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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Vinyl in Norfolk…

Kings Lynn vinyl record shopAnother vinyl shop offering two fingers to the take-over of their street by East European food retailers and tax diddling coffee shop chains, this time in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

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White sleeves

Apologies for lack of updates for a few weeks; the LCD display on my DSLR went and it’s taken me some time to source a replacement part (the makers all want you to return to base) and find out how to fit it. All working again! Time to test it out on these two recent finds.
For many people there is only one white sleeve design, but every so often other foolhardy designers have a go.  Lacking laminate, many get quickly damaged and marked, but here are two that have been looked after and which work for me.

Hospital Records / 12″
Hospital Records 12" white sleeve
Formed in 1996, Hospital (which began as a drum and bass outlet but then branched out) seem to have used this generic sleeve for a number of their non – printed single releases.  The basic white cover, which is reversed so the rough side faces out, has the label’s logo pre-cut into the card, ready to be punched out and show the label design through. Happily whoever owned this example resisted the temptation!  Design credits not known (I did ask, they didn’t answer). Label still going strong.

Fat Cat Records / 12″
Fatcat Records 12" white sleeve
While there are some interesting sleeves on this label’s website, they seem to leave their history to the uncertain realms of wikipedia for some reason. Formed in 1989 and still active (with connections to One Little Indian).
While it’s always nice to have a sleeve, sometimes the economics or lack of time rule it out, so here the label has gone for the minimalist approach, and just rubber stamped the basic disc information on the (again reverse surface card) sleeve. This particular release is from 1997. There is some sort of irony in the design, as it goes right back to the 1920s when many shops bought blank 78 rpm sleeves and over stamped them with their shop name to save money.

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Joan and Ted

Joan and Ted Entertain, Pye Records

While “Joan and Ted” might not mean so much to us today, when this album was issued in 1961 (in glorious mono) both singers were so well known that surnames were simply not necessary. Popular singer Joan Regan was named one of the top ten beauties of 1956 by society photographer Baron in 1956 while Edmund Hockridge was well known via starring roles in many West End musicals. By 1961 however Joan Regan’s most successful period of hits was over, and this album of solo tracks and duets on Pye (who had signed Hockridge in 1956) was something of a last hurrah. The pair had toured on a package bill the previous year, which may have inspired the idea of teaming them up.
The sleeve photo is a real period piece, with Joan somewhat theatrically inviting singer Edmund (who has happened by in his pale blue Mk 2 Jaguar) into her pink rendered 1920s country house. It was called Felix Manor; a little sign with a black cat on it hangs above the porch, a wisteria climbs up the side of the main entrance way and onto the wooden balcony which runs round the side of the property. It’s a great looking house, just the sort of thing a successful musician of the time would aspire to.
The building was sited on what is now Old Perry Street in the London suburb of Chislehurst, countryfied but handy for getting to and from central London some ten miles away. I’m not sure how long Joan lived there; she married theatre manager Harry Claff in 1957 so perhaps they moved in not long after. It was a difficult relationship and after he was jailed for fraud in 1963 she suffered a breakdown, after which they divorced. She moved to America soon after.
It looks as if the house was built on the site of Victorian estate lands, but sadly due to huge pressure on available land in the area it has been demolished in recent years and replaced by a non-descript cluster of dull properties; just the original gate posts survive.
The cover’s yellow typeface is the ever popular Mistral, a useful casual style from 1953 (designed by Frenchman Roger Excoffon, and based on his own handwriting). It’s one of those fonts which can seem dated if used badly (and that’s clearly the case here) but works well in the right place.  NWA used it for their album logo in the late eighties, and it crops up on lots more sleeves. The sleeve design and photography remain uncredited.

Thanks to Joanna Friel, at the Chislehurst Society. A good article on the designer of Mistral in Eye Magazine.

just joan joan regan


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Tinsel horror!

Yuletide Disco album Pickwick Records

Yuletide Disco • Released by Pickwick in North America in 1979, this might have had more shelf impact if you’d been able to see the cover photo. Or not.  The poor (and poorly lit) woman is wearing a pair of black boots, red tights and … a large roll of tinsel. This is wrapped around her to make a strange shapeless one-piece tinsel outfit. She then moves across the front of the camera for a multiple exposure image, getting further into the shadow as she does so. The photographer was David A. Jonasson (we all have off days!), who did a handful of sleeve photos for Pickwick around this time (I’ve cheated and lightened the sleeve a little so you can see more detail!). The art director was Meredythe Jones Rossi, who oversaw a number of sleeves for them and related budget labels in 79 / 80.
Picwick Records bag

The “music” was performed by a bunch of session players under the name of Mirror Image.  The album does spot a quite snazzy Pickwick bag which is very much of the time, all flowing lines based on the typeface of the letter P from their logo.

More Pickwick covers on the site.  More Christmas sleeves on the site.

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