More illustrations

The Student Prince, Columbia CL 826 1956, USA. Reissue of a 1953 album, in new sleeve. Drawing by R Watkins.

Two more album sleeves with illustrations on the cover which I picked up recently. The Student Prince is a really nice job and looks very Sixties, but was actually issued in 1956 by Columbia.  It’s a pencil sketch drawing, with water colour overlaid and is signed R. Watkins but frustratingly I cannot find out anything about the artist. The album is actually an early vinyl reissue; there is nothing particularly bad about the original 1953 release which I found on the web, but it does seem a bit old fashioned alongside the cover which replaced it just three years on. You could argue that the type on the original is handled much better, although perhaps Columbia decided there was simply too much of it for a front cover.

Student Prince album cover Columbia ML4592 1953

The Rolf Harris record is about a decade later, issued in 1963. This was Rolf’s first proper album release (after an Australian only LP in 1959). It came out in 1963, then this World Record Club mail-order version quickly followed later in the year, a clear sign that the original didn’t sell too well and Rolf was best left as a singles artist. The original on Columbia (below the reissue, again off the web) is very typical of the time, although the regular studio image had an unusual twist as the background painting was by Rolf himself.

Rolf Harris, Sun Arise. World Record Club compilation. 1963

WRC as usual did a new cover, and for this the illustrator (who is not credited) has come up with a very Sixties style painting; abstract brush strokes, hand drawn lettering, and images associated with the Australian landscape blended in. Being mail order, the label could afford to be less brash.


More on ST33

World Record Club covers are often of a high standard, there are more on the site if you search, but some great ones on this page:

And some more hand painted sleeves on site:

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Billy The Kid

Classics for Pleasure sleeve design

I can remember this sleeve design turning up on a Music For Pleasure catalogue given away in one of the local record shops, and taking one home to admire. And yet it wasn’t adorning a cover on one of the major rock labels, but instead appeared on EMI’s budget label Classics For Pleasure (itself a spin off from the Music For Pleasure series.)  It’s impossible to imagine any label going to this much effort for a budget release these days.
It is from an album of Copland’s music, often associated with Western films, and that has provided the inspiration for the cover illustration, with figures from the Wild West era painted from surviving photographs of the time.  The lettering is also hand-painted, again in the decorative style of the period.  All this alone would have marked it out, but the whole piece is painted on a sheet of old wood, with the cracks and breaks forming part of the finished design. Once photographed, that’s the cover done except to stick the CFP logo in the corner.
The illustration and design from 1971 are the work of Geoff Hocking, who worked on designs for many budget albums both in the UK and Australia, where he notably handled the Australian World Record Club catalogue for several years (and published a book about the label a few years ago, reviewed on the site.) Although Geoff commissioned a lot of work, he was also hands on as well, and to me this is one of his finest covers.  Geoff also did some of the montage covers for MFP which we covered in a gallery on the site a while ago, well worth a look (an example is shown below.)

Favourite-TV-themes-MFP records Geoff Hocking

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rubber stamps and brown paper

Three more brown paper record bags which give us more glimpses of shopping for records in the past. The London Jazz Club on Bryanston Street, near Marble Arch, was a popular jazz venue in the fifties (referred to as the The Bryanston Jazz Club in some histories). The club must have had their own record shop for a time in London’s St. John’s Wood as this paper 10″ 78rpm bag shows. They’ve stamped the name and address of the shop on and also added a small paper sticker advertising Ken Colyer’s Jazz Men playing there each weekend (New Orleans Jazz at it’s best!) circa 1954-56.

London Jazz Club sleeve

The second sleeve is quite a bit older I would imagine. Whitaker Street in Doncaster has long been demolished, the town having suffered badly at the hands of council redevelopment schemes (and is still doing so, they destroyed an amazing late deco cinema only a few years ago).

Recordia, whitaker street, Doncaster

So we can only imagine what the Recordia shop was like, but it’s an evocative name. The typeface has a 1930’s feel about it.

Drinkwater record shop, Parkgate, Rotherham
The last bag is another nice example of the sort of home-made approach to shop keeping in the 1920s. Plain again, with an even smaller rubber stamped name and address oval logo to avoid the expense of printing up sleeves. In this case the retailer is M. Drinkwater, Music Dealer, Broad Street, Parkgate. It’s quite likely the premises are still there as this stretch of road near Rotherham in South Yorkshire is mostly intact albeit in a very run down kind of way (there was a cycle repair shop at 31 Broad Street in 1905, which might be the same place; I have seen 78 record sleeves advertising cycle repairs). Drinkwater – what a great surname – also had a set of rubber stamp numbers so they could make up their own labels and used them here to price up the records by hand. 4/8d in this case, which would be a lot of money at the time.

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1977 and all that

I was getting a bit nostalgic the other day while playing some tracks from Talking Heads: 77 and wondering where those 40 years had gone!  So I thought I would take a look at the sleeve and then perhaps follow it up later with more covers from 1977. It’s filed under Sleeves and their designers.  And I am always fond of those screens full of the same image when I’m researching covers.  All the same, but yet all slightly different.

Talking Heads 77 sleeve

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Taiwan In Rock

Deep Purple In Rock Taiwan edition

I’ve been getting a book devoted to the Deep Purple In Rock album back into print for the publishers. There is plenty about the cover art in there but tidying the files away I thought this curious Taiwanese version of the familiar cover was worth a mention here. I’m sure most collectors will have come across these as they issued local editions of just about every album around in the Seventies.  I have this, through to the soundtrack of 2001!  The format was always the same; a fairly crude copy of the original sleeve (generally the American editions), often in reduced colours, and printed on paper. A back sheet, sometimes using the lyrics, was also produced.  The two sheets were then sealed in a plastic cover to form a pocket, with the album slipped inside.

Deep Purple In Rock Taiwan edition
Where did they come from?  The consensus of opinion now is that they were pressed in Taiwan (unofficially of course) during the late Sixties and early Seventies with one specific market, the American forces in Vietnam.  Available cheaply they were bought to play while on duty there, and some were brought back when the soldiers returned home.
After the end of the war the trade just ended.  These homemade looking albums have remained quite sought after as they are so different from the usual sleeve variations.  To add a further layer of interest, when repressed they were often done in different colourways or designs.  The labels were often changed as well!

I looked at the original In Rock sleeve on this site some time ago.

The Deep Purple In Rock book itself is featured on the publisher’s website, Easy On The Eye Books, and can be ordered now.

Here are two more Liming issue sleeves which give you an idea of how the albums all looked; they are very hard to photograph cleanly as you would need to dismantle the plastic seal to remover the cover sheets, and of course who wants to do that?!

Taiwan issue Herb Alpert Ameriachi

Taiwan issue The Brothers Four


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Before and after

I put a gallery of 1950s Hollywood Records sleeves up not long ago. The label revamped some of their earlier covers and here is an example of the before or after treatment which I spotted in the archive. It doesn’t take an art history degree to work out which is which!  The original sleeve from 1956 (LPH129)  is almost like something from the Forties, with a very stiff monochrome photograph of people in a theatre box. Just a year later they’ve been cleared off in favour of a much less formal image of a wealthy looking female patron of the arts, with a pair of opera glasses and a copy of Playbill the only clues as to why she’s dressed up. I think I prefer the titling on the original myself, at least somebody made a bit of an effort!

Hollywood Records Opera Highlights LPH129 1956

Hollywood Records Opera Highlights LPH129 1957

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House Hallucinates!


Sub-titled Pump Up London Volume One, this very groovy gatefold from 1988 turned up in a charity shop in town; has the acid house generation started getting shut of their vinyl already?  I say already, but this album is not far off 30 years old, so the one time owner is probably middle aged now, it comes to us all.  But while the cover is of its time, it still looks good and if some of the production techniques date it, the design doesn’t look dated. The front was interesting enough to make me pick it up, and after all that is the primary job of a record cover.  It was the layered inks which caught my eye, with the central design in silver and grey, clearly not a cheap job to manufacture and a sure sign of someone trying a little bit harder. But the inner gatefold is the real retina burner – just an coarse half-tone again in silver, over more of the pale day-glo inks, with the word ‘acid’ in blue colours.



If that wasn’t enough, the silver printed inner bags have designs incorporating industrial safety graphics; not a new idea of course, Peter Saville was doing this in the late Seventies, but that shouldn’t stop anyone else from having a go.
The artwork is credited to Graham Tunna, who did a lot of dance sleeves for A&M and Epic during the late Eighties.  He was aided by Jeremy Pearce who also worked for the same labels. The inner sleeves add a credit to David Swindells for ‘photography’ even though there isn’t any, so maybe he sourced the graphics.
Musically the 2LP set is a compilation from the Breakout / A&M catalogue.

House Hallucinates Pump Up London A&M Breakout

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If I Am Dreaming

Vera Lynn Decca 1956

With Very Lynn’s 100th birthday making the news recently, I thought I would pull out one of her sleeves from the ST33 archive. I picked this one, If I Am Dreaming (“twelve tender romantic ballads”), as a great example of the very luxurious looking early full colour Decca LK series sleeves of the Fifties. Sadly the cover photograph is not credited, but is very much of the time; Vera (looking a little Barabara Stanwyck!) posed in a padded armchair beside an old-fashioned looking fireplace, the lighting replacing the firelight. I have no real experience of how colour transparencies of this size were separated into CMYK and layered with the typography, or how the resultant film negatives were prepared for litho printing in 1956 when this album was first released, except that it was mostly done by hand and eye.  The flourishes on her name, and the handful of stars just add that extra touch of sparkle to the end result.
Decca had begun laminating sleeves by this time, which adds a nice gloss to the cover although this does become brittle with age and can peel.  The album was issued a couple of years later on London in America in a matt cover.  Vera is backed by the Roland Shaw Orchestra, who 15 years later were doing stirring album renditions of James Bond themes for a living.
The record bag shows this copy was sold by Kennys, one of Sheffield’s long running second hand record stores, in 1993 for the princely sum of £1, as they wrote this all out neatly in pencil.

There are more pages of early UK Decca sleeves on the site including this nice set of sleeves on the LK series.

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Hooray for Hollywood

In The Mood Hollywood Records glamour 1950s

In The Mood (in Full Polyphonic Sound!), one of the better covers from the short lived budget label Hollywood, which ran for three or four years in the late Fifties in America.  There is a new album gallery with another half dozen varied Hollywood Records sleeves and a few words about them and the label now on the site.

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Bottom of The Moor

I do like rescuing the old record shop bags and managed to put together a selection from my modest collection all from the long gone Virgin Records chain recently. Have a look and see if you can add any recollections from shopping or working there.

Virgin Records Sheffield The Moor 1973