The wonders of research

My collections of record cover art are nearing completion. The main subjects are:

1. Andy Warhol’s record covers

2. Sir Peter Blake’s record covers

3. Martin Kann’s vinyl record covers

4. Neville Brody’s record covers

5. Vaughan Oliver & v23 covers

6. Damien Hirst’s record covers

7. Klaus Voormann’s record covers, and

8. Banksy’s record covers.

All these artists have a finite number of record covers and it should, at least in theory, be possible to collect all the covers by each of these artists. In practice, however, some covers are so incredible rare that they are impossible to find (or afford). So far, I only have a complete collection of Sir Peter Blake’s recrod covers. I have all Martin Kann’s 12″ and LP covers and many 7″ covers, but I’m sure there are a few 7″ singles missing. I have all Neville Brody’s covers for Fetish records.

There are five Warhol covers that I do not have in my collection. These are, of course among the rarest – and therefore the most expensive of his covers. I have scans of all of them and have made copies of his silkscreen entitled “Giant Size $1.57 Each”, originally shown at the Contemporary Art exhibition at Washington’s Gallery of Modern Art in 1963.

Vaughan Oliver & Chris Bigg at v13 have produced a prodigious number of covers and I have limited myself to a representative collection and limited the further by concentrating on their most productive period up to about 2000. Even here there are a few expensive rarities, but I have managed to pick up most of these quite early.

Martin Kann is a Swedish designer who, with few exceptions, only designs the covers for the Swedish band bob hund (note the lower case). He is notable because he, like Andy Warhol, has given his name to an album (“Omslag: Martin Kann” (trans: Cover: Martin Kann) by bob hund.) His latest covers are really weird. One of the most recent just has the text: “Jag har ingen omslagsidé, Sorry /Martin (trans: I have no idea for the cover, Sorry /Martin.)

Damien Hirst has not been responsible for many covers as yet (I’ve found 18, thus far), but a few of them are already collectors’ items. In particular his cover for the self-released single “Use Money Cheat Death” that featured his portrait of Kate Moss with half her face dissected. The LP of Joe Strummer & The Mescalero’s album “Art Rock and the X-ray Style” is also extremely hard to find. His latest (2011) cover is the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “I’m With You” Album.

Apart from Andy Warhol, all the above designers are still active and more covers may be expected from them. Klaus Voormann still designs record cover art and is active as a session musician and record producer. His 41 year (and counting) career in record cover design outdoes Andy Warhol’s 38-year productive life. He started designing record covers while still at art school in Hamburg in the late 1950s and made his first commercial cover in 1960. It is only this first cover that eludes me so far.

Nobody knows if Banksy will continue to design record covers. The majority of covers in recent years have use his images apparently without his approval. Banksy allows anyone to copy his art and use it for non-commercial purposes. His early covers are becoming exceedingly difficult to find and the two that he hand-stencilled himself (Röyksopp’s “Melody A.M.” promotional LP and The Capoeira Twins “Four (4×3)” promotional single) command very high prices. I started collecting Banksy covers rather late. I found a list of his covers at http://banksysforum.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=allelse&thread=159&page=1 and started collecting from this. However, I soon found out that this was by no means complete. A contact via Ebay helped expand the list and at the time of writing this I have identified 50 covers with Banksy art. Check them out at http://rateyourmusic.com/lists/list_view?list_id=303286&show=25&start=0

The exciting thing about collecting individual artists is the amount of research that is needed to find all the covers each artist has designed. I started to collect Andy Warhol’s record covers by accident. I bought “The Velvet Underground & Nico”  in 1967 and The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” in 1971 when they were released. The Stones’ “Love You Live” came next and then John Lennon’s “Menlove Avenue”, Aretha Franklin’s “Aretha” and Diana Ross’ “Silk Electric”. So, there was the basis of a collection and I started trying to find other covers Warhol had designed. There were no books at that time and the best research tool was Ebay. I managed to pick up several of his rarer early covers for reasonable sums before prices started to go through the roof. Now several of the covers I bought sell for hundreds of dollars each. But some of his early covers are so rare that I will never see them. Through Ebay I made contact with Guy M, a true Warhol collector, who has helped me enormously.

My Vaughan Oliver collection started when I bought a pack of posters designed by 23 Envelope, his first design group. I had a couple of Cocteau Twins albums and things started to grow from there. I visited his studio in 2001 and he gave me a further 30-odd posters.

I loved Neville Brody’s typography and bought most of the Fetish records as they came out. I have only been able to identify forty covers so far.

Sir Peter Blake has only produced 20 covers, so it is not too difficult to get a complete collection. However, he admits to having designed four additional covers that were never used. Apparently, he does not have copies of all of these.

Klaus Voormann, can truly lay claim to the title the 5th Beatle.He got to know them in Hamburg and, as everybody knows, designed the cover of their “Revolver” album, for which he earned a Grammy. He has played with all of the Beatles at different times. My collection started out from the discography on his own webbsite, This list, however, is far from complete and the man himself says he has forgotten many of the covers he has designed. I’ve had fun searching German sites to find many of the covers he has not listed.So far I’ve identified 56 covers!

Another fascinating thing about collecting reord cover art is that I get to listen to music I would otherwise never have heard. Everything from the classical music and jazz of the Andy Warhol records to Lex Voix Bulgares on 4AD or hip hop of One Cut or Talib Kweli (with Banksy covers.) Then there is the industrial music of Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire (Neville Brodie covers) and the pop & rock of The Beatles (Voormann & Peter Blake), the Pentangle, The Who, Ian Dury  or Paul Weller (Peter Blake.)

 

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