Tag Archives: Record design

Collecting Andy Warhol’s Record Cover Art. How to Credit Previously Unrecognised covers?

I curated what I thought would be the first exhibition of Andy Warhol’s record covers in Piteå, Sweden, in July 2008 I enlisted the help of fellow collector Guy Minnebach to assemble as complete a collection of record Warhol’s record covers as possible. Only later did I find out that Warhol’s record covers had been shown before-usually as part of other exhibitions of his art, and then only exhibiting a few covers. My intention with the 2008 exhibition was to try to gather together all the covers he designed or illustrated.

Just two months after the exhibition in Piteå closed, the Museum of Art in Montreal, Canada, put on a major exhibition entitled “Warhol Live!” which showed the link between Warhol’s art and music. Many of the record covers shown came from the collection of Paul Maréchal and his book “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers 1949-1987: Catalogue Raisonné” was published to coincide with the “Warhol Live!” exhibition.

Just before the Piteå exhibition, Guy Minnebach had discovered the “Waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr.” EP and the “Warhol Live!” exhibition showed Paul Maréchal’s newly discovered “Night Beat” box set. Less than a month after the exhibition in Piteå closed, in September 2008, a friend of mine read an interview in a magazine with Tomas Alfredsson, a Swedish musician turned actor, who had been a member of a band called Roland and the Flying Albatros Band (known as RATFAB for short). In the interview he said that the cover of the Band’s second single had been designed by Andy Warhol. Thus started my search for this cover, and I quickly found three copies. The RATFAB single “Det brinner en eld / Mörka ögon” became the first Warhol cover NOT to be included in Maréchal’s 2008 book!

Since then, a number of covers, unrecognised in 2008, illustrated or designed by Andy Warhol have been identified.
1. Margarita Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish, Volume 2 (LP),
2. Vladimir Horowitz – Piano Music of Mendelssohn and Lizst (LP),
3. Mendelssohn – Wedding March / Scherzo (45 RPM EP)
4. Lew White – Melodic Magic (EP),
5. Erika Morini – Tchaikovsky–Violin Concerto
6. George Gershwin / Edvard Grieg – Porgy & Bess / Symphonic Dances (LP and EP box),
7. Curiosity Killed the Cat – Misfit / Man (7″ single).

And this list doesn’t include bootlegs or records and CDs that simply appropriated Warhol’s art for their covers. Nor does it include covers after 1987 that simply use or reuse Warhol’s art, such as Paul Anka’s “Amigos” or Skyline’s “Skyline” or even The Silver Apples’ “Fractal Flow / Lovefingers“.

There has been a problem in having new covers suggested to be by Warhol verified. An example is the rear cover drawing on Keely Smith’s 1957 Capitol Records LP “I Wish You Love“. By this date, Warhol was an acclaimed commercial artist and his “dot and blot” technique was being used by other illustrators. Warhol is not known to have worked with Capitol Records on any other projects, so this drawing cannot certainly be accredited to Warhol. There are similar discussions about the Tchaikovsky (No. 5 in the above list) and the Gershwin / Grieg (No. 6 in the list) designs also released in 1957, but these were at least released on the RCA Victor Bluebird label, and Warhol did many designs for RCA and its other subsidiary Camden Records. Maréchal has included the Tchaikovsky, but not the Gershwin / Grieg in the second edition of his book.

There are variations in some of the covers that Maréchal has described. There are various colour variants of the covers illustrated, starting with the first cover in the book, “A Program of Mexican Music” (Columbia Records – ML 2080). Maréchal includes the green cover variant but doesn’t mention the rarer pale blue coloured version. Similarly, there are five colour variations of the “Alexander Nevsky” (Columbia Records – ML 4247)–pale blue and a deeper, almost turquoise, blue that contained the original LP with dark blue labels. The album was re-released in the late fifties with the cover in green, orange and pink. These copies have records with Columbia 6-eye labels. Maréchal includes the green reissue cover, but not the original blue covers. Then there are minor variations such as the various printings of the “Latin Rhythms by the Boston Pops” EP. Friend and Warhol expert Guy Minnebach noticed that some copies had the text “A High Fidelity Recording” just beneath the RCA logo in the upper right of the cover. Some had this text in silver and some in green. There is a minor variation in the cover of the “Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr.” EP. Some copies have “Printed in U.S.A.” at bottom right while others do not (probably due to the way the slick was cut before being affixed to the cover.)

There are probably more cover designs by Andy Warhol waiting to be identified. A recent case in point is the sister box to NBC’s “Night Beat” entitled “Voices and Events“. As with the designs for the “Progressive Piano” EP set and 10″ LP a lithograph of the “Voices and Events” cover design exists in The Warhol Museum and was shown at the “Adman-Warhol Before Pop” exhibition in Australia early in 2017. It isn’t clear whether The Warhol Museum recognised this to be the design for an EP box set, but when I saw it I immediately saw the similarity to the “Night Beat” design with the dots on three sides. No one knows if the “Voices and Events” box was ever released. I suppose, like the “Night Beat” set, it was intended as a promotional teaser but the radio show it was intended to promote only lasted three episodes… so probably not.

By my reckoning, there are some 55 individual covers that can be attributed to Andy Warhol (I do not count different formats that use the same, or similar, designs), but there is no way that a newly identified cover can be given accreditation, other than being recognised by Paul Maréchal and included in future editions of his “Complete Commissioned Record Covers“.


Alex Steinweiss – The Inventor of the Illustrated Record Cover.

I have been collecting record cover art since the 1980s. First designers including Vaughan Oliver and his collaborations with Nigel Grierson as 23 Envelope and, later, as V23 with Chris Bigg.  Neville Brody ,with his covers (mainly) for the Fetish label, was another designer I collected. Then, when I moved to Sweden, I started collecting covers by Martin Kann, who is responsible for the cover art for Swedish rockers bob hund. Most of the record covers I had by these designers disappeared when I had to sell my record collection and I had to decide which designers’ covers to keep.

I thought I knew the history of record cover design, but to my eternal shame, I only found out that one individual, Alex Steinweiss (1917-2011), had started the whole field of record cover design in about 2005 when I read Nick de Ville‘s great book on record cover design “Album-Style & Image in Sleeve Design” from 2003.But I HAD for years seen some of Steinweiss‘s work at my parents’ home! They had a condo i Sarasota, Florida, for many years. Sarasota was Steinweiss‘s retirement home and he produced posters for the celebrated Sarasota Jazz Festival and my father had bought three of these posters, which hung on a bedroom wall at home, but I had no idea Steinweiss had designed record covers! Once I had seen de Ville‘s book, I started looking for some Steinweiss covers. They were not easy to find as few Internet sellers recognised Steinweiss‘s work and sold records only by their artist/title. Then, in 2006, I bought Jennifer McKnight-Trontz’s “For the Record: The Life and Work of Alex Steinweiss, Inventor of the Album Cover“. A great place to start researching Steinweiss‘s production of over 2500 record covers.

Jennifer McKnight-Trontz’s “For the Record-The Life and Works of Alex Steinweiss

Steinweiss may not have been the first to illustrate record covers–here the purists argue–but he was the first to convince a record company that pictures on covers could actually sell records. In 1939, at the tender age of 22, he was hired by Columbia Records as art director for the company’s recorded music division, principally to be responsible for advertising material.

Few dedicated record shops existed in the 1930’s. Music was mainly sold as sheet music and records were usually sold in general stores, electrical appliance stores and i a few record shops. Records were only available as 78 r.p.m shellac discs, ten or twelve inches in diameter. Single discs were generally packaged in brown envelopes with or without a central hole that showed the record label with the title and artist on the record. Longer works, such as classical recordings had to be split onto several discs and were packaged in book-like albums that contained any number of records from two to ten. The front covers were generally plain perhaps with record company, the record’s catalogue number and the record title. They were affectionately known as “tombstone covers”!

A “Tombstone cover” as albums were sold prior to Steinweiss deciding to add pictures to covers.

The album’s spine showed the title and artist and the record’s catalogue number. These albums were generally stored like books in a library, with only the spines visible.

Steinweiss, during his artistic studies,  had seen the power of pictures in selling and suggested to his superiors that adding a picture to illustrate the music might actually increase sales of these albums. Despite initial scepsis the directors allowed Steinweiss to produce a limited number of pictorial covers and the first “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers & Hart” appeared in 1940 (Jennifer McKnight-Trontz says 1939).

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

I collected about fifty Steinweiss covers and was lucky enough to find a copy of the “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers & Hart” in really good condition early on. This album seems extremely rare as I have been on a fruitless search for a second copy ever since. It seems important for anyone particularly interested in record sleeve design to have this seminal design, so I kept it when my other Steinweiss covers vanished.

Of course, Steinweiss‘s new picture covers increased the sales of Columbia Records’ Albums and he was allowed to continue producing sleeve art. When, in 1948, Columbia introduced the microgroove LP, it fell to Steinweiss to design a suitable packaging and he came up with the LP record sleeve with a design on the front, text on the rear and on the spine. Many of the designs he produced for the 78 r.p.m albums were transferred when a work was reissued in the new format. But Steinweiss‘s burden of designing new covers meant that he couldn’t do them all himself. He enlisted other talented designers to work for Columbia, including Jim Flora and a commercial artist named Andrew Warhola, just arrived in New York from Pittsburgh.

Steinweiss (in dark suit) with other Columbia employees including Jim Flora (With the striped tie standing behind Steinweiss).

Steinweiss left Columbia in 1949 and went freelance. He subsequently designed covers for several other record companies including Everest, Decca and London and RCA.

in 2009, Kevin Reagan and Steven Heller convinced Taschen to publish a luxurious book simply entitled “Steinweiss”  with the subtitle “The Inventor of the Modern Record Cover“. I addition to a standard edition Taschen produced an art edition; one hundred copies numbered 1-100 contained a print of Steinweiss‘s design for Decca Records’ recording of Igor Stravinsky‘s “The Firebird“, the second time Steinweiss had designed a cover for that work.

The lithograph of Steinweiss’s design for Decca Records’ recording of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite”.

There were also a further one hundred art copies, numbered 101-200, that did not contain the print. Steinweiss, aged 92, was involved in the production of the book and the art editions were all signed by him as were the prints included in the first one hundred copies. My copy is No. 96.

The book contains full-sized pictures of over two hundred of Steinweiss‘s cover designs as well as pictures of posters and books and ceramics that he made. A worthy tribute to the man without whom I probably wouldn’t be collecting record cover art.


More additions to my Warhol cover collection

When I first tried to collect all known record covers designed or illustrated by Andy Warhol I counted about sixty-five covers. I wanted to put on an exhibition of his record covers and but I had little knowledge about his early work in the 1950s and had no idea there were colour variations of some of the early covers. Paul Maréchal’s book “Andy Warhol: The Record Covers 1949-1987. Catalogue Raisonné” had not yet been published. I had the great good fortune to have made contact with Warhol collector Guy Minnebach who helped put on the exhibition by lending some of these early covers.

Since 2008 there has been an enormous amount of new knowledge about Warhol’s record cover art, greatly aided by Paul Maréchal’s book. Several record covers have been identified as being illustrated by Warhol. So the search has continued. Over the past months I have managed to find a further four Warhol sleeves; two vinyl covers and two CDs.

There has been considerable debate as to whether the three albums released in 1957 on RCA Victor Bluebird Classical label were illustrated by Warhol. However, they are now generally accepted as being Warhol covers. These three albums are:
– Byron Janis: Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” coupled with Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite” (LBC-1045)
– Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (Sevitsky, cond.) Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” coupled with Grieg’s “Symphonic Dances” (LBC-1059).
– Erica Morini: Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto” (LBC-1061)
I suppose the acid test of their acceptance will be seeing whether they are included in Paul Maréchal’s new book “The Complete Commissioned Record Covers” due to be published in early 2015. [Note added January 21st, 2016: The second edition of Maréchal’s book includes the Tchaikovsky “Violin Concerto” but does NOT include the “Porgy & Bess / Symphonic Dances” covers.)

Tchaikovky's Violin Concerto.
Tchaikovky’s Violin Concerto.
Cover of the "Porgy & Bess / Symphonic Dances" album.
Cover of the “Porgy & Bess / Symphonic Dances” album.
Byron Janis recording of "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Grand Canyon Suite".
Byron Janis recording of “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Grand Canyon Suite”.

Rarest of these three is, without doubt, the “Porgy and Bess / Symphonic Dances” and I had been looking for a copy since 2008 and just before Christmas 2014 I found one in lovely condition that I could afford. That completed my collection of the three Bluebird Classics albums.

From the sublime to the cor blimey. Like most other collectors of Warhol covers I keep regular checks of what is on sale on Ebay and other internet markets. There is one seller from Germany who manages to find some interesting records and CDs with covers by famous artists, not only by Warhol. It is always worth checking what is on offer on that site. Then trying to find the same item cheaper elsewhere. Well, I saw the Diana Ross “So Close” 7-inch single in a poster pack on the site with a ridiculous starting price. So the search began to find a cheaper copy. About ten minutes later the mission was accomplished.

The Diana Ross "So Close" single in its poster cover.
The Diana Ross “So Close” single in its poster cover.

As readers of this blog may remember I have made mock ups of several extremely rare early Warhol covers. Among these was a cover for a double EP with the”Progressive Piano” design. As Warhol cover collectors know this disc was never released, but I wanted to add the cover to my collection. Lithographs of cover designs for both a 10-inch and 7-inch version exist in The Warhol Museum. So, having found the front cover image, I needed to find a rear cover that would possibly have been used. I went to the double EP of Toscanini’s recording of the William Tell and Semiramide Overtures on the RCA Victor label. It transpires that there are at least two variants of the rear cover design. The one I used is:

The rear cover used on the "Progressive Piano" mock-up.
The rear cover used on the “Progressive Piano” mock-up.

I have now managed to find the record with the alternative rear cover:

The alternative rear cover on the "William Tell" Overture" .
The alternative rear cover on the “William Tell” Overture” .

Perhaps I shall decide to make an alternative “Progressive Piano” sleeve using this rear cover.

Again, I saw a couple of CD from this German Ebay seller; both at rather inflated prices. One is a various artists CD called “Open Ends: Musical Exploration in New York 1960-2000” released in 2000 by the Museum of Modern Art. The cover image is nine of Warhol’s 1967 self portraits. ANd I found a cheaper copy after a short Internet search.

The booklet from "Open Ends: Musical Exploration in New York 1960-2000". Released by the Museum of Modern Art.
The booklet from “Open Ends: Musical Exploration in New York 1960-2000”. Released by the Museum of Modern Art.

Also on the German seller’s site was a CD entitled “The Mystery of Do-Re-Mi” with baritone Christopher Gabbitas accompanied by lutist David Miller with a starting price of $49. I found one on Amazon for $4. The cover uses a detail of Warhol’s rendering of Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” from his Renaissance Details series from 1987. Another CD that used another image from the same series was Karl-Aage Rasmussen’s “Three Friends: Works for Symphonetta” from 1993 that uses Warhol’s “The Annunciation”.

"The Mystery of Do-Re-Mi" by Christopher Gabbitas and David Miller. Image from Warhol's "Birth of Venus".
“The Mystery of Do-Re-Mi” by Christopher Gabbitas and David Miller. Image from Warhol’s “Birth of Venus”.

I also thought I had bought a copy of The Velvet Underground’s bootleg LP “Psychedelic Sounds From the Gymnasium”. But, I had not read the article description and was somewhat disappointed to find that I had ordered the CD. But the cover image is the same as that on the LP.

The Velvet Underground's "Psychedelic Sounds From the Gymnasium".
The Velvet Underground’s “Psychedelic Sounds From the Gymnasium”.

So there, I have been able to add another six Warhol covers added to my collection. There are still more out there. Some extremely rare and some not so rare. I will never manage to collect all the record and CD covers that have art by Andy Warhol, but I’m going to keep trying.

Andy Warhol art on 45s – Part 1

I have mainly collected LPs and have never really been interested in singles or extended play (EPs), which has proved to be a mistake from an investment point of view. Original pop EPs from sixties bands have become valuable as they sold in relatively small numbers.
Columbia Records indroduced the LP record in June 1948. RCA Records was initially unwilling to licence this format and were developing its own rival format. RCA introduced the seven inch 45 rpm single in February 1949. The seven inch single could accomodate one three minute recording on each side. However, almost immediately RCA began producing extended play versions of the seven inch disc, with two tracks on each side, increasing playing time to almost ten minutes per side.
Paul Maréchal pubished his book “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers 1949-1987” in 2008. The book lists all the records known to have been designed by Andy Warhol that were recognised at that time and lists the formats each was issued in. As most 45 r.p.m. records used the same design as the LP, Maréchal has only illustrated the LP-versions. This list is intended to focus on the seven inch versions and includes a couple of covers not listed by Maréchal.







Frank Lovejoy Night Beat 3×7” box set NBC EO-CX-342 1949/1950
Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops Latin Rhythms 7” RCA ERA-25 1952
Arturo Toscanini / NBC Symphony Orchestra William Tell Overture /Semiramide Overture 2×7” RCA ERB 7054 1954
Count Basie Count Basie 3×7” in gatefold cover RCA EPC-1112-1, 2, 3 1956
Joe Newman Octet I’m Still Swinging 3×7″ RCA EPC-1198-1, 2, 3 1956
Johann Strauss Jr. Waltzes 7” Camden CAE 158 1956
Artie Shaw Both Feet in the Groove 2×7” RCA EPA 767 1956
Byron Janis Rhapsody in Blue / Grand Canyon Suite 2×7” box set Bluebird WBC 1045 1957
Keely Smith I Wish You Love 7” Capitol EAP 1-914 1957
Count Basie Count Basie 3×7” discs RCA   1957
Artie Shaw Any Old Time 7” RCA EPA 1570 1958
Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones Black vinyl picture sleeve Rolling Stones EP 287 1977
Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones 7” picture disc (Bootleg?) Rolling Stones EP 287 1977
Andy Warhol’s first commissions as a record cover artist came from Robert M. Jones, who succeeded Alex Steinweiss as art director at Columbia Records, soon after Warhol had arrived in New York in 1949. That same year Warhol also received a commission from RCA to illustrate the cover of a promotional EP box released to promote NBC’s “Night Beat” radio serial, which featured Frank Lovejoy as the Chicago Star’s reporter Randy Stone. “Night Beat” was broadcast in the US between Febrary 1950 and September 1952. This promotional release was produced as three EPs on blue vinyl in a box. Incidentally, NBC was a subsidiary of RCA since it was bought by the parent company in 1928.
RCA, and its daughter labels (such as Bluebird and Camden), continued to release EPs with selections from LPs throughout the 1950s and usually with the same cover art on the EP as had been used on the LP. Andy Warhol was one of a number of commercial artists commissioned by RCA to illustrate record covers. One of the first, from about 1954, was probably the cover for a project that appears never to have been released. RCA obviously planned to produce a ten inch LP and a double EP comprising eight tracks of jazz piano music entitled “Progressive Piano”, even assigning the release a catalogue number (LJM 3001 for the LP version and 45EP-EJB 3001 for the EP version). Andy Warhol designed the cover and The Warhol Museum has lithographs of the design. The design of the hands in this illustation is reminiscent of the way Warhol drew the hands on Horowitz’ recording of “Piano Music by Mendelssohn and Grieg” (RCA – LM 9021).
A single EP “Latin Rhythms” by The Boston Pops was probably released around 1952. I have not been able to find an LP of Latin Rhythms by The Boston Pops Orchestra from around this time although they did record a 3 LP box with the same title, probably later. The cover of the Latin Rhythms EP is a classic Warhol coloured illustration with four musicians against a background with multiple green and pick blobs.
In 1954 RCA released a 10″ LP with Rossini’s William Tell Overture coupled with the Semiramide Overture played by the NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arturo Toscanini and a double EP with these tracks was also released with Warhol’s representation of the famous apple that Tell shot from his son’s head as the cover motif.
The next EP collection was a tripple EP in an unusual tripple gatefold cover
The three Count Basie EPs were released separately in Germany, each having the same Warhol Basie portrait on the cover (catalogue Nos: EPC 1112-1, EPC 1112-2, EPC 1112-3).
RCA also released EPs of the Joe Newman Octet’s “I’m Still Swinging” LP at about the same time as the Count Basie set on three separate EPs. The only difference in the cover art was a change from red to blue in the colour . Similarly, the company released a double gatefold EP of the Artie Shaw “Both Feet in the Groove” LP. According to Guy Minnebach there were several different tints of blue on the EP covers.
4 EP covers for the Joe Newman Octet 45s. Courtesy of Guy Minnebach.
4 EP covers for the Joe Newman Octet 45s. Courtesy of Guy Minnebach.
The recording of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” together with Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite” was issued as an LP that is not included in Maréchal’s book. The cover illustration has since been generally accepted as a Warhol drawing. A box set of two EPs was also released (catalogue No: WBC 1045).
Keely Smith’s first LP “I Wish You Love” was released on the Capitol label in 1957 and there was a 45 r.p.m. EP with the same cover art. The front cover has a cheezy portrait of a smiling Keely and on the rear  cover a drawing of a hand holding a bunch of flowers. The drawing is definitely in the style of Andy Warhol, but he is not known to have had any association with Capitol Records. Further, in 1957 Warhol was an acclaimed commercial artist and many others had adopted his drawing style, so we cannot be absolutely sure that this illustration is by Andy Warhol, but I list in just in case.
Another compilation of Artie Shaw’s tracks from the 30s and 40s was put together by RCA in 1958 with the title “Any Old Time”. The LP had a cover photo by Raymond Jacobs and Warhol’s drawing of a chain of clock faces on the reverse. The EP version hade a slightly different arrangement of the clocks.
Artie Shaw's "Both Feet in the Groove" EPs. Courtesy of Giy Minnebach.
Artie Shaw’s “Both Feet in the Groove” EPs. Courtesy of Giy Minnebach.
I have not been able to find any further 45 r.p.m. discs with Andy Warhol art released in the fifties or sixties. The next one seems to be the promotional EP for The Rolling Stones’ “Love You Live!” album from 1977. The EP, released both as black vinyl EP in a picture sleeve and as a picture disc (according to Guy Minnebach, probably a bootleg), features four of the polaroid pictures Warhol took of the band members biting or licking each other.
Picture sleeve for The Rolling Stones' promo EP
Picture sleeve for The Rolling Stones’ promo EP
There are lots of later seven inch records with Andy Warhol covers and I will follow up the 45 r.p.m. releases from the eighties and after, that have Andy Warhol’s art in future posts. I’d like to thank Guy Minnebach for his constructive cristicism of this post, which has led to some major improvements.