Jeff Beck – John Berg

Jeff Beck There & Back, 1980, Epic Records. Sleeve front

Not a particularly well known sleeve but one worthy of a closer look. Jeff Beck‘s first few solo albums (this was his third) all had quite uncluttered designs. I like the simplicity of There & Back and the early use of what would probably now be called grunge lettering.  Today, you would fire up one of the online font sites, key in the appropriate genre and be drowning in distressed typeface designs in moments. Back in 1980, the designer of this sleeve simply did it all by hand. Starting with a sheet of white paper, having traced out a blow up of a stencil font, the black ink has been painted in, with all the ragged edges and dirt marks done by hand to produce a convincing worn look.
The sleeve is by John Berg, not an especially well known name perhaps, but nevertheless responsible for an enormous number of sleeves (he estimates 5,000 covers went through his office) as art director for Columbia in America for over twenty years, starting in 1961 and working there until 1985. Just think of the Chicago band logo and covers to get an idea of what he did. His output is similar to that of Ed Thrasher who had the same role over at Warners.
Jeff Beck There & Back, 1980, Epic Records. Sleeve back

This Beck album is actually on Epic and was done in 1980. Berg plays with the album title by putting the name only on the front, the title on the other side (of a single sleeve), and turning the back design through 90 degrees anti-clockwise to provide an extra twist. The track titles are in straightforward Glaiser Stencil (Berg often commissioned Glaiser for sleeves). The album originally had an inner sleeve, also in black and white, with photos by Berg (my copy has lost this). This sleeve also has a barcode, which first began appearing on albums around 1980 in America.
Berg was born in 1922. There has been an exhibition of his work in America in 2013 and a new book on the history of Columbia is also out this year.

There’s an interesting interview with Berg online here:
http://www.aiga.org/across-the-graphic-universe-an-interview-with-john-berg/

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