Variations

Returning to Cyndi Lauper (I’ve been scanning some sleeves for a possible cover art book project lately) this 12″ maxi single dates from 1989 and shows the independence afforded various record label territories at the time. Cyndi Lauper always went for a striking visual cover shoot for her releases, and both these have the same A-side but different images on the front. The European version, with the shot of Cyndi in harlequin trousers, rather spoils things with tatty typography.

The UK version in contrast is very much more hip. The UK cover photo was from a shoot by Caroline Greyshock and the design was handed over to Hill Archer Studio (who did a lot of fairly routine sleeve work from the mid-80s on, with a few stand out exceptions). Hence I suppose their slightly corporate response, but it is overall much more exciting visually and makes the European cover look very dowdy by comparison. The designer has picked up on the autumnal colours from the decoration on Cyndi’s outfit for the typography. I suspect the song title was generated from letters scanned out of old printed sources, I’m not sure such type was available commercially at this time (though today loads of similar fonts are around). As was traditional at the time the two tracks off the album were boosted by an otherwise unreleased live track. The only downside to the sleeve was the application of a big sticker which had to come off but took the print varnish with it! Australia and Spain also did their own designs.

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First Impression/s

Exactly who The First Impression were I’m not certain (apart from being a “top London beat group” as the sleeve explains!), and the web doesn’t seem to know much either, but they did three albums of cover versions for the Saga budget label in 1967 and 1968. These all had music which dealers would class as ‘easy listening beat’ or ‘esoterica’ today but I do like these covers which feature strangely abstract photographs of pop groups on the front. The photographer is not credited, the band are not identified (it might even be The First Impression themselves, but equally could just be a stock agency pic), and the venue is so far unknown (although I wouldn’t mind someone must recognise that ceiling flower decoration from their clubbing days in the Sixties!). There seems to be some sort of double exposure on the live photo and a good bit of blur due to a longish exposure but it does manage to evoke hazy memories of concerts past quite well. Which at the moment is all we’ve got.

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Blue Angel

It’s not the greatest of record sleeves, but this album by Blue Angel does have a certain post-Punk charm to it. It also has Cyndi Lauper on lead vocals, which is the reason I picked it up cheap just after she found fame and fortune as a solo artist and copies of this US import were still in the dump bins. Needless to say the LP has been reissued a number of times since with her name appended to the front.

The band were kind of rockabilly / power pop (meets Blondie) hence the Stray Cats style portraits on the front which have been roughly cut out and hand tinted. Issued in 1980, it does very much look of the time, with a bright red background and hand drawn title. I do like the band pictures on the back as well, which look (deliberately I’m sure) like old-fashioned bubble gum cards thanks to the caption boxes. The album design was by Stephanie Zuras who worked on quite a lot of sleeves that year and beyond for Polydor, through the agency AGI – Album Graphics Inc.

Ironic really, as not long after there was an actual set of Cyndi Lauper gum cards to collect in 1985 (“3 glossy cards; 3 stickers, 1 stick bubble gum” in every pack!). My pop culture side couldn’t resist picking a set of those up! It must have been one of the last sets to feature an actual stick of gum inside too, before the dreaded ‘collectors card’ sets took over.

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The Finest Gift!

EMI Record tokens

A neat little piece of record retail ephemera, these small red and black stickers were supplied by EMI for shop staff to stick onto sleeves and other odds and ends. This one I found on the corner of one of those generic white 7″ card bags sold to store singles in. From the song titles this looks to date from the early Sixties but what the record actually was I’m not sure, maybe a cover versions EP?

Record tokens were very useful for older relatives so they could treat teenagers without getting it very wrong! There are some examples of actual tokens on the site.

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Records and Fancy Goods

Sutcliffe’s Records, Hastings.

Two more scraps of record shop ephemera to clear off my desktop! This first bag from Sutcliffes has a great logo, but I couldn’t match it to anywhere in Hastings. Until I realised this was not Hastings on the South Coast of England, but Hastings in New Zealand. On the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island to be exact. As there is no address I can’t pin it down any more precisely, but I’d guess it dates from the Sixties. It’s had a long journey too, as this is another paper shop bag rescued and sent on to me by Adam at Centurion Records in Hungerford, England. “Hawke’s Bay’s Premier Music House” is quite a claim but maybe if someone out there remembers it then do get in touch.

The Grotto, St Andrews.

Next up is The Grotto, what a great name for a record shop! As so often in the Sixties, vinyl played a part of the retail mix of this general Fancy Goods shop, which also sold toys and cigarettes. The premises are still there with the old front (the building is listed) but it’s been The Crystal Shop for 25 years now. I kind of think I’d rather rely on music myself but there you go.
This two colour shop bag design with musical notes on was generic, sold by wholesalers to individual traders who could then rubber stamp it, sticker it up or as here, do both.

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Strange To Your Ears?

Another monochrome cover following on from the White Noise sleeve. Frustratingly the designer of this unusual audio album cover is not given, although I suspect they did sign the art off on the front – but poor cropping means this is clipped off all the versions I have checked!  If you have a version where this didn’t happen do let me know.  It was sent in as a thrift shop find by Chris Meloche who also sent me a bit of detail:

Jim Fassett started as a broadcaster on WBZ Boston in the 1920s. He eventually moved to New York where he took a position with CBS Radio. In the 1950s, he hosted a radio programme which highlighted his interest in the manipulation of sound on tape. The programme was called Strange to Your Ears and some of the results of that show became the basis of this LP. 

Over the course of the album, Fassett plays weird and other-worldy sounds which he then proceeds to deconstruct revealing the original sound source. There are sound sources like roosters crowing and babies crying. 

The LP which came out in 1953 seems to have been directed at educational  audiences, and was also issued in America as a three 7″ disc set in the same art.

The sleeve uses the sort of illustrations you would expect to see in a children’s book of the era, and then places these around the large title type.  A bunch of speech balloons with the title in smaller alternate typefaces are also added, and the overall result is really nicely balanced, and looks neat in just black and white. Whether this was a cost saving measure on Columbia’s part or not I don’t know.

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White Noise

I was reading about a proposed live performance from the Radiophonic Workshop the other day and spotted the news that today would be Delia Derbyshire Day. This roughly annual event celebrates the career of the Radiophonic Workshop pioneer. It got me thinking back to Delia’s album with the three piece experimental group White Noise, which I picked up as a school kid second-hand in the early Seventies; perhaps someone had played me a bit while we were messing with the school tape recorder as it’s hardly an album I would have heard anywhere else back then.
As with most Island albums of the era the cover is very eye-catching. The album was titled An Electric Storm and the trio apparently found a screen print of a lightning strike which they wanted for the cover, although according to Julian Cope nobody remembers who the student responsible for the print was. The group apparently wanted this printed in ‘glow in the dark’ ink, but already worried about the total lack of commercial potential of the album, Island wouldn’t pay for this extra cost! I have seen a few covers using this ink in the late 70s but the problem is that it needed to be applied via screen printing and was quite thick, so difficult to resolve any fine detail (whether or not the technique has been improved since I don’t know).
The front lettering is a curved sans-serif which someone has then worked on by joining the letters using straight lines. The logo might have been positioned better and reduced in size but overall it creates a memorable cover.

The title appears only on the back in a shatter type effect, done I assume by setting the text then cutting through with a craft knife. All the lyrics are also squeezed on to the back sleeve. As always at the time the large Island logo and catalogue number appear on the front as well.

There is a detailed article on Julian Cope’s site about the album. I wasn’t a huge electronic music listener back then but this was a record I played an awful lot. It was given a CD reissue early doors and as my vinyl copy was so tatty I did get that but the properly remastered version might be worth investigating.

https://www.headheritage.co.uk/unsung/review/1143

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All wrapped up

Wrapping paper sleeve.jpg

I have shown some home made sleeves on the site before, but did enjoy this 7″ sleeve made from Christmas wrapping paper which I turned up. I would guess at a late 1970s design, using retro style art. All held together with sellotape! The wallpaper sleeves can be seen here.

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Yeah yeah yeah

I’ve got more music posters than I know what to do with already, scrounged from outside venues or music shops (or even in the case of The Sex Pistols peeled off a wall light at night after they’d just been stuck up!). Even so if I had the money this would be hard to resist; an original Japanese poster for the 1964 release there of Hard Day’s Night. It’s an amazing design, managing to be both classy and exotic at the same time. I’m always fond of a bit of CMYK splitting (although the green is obviously a cheat) and really like the way they’ve applied this to the four figures. I’m not sure of the small drawings of girl fans are original or lifted from a British poster, or why they’ve added the music stave, but who cares. The Beatles logo I think was used a lot on America, so that probably reflects where the deal was done. Then just a small colour photo of the band along the bottom and a nice photo of fans. We’re unlikely to ever know who put it together but hats off. I found it on a site covering an upcoming auction of Beatles memorabilia which I forgot to bookmark! I’m not even much of a Beatles collector, although there is a nice Beatles single carrier on the site and some smart Beatles Pop Stamps too.

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Reading record retailers

You must have been spoiled for choice when out shopping for records in Reading in the 1960s if this trio is anything to go by! I don’t know the town much at all having only been there a couple of time, but Friar Street was clearly one place to go with Hickie and Hickie Ltd. Pianos, records, music. 153 Friar Street, Reading. Browns Records 39 Friar Street, Reading. and the Co-operative, Reading at 99 Friar Street!

None were actually dedicated record shops though, but sold discs as an aside to their more regular trade. Founded in 1913 (see the advert on the side of a bus below!), Hickie And Hickie are still going at 153 Friar Street, and are a musical instrument shop (thought they did sell hi-fi for a time until Richer Sounds took that trade away). I have no information on Browns who were more of an electrical shop selling radios and TVs as well as records, which was quite common in the 1960s. These two blue stitched card sleeves (which are just different rubber stamps) are from 1957 and 1960 (dated from the names of the singles the owner wrote on! They were grooving to Adam Faith and Tommy Steele). I have posted the Co-op sleeve before along with some other card shop covers, but don’t know much about the history of the shop (which is now a bloody Wetherspoons). Matthew Kean say HMV used to be on Friar Street as well.

My thanks to Adam Thompson at http://www.centurion-records.co.uk in Hungerford antiques centre for sending me these.

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