The LP cover artwork often takes centre stage, sometimes the additional inner sleeve designs and back covers can get over looked. In this series we examine just a few of these treasures that complement the sleeve design and give us greater insight into the artist designers and overall aesthetic created for a specific body of work we know and love as the vinyl album.
The Clash - London Calling Photography by Pennie Smith, Design by Ray Lowry
Pennie Smith photography coupled with Ray Lowry design and a lot more than just a nod and a wink at the first Elvis Presley LP, an absolute combination of creative talent wrapping up an equally eclectic musical gem.
Back in the day when all you had were these amazing photographs and lyrics, these inner sleeves gave the listener and fan an insight into the energy and attitude around the group at the time. The photo’s most of which taken from their US tour sitting side by side with lyrics from Guns of Brixton were confusing and intriguing and helped you get a glimpse of the action albeit from your sofa. Many bought this record without seeing the band and many more will enjoy this perfect punk/pop package in years to come. These inner sleeves are a tribute to the band and their entourage as the 70’s musical landscape entered into the 80’s
Madonna – The Immaculate Collection Photography by Herb Ritts
Surprisingly this early nineties retrospective has a rather uninspiring front cover but tucked away are some excellent photo’s of Madonna at the height of her popularity.
These images are the work of American fashion photographer Herb Ritts, famous specifically for his black and white photography and portraits with his signature “clean, minimal aesthetic”. During the 80’ and 90’ Ritts also photographed celebrities including Diana Ross and Michael Jackson and directed numerous music promo’s that included Madonna’s “cherish”. Seeing these images together and in the context, they almost take on a ‘mirror mirror on the wall…’ appeal. As always Madonna undeniably pleasing on the eye, Ritts capturing just one of her many ‘looks’ perfectly.
Diggin the Blogosphere is an original compilation of the best in new music from artists now working in the digital realm. Produced by young Parisian record label Heavenly Sweetness, The compilation presents a selection of discoveries from all corners of the worldwide web including Shigeto, Chet Faker and AbJo. The cover artwork is illustrated by French visual artist Jean-Louis Duralek. Diggin the Blogosphere Volume 2 is available now on Vinyl and Digital release only. “For many artists, the web is the only way to spread their music, without the help of any record labels”. This is a significant move which is signals the end of the CD-Era and further establishes vinyl and digital in the ‘digital’ music industry today.
David Bowie The Next Day and Heroes - Side by Side
'The Next Day' is David Bowie’s 24th studio album to be released after a surprise announcement at the start of this year on David Bowies’s 66th Birthday. This month sees the special edition release on vinyl.
The original cover for ‘Heroes’ is used as the background for the cover with a white square obscuring the front. Jonathan Barnbrook designer for the ‘The Next Day’ explains the thought behind the reworking of the original cover after receiving critical responses to the Design. Barnbrook describes the obscuring and reinvention of the cover as being about “spirit of great pop or rock music which is ‘of the moment’, forgetting or obliterating the past”1. The use of a white square and aesthetic is also a reference to David Bowie’s changeable identity over the years.
Heroes was selected for ‘The Next Day’ as being the most revered “it had to be an image that would really jar if it were subverted in some way”1.Heroes as is one of Bowie’s Best known tracks and is considered one of the best by critics. Released in 1977, Heroes features portraits of David Bowie shot by Photographer Masayoshi Sukita. Masayoshi is a long time collaborator with David Bowie with a career spanning 40 years.
One direct influence for the cover artwork is the Painting Roquairol by the German Artist Erich Heckel. The painting is part of the Expressionist movement, a movement in modern art which originated in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. This was a becoming influence for Heroes, which was recorded in Germany and was the third album to be produced in Berlin. Bowie reflect on his time “by now I was living full time in Berlin so my own mood was good. Buoyant even. But those lyrics come from a nook in the unconscious.”2 Contrasted with today’s release of ‘The Next Day’ the cover contemplates and reflects on David Bowie’s career over the years.
Paul X Johnson illustrations feature on the recent release of ‘Anna’ The third studio album by The Courteeners. “It’s just got such a cinematic feel; it’s elegant and dark, kind of stoney, but also quite beautiful in parts. This embodies the whole record for me.” Liam Fray describing their choice of image for the album. Paul also illustrated the Single ‘Lose Control’ released in 2012.
Despite the naysayers, it seems that 2012 was another great year for the vinyl record. According to the stats released by Nielsen Soundscan, sales of vinyl records hit another, modern-era record in 2012 with 4.6 million units.
For U.K. Vinyl fans, it was The xx’s second album, Co-Exist which topped sales, whilst Jack White’s solo effort, Blunderbuss headed up the U.S. charts.
As an annual celebration of the best in record cover art, the Best Art Vinyl award has featured some of the biggest names working in the visual arts today. Alongside established artistic heavyweights, the lists of nominees and winners since the inception of the award in 2005 has also proudly championed designers who are only just embarking on their visual career. As a double 2012 nominee for his stunning work on Holograms self-titled LP and Wild Nothing’s ‘Nocturne’, designer Ryan McCardle deservedly takes his place amongst the likes of previous nominees Damien Hirst, Peter Blake and Anton Corbijn as one of the most exciting new voices in record sleeve design today.
Inspiration for the sleeve initially started with a lighting set-up that Steve, the band’s long-serving lampy, had designed for a tour. The inverted triangle was sort of in our heads already when the band and myself sat down to discuss the direction for the album art, and we all jumped on the idea pretty quickly once we got started. There could easily have been a slip into ‘sci-fi’ territory with this idea… We originally discussed the triangle being Photoshopped into different situations… but the whole ‘floating over a cityscape’ idea got old quite fast and the talk turned to the idea of having the actual lighting itself set up in real life environments.
And so it came to pass that at 5am one morning, the band, the lights, generator and ace photographer Paul Blundell were packed into a van, and a several laps of St Albans and its environs were undertaken. The vinyl art was a shot taken at a car park as evening fell. Only one or two shots in this location actually came off before security turned up and everyone had to move off sharpish. Ultimately, everyone was overjoyed with the results of the day’s shooting. So much so, that a decision on which shot worked best could not be reached… hence CD and LP having different sleeves.
Band Manager Ian Johnsen on Enter Shikari’s stunning sleeve. See it and many more at www.bestartvinyl.com
Self-taught, self-employed art director and designer Henrik Walse has been focusing on design for the music industry since he started in 1998. Henrik has created multiple logos, album covers, and posters for some of Sweden’s hottest exports, including Sahara Hotnights, Danko Jones, The Hellacopters, and most recently, The Hives ‘Lex Hives’ which has been nominated for the Best Art Vinyl 2012 award.
I’d worked with Echo Lake on two music videos before I did the album artwork and they were pleased with the visuals I’d produced and we’d got to know each other quite well by then. Thom’s a big fan of prog rock record covers and they were really into sci-fi imagery and maintaining a 70s look, bold graphic style coupled with their existing ethereal colour schemes and lo-fi textures.
Linda had already amassed so much amazing band artwork that it meant I had a really solid basis to make something beautiful and fitting. It was also really nice that I got the opportunity to create the collage from photos I took at the same beach in Spain where I filmed their Buried at Sea video.
"The Map reads like the record collection we wish we had!" Ali Johnson on Saint Etienne
Want to know the story behind the art? Ali Johnson of Dorothy spoke to Art Vinyl about the making of Saint Etienne’s ‘Words and Music’ sleeve.
"Saint Etienne and Heavenly Recordings approached us in January 2012 after seeing our Original Song Map and asked if we’d like to create a new Map for the cover of the band’s upcoming albumn ‘Words and Music’ which is about how music affects your life. We jumped at the chance. Bob Stanley (a man with impeccable music taste) and the band choose the song titles for the Map (all the songs ‘mean’ something to them) and we loosely based the layout on Croydon which is where the band grew up. The Map reads like the record collection we wish we had!"
Bob Stanley from Saint Etienne explains the thinking behind the map used on the cover of the album: "The Song Map is a musical city. Whenever I walk down a street I have a song in my head. And plenty of songs have a visual counterpart, a snapshot in my mind - this could relate to where I first heard the song, or for no apparent reason. I hear the Monkees’ Headquarters album and I’m looking at the street below from the kitchen window of the flat we rented in Malmo while recording Good Humor. I hear Otis Redding’s Dock Of The Bay and I’m on the corner of Bartlett Street in South Croydon (no idea why). Glen Campbell’s By The Time I Get To Phoenix goes with the A23 in Hooley - probably not the image Jimmy webb had in mind when he wrote it. These images - street corners, alleyways, bus stops, shop fronts - are all attached to specific songs in my mind, like some odd version of synasthesia. The song map is as close to a visual version as we could get. I like the notion of all the journeys you can take on the map, with a different playlist each time. All the songs are ones we like (yes, even Leo Sayer’s Orchard Road), so it should always be a rewarding journey."
The Saint Etienne Song Map and the Original Song Map are both available to buy from Dorothy. Vote for your favourite sleeves of 2012 here.
Nick Phillips: Designer of Richard Hawley, 'Standing at the Sky's Edge'
"Having worked with Richard Hawley for the last 27 years we have a good understanding and have developed a successful process for the visual representation of his work. I get to listen to the music as it develops from simple recorded ideas to full production and have a copy of the lyrics. From these I make a list of all the imagery that comes to mind and develop ideas from these.
For ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ this process was even more important as this would be the first Richard Hawley release without an image of Richard on the cover. There were strong references to nature, woodland/trees which ran through the whole album and so I found myself concentrating on woodland imagery. I had also found some amazing natural light phenomena called Brocken Spectre which I really wanted to incorporate within the design.
I spent a number of days walking through the woodlands of Sheffield and the Peak District taking photographs of trees and skies. These became the key elements for the design along with blurred shots of water droplets on glass. I used multiple layers of images and colours. As the Brocken Spectre is a very rare event I recreated this with a simple graphic. I kept the font simple and light using Asenine text font. This method became the theme for the single releases from the album.”
Designer of Richard Hawley’s ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ has been working in the music industry graphics production since 1985. See more of his work here, or vote for your favourite sleeve of 2012.
Surrealist Sensibilities: Markus Hofko's 'From The Horizon'
A surreal gathering that brings Belgian artist René Magritte together with 80s-inspired gloss is taking place on the cover of French producer Débruit’s new album, From The Horizon.
It’s the work of The Rainbowmonkey, aka Markus Hofko. His long-term design work with Xavier Thomas – the producer behind Débruit – started after Hofko’s band, okyo, connected with Débruit on MySpace and the two subsequently gigged together in Austria and Germany. “I’ve always felt connected with Xav’s odd style and we found strong similarities in my design,” says Hofko, who now lives in Auckland, New Zealand. His initial idea was to connect the cover with three previous Débruit EPs, where the subjects’ eyes and mouths were substituted with stylised objects. “I thought it would be nice to show the world where these particles come from, the secret treasure place in the ‘desert of funk’,” he says.
However, inspiration came in the shape of a famous Belgian: “Xavier had just moved to Belgium and pointed out that he really enjoyed René’s work. We looked at how we could imitate his style. I cut out the eye of [his 1928 piece] ‘The False Mirror’ and placed it on my current cover draft. Bang!The eye, a classic motif.” The image was primarily produced in Cinema 4D, with the ﬁnal artwork being a simple render of the scene. “The software offers an amazing playground to design,” Hofko says. “Having full control of light and shadow in your scene opens up endless possibilities.”
Band of Horses at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo 20/11/2012
And so to Hammersmith on Tuesday night, where Art Vinyl were treated to an audio visual feast courtesy of Band of Horses. At 9pm sharp, the boys took to the stage in a blur of blue denim and beards, as the charming frontman Ben Bridwell and his bandmates attacked the opening numbers with a wild enthusiasm that was infectious to the 3,000 strong crowd before them.
Although initially a little sceptical of the whole southern rock shtick (even songs such as new single ‘Knock Knock’ were peppered with a variety of whoops and ‘yeehaws’) tunes from albums old and new were rendered pitch perfect in trucker-capped Bridwell’s lilting Southern tenor, with bandmates Tyler Ramsey and Bill Reynolds et al providing those Eagles-esque harmonies which place the group firmly in the territory of the soulful Americana for which they earned a Grammy nomination in 2010.
Against a projected backdrop of trees, deserts, beaches and mountains, Band of Horses took the audience on a journey through the heartlands of North America, creating a raucous party atmosphere and culminating in barn-storming closing number ‘The General Specific’, joined on stage by support act Goldheart Assembly.
After a not-so-quick break, the band returned for their encore: not to the stage but to the Art Deco-styled balcony of the Apollo, with nothing but a single microphone, guitar and goofy grin to accompany unplugged renditions of ‘Evening Kitchen’ and fan favourite ‘No One’s Gonna Love You’ (news of which will surely disappoint the many who left beforehand to catch the early tube home). The crowd sang along as the voices of Bridwell and Ramsey soared up to the rafters, before joining their bandmates on stage once again for an impassioned rendition of ‘Funeral’ and a cover of soul classic ‘Am I A Good Man’ to finally close a fantastic show befitting the final date of their European tour.
Band of Horses latest album, ‘Mirage Rock’ is nominated for the Best Art Vinyl 2012 award. To see who else was nominated and to vote for YOUR favourite, go to www.bestartvinyl.com
"Make the sun bigger...bigger...bigger!" Paul O'Connell on Sleeve Design
Following the nomination of his work for Future of the Left, Art Vinyl spoke to Paul O’Connell about what went into the making of the sleeve for The Plot Against Common Sense (above).
“This is the first and only record sleeve I have ever been asked to produce, based on an idea Andy [Falkous, Future of the Left frontman] came up with. I think the original brief was something like… ‘A man holding the flipper of a penguin walking on scorched earth toward a sun or moon’.”
“I did a couple of versions (see above) and there was a lot of going back and forth with Andy saying ‘Make the sun bigger…bigger…bigger!’ until we eventually got to a final design that Andy was happy with. And that’s about it really.”
O’Connell is a designer better known for his colourful and carnivalesque comic strips which can be found here. However, record cover art has long been a passion. “The record sleeves I always liked were those that were very busy and had lots and lots of detail in them to pore over,” he explains.
Showing an awareness of the impact of the digital age on modern music culture, O’Connell is familiar with the idea that record cover designs are often seen by fans at a size “no larger than a postage stamp,” and so it was important to strike the balance for the Future of the Left sleeve. Judging from the quality of this most recent work, we think Paul has the balance just right.
Vote for Future of the Left in the Best Art Vinyl 2012 award, online or in participating galleries.
Richard Robinson & Mads Perch: Designers of Clock Opera, 'Ways To Forget'
As one of the most innovative and exciting pairings in music design today, it will come as no surprise that the work of designer Richard Robinson and photographer Mads Perch features in the nominations for the 2012 Best Art Vinyl award for their stunning work on Clock Opera’s Ways to Forget album.
Dedicated followers of the award will notice that this is not the first time that the London-based pair have featured in Best Art Vinyl, with their humorous depiction of frontman Jamie Reynold’s cat in a spacesuit for Klaxon’s Surfing the Void LP of 2010 (above). For 2012, Art Vinyl has caught up exclusively with Richard Robinson to find out what went into the making of Clock Opera’s album cover (below).
“Myself and Mads Perch had an extensive meeting with the band, discussing directions for the campaign,” explains Robinson of their starting point for Ways to Forget. He continues, “The band had a clear idea of how they wanted the record to feel, not so much of a finished visual, but more about the message they wanted to convey. They made references to Picasso paintings, distorted screens, vibrant colours and movement.”
Gjon Mili, ‘Gene Kelly does a dance sequence,’ 1944.
Taking these wide-ranging themes on board, both Robinson and Perch used this brief as the perfect opportunity to push their previous experiments with multiple exposure techniques even further, looking to the stroboscopic work of photographer Gjon Mili (above) for inspiration. Enter the New Movement Collective, a group of dancers and close friends of the band. “They were happy to come along and let us shoot them for the project. We had four dancers in total and over a day long shoot had them perform routines capturing it as we went,” explains Robinson.
Whilst much of this complex work was made in-camera (see above), following the shoot the band initiated a few more final tweaks. According to Robinson, “the members of Clock Opera felt the imagery needed more emotion and colour so I worked extensively to process the images, creating a layered, textured piece that had more of a painted quality: which ultimately reflected the music more accurately.”
Best Art Vinyl 2012 Private View at Front Room, St Martins Lane
Below and above: Best Art Vinyl 2012 Private View at Front Room, St Martins Lane
The annual Best Art Vinyl award, awarded to the public’s choice for the most outstanding vinyl record cover art of the year, was first won by Hard-Fi’s ‘Stars of CCTV’ in 2005. For Best Art Vinyl 2011, it was Bright Eyes’ album ‘The Peoples Key’ with its striking layered image of an intense fire burning which topped the list of the year’s favourite sleeve designs. Previous winners have also included Klaxons’ ‘Surfing the Void’ with its playful image of a cat in a spacesuit, Thom Yorke’s ‘The Eraser’ from regular Radiohead contributor Stanley Donwood, and even work from the sixteenth century for The Fleet Foxes eponymous LP by Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel. Now in its 8th year, this unique award compiles the global opinion on the best of art and design in music.
Legendary pop artist, Sir Peter Blake has designed record sleeves for some of Britain’s most famous musical exports, including Oasis and The Who. You might also be familiar with his design for a certain gang of mop-haired Liverpudlians: The now iconic sleeve for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The Fine Art Society, located in New Bond Street, London is currently offering the chance to see Blake’s work in a whole new light, displaying a selection of works by artists who have inspired Blake, as well as some of the artist’s London prints.
Dust & Grooves is a photography and interview project documenting vinyl collectors in their most natural and intimate environment: the record room. Dust & Grooves maintains the integrity and history of vinyl, as well as the musical heritage that goes along with every record in these collections.
Collections of vinyl records could help raise money for cancer research, thanks to a plan by the former managing director of EMI UK.
Using his vast music industry experience, Andrew Pryor has offered to help people sell their vinyl record collections and music memorabilia, with a share of the proceed going to the Theydon Bois & District Friends of Cancer Research UK.
Andrew worked in the record business for more than 30 years, his career culminating in being MD of EMI UK. During that time he worked with artists such as Abba, The Beatles, Queen and Nigel Kennedy.
Andrew explains that prices for vinyl have been squeezed by Ebay; GEMM; Netsounds.com and in general by the baby boomer generation unloading their collections.
However, there are still good or very good prices for unique, very rare and limited edition items provided the artist is well known.
Over the past five years Andrew has built up a worldwide set of buyers, and can get higher prices than owners would be able to privately. There are committed fan base genres; for example, rock and metal tend to achieve the best prices.
The offer to owners is that they receive up to 85 per cent of receipts with a minimum of 15 per cent going to Cancer Research UK. So if you have any vinyl records that you think may be of value that you wish to sell, get in touch and make a difference to funding the vital work carried out by Cancer Research UK.
Andrew is contactable on 01279 428122 or by email on email@example.com
The British Music Experience 'Seminal Albums' Series
Seminal albums set the standard for future work, provide a landmark for fans and artists, as well as forging a place in music history. This new series at the British Music Experience will explore the development and making of such albums, from art work to arrangement.
Producers, designers, musicians and fans will be able to comment on the making and reception of these albums whilst playing back the tracks that brought them to notoriety. Although not always exclusively the first album, a seminal album shows the seed and foundation for future possibilities, developments and, as listeners, enjoyment.
The series kicks off with a look at Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak on Wednesday, June 13th at 7.30. Take a look at the BME website to find out more.