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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have added an early twenties HMV speed tester advert from the 1920s to our menu of Hi-fi accessories (above). I’m used to stuff like this from the 1970s some of which are posted in this sub-menu, but didn’t know they were selling them right from the early days of record players.
This montage shows some very early UK sleeves from Decca, dating from 1950 – 1953. There is more information on the designers where known on the Decca gallery page.
Vinyl is still being widely used as a prop, especially in films and advertising; we watched Our Kind Of Traitor the other day, a contemporary British thriller and spotted a shelf full of worn vinyl in the living room. A hard drive full of MP3 files really isn’t going to have the same impact.
But advertisers were no less aware of how albums could add impact when this edition of Stitchcraft magazine was published in December 1951. However on looking more closely, the box set the woman is holding actually represents the high-watermark of 78 rpm discs; when I did some research it turned out to be a seven disc 10″ box set of the broadway cast of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
The discs were mastered sequentially so you could load them onto an automatic deck and listen to half the performance without leaving your chair. It was issued in 1950 by Columbia Masterworks (MM-895) and on a single vinyl album at the same time. It’s no wonder people went for the new LP format so quickly!
Stitchcraft was a UK publication and the cover was photographed here where the LP format was a little slower to reach the market, hence I suppose them going for the 78 rpm box set.
The artwork was by Darrill Connelly, an illustrator who worked on a number of early album covers around this time. And Stitchcraft? The monthly magazine was launched in October 1932 by one of the big knitting wool firms, Patons, and struggled on into the Eighties before ceasing.
As it’s Hull’s City of Culture year in 2017, here’s a nice early sleeve from the city’s best known record shop, Sydney Scarborough’s. There are some later sleeves from this shop (and others in Hull) already on the site, but this one I found recently gives us an opening date for the shop of 1904, and also lists three branches in the town centre, albeit not the later shop under the City Hall. The sleeve looks to date from the early 1920s and suggests an earlier member of the Scarborough family founded the business.
Hull 7″ sleeves
I try and support HMV by buying most of our DVDs there, but whoever is responsible for their racking these days is clearly a moron. Unlike the CDs, which are all easy to flick through, they insist on racking the DVDs …. down to the floor. Is there any other shop in the country which thinks this is a good idea? It’s just not clever to expect your customers to be on their hands and knees trying to twist sideways to read the spines of stuff you are trying to sell (never mind how difficult it is for staff to stock the shelves that low down.) Amazingly, they’ve now decided to mix Blu Rays in with the DVDs. To me Blu Rays would seem a premium product, but not to HMV, who decide they should all go on the bottom shelves in each section, on the floor. Brain dead the lot of them.
Hard to imagine they once took pride in their shops, advertising once a month to their customers. Here is a vintage offering from December 1967 bringing people up to date on the growing number of shops, fifteen at the time, while still pushing their flagship store in London.
You’d be hard pressed to know what month it was in there this December, not an inch of tinsel to be seen!
Check out a fab 1920s vintage HMV shipping box on the site.