Ann Pickford, fifties cover girl.

ann pickford paul huf philipsThe world’s first LP cover super model?  Ann Pickford appeared on over fifty albums sleeves in the mid-fifties, stunningly photographed by Paul Huf for the Dutch Philips label.  The story of her sleeve career and nine examples are shown in this gallery. More will follow.

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12″ gallery

12" sleeve gallery 1It’s about time I made some inroads into the piles of interesting 12″ sleeve covers I’ve been finding.  It’s almost as if this format is one of the last outposts for interesting vinyl design (I mean have you seen Robert Plant’s new album? What a waste of a gatefold.)  So here’s half a dozen to be starting with, more to follow. This batch date mostly from the last 15 years or so.

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wild-oates-boxAcid landscapes, back to front juke-boxes, tartan camouflage trousers suits and the fez. Yes, time for some more of those strange private pressings which seem to attract a lot of interest from vinyl fans! Gallery 3 is now up, with gallery 1 and 2 for newcomers who might yet to sample the delights of this sub-genre of vinyl collecting.  And there is word that BBC Radio are preparing a modest documentary on the scene, so if you were in a band who issued one of these records do get in touch.

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Kitsuné covers

Kitsune Maison 12" sleeve France

A label which has done over 100 12″ covers all based on a developing cover theme? Based in France, Kistuné has been issuing these designs since 2004, each one reworking or developing the basic idea of a montage of sketched faces.  They’ve been fascinating me for some time, but it’s taken ages to get a handle on what’s been going on.  So, no posts for weeks, then 40 new cover images to look at all at once… There are three linked galleries, the first looking at the overall idea and who is responsible, then two pages of front and back cover images. Kistuné Maison.

Kitsune Maison sleeve montage

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girls, guitars and ganzies

A mid-sixties German sleeve which turns out to have an interesting back-story, being an early example of designer Peter Wandrey‘s work. He also took the fabulous cover photograph…

Peter Wandrey Sweet Beat Star Club records

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For War Office Use

registered letter 1950 78 rpm sleeve

I’m a sucker for home made record sleeves as people who’ve followed postings here will know. Here’s another which turned up the other day; a resourceful make do and mender in the fifties discovered that a strong envelope was just right to hold a 78 rpm record once you cut the side off.  Not any old envelope either, but a variation of the Registered Letter envelopes purchased to send valuables safely through the post. These were available from 1878 through until the mid 1980s – though from my recollection you could register any letter or parcel; postie would simply affix the R sticker and go round the package with a thick dark blue crayon to cross it, much more fun.  This envelope was actually printed up for use by the armed forces and is marked “For War Office Use”. Originally posted out of York on 15th August 1950, the recycler has finished the job by cutting a neat-ish centre hole as well.

In a similar mode, sleeve made from vintage kelloggs box. sleeves made from old wallpaper

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Rolling hills

Nigel Rogers photograph Leaf Label in 2001.  Ekhornforss design Gorodisch.

You can’t really improve on an album sleeve for bringing the best out of a photograph. Something about the discipline imposed by the format’s size and shape demands attention. Take what might otherwise be an unremarkable shot of a gently rolling hill, stubble field and a large expanse of sky – the sort of view you find in places like Norfolk in the autumn. It just looks excellent reduced to mono, cropped to a 12″ cover and printed on the reverse of the card for that matt finish.  You do see the approach on quite a few sleeves but most miss the mark for me; this one really stood out in the racks. The minimalist photograph is by Nigel Rogers, and the sleeve design was by Ekhornforss for The Leaf Label in 2001.  Ekhornforss – a design duo – have done a number of well designed sleeves for vinyl in recent years, most of which I’ve never seen as they tend to be small run specialist vinyl releases which sell to hipper people than me. The “band” is Gorodisch.

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it isn’t pink, it’s magenta

Only designers would quibble over such things in a book on album sleeves, and this book tackles the complete early output of the famous Charisma label (their words not mine, part of their original logo!). Some great sleeves well photographed and important for Hipgnosis design collectors as well thanks to some great cover for The Nice and Audience. Our book review is on the site, see if you can spot which album this very mint looking spine comes from back in 1970!

Jackson Heights King Progress sleeve


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Crate washing

Prompted by a comment on the site, where someone was hunting for storage for singles… Just recently I had dug out several old wooden boxes from the back of the garage. These were made by drinks companies to transport small bottles of mixers etc. from factory to pub, and bring the empties back in. Built of pine, record collectors soon realised they were exactly the correct size to carry singles around in. So, despite have a deposit value to the pub of around 50p, they did often go walkies.  You just pulled the wire racking out, scrubbed the inside down and lined with paper, and off you went. Made of pine, built to last and with handles at either end they will go on forever.
Schweppes boxes singles Violet May
The boxes were phased out in the late 70s as plastic took over. Anyhow, I have cleaned a trio up and they look brilliant – bags of character. I remember Sheffield’s premier second hand record shop had loads of them, all neatly labelled, which they would let you look through one at a time. I’ve done the print above which pays homage to both the boxes and the shop (which was named Violet May after the indomitable lady who owned and ran it for decades). This and other prints are on display during Sheffield’s Open Up studio weekend at my ‘studio’. May 4th and 5th. More details and prints can be found here.

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Record store day 2014

recycling records in world war two WW2

We’re all fairly familiar with recycling these days, and for older people it must seem strange to witness this fervour for carefully sorting and dumping different types of material, as it was second nature to most people especially during the war years (and I’m old enough to recall a time when most glass bottles had a deposit value). Yet while I was familiar with the scrap metal and paper drives during the war, I’d not heard of record recycling being actively encouraged. This sticker encouraging people to hand in their unwanted 78s turned up on a very beaten up sleeve recently. It implies that the scheme was funded by the Gramophone Companies to address the shortage of raw materials during the war years and designed to get at the raw shellac and enable new titles to be pressed.
It’s a fab little sticker, seemingly printed by Rushworth’s, one of the best known of Liverpool’s music shops. But similar schemes operated all over, with one Canadian collector owning a sleeve which offers customers between 5 and 8 cents a discs salvage value.
“Future supplies depend on YOU.”
Anyway, I did a bit of hunting around and found this Pathe news short on the subject of recycling records (or record salvage as it was called then), which has some amazing scenes in it. Somehow as we all try and do our bit to keep record shops going it (Record Store Day is April 18th this year) seemed appropriate!

Record Store Day 2013


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