I bought the 448 page book as it promised an introduction to how photographers and the record covers they took photographs for came together. However, the short introduction in English at the start of the book doesn’t live up to the promise. You have to turn to the end of the book for the full stories but, unfortunately for me, this section is only in French. Quelle horreur! Zut alors! and all that.

The book is divided into twenty-five “chapters”, some devoted to a single photographer and others more thematic with titles such as “Below the Belt” and “B-side America: Riverside, Bluesville and Yazoo”. There is a section called “Photo-Copy” which shows how some cover art has spawned plagiarism (The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers“, The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“.)

But the photographs are great. Most pages picture a single cover. Not surprisingly, as the exhibition is French, there are many French covers. Johnny Halliday and Sylvie Vartan figure prominently alongside less well known French artists including a lovely cover of Catherine Deneuve’s “Souviens-toi de M’Oublier” with cover photo by Helmut Newton. There are also Newton’s photographs on the cover of Sylvie Vartan’s album “Au palais des congress“.


The first cover pictured in the book is Alex Steiweiss’ “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers and Hart“–Steinweiss’ first picture cover for Columbia Records from 1940.

Alex Steinweiss first picture cover for Columbia Records “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers & Hart” from 1940.

The first two chapters in the book, “The Sound I Saw” and “Aural Reappropriation” act as an introduction to the variety of photographs in record cover art and include covers by a multitude of photographers and make up nearly 30% of the book. These include cover photos by Andy Warhol (“This Is John Wallowitch“),  Nobuyoshi Araki  (Björk’s “Enjoy” and “Possibly Maybe” and Mango Delight’s “Conglomerate of Crazy Souls“), Annie Liebowitz (Cyndi Lauper’s “Change of Heart“, John Lennon’s “Interview Disc” and The Jim Carroll Band’s “Dry Dreams“), Herb Ritts (John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John “Two of a Kind” and Madonna’s “True Blue“). There is even Arthur Doyle’s “No More Crazy Women” with its Cindy Sherman cover photo (see my previous post on Cindy Sherman’s record cover art). Robert Mapplethorpe is represented with the classic Patti Smith cover for “Horses“, Taj Mahal’s “Taj” and Laurie Anderson’s “Strange Angels“.

Following these introductory chapters are sections/chapters devoted to individual photographers. First off are Jean-Paul Goude and Anton Corbijn. Corbijn is, of course, well known for his covers for Depeche Mode and U2. Jean-Paul Goude is best known for his cover photos of Grace Jones and eight of them are pictured in the book. It is a selection of Corbijns photos for U2 that are featured–mainly from the “Joshua Tree” sessions.

Next are eight of Jean-Baptiste Mondino’s covers, including covers of albums by Madonna, Björk, The Eurythmics and Prince.

The chapter after is reserved for Andy Warhol’s photographic covers. “This Is John Wallowitch” appeared in the first section of the book and this section includes the covers for “The Velvet Underground & Nico“, Miguel Bose’ s “Milano/Madrid“, Paul Anka’s “The Painter“, “Silk Electric” by Diana Ross and the cover of the “Muscles” single from the album and finishing with the cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Love You Live” album with a page devoted to the polaroid pictures  on which Warhol based the cover design. “Sticky Fingers“, the other Stones album Warhol designed, appears in the section Photo-Copy along with several pastiches.Obviously, in a book on the photography and the art of the album cover, I wouldn’t expect any of Warhol’s graphic covers to be included–and there aren’t any, with the possible exception of “The Velvet Underground & Nico” cover. I’m not sure how much photography was involved. Did Warhol actually photograph the famous banana?

More chapters are devoted to the work of David Bailey (more Rolling Stones covers), Lucien Clergue And Lee Friedlander’s photography for jazz artists on the Atlantic label. The jazz theme is logically continued with a chapter devoted to some of the Blue Note label’s photographic covers with photography by Frank Wolf. And the label theme continues with a chapter on covers from the ECM label photographed by a variety of photographers. Other labels highlighted include Brazil’s Elena Records, ESP-dosc and a chapter devoted to the American Bluesville, Riverside & Yazoo labels before moving on to a chapter of Hipgnosis designs including the usual Pink Floyd covers (but happily, not the “Dark Side of the Moon” cover which I feel has become a cliché).

In the next chapter, aptly titled “Transartistic” there are covers by Robert Rauschenberg (Talking Heads’ “Speaking in Tongues”), Paul Bley (“Paul Bley Quintet“) and Andy Warhol’s “Index” book with the Lou Reed flexidisc. Even Jeff Koons’ cover for Lady Gaga’s “Artpop” and Damien Hirst’s cover for Dave Stewart’s “Greetings From the Gutter” are included.

One of the best chapters is entitled “Propaganda and Slogans” which includes thirty eight covers ranging from the clenched fist on the cover of The BlackVoices album “On the Streets in Watts” to Rage Against the Machines album with the self-imolating buddhist monk on the cover.From this provocative chapter with covers portraying Che Guevara, Charles de Gaulle,Malcolm X and Martin Luther King the book goes “Below the Belt2 with a selection of “racier” covers such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s ” Electric Ladyland” (The British cover with the nude models photographed by David Montgomery), Roxy Music’s “County Life” and more Rolling Stones in the form of both versions of the “Beggars Banquet” cover (the originally released version with the white cover which simply stated the group’s name and the record’s title as well as the version The Stones originally wanted with the lavatory interior scene, first released in 1986.

The final three chapters, “A life on Vinyl:David Bowie and Johnny Halliday”, “Word and Image” with many spoken word albums (Allen Ginsberg, Albert Camus, Jack Kerouac, etc.) and “from Grain to Groove”, a homage to the Soundtrack album cover, round off this nice book.

I think this is one of the nicest books on record cover design which I will keep alongside Alex Steinweiss’ “The Inventor of the Modern Record Cover“, Nick de Ville’s “Album: Classic Sleeve Design–Style and Image in Sleeve Design” and Richard Evan’s “The Art of the Album Cover“. I would have been thrilled to see the exhibition and have been able to see the covers full size. But the covers in “Total Records” are beautifully photographed by Romain Riviere and do them justice.

Andy Warhol – The Complete Commissioned Record Covers 1949-1987

Collectors of Andy Warhol’s record cover art  – and there are quite a few of them – have been waiting for this second edition of Paul Maréchal’s seminal work for quite some time. It was hoped that it would be launched during the “Warhol on Vinyl” exhibition at The Cranbrook Art Museum, but this was not to be. Anyway, it dropped into my lap yesterday. Paul Maréchal is an expert on Andy Warhol’s printed commercial works and has published “The Complete Commissioned Posters, 1964-1987” and “The Complete Commissioned Magazine Work” in addition to his seminal “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers, 1949-1987 – Catalogue Raisonné”, which was published in 2008 to coincide with the “Warhol Live” exhibition in Montreal.

It is amazing to think that not too much was known about Warhol as a designer of record sleeves prior to the arrival of Maréchal’s book and many people have become collectors because of it. Consequently, prices of the rare covers have escalated quite dramatically since it was published. Another result of the publication is the recognition that there may be more, as yet “undiscovered” record sleeves to be found and, so has proved the case. So it seems timely that a new edition of the book should appear.

So, who is this book for? Well, it will look great on the coffee table of any aficionado of vinyl record art. It is also a useful reference for potential sellers on Ebay and other online auction sites. But it doesn’t work for dedicated collectors of Warhol’s record cover art.

I regard myself as a fairly knowledgeable collector of Andy Warhol’s record cover art. I am a sort of purist in that I do not collect parodies of Warhol’s art on record or CD covers, but I do admit bootlegs and records and CDs released after 1987 (and there have been a considerable number). To date, I have over 120 individual covers in my collection. And “The Complete Record Covers, 1949-1987” comes as a disappointment to me. “The Complete Record Covers, 1949-1987” is in effect a reprinting of the first edition with the addition of twenty-one pages describing six “new discoveries”. Unfortunately the main part of the book has not been updated in any major way. I feel sure that Mr Maréchal has managed to find better examples of the covers pictured in the seven years since the first edition. He has not corrected some obvious errors and I shall bore you all by listing what I have found in the twenty-four hours since I got my copy home.

I will go through some issues that I have:
Cover No. 1: “A Program of Mexican Music”: There is a (rarer) blue version of this cover, which is not mentioned.
Cover No. 2:Alexander Nevsky“: Pictured here is the green version of the cover, which along with a pink and orange version is a late 50s-early 60s reissue. The original 1949 cover was blue. We know that the green, pink and orange covers contained reissues as the record labels are the so called “six-eye” design rather than the dark blue Masterworks labels used in the late 1940s. Further his description of the standard format of early LP covers on the Columbia label omits the fact that it was the Company’s legendary art director Alex Steinweiss, who designed the basic format for these early covers with bold blocks of colour.
Cover No. 6:Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish”: This description should have been totally rewritten. We know now that there were only two volumes of records, not the “at least five records” that are mentioned in the book. In addition, I am convinced that Maréchal or one of his collector associates could have found a better looking copy to photograph for the book.
Cover No. 7: “William Tell / Semiramide Overtures“. The book mentions that there is a double 7-inch EP set of this recording in addition to the 10-inch LP version pictured. But there are, in fact, at least two printings of the EP’s cover with differing rear covers. I would have like to see both variations pictured.
Cover No. 13: “Chopin Nocturnes” played by Jan Smeterlin: Pictured is volume II of a two record set. The “Complete Nocturnes” in a slip case is mentioned but I feel that pictures of all three would warrant a place.
Cover No. 16: The Joe Newman Octet – “I’m Still Swinging“: The various 45 RPM EPs are mentioned. They differ from the pictured LP in that the title is in blue rather than red. Picturing these would be a bonus for collectors. However, I don’t think adding pictures of the EPs from LP Cover No. 17 would add extra information, though they could be shown for completeness. Cover No. 22: “The Story of Moondog“: I confess I like the worn and dogeared picture of this cover shown in the book. The album is very rare and I imagine finding a better copy would be difficult, so I wouldn’t change it. Mention might, however, be made of the reissues of this LP (and this applies to the Archie Shaw as well).
Covers Nos 20, 21, 23 and 24: Kenny Burrell “Kenny Burrell“, Johnny Griffin “The Congregation” and Kenny Burrell “Blue Lights, Volumes 1 and 2“: There have been numerous reissues of these covers that could be mentioned. There are colour variations of the last two that perhaps could have been pictured.
Cover No. 24: “Tennessee Williams Reading from The Glass Menagerie…” A number of colour variations of this cover have appeared since the first edition of the book and some have the record’s catalogue number at bottom right rather that at the top.
Cover No. 25: I love this cover! So much so that I recreated it in 2013 for my own collection to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its production. Maréchal own one of the original 75 signed and numbered copies on a white background. This work was created by Warhol together with Billy Klüver and produced these by spray-painting record sleeves and then silkscreening the text – which was obviously borrowed from a newspaper advert or a supermarket sign – onto the coloured cover. As Maréchal notes in the book – there are five colour variations. White, red, green, yellow and orange. And I have never seen a picture of the orange cover. Maréchal speculates that the white defects on his cover are caused by the ink being applied too thickly and later peeling off. Having silkscreened this design myself I can inform him that the defects occur naturally as the paint is pulled over the screen. A set of my reproduced “Giant Size $1.57 Each” resided in The Cranbrook Art Museum as part of its collection of Warhol vinyl records.
Cover No. 27: The East Village Other “Electric Newspaper – Hiroshima Day – USA Vs Underground“: Maréchal motivates the inclusion of this album because of the Warhol’s contribution to the record – a track called “Silence“. Maréchal credits Warhol as the composer, stating he composed it in 1932. Which he notes as being highly unlikely. Possibly this short track is a homage to John Cale’s 4:33 a record of silence. Anyway, the cover has nothing to do with Warhol or The Factory and, in my opinion, has no place in this book.
Cover No. 29: “The Velvet Underground & Nico“: This is possibly Warhol’s most important and famous record cover. The record certainly is one of the most important records in popular music. The story behind the cover is more complicated than is stated in the book. The cover is remarkable for a number of reasons not mentioned. First, gatefold covers were unusual in 1967 and generally reserved for double albums. The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” released after “The Velvet Underground & Nico” was another exception. The original rear cover of “The Velvet Underground & Nico” showed a photo of the band in concert with a light show showing the actor Eric Emerson, who had not been consulted in advance. When Emerson saw the cover he demanded payment. Rather than pay Verve Records, who released the album, recalled as many copies as they could find and stuck a large black label over the photograph. The photograph was airbrushed to remove Emerson on later printings. I feel this could have been mentioned and, as this is such an important recording, even pictures of the various printings included. Interestingly, recent reissues of this LP have included Emerson’s portrait.
Cover No. 32: The Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers“: Along with “The Velvet Undergound & Nico” this is another of Warhol’s most important and best-known covers. There are subtle differences between the US and European releases of this album with the band’s name and the record title placed over the model’s right thigh on the European version and placed over the belt on the US version. Further there are other records that use the same design; a Mexican single (“Azucar Morena“) and EP and the European “Brown Sugar” single used the album’s rear cover design on the rear of the single’s picture cover. There was even a shaped picture disc that used the same design. The cover’s zipper originally had a large handle (if that is the right word) but this had to be changed to the smaller handle pictured in the book as it damaged covers packed together with them.
Cover No. 34: Ultra Violet “Ultra Violet“. Ultra Violet is quoted in the book as saying that this album was never released. It certainly is rare and only about twenty copies have appeared on Ebay. Almost half of these have the hole cut at the cover’s top right – a sign that the album is a “cut out” and therefore could be sold in record sales for a lower price than the recommended standard price. This suggest to me that the record was actually released, although Capitol Records could have pressed up a number of copies and then just decided to put them out on sale. There is a film of Warhol’s involvement in the making of this cover in The Warhol Museum.
Cover No. 36: The Rolling Stones “Love You Live“: Most original copies of this double album have coloured inner sleeves. There are promo copies with black and white inner sleeves (with the same design as the standard ones) and some later reissues also have these black and white inner sleeves (that actually look like silver – a colour Warhol loved). What is missing from Maréchal’s book is a mention of the promotional EP for this record, simply called “The Rolling Stones“. The cover shows four of the Polaroid pictures used in the cover design and on the plastic tablecloth pictured in the book. There is even a picture disc of the promo EP, which Guy Minnebach suspects is a bootleg.
Cover No. 40: Loredana Berté “Made in Italy“: According to Maréchal, Berté met Warhol in New York and cooked him Italian dishes. Christopher Makos took the photograph used on the cover and on a couple of singles (not mentioned in the book). I’m not one hundred percent convinced that Warhol was “commissioned” to do this cover and I am in two minds as to whether or not it should be included. Okay, it is a Factory product, so it’s in.
Cover No. 43: Original Soundtrack “Querelle“: No mention here of the single “Every Man Kills the Thing He Loves” taken from the album with the same cover picture.
Cover No. 44: The Rolling Stones “Emotional Tattoo“: This bootleg album first appeared in 1983. There were two versions (in identical covers) one on black vinyl and one on orange vinyl. This album is the only bootleg with Warhol art that is pictured in the book, although mention is made in the album’s description of three other bootlegs; Debbie Harry’s picture disc which is called “French Kissin‘” (in fact it is an LP entitled “Picture This!“), a Velvet Underground bootleg entitled “More Bermuda Than Pizza” (available as both a black vinyl LP and a picture disc) with artwork credited to Warhol – but it doesn’t look like Warhol’s work. And The Falling Spikes “Screen Test: Falling in Love With the Falling Spikes” which uses a detail from Warhol’s “Flowers” print. There are three cover variations of this last bootleg. I feel that if “Emotional Tattoo” is included, then several more bootlegs should be too. I’ll return to some other important ones later.
Cover No. 45: Miguel Bosé “Made in Madrid” and “Milano-Madrid“: The “Fuego ” single is mentioned but not the “Non Siamo Soli” single. There is even a 12-inch version of “Fuego“.
Cover No. 47: “The Smiths“: It is stretching it to include this cover as Warhol was certainly not commissioned to do this one. Cover No. 50: Debbie Harry “Rockbird“: This cover is a Stephen Sprouse design. He obtained Warhol’s permission to use the Camouflage painting as a backdrop to the portrait of Debbie Harry taken by “Guzman”. Guzman is the Canadian duo Constance Hansen & Russell Peacock and I think they should be named in the book. Warhol was certainly not commissioned to do this cover! But it is very much in a Warholian style with four colour variations.
Cover No. 51: MTV “High Priority“. Warhol’s last cover not completed before his death in February 1987. Since the first edition of the book, a second variation of this cover has been found with the shading to the “M” of MTV logo in yellow rather than the commoner red. Also, the yellow version has the song titles on the front cover in black and does not have a barcode on the rear suggesting to me that it may have been a promo.

Now onto theNew Discoveries“.
Covers Nos. 54 and 55: RCA Victor Bluebird releases. Byron Janis and Erica Morini. These LPs, probably released in 1957, are generally accepted as having illustrations by Warhol. There is, however, a third LP in the series – excerpts from “Porgy and Bess” coupled with Grieg’s “Symphonic Dances” (LBC 1059) that has an illustration suspiciously like a Warhol drawing. This one is not included. I wonder why.
Cover No. 56: Walter Steding “Secret Spy“: Interesting that this cover is included. It has pictures from Warhol’s music video. But there is another cover with similar provenace – Curiosity Killed the Cat’s video for their “Misfit” single. Warhol even appears in this video. Why isn’t this single included? The Swedish band Enola Gay released a single “Döda djur” in 1981 with Warhol’s picture “The Kiss” featuring Bela Lugosi. Should his be included? And why not include The Silver Apples’ “Fractal Flow” single with its Warhol portrait of band member, and former Factory associate, Simeon. Should Lou Reed & John Cale’s “Songs for Drella” and the single “Nobody but You” also be included?

So, now what about those bootlegs and later recordings? In his essay on Cover No. 29 (“The Velvet Underground & Nico“), Maréchal mentions Warhol’s film “Symphony of Sound” (1966). Stills from this film have been used on at least two album covers; “The Velvet Underground Live With Lou Reed” – an official release on the Mercury label – and on a bootleg. Then there are at least three other Velvet Underground bootlegs: “Paris 1990“,which features a fluorescent Warhol flower on the cover,  “NYC” and “Orange Disaster” – both with prints from Warhol’s “Deaths and Disasters” series. Another Rolling Stones bootleg “Lonely at the Top” appeared in late 2014, probably too late for a mention in this volume, which reused one of Warhol’s Mick Jagger portraits on its cover. And while on the subject of The Rolling Stones and Warhol’s Jagger portraits, there is a black and white version of the same portrait as used on the “Emotional Tattoo” and “Lonely at the Top” albums on the rear cover of Suntory D R Y Beer’s bootleg “Mick Jagger in Japan” (1988).

And on to CDs.
Maréchal does not mention any CDs. But here is just a list of some of the ones I know about.

1. Cultura by Cultura (2004)
2. Tobias Picker/Marc Bliztstein – “Keys to the City/Piano Concerto” (1988)
3. Christopher Galitas – “The Mystery of Do-Re-Mi” (2008)
4. Russell Means – “Electric Warrior” (1993)
5. “Andy Warhol from Tapes” – book with CD from the inaugural show at The Warhol Museum (1994)
6. Paul Anka -“Amigos” (1996)
7. Paul Anka & Ricky Martin – “Diana” (1996)
8. Paul Anka & Anthea Anka – “Yo Te Amo” (1996)
9. Karl-Aage Rasmussen – “Three Friends” (1998),
the list goes on and on… (I have compiled a better list in another Recordart post. Check that out if you are interested.

My final conclusion
Serious collectors of Andy Warhol’s record cover art were certainly hoping for great things from this second edition of Paul Maréchal’s seminal book. However, I think Prestel must have pressured Paul Maréchal to keep the new edition cheap by reusing all the pages from the first edition and only allowing the addition of the “New Discoveries”. I am sorry for him that this opportunity to make a really superb second edition was thwarted. I am sure he would have liked to have been able to do a better job. Maybe he will do it some day.