Decca were the first company to issue 12″ long playing albums in Britain in June 1950, launching with 15 titles. They were the also the first UK company to tackle the problems of packaging the new format and their early sleeves featured a variety of different production techniques. The Decca LXT series was classical repertoire and the covers show the first attempt of designers and illustrators to package the new product. The six sleeves here are typical of the early output.
Stravinsky / Petrouchka Decca LXT 2502 : 1950
A Decca advert claims this to be their first pictorial album sleeve, which must make it one of the first illustrated album sleeves in the UK, but the illustrator is unknown. The Decca LXT series began at 2500.
Tchaikovsky / Nutcracker Suite Decca LXT 2611 : 1952
Done by the same uncredited illustrator as above, but some two years later. Which shows us that they had issued around 100 albums in the series over that period.
Tchaikovsky / Piano Concerto No. 1 Decca LXT 2559 : 1952
A very striking image by yet another unknown illustrator.
Beethoven / Concerto in D Decca LXT 2674 : 1953
Brahms / Symphony No. 3 Decca LXT 2676 : 1953
These covers are by the illustrator Tom Eckersley, a freelance designer of many famous posters for London Transport and the RAF during the thirties and forties, and now recognised as one of the most important graphic designers of the century. By the 1950 was teaching in London as well as undertaking important commissions. He did a number of classical album sleeves for Decca during the decade, including this series of similar covers featuring stylised heads of the composers. Two are illustrated here, released in 1953.
Sibelius / Symphony No. 2 Decca LXT 2815 : 1954
This illustration is by John Bainbridge. Bainbridge is not well documented but worked on posters for British travel companies as well as London Underground. He did a number of early sleeves for Decca in the 1950s. This one is a typically stylised fifties image making the best of the limited two colours plus black palette Decca specified.
I’d love to hear from anyone who might have been involved in commissioning these covers.
Some more early Decca and London sleeves from the USA.
A great series of early Decca sleeves with cover illustrations by Demilio.