Rock group CaravanCaravan-Manchester-2-blog

I’ve been scanning some of my old rock photographs lately, and found a few of the band Caravan at the end of one reel.  Back in those days as a student film was expensive, so sometimes you would keep a film in the camera for ages!  Caravan were one of my favourite groups, their intricate and sometime whimsical approach made them one of the best of the Canterbury scene for me. I still play In The Land Of Grey And Pink to this day, as well as some old BBC sessions on cassette (I must get around to buying the CD!) but here they were on their Cunning Stunts tour, not long before their lack of commercial success on Decca made them call it a day.  Excellent concert. And yes a friend interviewed them once and said on tour in Holland they spotted posters where the promoters had mixed up the first two letters of each word!

Photographed at Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1975, from the edge of the balcony, using a 135mm lens. I think it shows Geoff Richardson on guitar and violin, and Dave Sinclair on Hammond organ, and loads of interesting looking synthesisers.

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Isle Of Wight

Isle of Wight fest TICKET 1969

I confess I’ve never been thrilled with the idea of outdoor music festivals, but some achieve a mythology which erases any aggro experienced by the audience at the time. These great looking concert tickets are from the 1969 Isle Of Wight festival, and just serve to show current concert ticket designs for the rubbish they are.  I always lied the festival design, but could never afford a poster, so was pleased when these turned up at a music fair some years ago for a few quid. Apparently someone had found some unsold blocks of these tickets at a disused travel agent on the island, so they were in amazing condition. You’ve got the proposed bill on the backs of the ticket, although obviously subject to change (as they like to say!) Not being a Dylan fan, I think the second day would have worked best for me as I’d have enjoyed all those bands. Music industry legend has it that the designer disappeared and nobody has been able to track the person down, apparently they are owed royalties for the use of these graphics on CD and DVD reissues…

Isle of Wight fest TICKET back

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Soft Machine 5

Vintage album adverts from May 1972 this time. Back then all this sort of artwork was assembled by hand; a black and white photo would be supplied, along with all the text typeset on paper and pasted onto board in position. The repro house would then scan the photo and art, make a full size negative up and assemble to final result. For many record labels this would be a full time job for their art department, especially in the UK with so many music papers to supply. No great designs awards to be had here, but basic bread and butter design work. The tour dates have been added to reinforce the new album from Colin Blunstone, and the Soft Machine 5 sleeve gives a good strong graphic for their advert. Catalogue numbers allow you to order it from the record shop if they don’t already have it in stock.

Colin Blunstone LP advert

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Leaping electric gnomes

Mushroom Records concert ad

I know it’s not a record sleeve but I was scanning some old music papers and couldn’t resist this, I do enjoy the old press and album adverts, it’s always interesting to see this material in context. Can you get more Australian than the bands Ayer’s Rock and The Dingoes? I had to look them up, Ayres Rock worked from 1973 to 1981 with a bit of a break, jazz and progressive rock. The Dingoes were a local group to Melbourne formed the same year, and their country rock material seemed set for great things. They even relocated to America for a while but broke up around 1980.
The full page tabloid advert is from October 1973 and the bill has been put together by the well regarded Australian label Mushroom Records. Leaping electric gnomes indeed. No idea who did the design or where the illustration of the giant came from.

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Here’s another of those cheery Spanish vacation holiday album sleeves, this time from the Costa Brava. While back in Britain in 1973 we were purchasing Dark Side Of The Moon, Houses Of The Holy or Quadrophenia, over in Barcelona, Olympus Records were bashing albums like this out.  Headed up by the perennial Y Viva Espana, and containing the fab Horoscopo (which sounds like something off The Fast Show), La Brigada were chasing the tourist market with a vengeance!  Model and photographer uncredited.

There are a couple of galleries of Vacation albums on the site.

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The Old Grey Mare

Bamfords postcard LP shop small

A nice piece of social history, referencing popular music and showing the inside of a record department back in the day. Artist Brian Fitzpatrick joined the famous firm of Bamforth’s in 1954 and worked for them for twenty years. Although it looks older, this card must be from around 1963 and references Cliff Richard (managing to add an ‘s’ to his name as many mistakenly did), The Beatles, plus dance crazes such as Rave and Twist.  The Old Grey Mare is the title of an old folk song first recorded in the early 1900s, and provides the card with the punch line here, as well as perhaps dating the illustrator himself somewhat!

The local Kirkless council used to have a fabulous museum devoted to the famous postcard firm in Holmfirth (where they were made) but closed it some years ago fearing in these PC times we’d all be traumatised by the content.

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The Fidelio label was part of the same U.K. group who issued the Concert Classics albums. Both were dubious budget operations, and cavalier over where the recordings came from (some were later found to be lifted from East European radio broadcasts!) Fidelio was owned by William Barrington Coupe, who was eventually jailed in 1966, and then resurfaced nearly 40 years later … to do it all over again on CD, passing off stolen piano recordings as being by his wife until he was found out.

As they were playing fast and loose with content, you’d not be surprised they didn’t pay much attention to the packaging either. The Fidelio sleeves were a mixed bunch, a few are good, many are dull, others are just very strange and are worth keeping an eye out for, including these two.

That there isn’t one mention of Tex Morris and The Ranchers on the web outside this album suggests they were a bunch of session men, or the label had lifted some country tracks and disguised their origins. I picked it up as a great example of a low budget sleeve illustration; the work is signed, but who Y.E.E.B is or was remains a mystery to me.

The album came out in 1962 but remarkably there is an alternate sleeve which is even weirder, and comes across as some sort of gay Western illustration (see below). The back cover and label are very similar on both versions. I cannot work out which came first, or indeed why a budget label would even want to produce two sleeves on what must have been a relatively small pressing run. The rope lettering is brilliant, and looks like something Malcolm McLaren would have made great use of.


The only other Tex Morris offering out there is an EP on the children’s label Beano Records, which suggests they too were part of the Fidelio set-up.

Issued only a little while later, Can-Can has another Y.E.E.B sleeve illustration and again it replaced an earlier cover (shown below ), this time what looks like a still from a TV light entertainment programme. The new cover copies the original lettering, but then just does it’s own mad thing.


Can Can fidelio alternate sleeve

Y.E.E.B did at least one more sleeve for the label (which I don’t have), a very strange portrait for a cheapo version of the Gigi soundtrack. Once more this replaced a photographic cover from an earlier edition. One can only guess that Y.E.E.B perhaps teamed up with the label for some commissions, but disappeared after just a few months. If you’re out there, get in touch!

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Lego Record Store Day 2018

Lego has been part of my life for over many years, thanks to a forward looking Grandmother who bought me one of the very early sets, and it is heartening to see how the brand has weathered the vagaries of children’s changing interests and come out the other side.

Record shop made from Lego

I also follow the Lego developers site, on which aspiring designers submit their own models in the hope of getting enough support for the company just to consider putting it into full production (it is archived on the site
This cute record shop interior (above) sadly failed to reach the magic support number, but is great fun. Designer Ryan Howeter says he based it roughly on a store called Twist and Shout in Denver, but it could be any indie store.
Needless to say as well as models there is a big scene in recreating classic sleeves using Lego figures and bricks out there, this one of Pulp’s Hardcore amused me! I also like the take on Deep Purple’s Made In Japan.

Pulp Hardcore sleeve in lego

Deep Purple Made In Japan in lego

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Rock writ large


Back in 1980 this compilation was issued of live recordings from the first Monsters Of Rock festival in the U.K. Originally Rainbow planned and prepared a double LP of their full set, but this was shelved when drummer Cozy Powell and singer Graham Bonnet left the band in quick succession. Instead Polydor U.K. decided to recoup some of their recording costs with a ‘best of’.
The cover is a real in your face affair, using the logos of all the bands and the word ROCK writ large, just in case you assumed these were all folk bands. This was also the first time the festival had been staged, so the name was not as familiar as it would become.
The logos were all set against a contrasty cloud-covered landscape, hand tinted to give the idea of a setting sun (the Hipgnosis influence is clear). The sub-Roger Dean dragons from the festival publicity complete the image. The designer was Rob O’Connor at the Shoot The Tiger agency, who worked for a lot of U.K. labels in the late Seventies and into the Eighties. Most of their work was fairly unadventurous due to label restraints, but every so often they were able to do something a bit more exciting. The back was a real hotch potch, cramming in twenty or more small shots of the bands over another tinted image, this time of a crowd.

Monsters of Rock back

Despite the flaws though, it’s actually quite an eye-catching sleeve overall and still stands out today. Interestingly Shoot The Tiger used a very similar tinted sky background for a reggae sleeve a few years later which I found on the web (see bottom of the page).


Polydor U.S. had an option on the album and although the festival was unknown there, some of the bands had a bit of profile. They decided to do their own completely different sleeve, designed by Robert Heimall. Robert had worked for Elektra for five years, starting back in the late Sixties, then for Arista, before setting up his own design studio. One of his skills was searching for just the right photo for an album cover (Patti Smith’s Horses, Carly Simon’s No Secrets were both his designs; I need say no more.)

Monsters of Rock US back

He decided to use photographs taken by Aerofilms Ltd, who have been taking photos of the U.K. from planes for decades, selling them to news outlets, etc. Robert put together four of these, which really gave a good idea of the size of the event. On the back he found a great news photo of a short sleeved Policeman directing traffic. Notice too how the American cover opts to push the venue rather than the festival name, although they spelt it incorrectly (as did the U.K. cover, albeit in small print on the back.) So a more subdued sleeve certainly, but quite a smart piece of work considering it was probably not a priority release for the label.
In the years since this album more excerpts from the Rainbow recording have been added to CD reissues but it still hasn’t appeared in full.

Black Slate Sirens in The City

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for hire

easy exhibition 2

Looking around the 2017 Sleeve of The Year exhibition in Barnsley (see post below) reminded me of a sleeve art exhibition I was involved in back in 1999. Somehow we persuaded Blackpool’s Grundy Art Gallery to host this based on a shared interest in Easy Listening music; myself and Vince Kelly had been picking the stuff up for a while, and Vince worked at the City gallery in Manchester and had a few contacts. Plus the music was coming back into vogue at clubs and also live.


Blackpool seemed an ideal town somehow. We checked out the gallery space and worked out how many sleeves would work round the walls, and then worked through our collections to whittle the choice down to around 50 album covers. The idea was to showcase the cover art but also feature a number of different genres. Most of the albums were British recordings and artists from the 1950s and 1960s. Each sleeve was mounted and framed by the gallery, and then captioned with notes about the music and the sleeve.
It was called Easy On The Eye; the Art of Easy Listening. We had huge fun making the choice, and spreading them all out on our living room floor once we’d selected the final covers.


The fun sort of ended when it came to mounting the exhibition. Four of us travelled over, ourselves from Sheffield, Vince and his partner Eileen from Southport, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. The gallery was roasting, and we had to do everything ourselves. They didn’t even offer us a glass of water.
But it did look fantastic when finished, and a few glass flat top displays were added which we filled with suitable memorabilia – contemporary magazines, recent CDs, etc. Vince also organised the evening launch do, and was able to track down a local keyboard player who had featured on one of the albums and came along to entertain us and invited guests.
There was quite a bit of local press, this was largely pre-website days, and the gallery said it was very well received by visitors while it was up. It was also pre-mobile phone and digital camera days too, but Eileen took her SLR along and despite the very low light levels managed to get a few images of the event which I dug out recently and scanned. The Grundy’s own website does cover past exhibitions on their web site but even that doesn’t go back this far!
It was great to see these sleeves displayed like this, very much out of their original context yet being recognised for their design and photography, and their impact on the social history of the era.
If any other gallery is daft enough to want to repeat the show we do have the sleeves and mounts so could put it together quite readily!


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