Fonola la la

I have no real knowledge of what the Italian Milan based Fonola label was all about, and given they seem to have specialised in cover versions of local folk tunes, saucy ballads, sentimental love songs and anything they thought might sell to an older more conservative market in the swinging Sixties, it’s not anything I would normally seek out, except…

Polenta e Baccala

Fonola released dozens of singles, starting around 1962. The lowest number I have is 1229 and the highest 2097, which if my maths is OK suggests that by the early Seventies they had issued around 800+ of these 45s, all in colour sleeves.
And it is the strange amateur and sometimes downright primitive art on the sleeves which catches the eye today. I found a wedge of them in a charity shop not long ago, and couldn’t resist the covers. Illustrated by some barely capable painter (I cannot decipher the name but it could be Fait Camillo), they are almost all done in a sort of naive style.

La Villanella

Many depict idealised buxom Italian women running around the countryside in scenes vaguely relating to the song title, so must have been painted specially for the label. It’s not as if Italian labels shied away from photographic nudes on their sleeves, you only have to check out Fausto Papetti’s jazz covers, but clearly Fonola didn’t quite want to go that far.

Il Sidecar

There are variations from the rural idyll; a few grim war scenes, someone hanging from a lamp-post (no I’m not even going there!), street urchins, and so on. They even issued a few singles in photo covers, but for the most part the painted glamour art wins out. Some show comedic scenes, verging on the seaside postcard art beloved of Bamforth, albeit not nearly so well executed, while others remind me a little of the early Mills & Boon romance paperback painted covers.

Fonola label, strange painted sexy sleeve, 1960s, Italy, 45.

The back of each 45 lists the artist, and includes a catalogue of ‘altri dischi della serie’ to collect. I’ve scanned my covers and added a few found on the web. There are four shown here and a full gallery on the site if you can’t resist seeing more!
If there are any Italian collectors out there who can throw more light on the label’s early output or have more of these please get in touch. The label is still going, albeit just issuing trad music on CD these days.

Posted in 7" single, Crate Digging, sexy sleeves | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Balalaika Ensemble

London Balalaika Ensemble

This cover caught my eye recently, and the Deram DSS label always has an appeal. The painting (which looks like something from a very elaborate children’s book) had a very Sixties feel to it, and used a really interesting set of pastel colours to evoke Russian traditional dress, fabric patterns and architecture, with the Balalaika players of the ensemble in question stepping across the cover.
Happily Deram credit the artist, Alex Jawdokimov, on the back, and it turned out to be from 1968.
Looking at his biography, Jawdokimov had a grim childhood, surviving the holocaust with his mother, both ending up in refugee camps before finally moving to England in 1947. These days of course the authorities would probably turn them right round again at the border but happily we had a better grasp of things at the time.
Jawdokimov went on to train at Somerset College of Art and soon began to get work as an illustrator and designer doing book jackets, as well as working in the performing arts (and even appeared in a couple of films). Amongst his commercial work was this album sleeve. I can but assume he had connections with the Ensemble. The only other LP cover I can find him credited with is another one related to his home country, Songs Of Russia’s Gypsies (below), issued by a folk label in the 1970s, which might take a bit of finding.

Alex Jawdokimov sleeve illustration

His signature is clear to see on both. Alex Jawdokimov is still an active and sought after painter, working on large landscapes of trees or butterfly heavy fields in oils and acrylics, and examples can be readily seen on the internet, albeit mostly with a sold sign beside them.

There are some more Deram DSS sleeves on the site.

Posted in Crate Digging, Sleeve Designers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment



Here’s another Vacaciones sleeve (see our previous posting below), which is quite timely given the growing tourist trade boycott some Spanish hardliners are stirring up right now. A Casatschok is a Ukrainian traditional dance which was lifted and adapted for one of those summer holiday hits in 1968, itself much covered across Europe. The original French single sleeve (below) had a helpful set of photo instructions on the dance steps, which has been copied for this Spanish holiday hits album. They have helpfully added what passes for a Russian looking hat and boots for the bikini photo shoot! The back cover (at the bottom of the page) reproduces a set of holiday postcard views of Spain.

CASATSCHOK-dimitri dourakine
My thanks to Joe Robinson for the photographs.


Posted in Crate Digging, sexy sleeves | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


I was involved in a terrific book called Covered a few years ago, which looked at several hundred album and CD sleeves which either lifted, borrowed or paid homage to older classic cover art.  Amazingly a band called The Weight have produced a great video for their new album which does a similar sort of thing, but with animation.  The whole video is just a seamless montage of classic album sleeves but adapted to include the group or individual musicians.  It would take someone with more time than I have to spot them all, but it would make a great party game.  Everyone from Dylan to Deep Purple!  The track itself?  Well, see what you think.  The video lasts just under three minutes, so give it a go.  My thanks to Tim Summers for the heads up.

If you want to read more about the Covered book, nip over to the publisher’s website, it’s still in print.


Blazin’ Squad

Blazin' Squad Flip Reverse

Sometimes bands get far better sleeves than perhaps they deserve, and this hip hop crew – Blazin’ Squad – might be an example, though please don’t ask me to listen! It reached the top five of the UK charts in 2003, and this 12″ pressing (which turned up in a local charity shop) was put out to accompany the CD formats which had the usual trendy portraits on the cover. The 12″ may have been an attempt to get them some acceptance amongst an older age group or DJ market credibility, and the cover was handled by the Tom Hingston Studio. They went very much into the more rarified 12″ sleeve arena, with a grey rough surface card and a bespoke design using their excellent logo (Hingston had created this for their first record.)
The single was titled Flip Reverse, so they took this, filled the cover with it and… flip reversed it on the front and back. For added impact the type was foil blocked onto the card, with a line pattern added to the repeat. The result was a very eye catching cover which varies in visibility depending on the ambient light. It also picks up refractions, so you get lovely rainbow colours at certain angles. It must be the magpie in me.
As with any cover printed on card, the original price label has left an adhesive mark while the label boss (East West Records, owned by Warners) has also insisted on a barcode sticker on the back; the original design just printed the number itself amongst the credits on the back.
Hingston Studios have worked on some great sleeves for big (Stones, Robbie Williams, Massive Attack) and less big names, starting back in 1997, although this is only part of their work. Whether the band understood the genius of the design I’m not sure; a free-gift in the form of a rather non-descript felt pen graffiti-style band sticker fell out of the cover when I looked.

Tom Hingston Studio

Posted in 12" single, Crate Digging | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

in the post

Warner Brothers US album size promotional envelope 1974 Deep Purple and Frank Sinatra

I do like vinyl art spin offs, and this was scanned for me by Pericle Formenti. Older collectors will be familiar with the blizzard of promotional material which labels sent to record stores during the 1970s and 80s, much of it now very collectable. It would be dropped off by label reps in the UK, who would then take back older material to be destroyed as legally it was not allowed to be sold (I think because it was written off against tax.) America being a tad larger, a lot would go out by post, and this is an album sized generic envelope from Warner Bros. used to do just that.
This one was shipped in November 1974 and contained album size window banners for Deep Purple and Frank Sinatra albums. It was shipped Fourth Class (whatever that was!) to the Bargain Warehouse, a vinyl outlet in North Carolina. I like the way the front just has ‘promotional material’ on but the label’s famous logo appears on the flaps at the back of the envelope. There is a sticker to let the store owner know what was inside, and in this case they clearly couldn’t be bothered promoting either Deep Purple or Frank Sinatra and it just got stuffed in a back room for 40 years!
I’ve also discovered that Pericle has kept a bag from every record shop he used in Italy and abroad, so will be pestering him for pics of those before long.

Warner Brothers US album size promotional envelope 1974 Deep Purple and Frank Sinatra


| Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

you spend your holidays in Spain

As the Bonzos once sang.  A new sleeve gallery of half a dozen budget Spanish holiday albums like the one below to mark the summer!

bikini cover girls

Posted in Crate Digging, sexy sleeves | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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:

Posted in Crate Digging | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Crate Digging | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in 78 rpm sleeves, Crate Digging | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment