I do like these old 78 rpm record boxes, though they don’t turn up that often.  This one gave nothing much away as to it’s possible vintage, but I spotted a few old issues of Country Life from the Twenties recently, and there on the back of one was a nice HMV advert with the exact same typography and decoration, so I assume something like 1927 for this.
It’s a really tough box too, but then it had to be to protect the more fragile 78s of the time.  It must have been printed by letterpress, but there is hardly any indentation of the type on the surface, so it was done with some skill.
It’ll do nicely for keeping my 78 sleeves in while I’m sorting them out, so £3 well spent.  I have posted images of a similar box for Columbia Records 78s on the site, here’s the link.


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Often garish and done with no eye on design whatsoever, the K-Tel and Arcade hits album covers are the antithesis of sleeve art, the washing powder packets of the vinyl world. Primary colours and plenty of them! Yet they can throw up some fun covers, and I pick them up if I see them cheap and in good condition. This collection titled Rocket (Arcade ADFEP17) is one of the better examples.  The sleeve artist is not credited, but clearly they must have used a British comic illustrator of some talent, as the background image is fantastic and really well drawn.  It’s a pity they felt the need to cover it in the names of the artists although these are clearly hand-drawn as well; today someone would simply dial up one of the digitised ‘comic’ fonts. There is even a different illustration across the back, where puzzlingly the artists and tracks are buried in some tiny font for some reason (I bet Polly Brown threw a strop when she realised they’d missed her off the front!) It dates from 1975, arguably the peak period for these TV advertised compilations.

Arcade Rocket 20 original hits sleeve back
Arcade must have kept the rocket illustration separate, as different countries used it but changed the names and content as the Dutch version shown below indicates. Hopefully someone is out there collecting and documenting all this stuff properly!

There are a few K-tel heavy metal sleeves on the site.

Arcade Rocket 20 original hits sleeve back

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Vinyl. Art.

vinyl-art-of-cover-boxHow you can come up with such a dull cover for a book about vinyl I’m not sure, but Aurum Press have managed it with The Art Of Making Records.  However it’s not all bad news, and if you get down to HMV you can pick it up for half price which ST33 reckons is worth a trip.  Read the full review on the site, and there are more vinyl art book reviews if you scroll down the ever growing menu

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Summer’s Heat

Bill Summers Summer Heat

This sleeve stood out when it turned up in a Manchester shop the other week during a vinyl expedition with a friend (hello Chris!). There was a vaguely updated Vortiscist feel to the illustration, but it also looked very Eighties too (it turned out to be from 1983.) The rhubarb and custard colours, the nice grey shadow and the white background all make for a cover which is very much of the time. Bill Summers is an Afro Cuban Latin Jazz percussionist and group leader, which probably influenced the exaggerated Cuban dance wear as well.
I have always liked the typeface used here, which is Blanco, dating back to the early Fifties. I’ve used it myself on jobs (although if I recall rightly I had to scan an old type book and make up the words as it wasn’t digitised back then!), and it on sleeves by the Bobs Marley and Dylan (and more.)
The back cover is also nicely done, with a smartly designed panel of credits and fully justified text titles, suggesting early photo-typesetting skills. The cover lettering is repeated but with the colours switched around. The whole sleeve has a very subtle cream tint and a bit of a paint splatter going on in the background as well.

Norman Moore design

The design is by Norman Moore, not a name I was familiar with. Born in Scotland but working in the US, he has done at least 300 album and CD covers, starting back in the mid-Seventies.  It’s a huge output and includes some great sleeves and big names too. Many are photo portraits, with Norman adding sharply designed logos, shapes and washes to compliment the images, but others are more illustration based.  I shall have to do a bit more digging.
The Bill Summers cover was for MCA Records. Norman did a similar sort of cover the same year for a US synth pop outfit called Industry which I don’t have but is worth showing for comparison.

Industry mini LP sleeve

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Vinyl tourism

Away from the big name sleeve designers, I’ve always been interested in the work of those who toiled at or for labels, mostly uncredited and forgotten.  But when you bring some of these covers together they start to tell their own story.  We all have our own often stereotyped images of people from other lands, and the sleeve designers were no exception.  As it is holiday season, and having just got back from doing a bit of work / sight seeing in Switzerland (where I was dismayed by the lack of alpine meadows, milkmaids, dancing cows and cheese with holes in it), I thought to dig out one from my ‘so bad it’s good’ box, The Sound of Switzerland, which quickly led to me putting together a selection of similarly stereotyped covers.
You can view the full gallery on the site, and let me know of any similar sleeve you have!  Meanwhile, I’m back down the travel agents to get my money back.

Mood Latino, Sound of Switzerland, Learn Spanish, Italian Hits

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jewkbox jewish museum

The title of what looks to be a really fascinating new exhibition in London devoted to “exploring the experience of the 20th century through shellac and vinyl, celebrating the history of Jewish inventors, musicians, composers, music producers and songwriters. See early examples of phonographs and gramophones and immerse yourself in the sounds of the 20th century; from Jewish folk music to Yiddish theatre songs, from Broadway musicals to rock‘n’roll via the rebels of punk and psychedelic rock.

jewish album art exhibition

What most interested me (and gets it a mention here) from the preview was the display of some 500 records and covers, and if you like seeing unusual graphics and images on your sleeves, and how vinyl art was approached in a different country, then this looks like being a must.  You can read more about it on the Jewish Museum’s website, and download the exhibition brochure there as well.  I think the exhibition originated at the Austrian Jewish Museum.

It runs from July 14th to the middle of October

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Leave or stay?

Howie B Switch no sticker

Howie B Switch single front sleeve

This Howie B single is an elaborate package for a 12″, with a diecut printed inner sleeve, but a dirty great sticker on the front which ruined the designer’s work for me, so I spent half an hour carefully removing it from my copy. The dilemma of whether to leave a sticker or not is one which troubles some vinyl collectors. Personally I feel if the designer or musician didn’t want the information from the sticker printed on the sleeve, then it shouldn’t be there, especially if as is the case here it spoils everything. My only worry is can it be removed safely, or will it – especially when it has been on the card for a couple of decades – leave a mark. Others may argue that it is much part of the purchase as the label or the inner bag. Anyway, this is what it looks with and without.
Howie B (and his label) put a lot of effort into packaging this single, with various promotion versions, one of which was actually hand stencilled. These are covered on the site.

As for the other leave or stay debate – I’m just old enough to have voted in first time around and still feel the same today. When I ran a full time record label we ended up pressing in Europe as it was our best market, we even ran a bank account in Euros. Our main distribution people were in Germany and we made friends there, and enjoyed being part of something much bigger than would otherwise have been the case. So for the sake of existing and future small businesses everywhere I’d like to keep those opportunities and freedoms open.

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Pressing vinyl

I moan about The Guardian as much as any other longterm reader, but can’t see me going anywhere else. And not sure which other paper would publish a set of photographs documenting how a vinyl album is pressed. I think they’ve been taken for one of the big photo agencies rather than organised by the paper itself (by Brian Cahn) but this series of photographs covers everything from cleaning up the master tape to printing the sleeves. I rarely buy reissues but they do seem to be a huge part of the vinyl market these days, and this is a low-key Blue Note album cover they’re working on. I love the shot of a lady actually polishing off the dust from the sleeve sheet before it gets cut and formed, reminds me of my days working at a printers (nothing as glamorous as album covers sadly).  The shot below shows the pressing plant’s test copies stacked up.

album test copies.jpg

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Colour me pop

illustration by Jan Parker for Ben Webster album sleeve

What a fantastic sleeve illustration!  I like the dreamy look in Sax player Ben Webster’s eye as he tries to make sense of it all. The work is by illustrator Jan Parker, who did a number of excellent covers for the mail-order budget label World Record Club in the Sixties. Read more about these and see half a dozen more examples of Jan’s work on the site.


Art Direction : David King

Following a link about the Anti Nazi League posters I came across the recent obituary for photographer and designer David King the other day, mainly as I was interested to learn who designed those brilliant graphics for the ANL posters and flyers (and badges, I still have a small collection I amassed at the time) which were a big part of the late Seventies for me and many others.
I had not made the connection between him and sleeve design before though. David King’s day job in the Sixties was the art director at The Sunday Times Magazine, which again I always admired back in the Sixties (goodness knows what he would have made of the awful advertorial mess it has become these days.)
David was friends with Chris Stamp, who got him to design and art direct a few sleeves for his label, Track Records. A few sleeves. For Hendrix and The Who.
I can still show you the record shop window in Sheffield where I first saw The Who Sell Out sleeve on display. I was too young to understand what it was really, but it clearly made an impression! Hendrix’s Axis Bold As Love is again a very memorable cover, even if David misunderstood which Indian heritage Jimi wanted it to reflect. Electric Ladyland needs no introduction (and I won’t repeat the cover here!), but what a cover to have been onvolved with, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown is less well known, albeit just as clever and particularly timeless. You could easily imagine it appearing on one of the Stone Roses albums 20 years later.
For all these covers, David acted effectively as art director, commissioning the photographs (from David Montgomery) and illustrations (by Roger Law) and giving them the brief. So for Hendrix, David sourced an original Indian poster and explained to Roger how he wanted it redoing and adapting.
I like to keep this blog to material I own normally, and I do not have originals for any of these covers, so have sourced them from the web.
You can read The Guardian obituary here. I was very depressed to see I was the only person to have commented but I guess that is because it’s buried away amongst the clickbate which passes for The Guardian site these days.

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