The most important popband of the 20th Century

Well, It’s January 2014 and Kraftwerk are in town for a series of five sold-out concerts. They are praised In the media for their artistic vision and Stefan Thungren, in one of Sweden’s national daily newspapers, called Kraftwerk “the most important pop band of the 20th Century”. Well, well!

I love Kraftwerk’s music and saw them 2 days ago at Cirkus in Stockholm. One of the best music venues I know. They gave a great show and played a cavalcade of their greatest hits ranging from “Autobahn” to “Musick Non Stop”, via “Radio-Activity” and “Computerworld” all played against a backdrop of 3-D videos. A great two-and-a-half hour show with a couple of encores, to round it off.

But – does Kraftwerk deserve the title of the most important band of the 20th Century? The competition is murderous. Is Kraftwerk more important than The Beatles? More important than The Velvet Underground? More important than The Rolling Stones? More important than Oasis, Nirvana, Talking Heads or The Ramones or a host of other great bands? I haven’t even named Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Bruce Springsteen & The East Street Band or Bill Haley’s Comets.

I think journalists should temper their praise. Their personal favourites may not be everyone else’s.

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Some fascinating information on some Warhol record sleeves.

Well, this week I’m in London looking after my elderly mother (who will be 94 next month) and I visited Daniel Brant at the A and D Gallery in Chiltern Street, just off Baker Street.)

The gallery is currently running an exhibition of pop art – several Rauschenbergs, Warhols and two Wesselmans, A couple of Roy Lichentsteins, a Claes Oldenberg lithograph, a Jasper Johns lithograph and – though not really classical pop art – three or four Julian Opies (of whom I am a fan.)

Daniel’s partner, Helen, plied us with tea as we sat and chinwagged about various aspects of Warhol’s art and Daniel mentioned that the Gallery had put on a show of Billy Name’s work for which they decorated one room with silver foil which they tacked to the walls. Daniel said Billy was a super person, one of the nicest people he hed met. Then we went on to discuss some record covers. Daniel told me that the cover for The Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” album was not done by Warhol but was one of Billy Name’s photographs. Billy also was responsible for the cover for Nico’s “Chelsea Girl” album – which is listed in the mega format book “Andy Warhol – GIANT Size” as being Andy’s work. Incidentally, I removed my copy of the “Chelsea Girl” LP from my list of Warhol covers a couple of years ago when I saw that the cover was credited to Billy Name. Daniel also told me that the “Index” book was the work of Billy Name – with no Warhol input. I suppose one should have guessed Name’s involvement from the silver cover! However, the “Aspen” box is Warhol’s work.

I showed Daniel my series of “Giant Size $1.57 Each” in order to ask his opinion as to what I could expect as a reasonable sale price. He was quite excited about them, but was sorry to see the “Fiftieth Annoversary” stamp on the back of each cover. Daniel had very recently put on a show of “fake” Warhol works and invited representatives from The Warhol Foundation, who happened to be in London at the time, to attend – which they did. I think Daniel was hoping that they would shut the exhibition down or sue the Gallery but apparently they only applauded. Daniel told several stories about how Warhol had sanctioned reprints of some of his prints and then signed them “put your name here” and “I did not do this” and then signing underneath: “Andy Warhol”! He thought that it would have been better for me NOT to have stamped the covers. He suggested also that it would be cool to repress the LP and include it with my replica covers.

From a discussion about selling the “Giant Size $1.57 Each” covers the coversation quite naturally turned to talk of Warhol associate Billy Klüver. Daniel knew loads about him and had bought a batch of Andy Warhol’s “ones” banknotes from Klüver’s estate after his death. Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer together with artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman founded the Experiments in Art & Technology (EAT) organisation in 1966. By the early 1980s EAT was in financial difficulty and Billy and Rauschenberg organised a party at which art works would be sold in aid of EAT and there was a casino. Guests at the party were not permitted to bet with real mone but had to buy special banknotes produced in various denominations by the artists. Billy asked Warhol to produce the “one” (one dollar bills) which he did, silkscreening hundreds of bills that were  green on one side and black on the reverse. The only text was the word “ones” and Warhol’s standard rubber stamp with his name (like the one he used on the record covers he designed such as “Sticky Fingers” and “Academy in Peril”)  in white on the green side. Then, Daniel showed me one of the “ones”. Super!

Warhol's $1 bill for the EAT casino.
Warhol’s $1 bill for the EAT casino.

So, you may see a set of my “Giant Size $1.57 Each” covers on Ebay sometime soon but being sold by the A and D Gallery. Look out for them.