Musik Fur Alle

I really like these vintage dance sleeves which show the fashions of the time, in this case 1967. Mind you I only know the date because the owner has written it in pencil on the back cover; otherwise there is nothing on the sleeve or label to go by. At first glance for 1967 the couple actually look quite out of time if we compare it with a similar record sleeve from the UK at this time, but then the music was being aimed at a slightly older more conservative audience, being brass renditions of foxtrot, polka and Mambo numbers largely written by bandleader Hugo Strasser himself. Telefunken’s Musik Fur Alle series were all similarly packaged with a large logo and nice bright photograph, though this is one of the best. The cover does remind me of similar efforts from Polydor in Germany at this time. It’s printed on flimsy unlaminated card, hence the ring wear.
The photograph has clearly been done in a studio, enabling the photographer to stop the shutter down and push the foreground figures out of focus nicely. Otherwise no credits, nothing.

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Soundtrack releases remain an interesting area of record sleeve design, and often enable the collecting of iconic film poster imagery for much less than the poster would set you back. And they are easier to display!
The Lara Croft Tomb Raider films got mixed reviews but I quite like them, and certainly for the target audience they stack up against most of the Marvel films. Angelina Jolie did fairly well, managing to make her own mark on the character without the somewhat ridiculous imagery of the original video game character which inspired it all. And while the orchestral music for the first movie was a bit duff, they did slip in lots of hip dance and industrial tracks to the movie which made up a second CD. But it never came out on vinyl (which shows what the major labels thought of the format then), so at the time this two cut 12″ was the only way to get the proper artwork, which cannot have taken too long to put together! It was intended as a sampler and pushed by Elektra Records at club DJs.
It wasn’t until Record Store Day in 2021 that the soundtrack was released on vinyl in a limited 20th anniversary edition – with the same front sleeve.

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Santa as Cover Girl

If you like your sleeves with a touch of glamour then this one certainly ticks the box. It’s been kicking about in my “to find” folder for ages but so far no joy – it’s a difficult record to locate in decent condition as the American matt cover wears easily and sometimes badly; this is the best version I could find on the web.
The year was 1969 (as if you couldn’t tell from the hair style) and American actor, comedian, writer, composer and conductor Jackie Gleeson had pushed out his first MOR Christmas album in 1956 and sold millions of albums thereafter. But this time Capitol thought it might be time to update the imagery a bit from the rather dull / safe covers which had marked most of his Sixties output. Hence the attractive blonde in the Mary Quant Does Santa outfit. I assume the cover design was done in house by Capitol (what a brilliant label logo) and do not know who the model or photographer was. The back is just plain red with text, while inside is a stylish if corporate black and white photograph of a Christmas decoration run across the entire gatefold – the sort of image you might expect to see on a magazine advert. Music wise the double album is instrumental orchestrations of the usual suspects.
The Silhouettes also thought it was a good sleeve and lifted it for a 2103 7″ single. They being a Dutch indie band, not the original black American vocal outfit. 500 copies on white vinyl apparently. The label is called Snowflakes, and they have been issuing a Christmas vinyl single by a different artist every year since.

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Stereo Spectacular

French photographer Michel Laguens knew how to take a glamorous sleeve photograph. He began work as a photographer after serving during WW2 and built up a library of material which he saw might work for record labels, who quickly saw it as a good source of “off the peg” images which saved them the trouble of organising their own photoshoots.  His photos appeared on many French EPs and albums around Europe. Here Polydor in Holland have featured an image of a woman’s head and shoulders sprayed gold (this may have been influenced by the famous scene from the Bond Goldfinger film in 1964) , with a wig similarly coloured, against an out of focus golden glitter backdrop.  Stereo Spectacular Volume 7 was issued  in 1971, compiled from their easy listening catalogue and issued (in different sleeves and titles – in Belgium as Hi Fi Stereo For The Millions Volume 2 for example) in several countries. Despite the text overkill, this was after all designed as an impulse budget buy, the image still remains powerful and very much of the period.

An image from the same photo shoot was chosen by Hallmark for one of their Top Of The Poppers session records, a collection of Beatles cover versions, again in 1971 (above).  They went for a more direct frame of the woman looking straight at the camera.  This in turn was tweaked by the New Zealand label (below) who wanted to push the Beatles angle more strongly, buyer beware!

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Live and Contagious

While it is a few years since the book of look-a-like sleeves was published, I still like to keep an eye out for examples and was amused when I spotted this on the web very recently. I wasn’t the world’s biggest Thin Lizzy follower but it’s hard not to recall their sleeve for Live And Dangerous here, which featured a great photo taken by Chalkie Davies (although it would be nice to see the actual photo before the airbrushing).

Anyhow the pastiche is by a band called Brower and was recorded just days before the first pandemic lock down, so they are pushing it as the last live album ever! The band clearly have fun paying homage to their musical heroes (the guitarist seems to be a Freddie Mercury fan), with Kraftwerk art featured in European tour posters. Beyond that I can’t really find out much about the group as they don’t have a website and their Faceache site is so useless you came away knowing less than when you went it!
Anyway, despite the lack of airbrush skills, you can’t knock their sense of humour (or their great retro band logo) and it is out as a limited edition on pink vinyl too.

The book Covered! (below) can be found at Easy On The Eye Books website.

Covered Classic Albums Sleeves and The Imitators
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Music with Longevity

I like finding record sleeves which reference the vinyl format and this Atlantic 12″ promo cover design fits that bill. Most of the labels feature disco or dance records from around 1980 but the single inside (by Brandy) is from 1999, so it is Atlantic showing off their retro street cred. via some classic hits for a new generation, although how many of them would know the old titles from 20 years before I’m not sure. The back cover has the strap line “Music With Longevity” which supports the retro theme. The sleeve is generic, and has a white circle top right over which the details of the record are printed onto a sticker. I’m not sure when this cover was introduced but probably some time in the mid-1990s?

There are some more 12″ sleeves on the site including another nice Atlantic one on this page.

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My, my, my

For a popular but largely underground rock group (they were selling out town hall venues before this), The Sensational Alex Harvey Band suddenly began troubling the singles charts in 1975 thanks to a mad but clever interpretation of the old Tom Jones misogynistic hit Delilah which somehow struck a chord with daytime radio. It was issued by Vertigo Records who unusually for the time (certainly in Britain) decided to give it a bit of extra impact by doing a picture sleeve, shown above. They even allowed sleeve designer Jack Wood a credit, almost unheard of on a 45!  The basic track had been recorded live, hence the decision to use live photos on the sleeve. Wood was a regular for Vertigo for a time, and also did the band’s follow up single Gamblin’ Bar Room Blues (below) in a matching cover design (as well as the less successful album cover Tomorrow Belongs To Me, hampered by an indifferent cover illustration).

The singles have dramatic striped backgrounds – which remind me of emergency services markings – and nicely cropped photographs, while the excellent logo which had first appeared a couple of years before (1972 in fact) would enhance any sleeve.

It’s nice to see a label giving an often overlooked format a bit of respect, and it may have helped bring forward the day when all UK singles had sleeves.

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Got it taped

It would be nice to have a few words about the Sheffield Record Centre, part of the local family owned department store Atkinsons, especially as they will be celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2022. But there is nothing on their own extensive website. The store on the site today dates from 1960 as the previous building was flattened in The Blitz in 1940 along with large areas of the city (it wasn’t just London!), and they had a few temporary stores between those years. I assume the Record Centre was one of these, tucked away down High Court, just off the High Street in the city centre. I certainly don’t remember it, so assume it was relocated back into their new shop (which happily survives).
So I was pleased to find this small reminder of the place by way of bespoke sellotape, custom printed in red and black on white with their address details, which the sales assistant had to carefully cut off the dispenser so she could fix it to the back of each disc sold. Because we can date the EPs to 1957 I assume that is when they were sold, although it is true records remained on catalogue longer in those days. I have managed to find a paper bag from the same shop, as well as some older 78 rpm bags.

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Magazine were not necessarily an easy band to find a way into with Howard Devoto’s vocals being something you could either get along with or not. But they clicked for me early on, and spurred on by their excellent “hit” single Shot By Both Sides I picked up all their albums. And they still play, perhaps because they were not particularly fashionable. Like the singing, the covers also took an uncompromising approach to the market but I recently found these adverts in my ephemera file which show Virgin attempting to sell the band! Real Life was their debut and Virgin just skipped the cover altogether, instead using what look to be three etchings. I suppose these might have been destined for an inner gatefold or record bag but as Virgin included neither luxury, they used them up here? The LP came out in 1978 and was a top twenty release.

For the second album Virgin brought in designer Malcolm Garrett (with inner photography by Richard Rayner-Canham). The image here is actually an A5 promotional flyer, given out from record store counters in 1979, and uses the title typography but then mixes this with a typewriter font for the rest of the information, printed on nice matt paper stock. Given the band’s initial success Virgin did allow a gatefold this time which included a single strange group photograph inside. I cannot work out how this was taken, it looks like one of those photographs taken at the winning post on a race course but might have been achieved by dragging a print across a scanner or photocopier. It is a different frame to the one used on the album too. A much bleaker record than the first, it contains some of my favourite tracks by the band.

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On Safari

Another ten inch album which I found not long ago, this one presented in a sleeve which does raise questions of taste and cultural misappropriation today. Even more so perhaps on the back with a small throw away drawing showing a bwana overseeing two beaming natives lugging his boxes around. The music is designed to take you on a musical journey around the “whole panorama of Africa” while in the distance you can “hear the strange language of your baggage boys”.
The Petersen Brothers were from a large musical family in South Africa, but as far as I know this was their only album, issued there in 1958 by EMI’s South African operation, which had not long been up and running.

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