Record Cover Art – It’s Only Partly About the Music!

Whoever thought that records could become valuable? I was recently staggered by the price tags on a couple of records from the 1970s that I saw in a collectors’ record emporium (SEK 16,000 is equivalent to £1,380 or $1,600; SEK 24,000 is almost £2,000 or $2,500!)

Valuable Records
Fantasy’s 1973 Polydor album “Paint a Picture” and The Dog that Bit People’s 1971 Parlophone album of the same name.

I knew, of course, that records by The Beatles could command exorbitant prices–I actually once owned some of the rarest Beatles items including both the stereo and mono versions of “Please Please Me” with the black and gold Parlophone labels, and an autographed copy of “Love Me Do“, signed on the day after its release in October 1962.
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But that albums by bands that I had never heard of could be that expensive was a surprise. Obviously, these albums are in demand for the music they contain. But in recent years prices for records whose cover art is by a famous artist have also rocketed.

In August 2016 a copy of an obscure EP by a band called Skyline was sold on Ebay for $1,500. One of the members was Johnny Thunders but it wasn’t because of his presence that the record sold–it was for the cover photograph of Susanne de Maria, taken during one of Andy Warhol’s screen tests that attracted buyers. The EP was released in France in 1978 and it was only in 2015 that Warhol collectors Guy Minnebach and Raimund Flöck recognised the cover image and added it to their lists of Warhol record covers.

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Skyline’s 1978 EP “I’m Gonna Fall in Love” with cover picture of Susanne de Maria from a Warhol screen test.

Prices of the records with cover art by Andy Warhol from the 1950s have generally increased considerably in value. Unfortunately, less scrupulous sellers try to sell records with Warhol art from the 70s and 80s for inflated prices despite the fact that they are generally easy to find quite cheaply if one is prepared to search a bit.

I started collecting record cover art by Banksy in 2008. Covers were easy to find and not overly expensive. The most expensive covers I bought included a copy of the first pressing of Dirty Funker‘s “Let’s Get Dirty” which cost £100 and two copies of the “Peace Not War” CD that was given away with the February 2008 issue of the magazine The Big Issue for about £40 each. The value of these has more than doubled. CDs with Banksy cover art can still be found at very reasonable prices, it’s the vinyl versions that seem to be most sought after and all have become expensive.

It is still possible to collect a complete collection of records with cover art by Sir Peter Blake for a modest sum. One might have to settle for a modern reissue of the “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” LP to keep costs down, but otherwise it should be possible to collect most of his 24 covers for around £600. The expensive ones being Oasis‘s “Stop the Clocks” triple vinyl set and Paul Weller‘s “Dragonfly” EP. A couple of Peter Blake covers are getting hard to find; “Brand New Boots and Panties: Tribute to Ian Dury“and Paul Weller‘s “Stanley Road” both on LP. Even Brian Wilson‘s “Gettin’ in over My Head” is becoming rare on vinyl. However, if you want to add some of the special, limited editions of Eric Clapton‘s or Paul Weller‘s releases you’ll have to shell out a bit more.

Some art galleries have cottoned on to the fact that artists who are in demand have designed record covers and advertise these as limited edition art works–often calling them “lithographs”. Damien Hirst is one artist’s covers I have seen advertised by galleries. His “Use Money, Cheat Death” 12″ single with his famous Kate Moss portrait was released in a numbered edition of 666 copies. Galleries have been advertising copies for £500+, but I’m not sure anyone buys them.

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Damien Hirst’s “Use Money, Cheat Death” 12″ single, with his portrait of Kate Moss.

Another gallery has advertised two (the yellow and pink covers below) of the five singles Damien Hirst and Jason Beard designed for the group The Hours as limited edition lithographs at an asking price of £133 for the pair.

The yellow version of “Ali in the Jungle” is now difficult to find but the remaining four covers in the series can still be found at reasonable prices.

Probably the most reasonably priced covers in my collection are those by Klaus Voormann. Even his early covers in the “Pioneers of Jazz” series from 1960 are still affordable.

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All twenty of Coral Records series “Pioneers of Jazz” released in 1960 with cover illustrations by a young Klaus Voormann.

His very first official cover–for The Typhoons (“Walk, Don’t Run“, a cover of The Ventures hit)–is impossible to find as is a mythical album of jazz tunes that I have only heard about but never seen.

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Cover of The Typhoons’ single “Walk Don’t Run”.

It seems there’s no limit to what a record cover with art by a famous artist can cost. So desirable covers seem to be not only beautiful, but are even a good investment.

A Peter Blake Cover I had missed.

As I have said before, I have stopped saying that my collection of a particular artist’s record covers is complete, because, just as soon as I write this, someone points out a cover I have missed. I was SO sure I had all of Sir Peter Blake‘s record covers that I was prepared to boast that, in fact, my collection WAS COMPLETE, when a moderator at rateyourmusic.com, Harlou123, notified me that he had a Classics For Pleasure album from 1981 with a cover painting by Peter Blake!

Well, I had to find a copy–luckily that wasn’t too difficult as the LP wasn’t too old, and had obviously been quite popular when it was released. The album paired George Gershwin‘s “Rhapsody in Blue” with his “An American in Paris” and had Ferde Grofé‘s “Piano Concerto in F” as a filler.

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The cover art for Music For Pleasure’s 1983 album of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue/American in Paris” LP.

The cover art really conjures up the feeling of Paris! Thank you Harlou123 for the tip off!

Harvey’s of Bristol, importers of sherry apparently commissioned six British artists to each illustrate a cover for a classical release on the Classics for Pleasure label. I usually associated Classics for Pleasure as a low-price label that reissued classical works at mid price. However, these six recordings were made by winners of the 1981 Leeds Piano Competition (sponsored by Harvey’s of Bristol) specially for the label and the cover art was newly commissioned for each album. Peter Blake‘s contribution was number 6 in the series. Other artists who painted the covers included Patrick Heron and David Inshaw. I have not been able to identify the remaining painters.

Some Record Sleeves by Artists I Particularly Like.

While I specifically collect cover art by five designers — the artist known as Bansky, Sir Peter Blake, Damien Hirst, Klaus Voormann and Andy Warhol — sometimes other artists I admire produce record covers. Over the past couple of years a number of such covers have found their way into my collection.

Here’s a list of these “odd” record covers.
1. Lady Gaga–“ArtPop” – 2xLP. Cover by Jeff Koons.
2. The Unholy Two–“Kutter/Porkys” – 7″ single in fold-out cover with Chuck Close‘s portraits of Kate Moss.
3. Paul Simon–“Stranger to Stranger” – LP and insert with Chuck Close‘s portrait of Simon.
4. Soníc Youth–“Sonic Nurse” – 2xLP. Cover art by Richard Prince.
5. Mattias Alkbergs Begravning–“Epitafium” – 12″ EP. Cover art by Karin “Mamma” Andersson.
6. Mattias Alkbergs Begravning–“Skända flaggan” – 4-track 7-inch EP. Cover art by Karin “Mamma” Andersson
7. The Weaklings–“It’s so Criminal/Real Cool Time” 7″ single. Cover photo by Richard Avedon.

As readers of this blog may recall, I described Lady Gaga‘s “ArtPop” album cover designed and photographed by Jeff Koons in my post about Stockholm’s Spritmuseum’s 2014 exhibition entitled “ArtPop“. A copy of the double vinyl has found its way into my collection.

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“ArtPop” – the inner spread of this gatefold cover showing Jeff Koons photographing the artist.

 

The Unholy TwoKutter/Porkys“: The Unholy Two is a hardcore/punk trio from Columbus, Ohio, who have released two albums to date. The members are Chris Lutzko, Bo Davis and Adam Smith.

There’s a story behind how I came to find this single. Sometime in the 1990s I saw a painting by American artist Chuck Close (born 5th July 1940). It was a large portrait of a man’s face made up of tiny units. I was fascinated. I’ve looked at Close‘s work in galleries and museums since. He is both a painter and a photographer. In 1988 he suffered a spinal artery collapse (whatever that means) and was paralysed. He now paints with a special support on his arm enabling him to hold a brush. He has ascribed is interest in painting portraits to his prosopagnosia or inability to recognise faces. Neurologist and author Oliver Sachs was a fellow sufferer from prosopagnosia. In 2005 Close took a series of photographs of a nude Kate Moss and it was when I was compiling my list of record covers with portraits of Kate, that I stumbled across this single. I first saw it in an Ebay ad which described the cover portrait as being by Richard Avedon (15th May 1923-1st October 2004). I soon found out who the artist actually was.

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Poster for a Chuck Close exhibition showing his 2005 photographs of Kate Moss.

The Unholy Two’s “Kutter/Porkys” single cover:

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The outer spread of The Unholy Two’s “Kutter/Porkys” single.
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The inner spread of The Unholy Two’s “Kutter/Porkys” single.

Paul SimonStranger to Stranger” LP album released in 2016 has an insert with Close‘s portrait of Simon.

The outer sleeve used an enlarged picture of Paul Simon’s eye.

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Paul Simon’s right eye from the full portrait.

These are the only two covers with art by Chuck Close that I have thus far been able to identify. Does anyone know of any others?

Sonic Youth‘s “Sonic Nurse” was originally released in 2004. It was reissued in July 2016 on heavyweight vinyl with the original cover paintings by Richard Prince (born 6th August 1949). Prince is both a photographer and a painter and often uses other peoples’ work as his starting point. I have not been able to find any other record covers painted or photographed by Richard Prince, but he recorded a CD in 1985 entitled “Loud Song” and a limited edition 12″ was released with cover art by Sonic Youth‘s Kim Gordon.

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Richard Prince’s cover painting for Sonic Youth’s “Sonic Nurse” LP-

Mattias Alkberg is a poet and guitarist and most recently a journalist. He has fronted a number of bands, starting with the Bear Quartet and Mattias Albergs BD. More recent constellations  include Mattias Alkbergs Begravning and Mattias Alkbergs Södra Sverige. He released the “Skända flaggan” in 2013 as a limited edition blue vinyl 7-inch EP, and the 12″ EP “Epitafium” was released as a limited edition for Record Store Day in 2014; I think 1000 copies were pressed. Mattias Alkberg lives in Luleå in northern Sweden and chose the celebrated painter Karin “Mamma” Andersson for the artwork for the double-sided poster cover . Karin “Mamma” Andersson also hails from Luleå.

Mattias Alkberg also used two other paintings by Karin “Mamma” Andersson on the front and rear covers of his 7″ EP “Skända flaggan” released in 2013.

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Karin “Mamma” Andersson’s painting on the cover of “Skända flaggan”.

Richard Avedon‘s photographs have graced the covers of many albums, ranging from Simon & Garfunkel‘s “Bookends” to Allen Ginsberg‘s “Kaddish” and including albums by Cher, Sly & the Family Stone, Barbra Streisand and The Fugs.

In 1999 The Weaklings, a punk band from Portland, Oregon, released their ninth single “It’s so Criminal/Real Cool Time” and chose Richard Avedon‘s famous photograph of Andy Warhol‘s abdomen showing the scars after operations to remove the bullet shot by Valerie Solanas on June 3, 1968. Solanas fired three shots at Warhol, but the first two missed. I used to own several records with Avedon‘s cover photographs, but now only have The Weaklings‘ single. The reason being that I include this cover in my collection of Andy Warhol cover art.

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Richard Avedon’s photograph of Andy Warhol’s abdomen after he was shot in 1968 on the cover of The Weaklings’ 1999 single.

I do not doubt that other covers with art by artists/photogtaphers I admire will find their way into my collection. I’ll keep you posted as and when any new covers arrive.

How I’d like to Display my Record Cover Collections.

I believe every collector would really like to be able to show off his or her collection to others, and not just to fellow collectors. I am no exception having lent record covers to numerous exhibitions, but I don’t have any on show at home! “Why?” I hear you ask. Well there are two reasons:
1. it has taken a long time for my wife to see the aesthetics in my collection, and, most importantly,
2. I have not been able to find an attractive way to display the record sleeves.

Well, thanks to Lars Magnell (and his company Wag the Wall), who reads this blog, I may have found the answer. There are, as I am sure many of you will know, loads of frames for LP records, ranging from the cheap IKEA version to Vinyl Art’s relatively expensive (but to be fair, the Vinyl Art frame has the advantage that one can take the record out of the frame to play, without having to take the frame off the wall).

In September 2015 I went to an auction of Andy Warhol‘s record covers at Sotheby’s in London. The records were displayed in individual perspex holders each hung on a perspex rail. The rail is just discernible on the right of the picture. Obviously this system had been custom-made for the seller, who was an art gallery owner.

Didier Calvo's Warhol Collection, Sotheby's.
Sotheby’s display of Andy Warhol’s record covers at their September 2015 Rock and Pop sale.

However, I don’t fancy screwing several rails on to my walls to hang the perspex record holders on.

Lars Magnell has invented a cleverer method that he calls “The Magic Vinyl Display“. His perspex record holders hold up to seven LPs and have a self-adjusting flap at the rear that holds the records flat against the front of the holder even if there is only a single LP in it. The holder is open at both sides so one can slip the record in and out at will. If one tires of the cover currently on show, just take it out and the cover underneath becomes visible. These holders would be a great way to store one’s LPs, too. They attach to the wall with a single screw which holds a magnet against the wall and the record holder has a “coin” that attaches to the one on the wall. And thanks to the magnetic wall docking ystem mounting the frame on the wall is quick and easy and it’s easy to adjust if the frame isn’t initially sitting straight without having to undo any screw. Really simple and efficient!

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Wag The Wall’s record cover display holders. Each will hold up to seven LPs and is attached to the wall by a magnet.

Thus, I could store all my 24 Peter Blake LP covers in three holders and change the cover on display daily, or seventy of my Andy Warhol covers in ten of these holders.

I can imagine that exhibitions would be able to use these provided it was possible to prevent visitors removing the covers. And record stores could use the to display and hold LPs that are for sale with up to seven copies of each LP in a separate holder.

Lars tells me that these holders are currently under production. Go to https://www.igg.me/at/wagthewall see videos of the system.

Rare Oasis “Stop the Clocks” Memorabilia.

When Noel Gallagher was planning Oasis‘s retrospective album “Stop the Clocks” in 2006 he wanted Peter Blake to design the cover. The story that I have heard is that Peter Blake allowed Noel to select items from Peter‘s collection to fill Blake‘s Blue Cupboard–an artwork that Blake had created in 1959. Blake then placed other objects, including an antique dartboard, beside the open cupboard.

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The front cover of Oasis’s “Stop the Clocks” album with two dartboards behind the table on the right.

Blake designed the cover slipcase and the inner sleeves of the tripple LP set as well as using the dartboard as the cover image of the double EP also entitled “Stop the Clocks“.

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The cover of the double 7″ EP “Stop the Clocks”. This was a numbered, limited edition of 5000.

What I didn’t know until very recently (June 2016) that Oasis‘s record company (Sony Music) had produced a promotional item of the dartboard with three darts with tailfeathers bearing the Oasis logo. This would be a great addition to my Peter Blake collection.
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The dartboard is obviously a facsimile of Peter Blake‘s originals. This would look great displayed beside the record covers!

Klaus Voormann’s Covers.

I don’t really know why I haven’t done it before. I felt kind of forced to make a list of my covers with art by Banksy before the collection was shipped off to Rome for the “War, Capitalism & Liberty” exhibition which opened in May 2016. I had a basic list of my collection of covers with Andy Warhol art, but I needed lists of Peter Blake‘s, Damien Hirst‘s and Klaus Voormann‘s covers. Finally last month I  sat down and started compiling these lists and was surprised to find that there are seventy-six covers with Klaus Voormann‘s art!

Then, just as I had finished my list I saw an advert for a book entitled “Albums with Cover Art by Klaus Voormann“. Well, naturally, I thought someone else had done the work for me. So I bought it. What a disappointment! It only lists eleven covers designed by Klaus and included a number of covers not designed by him. None of his covers designed for German artists are mentioned and none of his early jazz covers. There are several pages devoted to the recording of “Concert for Bangladesh” with pictures of the original box set and a reissue, neither of which were designed by Voormann! The book, produced by Books LLC, Wiki Series, Memphis, Tennessee, is thus a complete waste of money. Well, not quite–the book did show a picture of Wet Wet Wet‘s 2007 single “Too Many People” which has a cover drawing by Klaus Voormann.

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A little booklet purporting to list Klaus Voormann’s record covers.

I already have Wet Wet Wet‘s CD “Timeless“, both as the official CD and a promo version with two different Voormann covers. After a bit of research I found the there were two CDs of the “Too Many People” too.

Then Thorsten Knublauch, an expert on The Beatles‘ early days in Hamburg, who sold me my original copy of the Paddy, Klaus & Gibson 10″ compilation EP tipped me off about a CD by Albert Lee & Hogan’s Heroes entitled “Fretterning Behaviour” with classic Voormann art.

Fretterning Behaviour
Cover art for Albert Lee & Hogan’s Heroes CD “Fretterning Behaviour”.

Almost simultaneously, I saw a seven-inch single advertised on Ebay of Klaus Voormann‘s song “Lu Le La Lu“, which he recorded for Apple in the sixties but which was never released. A group called Wishful Thinking released the song as a single in 1974. Now http://www.aisforapplebooks.com released a limited edition of 1000 copies (250 of which were autographed by Klaus) featuring a remastered version of Klaus‘s recording of the song backed with Wishful Thinking‘s version. The single, in a gatefold cover with Klaus Voormann‘s self portrait from 1960 on the front cover, is sold in aid of a charity for refugees.

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The front cover of the split single with Klaus Voormann’s version of “Lu Le La Lu” on the “A” side and Wishful Thinking’s version on the “B” side. The cover picture is Klaus Voormann’s 1960 selfportrait.

At the same time another Ebay seller was selling a 1974 Jimmy Smith album entitled “Black Smith” and stated that the cover was by Klaus Voormann. I was very surprised to see this and started searching for confirmation that the cover art was by Klaus as I didn’t feel that it was typical of his work. It didn’t take long to find a picture of the rear cover with clear credit to Voormann. So I had to order a copy, which wasn’t too difficult as there were many for sale at very reasonable prices.

Suddenly there were these five Klaus Voormann covers, which I had missed! I could have almost done without the book on Klaus Voormann‘s record cover art, although it did tell me about the Wet Wet Wet singles. But, apart from that, I’m sure I could do a better job myself.

Record collecting – a love affair or an addiction?

Okay, as you probably have gathered if you read my blog, I live in Sweden. This is not a very important piece of information, but it explains why this post was inspired (probably not the right word) by a recent book and a magazine number. The book, by Olle Johansson, is called “En skivsamlares memoarer” (ISBN 9789163776618, Rabarber förlag, Stockholm, 2015), which translates to “A Record Collector’s Memoirs” and the magazine is the Spring 2016 number of the Swedish music magazine Sonic–a 116 page special number entitled “Alla talar om skivsamlande“, again in translation “Everyone is talking about record collecting“.

Most people would not see any difference between a record collector and a music collector, but there is huge difference and these two publications illustrate it perfectly. Olle Johansson is a MUSIC collector. He is not interested in the format the recording is presented on. He does not care about record labels, catalogue numbers, or the cover art. He wants the music, and it doesn’t matter if it is a reissued CD or vinyl. He doesn’t search for original pressings or special editions. He just wants the music or the artist.

A record collector, however, cares about all, or at least some, of these things. There are those who collect a particular artist–and must have EVERYTHING released by that artist, including unofficial (bootleg) releases. Alternatively, the collector may collect a particular record label, quite independently of the type of music released (though the label will probably have released music that suits the collector’s taste). Then there are collectors who will collect a particular format– say 1960s EPs, or picture discs; the options are endless. And there are strange types, like me, who collect record cover art. Even here there are subdivisions; record cover art by a particular artist, cover art by any famous artist, or cover art that uses a particular design feature or a certain typography.

There are loads of books on record cover art and others on greater or lesser celebrities’ record collections. One recent, almost encyclopaedic one is Eilon Paz‘s “Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting“. Paz visited record collectors and photographed them with their hoards of vinyl–everything from rare 78s to the world’s largest collection of coloured vinyl records. Sonic magazine interviewed musicians, DJs, record collectors and record buyers at record stores. I used to have a library of books about record cover art. I have only kept a few that I really treasure. These include Nick de Ville‘s “Album: Classic Sleeve Design: Style and Image in Sleeve Design“, Richard Evans‘ “The Art of the Record Cover“, Paul Maréchal‘s “The Complete Commissioned Record Covers“, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz’ & Alex Steinweiss’For the Record: The Life and Work of Alex Steinweiss, Inventor of the Album Cover” and the catalogue from Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum’s 1981-2 exhibition “Ytans innehåll: utställning av skivomslag” [“The Surface’s Contents: An Exhibition of Record Covers“].

Where did my collection begin? Born in the mid forties, I was raised on vinyl records. My father loved music and had a few hundred LPs and a few 78s. In my late teens I had a friend, Chris,  who worked on Saturdays at The Chelsea Record Centre, a shop on The King’s Road, Chelsea. We used to go to pubs and listen to R ‘n’ B and, when I went to University we started going regularly to the 100 Club on Oxford Street. We could see The Pretty Things, The Graham Bond Organisation or The Artwoods. One night–I suppose in 1964 or 1965– we went to see Bo Diddley and his famous band (who I had at that time only heard of through some Buddy Holly recordings.) Well, to call that concert mindblowing was an understatement.

The first records I bought were LPs–Eddie Cochran‘s “Memorial Album“, “The Buddy Holly Story” and John Lee Hooker‘s “Don’t Turn Me From Your Door“. One evening in late November 1963 my friend Chris came home with a copy of “With the Beatles” and we spent an evening just playing and replaying the album. And almost a year later on the 24th October 1964, Chris and I went to the Gaumont State Cinema in Kilburn to see The Beatles–I can’t say we heard them because of all the screaming. I still have the “Four Aces” programme from the concert! I started buying records and became a regular at two of London’s independent record shops that imported American albums; One Stop Records in South Moulton Street and Musicland in Berwick Street.

In early 1967, My brother, who had been living in America, returned to England and presented me with a bundle of records including Big Brother & The Holding Company‘s eponymous first album (on the Mainstream label), Country Joe & The Fish‘s “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die“, The Jefferson Airplane‘s “Takes Off” and “Surrealistic Pillow“. I  bought The Doors‘ first album, which was one of the greatest albums of 1967, at One Stop, and they recommended an album by The Velvet Underground & Nico, which I bought but didn’t really get into. I liked the cover, though. Then I discovered bluebeat, ska and reggae and for the first time bought singles. Prince Buster, The Ethiopians and Desmond Dekker before finding Phil Spector and then soul music in the form of Doo Wop with Clyde McPhatter & the Dominoes, The Coasters, The Drifters, Don Covay, Joe Tex and, of course, Otis Redding. Thus far, I was still a music collector.

Then in April 1971, I bought The Rolling Stones‘ “Sticky Fingers” with its Andy Warhol designed cover. I already had The Velvet Underground & Nico, so this was my second Andy Warhol cover. I also had two covers by Peter Blake: “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and The Pentangle‘s “Sweet Child“. So I had the beginnings of two cover art collections. In the early 1980s I stumbled across an album by The Cocteau Twins and soon started collecting albums on the 4AD label designed by Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson (as 23 Envelope) and Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg (as v23). I also found Fetish Record‘s “Final Testament” and collected every cover I could find with Neville Brody‘s art.I also had all three of Joy Division‘s albums but didn’t start collecting Peter Saville‘s record covers in any systematic way, though a few did find their way into my collection. In the early 2000s I fell for Rob Jones‘ work–both as a poster artist for the White Stripes, The Raconteurs and Dead Weather–and for his record cover art. I also collected Swedish designer Martin Kann‘s covers for the band bob hund. All the while my collection of covers by Warhol and Blake grew. I also found that I had many covers by Klaus Voormann and then Damien Hirst produced a few record covers that found their way into my collection. In about 2008  I picked up a couple of albums with cover art by the artist known as Banksy and managed over the course of two years to collect almost all the covers bearing his art.

When I retired in 2010 it was apparent that my wife and I would have to move to a flat and that I would not be able to take my collection of records, posters and CDs with me. I had to downsize. I decided only to keep my collections of record cover art. I said “good bye” to my 4AD, Martin Kann, and Rob Jones records and kept only my Banksy, Blake, Hirst, Voormann and Warhol collections. So now I am a RECORD collector rather than a music collector. The music is secondary to the cover art.

 

 

Record sleeve art by artists I collect

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