This album dates from 1970 and was issued on the Interdisk label in Norway, although it is sung mostly in English. The cover looked quite unusual so I thought I would investigate.
The abstract image of the viking long boat and the hand drawn lettering all look distressed against a rough fabric background, and it’s actually printed in ‘specials’ rather than CMYK. So we get a nice gold ink, plus blue and black.
The illustration is credited to Derid and Tavla and the design to Derid, but try as I might I cannot find anything about the pair. But what did surprise me is that I’d picked up a 1970 reissue of a 1964 album, and the original (below) was silk screen printed onto a sort of hessian or burlap fabric. So this explains the texture on the reissue. And also means I now want to find an original.
The musicians aren’t much better documented but Svend Asmussen is a Danish jazz violinist, and teamed up with Swedish singer Alice Babs (who died in 2014) for this album and others as well as many solo projects. The rather nice late Fifties Polydor EP sleeve below by Alice is one I spotted while researching. Look at the way some clown has hacked off the price sticker and ruined it!
Maureen O’Hara‘s passing has to be marked by ST33, as she was my favourite of the golden age screen women. And as with many other Hollywood Stars, record labels attempted to cash in on her film success by putting her into a recording studio. Maureen’s first album was a jazzy, easy listening offering, Love Letters From… issued in 1959. I’ve never found this album, which seems to have been a US only release. dustygroove.com have had a listen: “Dreamy vocals from Maureen O’Hara – a singer who definitely shows her Irish a bit in this rare set of work for RCA. Backings are by Bob Thompson, who’s a bit more subtle here than in his own work – and he nicely supports Maureen’s trilling approach with some lightly jazzy instrumentation – all in a way that puts the singer right up front in the mix, and preserves a personal, up-close atmosphere on many numbers.”
A couple of years later in 1962 Maureen had another go and played it safe by going back to her Irish heritage on what was a bigger selling album, Maureen O’Hara Sings Her Favorite Irish Songs, on CBS. This was also issued in Europe and does turn up more readily in second hand shops in the UK. It is what you might expect, but she does make a good job of the material.
The covers to both albums are great, Love Letters a carefully (albeit uncredited) posed image, heavily retouched, with Maureen in a low cut dress which reflects her bosom-heaving persona in some of the lively swashbuckling films she starred in. The titles are nicely hand-drawn and being on RCA the cover carries their OTT Living Stereo logo across the top. Film buffs might be interested in the back sleeve notes, which are by director John Ford.
The Irish Songs sleeve is a little less overt, and she wears what for Hollywood probably passed for an Irish peasant top. The label also gave Maureen the most immaculate make-up job of just about any album sleeve ever. The image had to make room for a large panel listing all the tracks, quite why they needed that I’m not sure! And yes, the colours on the scan here really are accurate.
For those too young to remember, flexi discs were the vinyl equivalent of free MP3s or YouTube clips. Used by advertisers, magazines and groups to give people audio tracks at a relatively low cost by pressing the music on very thin flexible plastic 7″ records. Fidelity was pretty low and they weren’t designed to be played too often (and usually required a weight being placed on the label area to stop them slipping.)
This example is typical, issued on the back of an advertising campaign for Smith’s Crisps (then the dominant crisp maker). It features two hip tracks designed to appeal to teenagers, based on music from a contemporary TV and radio advert. Unusually this flexi actually had a paper label affixed – most just printed text onto the disc itself. But the cover is very Sixties, and features high contrast images of dancers from the TV advert, while the blue and red colours relate to the design of the crisp packets themselves. Amazingly it turns out that a young Phil Collins appeared in the advert as a dancer, and appeared on a promotional tour of the UK for the company dancing to the record on stage – he would be 15 at the time (the disc came out in 1967.) DJ Simon Dee fronted the advert, suggesting kids send in three empty crisp packets and 1/6d (7.5p) to get their free flexi disc. Smiths had form in this area. Richard “Hard Day’s Night” Lester had directed an earlier commercial for the company, featuring a young Pattie Boyd.
The single was probably made by Lyntone, the famous flexi firm, as it carries one of their catalogue numbers (Lyn1022) but is credited to Audio Plastics, so may have been done around the time the two firms merged.
I can’t get the disc to play on my deck (in the old days I would balance a couple of old coins on the cartridge!) but those who have listened to it report a vaguely white soul and mod influenced track, but with utterly daft lyrics. As far as I know the dance – or indeed the record – never took off in the clubs. Thanks to the archives of one time TV commercial director Ian Rough, we can now view the original monochrome commercial which features the sleeve very prominently!
Other flexi discs on the site – a Paint promo and Birthday flexi discs
Fed up with Barry chiding me that I only ever add shops to this site’s local index after they’ve shut, we finally tag the legendary Sheffield record shop Record Collector onto our listings! Read more about it under Record Collector.
London based Gala Records are poorly documented but began around 1958 as a budget label, and remained so through the Sixties. Much of their recorded output seems to have been bought in from America, often along with the artwork. They were unashamedly low-price and their sleeves are always quite brash with very saturated colours. This cover is a worth looking at though. Based on the central tenement set of the stage / film, it’s a combination of an impressionistic cartoon-like painted background and characters, with overlays of fabric and some half-tone images cut out from magazines. Over this the designers have laid lots of type, though the actual title gets rather lost placed where it is.
The sleeve does look very American (and the recording certainly is) and I can’t believe it wasn’t first issued there but I’ve not been able to find an original. The release is not dated, but the film which really brought the story to the public was issued in 1959 so this is likely to be very early Sixties.
The musical was enormously popular and as well as the official albums, there are lots of cover versions by 101 Strings, Hank Jones, Percy Faith and many more.
There is another Gala sleeve design for a Bullfighting album on the site.
Ah! Men is a strange concept, and a bit of a weird mix musically unless your play list switches between Val Doonican and Jerry Lee Lewis by choice. Still the concept title must have seemed fantastic at the Polydor brain-storming session, even if the religious pun doesn’t really work in the cold light of day. The cover girl is clearly in some sort of seventh heaven at the thought of all these hunky guys (‘supermen’ according to the cover); about to swoon over Harry Secombe perhaps? It’s a great studio shot though, and as an advertising led cover design it works perfectly.
Contour, Polydor’s budget label, put this together in 1974. The design was by Jack Levy, who did a lot of work for Contour in the mid-70s, including overseeing their 16 Chart Hits series which ran for some twenty or so volumes. But he did start out doing more ‘progressive’ covers for the likes of Manfred Mann and Renaissance. Jack seems to have come over from America, where he worked at Dot Records as their advertising / merchandising director in the late Sixties, and probably returned later (there was a big advertising agency in Chicago, Jack Levy Associates, in the 1990s.)
The cover photograph is by John (or Johnny) Clamp. I cannot find too much work by him, but he did cover shoots for a couple of great albums by Kaleidoscope and Dave Kelly in the late Sixties, and worked with Jack Levy on the Manfred Mann cover I mentioned earlier. It’s not impossible Clamp is an assumed name (maybe a pun on photo gear?). Like Jack he probably moved on into more general agency work.
The cover model does look familiar, and may have appeared on some of the hits albums too. The button up sweat shirt top and peaked hat are very of the time. As is the pin-on badge which frustratingly catches the studio light so cannot be read…
This copy is mint and looks unplayed, so may have been an unwanted gift!
Always nice to have material sent in by other vinyl collectors interested in the packaging. Here is a good example of and album size record bag from the Marchi shop in Florence, Italy. As was often the case, the shop stocked vinyl alongside electrical goods like radio and television. The building has been replaced though this is still a busy shopping street. They also had a branch on the coast in Lido di Camaiore in Tuscany according to the bag. Thanks to Max for the image. He also has some nice NEMS bags we hope to show soon. For more shop bags on the site search for ‘record shop bags’ under categories or see here.
Is this where the phrase Disc Jockey comes from? This horse rider, dashing for the last furlong with a record in each hand, was painted for an early label called Winner Records, and appeared on their labels for twenty years or more between the wars. This gallery showcases four of the variations of the label, simply because they all turned up in a shop recently and were too good to leave behind!
This sleeve plays with the conventions of an album cover and stood out in a rack of bargain vinyl I leafed through recently. I’d not heard of the band, an electronic synth pop duo called I Start Counting, but this was their debut album from 1986 on Mute Records. The label had only been going a couple of years at the time but had signed artists like Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure so could afford to be creative with packaging new acts. Mute often did interesting sleeves, and this is no exception. I thought it was a 12″ single at first, but they call it a mini LP; at around 34 minutes it’s as long as a lot of regular vinyl albums. The letters are all made from shapes cut out of magazine pages which have been given a colour wash with paint first, then pasted up to make the final design. The art even includes the retail price at a time when label or bands tried to ensure fans were not overpriced for a record they may well have taken a reduced royalty on to hit the lower price break (otherwise shops were tempted to try and charge more). The album is called My Translucent Hands and is pressed in clear vinyl as a play on this. Although I don’t have it, the CD cover – the format was fairly new at the time – uses the same design but with CD where Mini LP is on the vinyl.
The cover designer looked to be a bit of a mystery; “Art by Mark” didn’t offer many clues. Yet a bit of research showed this to be Mark Higenbottam, designer at Town & Country Planning Design, who did quite a lot of work for Mute. T&CP were later taken over by Stylorouge, an agency responsible for many very stylish sleeves (there is a review of their book on the site). The back cover is less griping, black with just a few torn shapes and small montage in the corner.
A gallery of workmanlike 7″ card sleeves produced for local record shops in the fifties and sixties, which have been serving serving as singles storage for over fifty years. Handmade type and vintage logos abound on these provincial offerings from Reading Co-Op, Canns in Sheffield, Jeavons in Newcastle, Sydney Scarborough in Hull, Savilles in South Shields and Vallances in Leeds.