The art of…

Yes there have been a couple of fairly tatty “worst record sleeves” books before, but this one aims a little higher while still providing laughs and disbelief! The Art Of The Bizarre Record Sleeve is being put together by Easy On The Eye Books who did that very well reviewed book Covered some years back, so we can expect a thorough job. The material comes from the amazing collection of Steve Goldman, who featured some of the covers in a pop-up exhibition about a year ago. The covers have since been shown elsewhere and continue to find amazed audiences. We will have more details over the next few months but you can sign up for a dedicated newsletter from the publisher which will keep people up to speed. ST33’s Simon Robinson (who is happy NOT to see any of his work in here!) is helping out on the project: “I have a couple of my own album art titles on the go already but this came along out of the blue. So it will take precedence! I saw the collection when it was on display in Stoke On Trent a few months ago and met Steve, so we thrashed out a concept and this flyer was put together very quickly to hand out to attendees. The cover may get tweaked as it nears publication, but has been so much fun to look through the collection and choose the best (or rather worst!) to feature in the book. And while many of the covers feature in online “worst cover” polls, usually as abysmal jpegs, the sleeves here are being scanned off original vinyl in all their glory. And the stories behind the covers are often fascinating, shedding light on how they ended up as they did.”

Visit the publisher’s preview pages. The Art Of The Bizarre Record Sleeve

Check out the publisher’s previous vinyl art book. Covered!

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Matching halves

There must be a reason for this but I’m jiggered if I can figure it out. This classical album, a recording of Coppelia by Delibes, was issued by Mercury in America and Canada in 1958. It was a double album set and came in a gatefold sleeve. Mercury in Britain issued it in the same artwork a year later but split the set into two separate single album volumes. So you got the rather strange looking composition cut down the middle, with a chunk missing where the spine would have been. Apart from that the design is quite adventurous, particularly the way the woman is cropped from the nose up, although the Mercury stripe across the corner rather gets in the way. The sleeve is laminated one side.

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This is the first 78 rpm shop sleeve I have seen for a photographic suppliers. It’s difficult to tell this far removed whether the shop was known as Photographia, and sold gramophones and records as a secondary line or not. I suspect the business may well have started out as a photo and art supply business and then added the gramophone department a little later. The sleeve points out that the shop is “By Post Office” and remarkably the post office is still there, though Photographia has long since gone (it was a wooden floor supplier when I looked on street view, below). Many London shops acted as ticket sellers for Keith Prowse as Photographia did. The sleeve probably dates from around 1910.

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Destroying vinyl…

The etsy brigade are at it again. Here they’ve lovingly drilled holes around the edges of two vinyl albums and threaded brass rods through to create a Fifties looking plant holder which even in the Fifties they would have shuddered at. Be thankful you didn’t get one for Xmas!

More examples of how to trash your collection on the site at

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Tijuana Voices With Brass Sing Merry Christmas

These days a sleeve like this would be shot down as cultural appropriation, but someone had a bit of fun with the cover shoot and it still has a real sense of fun about it. And by the looks of things the local fancy dress shop must have run out of extra large moustaches, even for the women! It has more than a touch of the Benny Hill about it. It was a budget release on the American Pickwick label but they went to the trouble of doing a proper photo shoot and even credited those responsible on the sleeve; design to just Daniel and photography by George Pickow, a very well known name in music and portrait photography as well as sleeve design. There is a tiny design touch to the otherwise unremarkable label which makes me smile too, the typesetter puts the words ‘with brass’ at a jaunty angle. Not sure I have ever seen that on a run of the mill label design before.
Herb Alpert had done his own Tijuana themed Christmas album in late 1968 so this may have gone head to head with that.
All the Pickwick SPC 1000 albums appear to have been Christmas themed and seem to have surfaced together in 1968. Most were repackages of 1950s recordings but this one may even have been specially recorded by session players. Shame some of our retailers haven’t got the imagination to did this out on a play list instead of the usual tired old Noddy Holder classics!

If you want to know more – much more – there is a decent guide to the mad world of Tijuana Christmas releases on this site!

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Christmas with A&M

A nice piece of record industry memorabilia from the Seventies.  Label back then flooded record shops with promotional material and catalogue updates were often piled up on shop counters.  This example was produced by A&M Records for their Christmas 1976 campaign, and is fairly mundane inside – five pages listing many of their big sellers, with a few sleeve, in colour.  All on one piece of paper folded twice to make an A5 sheet. The real money has been spent on a studio photo shoot for the cover, a woman in sparkly tights, red fur trimmed outfit and a silver bikini top.  She would have looked great on the cover of one of those Top Of The Pops sleeves, actually much better technically than many of their actual covers!  The disc image has been special painted for her to stand on.

Inside many big A&M albums of the time (Rick Wakeman, Joan Baez, Supertramp, Carpenters, Peter Frampton, Humble Pie, Strawbs, Joan Armatrading, etc.) are listed, along with vinyl LP, cassette, cartridge and a few 8 track quad catalogue numbers.

You do wonder how many examples of something like this have survived; for myself I found three in one of my boxes of music memorabilia while having a sort out!

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Strange Music

I do admire the wit of some of the spoof book covers which spin round the web, as well as the people who have fun putting them together. This one resonated more than most! The guy in the background is no doubt on the phone to the authorities. Thanks to Chris Meloche for forwarding it. Though to be fair his music collection is way more eclectic than ours.

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Another of the “exotic beauty” style of glamorous album sleeves which Capitol excelled at in the late 1950s. Caribbean Moonlight by Les Baxter was issued in 1957 and got into Billboards ‘pop instrumental’ chart the following year. I would be fairly sure this is a studio photograph, with the setting sun and sea on a photo backdrop, in front of which they’ve place a few palm tree leaves and the woman herself, though they might have done it all on location. It makes quite a moody image overall, with a hand drawn album title and the band leader’s name typeset. The back is black and white with one of those typical commercial sketches and a few sleeve notes. The designer, photographer and model are not credited.

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Big Jim ‘H’ & His Men Of Rhythm

Exactly who Big Jim ‘H’ & His Men Of Rhythm were I’m not sure, but as these three albums came out on Stereo Gold Award one assumes they were a bunch of able session players. The fact that there isn’t a single mention of them outside of these albums (or any more records credited to them) also points that way. It looks as if they were tasked with turning out a couple of hours of easy listening covers of current hits with an instrumental and Hammond focus which were then spread across three LPs. It also looks like the cover photographer spent an evening at a club disco and shot all three sleeve images on the one night as some of the backgrounds, the drum kit abandoned on stage and a few of the people can be spotted on them all. Many Stereo Gold Award covers went for bold flat areas of colour with large titles and a colour shot in the centre as the two matching volumes below.

Others pushed the photo to the full size of the cover as the one at the top. I think because of this the Todays Pop Hits is the best of the three, and makes a great cover despite the cheesy circus effect serif titling. For fashion historians it catches the hip clothes of the time really well. The albums all came out around 1971 / 1972 and were sourced in America, so I assume the photographs were done there as well. They must have sold by the truck load as copies do turn up in charity or thrift shops a lot even today.
While I was trying to look these up one site gave me some recommendations for other albums I might like, starting with Kraftwerk… now there’s an AI programme you wouldn’t want to trust!

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I have always liked the Fontana Popular Jazz Series of albums for their continuity of cover design. There were three dozen issued in the mid 1960s and all but one went for the same look. Namely a monochrome backdrop of the musicians in question, fronted by a woman, just posing. The backdrop images were often as here chosen to match up with the pose. So we have The Dutch Swing College Band kind of giggling and pointing. The covers were by a French photographer, hence the Orangina bottle the model is drinking from. Whether this means the series was put together primarily for the French market I don’t know.

After I’d picked this up not long ago to add to my small collection I kept looking at the hand drawn Wild! of the title (a feature of the series) and couldn’t help think it looked familiar. So I checked my Erasure records as this was where the bells were ringing and sure enough, their fourth album was called Wild! It came out in 1989, nearly 25 years after the Fontana sleeve, but it’s hard not to believe the designers at Me Company didn’t borrow the idea.
Which is kind of fitting, as the Fontana series were themselves all recycled from the vaults. There is a selection shown below.

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