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.

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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 in Hungerford antiques centre for sending me these.

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House of Andrews

Just a simple shop bag to hold a 7″ 45 rpm disc…

But then you delve into the name a little and discover there is 150 years or more of history behind it. The firm was founded by the original George Andrews (bookseller, stationer, publisher, mapseller, printseller, bookbinder and music-seller), as early as 1808. By the 1930s they had expanded considerably and opened a coffee shop (beating Waterstones by at least 70 years!) and were also selling records. By then owned by a Mr. Smart (who lived to be 100) it carried on after his death in 1965 and was still going in the 1970s, which is probably when this bag was passed over to a customer with a single in. I cannot find any reference to it at that time or when it closed. They clearly felt they were so much of a local institution they don’t even bother to put their address on the bag.

You can read a more detailed history of the early years of the business on a rare books site:

My thanks to Adam Thompson at in Hungerford antiques centre for sending me this (and other bags which I will post anon). Adam didn’t want to throw them away and found our site and thought we might like to have them.

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Chest Slap and Yell

In these strange times here’s an album find which I thought might sit well with the current move to get us all to try and relax a bit.  It was sent by Chris Meloche but he warns us that all it not what it seemsThis is not a “relaxation album” in the sense of a record with relaxing New Age music lulling you into a pleasant state of mind. Instead it contains a number of tracks in which Gunther takes you through the steps of sensory awakening achieved by literally slapping yourself around!”  In which case we might give it a miss.  There is no actual label so it looks to be a private pressing released by Sensory Awakening c/o Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California back in 1968.  You had to be there as Peter Fonda put it in The Limey.

The track titles are worth listing: Introduction / Head Tapping / Torso Slapping / Chest Slap and Yell / Breathing / Face Slapping / Arm Slap and Shake / Leg Slap and Shake / Face Slapping / Palming.

Maybe one for Gwyneth to license in and reissue? The cover is obviously a big contrast to the sort of thing the rock scene was pumping out by this time, but I quite like the simple approach caused by a budget. It also suggests a clean clinical feel which is where it was aimed market wise I suppose.

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Abbe Lane – Das Stereo Klang Wunder

Mercury klang wunder.jpg

Das Stereo Klang Wunder, or roughly, The Wonder Of Stereo Sound.  This seems to be an sampler introducing the Mercury Perfect Presence Sound Series to a German audience. Already very popular in America when they launched, the albums made much of the stereo recording techniques employed in their recording.  They also went for very bright and glamorous sleeves, and this album features model Abbe Lane (great name and this is circa 1961 so pre-Beatles!) on the cover. Abigail Francine Lassman (singer – she cut several albums under her stage name – dancer, actress) was married to Xavier Cugat for a time which is how she appears on several of his sleeves, and the photographs of Abbe on the front of this sampler were taken for an album by Cugat, though one of them seems to be an out-take from the photo shoot.  Another was used for one of her solo records. The back in mono, with German text and illustrations of many of the albums in the series.  The album was priced at just 9.80 DM and was a limited edition release.  The photographs are not credited but may be by Alfred Gescheidt who did work for Cugat on other titles.

Abbe Lane Mercury album.jpg

There is another album from this series on the site, Latin Percussion.


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Follow up your French

Suivez la piste BBC.jpg

Another classy BBC offering, this is their French language course “Suivez La Piste”  released in 1966, and designed to tie in with a BBC TV series for schools television. The design uses a grid not dis-similar to their early sound effects LPs. For youngsters, the BBC used to run special programmes from schools during the morning, so classes could wheel in the school TV and watch. Booklets and other learning material were also available. These days they show Loose Women instead.

There were two albums, the other had a slightly different colour scheme.  There are more of these vintage language albums on the site.

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The comfortable depths of your own armchair



Two more vintage 78 shop sleeves from charity shop finds. It is to me remarkable that 100 years after these were first sold they are still sometimes turning up, and as these two were in almost mint condition I couldn’t resist! Davis’s Music Store was sited in the prestigious Victorian arcade on Lord Street in Liverpool (the firm also had three more branches around the town). The arcade has survived, I don’t know when Davis’s stores closed. But clearly they had a lot of pride in their business, enough to have this special design drawn up, based perhaps on an early speaker cabinet design. All the lettering is also hand drawn. I think the sleeve dates from the 1920s and clearly the main emphasis here is on selling gramophones to the higher end market, the firm boasting of “The sound way of securing sound machines”! I cannot find any references to the business on the web.

Joseph Riley Birmingham 78.jpg

The second sleeve is from a shop in Birmingham, Joseph Riley’s, “opposite the town hall” on Paradise Street. I really like the pen and ink drawing of the old gent relaxing in his comfy chair in front of the fire, pet cat doing the same, and the wind up gramophone at his side. The sleeve promotes HMV machines; there is an HMV sleeve on the front and on the back promotional blurb for their gear, suggesting you “enjoy it all from the comfortable depths of your own armchair” as it is “better than an orchestra”. The local Birmingham history forum suggests Henry Riley & Sons Ltd had been in business since 1851 selling musical instruments and that Joseph Riley may have been his son. Perhaps the original business stuck to instruments and Joseph went after the gramophone market? Joseph Riley’s first shop was in Corporation Street and they then moved to Paradise Street, the address on this sleeve.

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