Looking around the 2017 Sleeve of The Year exhibition in Barnsley (see post below) reminded me of a sleeve art exhibition I was involved in back in 1999. Somehow we persuaded Blackpool’s Grundy Art Gallery to host this based on a shared interest in Easy Listening music; myself and Vince Kelly had been picking the stuff up for a while, and Vince worked at the City gallery in Manchester and had a few contacts. Plus the music was coming back into vogue at clubs and also live.
Blackpool seemed an ideal town somehow. We checked out the gallery space and worked out how many sleeves would work round the walls, and then worked through our collections to whittle the choice down to around 50 album covers. The idea was to showcase the cover art but also feature a number of different genres. Most of the albums were British recordings and artists from the 1950s and 1960s. Each sleeve was mounted and framed by the gallery, and then captioned with notes about the music and the sleeve.
It was called Easy On The Eye; the Art of Easy Listening. We had huge fun making the choice, and spreading them all out on our living room floor once we’d selected the final covers.
The fun sort of ended when it came to mounting the exhibition. Four of us travelled over, ourselves from Sheffield, Vince and his partner Eileen from Southport, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. The gallery was roasting, and we had to do everything ourselves. They didn’t even offer us a glass of water.
But it did look fantastic when finished, and a few glass flat top displays were added which we filled with suitable memorabilia – contemporary magazines, recent CDs, etc. Vince also organised the evening launch do, and was able to track down a local keyboard player who had featured on one of the albums and came along to entertain us and invited guests.
There was quite a bit of local press, this was largely pre-website days, and the gallery said it was very well received by visitors while it was up. It was also pre-mobile phone and digital camera days too, but Eileen took her SLR along and despite the very low light levels managed to get a few images of the event which I dug out recently and scanned. The Grundy’s own website does cover past exhibitions on their web site but even that doesn’t go back this far!
It was great to see these sleeves displayed like this, very much out of their original context yet being recognised for their design and photography, and their impact on the social history of the era.
If any other gallery is daft enough to want to repeat the show we do have the sleeves and mounts so could put it together quite readily!