ABSOLUT VODKA’s RECORD COVER ADVERTISMENTS

This post is not so much about record covers as much as about advertising and focuses on a campaign by Absolut Vodka.

Apparently, Absolut Vodka is the third largest spirit brand in the world. It is distilled near Åhus in Skåne, southern Sweden, and was, until 2008 owned by the Swedish state through its company AB Vin & Sprit when it was sold to the French group Pernod Ricard for €5.63 billion (55 billion Swedish Crowns). Two things – apart from the drink itself – have contributed to Absolut Vodka’s international success; the first is the design of the bottle and the second is the inventive artistic advertising campaigns. And, related to the imaginative advertising was the Absolut Art Collection, started In 1985 when Andy Warhol was approached to paint a picture of the Absolut Vodka bottle.

Exactly how Warhol came to be involved is debated. According to Finbar Krook Rosato, in “Face It! Absolut Art Collection” (2012) One story is that Michel Roux who worked for Carillion importers was a regular fixture in the New York nightlife of the 1980s. Apparently he suggested the idea to Warhol at a dinner and Warhol was enthusiastic saying “I love the bottle. I’d want to do something with it”. Another story is that Titti Wachtmeister, daughter of Sweden’s ambassador to the United States, was a close friend of Warhol’s put the idea to him. Whichever is correct, Warhol painted his portrait of the famous bottle.

Absolut Warhol
Absolut Warhol

Warhol then suggested that Keith Haring make a painting and in 1987 his contribution arrived. Between 1986 and 2004 a total of 850 works were made for the Absolut Art Collection by 550 artists. The collection is now housed at Spritmuseum in Stockholm where regular exhibitions show the varied nature of the art.

A series of one-page ads for Absolut Vodka appeared each week in Time Magazine and many appeared in other magazines including Scandinavian Airways System’s “Scanorama”. A series that was particularly special for me, was run in Scanorama from February until October 2002 and used pastiches of famous record covers to advertise the famous Vodka. You have to really search in some of the adverts to find the Absolut Vodka bottle.

The series started with a reworked version of David Bowie‘s “Aladdin Sane“:

Absolut Bowie.
Absolut Bowie. “Scanorama” February 2002.

The second cover to be manipulated was Miles Davis‘s “Bitches Brew“:

Absolut Miles.
Absolut Miles. “Scanorama” March 2002.

The third cover to be manipulated was Nina Hagan‘s “Om Namah Shivay!“:

Absolut Hagen.
Absolut Hagen.

Next up was INXS‘s album “Kicks

Absolut INXS.
Absolut INXS.

Number five was The Sex Pistol‘s “Never Mind the Bollocks, We’re the Sex Pistols“:

Absolut Pistols.
Absolut Pistols.

Then came Judas Priest‘s album “British Steel”:

Absolut Priest.
Absolut Priest.

Album number seven was Queen‘s “A Night at the Opera“:

Absolut Queen.
Absolut Queen.

The eighth and final cover to appear in the series was The Velvet Underground & Nico‘s “The Velvet Underground & Nico“:

Absolut Underground.
Absolut Underground.

A great combination of advertising and record cover art. No Beatles, perhaps, but at least there was one Warhol cover. I remember seeing a full-sized poster of the Absolut Pistols advert in Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport just when this campaign was running. I was sort of stunned as I hadn’t seen the any of the other adverts at that time! I wonder what other adverts have used record covers. Ideas, anyone?

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A New Klaus Voormann Record Cover – And An Old One I Didn’t Know Existed

The Internet is a fantastic research tool for collectors. One doesn’t have to buy anything but it provides a wealth of databases from which to search. Researching record covers has been made so much easier thanks to record databases such as Discogs, Musicstack and others. Even Ebay and Etsy are great databases to use in searches.

I researched my post on Kate Moss on record covers entirely via the Internet. I owned three covers with Kate Moss’s portrait and bought a fourth as I found it available despite apparently being very rare. I have even researched Roy Lichtenstein‘s art on record sleeves via Ebay and Discogs without buying a single cover.

So, despite a smug feeling that I already had ALL his record covers, I was doing my usual weekly search for Klaus Voormann’s record cover art a couple of weeks ago when a new cover appeared. A record by a group which went by the (not so lyrical) name of Paddy, Klaus & Gibson.

Paddy, Klaus & Gibson's 10
Paddy, Klaus & Gibson’s 10″ EP.

A copy was for sale on http://www.ebay.de and I jumped at the chance. It turned out that the seller was famous German Thorsten Knublauch, collector of Beatles material from their Hamburg days and author of books on the Fab Four. He told me that fellow Beatles expert Dieter Hoffmann had produced this compilation album to document an early phase in Klaus Voormann‘s musical career.

The following information comes from a blog post by Thorsten Knublauch reviewing the album (see: http://wogew.blogspot.de/2015/02/paddy-klaus-gibson.html). Klaus Voormann had bought ex-Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe‘s Höfner bass when he left the band and hopped into a band together with Paddy Chambers (guitar) and John Frankland (vocals, guitar) and Gibson Kemp (drums) called The Eyes. The Eyes released two singles and Klaus Voormann drew a band portrait on their “She / Peanut Butter” single cover. Paddy Chambers had previously been a member of legendary Liverpool band The Big Three, Gibson Kemp (who later married Astrid Kirchherr) has been drummer for The Hurricanes and John Frankland who had been a member of Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes.

The Eyes
The Eyes “She / Peanut Butter” single cover drawn by Klaus Voormann.

And, yes, it’s the same drawing on the cover of the “Paddy, Klaus & Gibson” album, but with John Frankland (he in the cap peering over Gibson’s head) removed as he had left the band. Klaus Voormann had approved the revised cover design.

The “Paddy, Klaus & Gibson” album was produced by Dieter Hoffmann to collect the six tracks released by the trio in 1965-1966. He produced 300 copies – 100 copies each on black, clear and read vinyl. After contacting Dieter – a fellow medical doctor – I also bought the black and red vinyl versions to complete the collection.

So, once again I started to congratulate myself on “completing” my collection of Klaus Voorman record cover art when Thorsten Knublauch mentioned an early jazz album that Klaus had done a cover drawing for, much in the same style as his series for the “Pioneers of Jazz” series on the Coral Record label. The record, a radio broadcast recording, has the impossible title “Wer noch nie im Bett Radio gemacht hat“, which he translated as “Who never ever did radio in bed“. He even had a picture of the cover – a patient in a hosital bed hooked up to drop bottles.

The cover of Klaus Voormann's early Jazz LP
The cover of Klaus Voormann’s early Jazz LP “Wer noch nie im Bett Radio gemacht hat”.

Well, I really have to do some serious research to find a copy of this, not only because it’s a Klaus Voormann cover, but because I really love the medical subject! So, dear readers, please excuse me if I do not post any further posts for the foreseeable future – I’ll be out looking for this album.