Hip soundtrack

Another antique centre blag which didn’t take much dithering over as it was both eye catching and cheap! Film soundtracks are usually neither; dull because they just copy indifferent cinema poster designs, expensive as they were pressed in small numbers* and the music is much sought after by collectors.

The Comedians Soundtrack designer Jack Anesh
How the striking apparently abstract cover from 1967 (it’s not dated but that’s when the movie came out and it’s clearly an original) for The Comedians Soundtrack takes some working out but I’ll have a go; it’s based on a photograph of someone in a cloak. The designer has rephotographed this through a pattern screen; normally this would be done through a half tone screen (to produce the sort of image which works in magazines and newspapers), but screens were available in other patterns including lines, which is what has been used here. The screen would be placed between the original photograph and, depending on the exposure, would convert the resultant print to a pattern of lines of varying thickness.
It looks as if the designer has done this twice to film (rather than paper), then laid the results at right angles to one another and used that for the final image (printed in purple) – as well as reversing the image out to produce a negative (printed in green). Well you sort of get the idea (I could blather on longer as I used to work such a reprographic camera in my job years ago; they were massive – you had to stand on a step to check the ‘viewfinder’ and it took film sheets as big as A2!).
The end result is very psychedelic! And somewhat at odds with the movie, which is based on a Graham Greene novel and starred such hipsters as Alec Guinness, Richard Burton, Liz Taylor and Peter Ustinov (I must try and find on DVD as it’s not a film I remember).
The eyecatching cover is credited too and turns out to be the work of designer Jack Anesh. Jack was born in 1941 and began work as a designer around 1965/6 at Verve Records. During 1966 and 1967 he is credited on any number of albums, but perhaps the most famous is Freak Out, the debut from The Mothers Of Invention. And there again he used a treated photograph and quite subtle typography, cleverly suggesting alternate culture by adding the LP title in a hippy style speech bubble. What’s so good about the Freak Out cover is (a bit like The Comedians one) it remains quite hard to date, and looks as good today on the CD reissues as it did back in 1966. The same year he also did a cover for Duke Ellington which incorporated a smartly cropped photograph with a posterised image of Duke against a vivid yellow background. I’ve also added a sleeve for another modern looking LP by Miguelito Valdes which I liked (all are albums I don’t own). Anesh, who later gets credited as ‘art director’ too, also seems to have specialised in soundtrack albums for MGM records, who owned Verve (having bought the label in 1960).
Frank Zappa Duke Ellington Jack Anesh
Unlike Zappa though, which a web trawl brings up zillions of hits for Freak Out alone, Anesh is less easy to research, but as his sleeve credits dry up toward the end of sixties I must assume he moved on. By the end of the 1990s he is cropping up again as a designer at an advertising agency. If anyone knows any more, do drop me a line.
* South Pacific, Oklahoma and Gigi, million sellers which comprise the vinyl staples at every charity shop I ever go to, being the exceptions.

About simon robinson

Having worked as a graphic designer in the music industry, mainly in the reissue sector, I now concentrate on the design and publication of books about popular culture - and even write some of them.
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