With election ennui setting in (April 2010!), it made me wonder if I had any vinyl with a political theme to it. I turned up four which sort of fit the bill, though I originally picked them up more for the social history angle than as must-have sleeve designs.
No Poll Tax is a grim reminder of the massive campaign against the Poll Tax which Margaret Thatcher decided to impose on us in the late 80s. A number of bands joined Artists Against The Poll Tax to do their bit. The slant of the protest 12″ shown here was to back the scheme to make the tax unworkable by asking trade union members (who might be involved in local government) not to collect it, hence the ‘Don’t Pay, Don’t Collect’ subtitle.
This sleeve is very much in the old Punk DIY vinyl spirit (the label artwork done on a dot-matrix printer) of a style which did disappear for a long time but is now reappearing albeit in more of a craft-based way. I’ve no real information on writer Mike Higgins, other than his name turns up connected to a label called Steam Records in 1991, releasing ‘a range of musical disability culture’, so his sleeve credit of Tragic But Brave Mike could well be an ironic response to some comment or other directed at him in the past.
At the other end of the political spectrum comes The Conservatives, a history of the party on vinyl. Various speeches by party leaders of yore, culminating in two live recordings of Thatcher in full flow at the Blackpool conference (in stereo apparently), and (of course) a stirring rendition of Land Of Hope & Glory. Quite who they hoped might originally buy this tosh I’m not sure (and what a dull sleeve), but today a veritable treasure trove of sound bites for someone to mash up and fire back at them!
As for the opposition, this album of poetry read by Mary Wilson, wife of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, is the best I can do. Quite whether Mary Wilson would have found an outlet for her work had she not married the PM-to-be I’ve no idea, though apparently John Betjamin was a friend and admirer of her work. Former PM Harold Wilson had just lost an election and was leader of the opposition when this album was released in 1971 (though he was later re-elected). The record sleeve was based on the dust jacket for the book issued around the same time. Pye used to have their own design studios rather than commission agencies. Howard Werth (from the band Audience) had his first job there. Not a lot of people know that.
Lastly, and even more obliquely, this album by the NatWest Jazz Band goes back to a time when bankers didn’t have to suffer quite the bad press they have from 2008 onwards. So this bunch of dressed down bankers are not out celebrating another bumper bonus year at our expense, but having a bit of fun and raising money for the 1978 Mental Health Appeal. The back cover has a nice endorsement by John Dankworth (though he admits that as he banks with the NatWest, to do otherwise might have been foolish!), and the group – formed in 1974 – even have a track specially written for them titled Go NatWest Young Man…
The sleeve designer, artist and illustrator Peter Gauld FSIA also did a lot of work for the Post Office (designing sets of stamps in the 60s and 80s and a couple of the special Christmas airmail envelopes) as well as a lot of other material for public information literature.