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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