Classical sleeves

Three nice illustrated sleeves which I have stumbled across in recent months, all for classical music and issued in the 1950s and 1960s.

Cuckoo and Nightingale Columbia sleeve.jpg

The first cover design is a real work of art, produced for Columbia’s classical label in 1963 by Henrietta Condak, who did sleeve designs for them well into the Eighties. The later covers tend to feature mostly photographs of the performers, probably dictated by the label and the market, but many of the earlier designs when budgets were less constrained are typographical or illustration based.
Here the two bird illustrations turn out to incorporate smaller images of other birds when you start to look more closely, all taken from old Victorian engravings. This is then set amongst some beautiful calligraphy credited to Irene Trivas. She was also an illustrator, but appears to have worked less often on record covers, and mainly in the Fifties, although her output is always really striking.

scheherazade RCA sleeve 1951.jpg

The Scheherazade cover is yet another interpretation of the ballet based on the narrator of the Arabian Nights. There are dozens of recordings of this work out there, all presenting different visions of the story, and it’s fascinating to see how designers tackled the challenge. This is one of the earliest LP versions on RCA Victor, dating from 1951. I was quite surprised at the excellent condition, the multi-coloured printing with solid black, pink, turquoise and blue inks has survived without the usual ring wear associated with paper sleeves from North America (it’s actually a Canadian pressing). Even better it was a garage clearance (all LPs £2) find at a local market. Frustratingly the cover artist is not credited anywhere, but it is a real gem.

Guisti Command sleeve design.jpg

The last of the illustrated sleeves is an abstract design by Italian born George Guisti, for the Command Classic series. I picked up the Pye UK issue from 1966 but the album was first issued in this cover in 1961 in America. Guisti did around 50 sleeves for the label across the Sixties, most are excellent. Guisti emigrated to America in the late Thirties as he was offered so much work there whilst visiting. As well as the sleeves, his work graced books, magazines, corporate material and advertising, as well as sculpture and even architecture (I’ve just been drooling over one of his 1964 houses which is up for sale!). The image is very abstract, seeming to depict a pine tree on a hill, but I’ve no idea if there is anything in the music which inspired it. All his sleeves feature the recognisable signature.

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At The Palace

The Palace Theatre in Manchester was one of the many rock venues available to me as a student there, but tended not to have as many groups as The Free Trade Hall. However if a band needed a deeper bigger stage, then it was the best option. I saw Genesis there doing Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. So when Yes were touring their elaborate Relayer show in 1975 it was about the only venue in the city which could take their set, with large fibreglass installations designed by Roger Dean. I was lucky enough to see the show, which was the first with new keyboard player Patrick Moraz. I also managed to get my 135mm lens in to take some shots from the stalls, including this one of Howe and Moraz.  Yes are not everyone’s cup of tea being too proggy for some but I really enjoy their work up to this era.  The photo and a few more will appear in a new book of dedicated interviews by journalist and broadcaster Jon Kirkman, The Yes Interviews, published early in 2019 (by Easy On The Eye books).  Having been sat in my archive for so long it’s nice to see them in print!




I absolutely played the debut album from Talking Heads to death back in 1977, having taken a risk on the single after rave reviews in the NME. The LP sleeve is good too (it can be seen on the site) but the band had wanted to use proper silk screen quality inks to give the jarring optical clash between the day glo green and orange / red (inspired by supermarket packaging I seem to remember).  It seems a shame none of the recent vinyl reissues have not gone that extra mile.  However you get a better idea of how it might have looked from this original Sire Records promotional in-store poster issued in the UK, which is done in the industrial inks.  I blagged it from Virgin Records back at the time.


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Christmas sleeve


I cannot trace James Russell & Co. This charming Christmas sleeve printed for their record department looks to be from the 1930s judging by the stylistic outline drawings of the man and woman who are carrying the letters which make up the word Greetings. On the other side they are carrying parcels. I thought at first that they might simply be metal blocks from the typesetters (most of whom stocked a wide range of seasonal images in their catalogue) but looking closely it is clear the figures are individually painted as there are differences between them. So, it looks like Russell’s designers did this specially, which suggests a department store; I doubt a record shop alone would go to those lengths. Either way, it’s a lovely image and the only 78 rpm Christmas sleeve I’ve found to date. There was a Russell & Russell shop in Sheffield around 1910, but whether there is a connection I don’t know.


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Beresford’s Birmingham


This vintage paper bag turned up a few weeks ago at an antique shop, and for £3 I couldn’t resist. Lovingly crafted from brown paper with string handles, and complete with the HMV and Columbia record logos, it must be pre-War, so just who kept it mint for all those years must remain a mystery. All this crap about plastic bags destroying the planet could have been avoided if they had stuck to this sort of carry-home!

I can’t find out much about the record shop. The web doesn’t help; the shop is listed on the Birmingham Music Archive website (which doesn’t seem to have updated for over a year), and a record sleeve from the shop is shown (see below). This gives an alternate city centre address, but the Erdington one is the same. All I know about Erdington is that it was the home of the famous Mothers Club live venue in the 1960s.
As with other shops selling records at the time, Beresford’s seem to have been a general electrical dealer. It’s a sign of the time that the Erdington branch is now a Polish food outlet.


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Binn’s department store


I kind of assumed Binn’s department stores must have sold gramophone players and records at some time, but this is the first 78 rpm bag featuring their name I have found. In fact the shop had three slightly different ones in, I got two (someone nabbed the other while I was walking round the charity shop!). The shop logo is lovely, very 1920s, and matches their shop design. This one is letterpress printed in orange ink, the other is actually gold foil, but hard to photograph. I would think this sleeve is from one of the firm’s many stores in the North East (the firm began in 1804, and by the early 1900s was Sunderland’s biggest department store.). I remember the shop in Leeds where my Grandparents used to shop. The chain was taken over by House of Fraser, and in recent times the majority of the former shops have closed or been renamed.

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Records and railway tickets

Palmer, W. G. & Son, on the North End Road in Kensington apparently not only sold gramophone players, wireless sets, and of course 78 rpm records, but also acted as a ticket agency for all the London Theatres and even rail and bus travel. What’s more, they gave over the flip side of their sleeve to (I assume paid for) adverts for local tradesmen, grocers, stationery, car hire and off licenses! This is the only time I’ve seen this done on a 78.


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Latin Percussion

Latin via Hollywood that is.

David Carroll-Latin Percussion-cover

David Carroll specialised in fronting these percussive jazz / latin albums, and Mercury came up with a gatefold cover theme which incorporated six photographs of the cover model spread across front and back. They used this for several of Carroll’s albums. So they make great display pieces!  I have not been able to find out the name of this cover star but she does a great job of selling it. The inner notes concentrate instead on the music and huge amounts of detail on how technical the recording was. The album was issued in a few sleeve variations, this is the mono version, and the photo was sent to me by Chris Meloche over in Canada and his been lurking in my “to blog” folder for ages (I do have the album but it’s nice when people send decent pics!). For the stereo one they moved the red panels to the top (see image below).  There is also what looks to be a short lived black cover, with a painted illustration, which perhaps sneaked out before being usurped by this far more eye-catching sleeve, but I’ve not been able to find a good shot of that. They must have sold by the truck load too, judging from the number on sale on the web. One of the photos was lifted off for the cover of an EP from the album in the UK. Carroll was musical director for the label for many years, so also got to play and work on many hits of the era.


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Nine Inch Nails


I was told NIN would be worth a listen at the start of their career by Vince Chong, a friend in Canada, so was lucky enough to buy most of their early releases and see them on tour in the UK a few times. As a bonus they also had great graphics, which were produced by Gary Talpas who did nearly all their artwork for eight years (latterly as art director) through to 1997, and designed their clever reverse N logo as well in collaboration with Trent Reznor. Vince was over last year and picked up this UK version of their debut single up on 12″ (at the recommended Tallbird Records in Chesterfield). It is very different to the American release and the typography is much better as well. The background image I think is from a video for the single (I never watch music videos so can’t confirm!). But the swirling smoke effect makes an interesting abstract background. Gary did a few other sleeves for the NIN label roster but otherwise has worked in different creative fields.

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Record centres


I mostly only blog items here which I have, but this lovely item caught my eye online not long ago. These little circular discs were sold to allow push out 45s to be played on a regular record player. I have a much nicer one for my deck to this day, but these cheap and cheerful ones probably worked fine. What’s nice is that this is a full sheet of a dozen unsold centres, each shrink-wrapped with perforations so you could tear one off and hand over your 25 cents. What a nice find for somebody!

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