The Billy May album above dates back to 1953, originally released as Bacchanalia, a 10” album. It has to be said that original sleeve is pretty mad – a Flintstones style cartoon picture of Romans partying away and some freestyle lettering. Capitol reissued it not long after as a 12” LP in the same art, done by Robert McAvin, who painted a number of sleeves for the label, some very good.

Cocktails for Two. World Record Club. Billy May and His Orchestra.

But when the World Record Club were looking for material to repackage this, it was given a make-over with this more subdued sleeve above. What a difference! The young couple in evening clothes are stood in the aftermath of a club party, with balloons (where would you get spotted ones today?) and streamers across the floor. It’s clearly set up in a studio, but a nice example of early Sixties commercial photography, complete with corner vignetting. It is a little let down by the typography; an attempt to be classy which just misses the mark. There are no design credits.

Decca Lovers In Rome. Monia Liter and his Orchestra.

Compare this with another sleeve featuring young lovers, this time Lovers In Rome, from the design department of Decca Records in London (LK4195). This goes with a location photograph of a couple underneath a fountain, and some well balanced lettering. It fits very much into Decca’s easy listening / light music catalogue of the time, which pushed a sophisticated full colour world at potential buyers. The album was issued in late 1957, photographer is not credited. The album was also licensed to London Records in America who felt this cover was too subtle for their market, and brought in a stock shot of the colosseum, overlaid with a couple dancing and a fluted column as a prop. This was then relegated to their budget label Richmond, who slapped a $1.98 price label on top! See below (I don’t have this LP, the pic is sourced off the web).

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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