By the time he came to design this John Cooper Clarke sleeve, Peter Saville had already been associated with a number of important record covers (notably, these days, Joy Division’s debut), as well as trying ideas beyond simply printing; the die-cut covers for Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark for example.
Saville’s sleeve for Snap Crackle & Bop was another great looking design. John Cooper Clarke had, after a locally released live album, signed to a major label, Epic. This was his third LP for them and arguably his best, getting into the lower reaches of the top 30 album charts. Even so, it’s not an album you see around that often.
Picking up on Clarke’s trademark suit which he always wore, the designer organised a detailed close up image showing the jacket lapel and pocket, picking out the texture of the fabric. The album was issued in three different sleeve versions from April 1980. The first edition had the jacket pocket printed on a separate piece of card, forming a holder for a booklet of poetry and images. The album title was printed on the cover of the book sticking out of the top of the pocket.
The second run had the same cover but without the pocket stuck on. The artist name and title were on a sticker instead and seems it was simply the record company using up left over sleeves originally designed to have the pocket stuck on. Lastly it was redesigned as an ordinary sleeve.
This is my favourite version, the original being a bit gimmicky. It’s printed on unlaminated card, with a varnish overprint on the badges and sunglasses so they catch the light. The back cover remained the same on all the editions, showing the song titles written in ink on a shirt cuff.
Although the design idea was Saville’s, the sleeve is co-credited to Paul Welch, an art director at Polydor in the 1970s. The photograph was taken by Bob Elsdale, a studio photographer who worked for CBS during the 1980s on a number of sleeves (including Judas Priest and Rick Wakeman).
Apart from the sleeve this is a brilliant album, and for anyone who spent any time in Manchester in the late 70s (as I did in student days) it captures the atmosphere of the city very well. Few would begrudge John Cooper Clarke his title The Bard Of Salford and when we last saw him live he was still in fine form.
A site in Japan is attempting to document Saville’s album designs. It’s in Japanese but the sleeves are all shown. http://www.tosq.com/petersaville/