As I write this, a major exhibition of The Artist Known as Banksy is being planned to open at the Palazzo Cipolla in Rome on 23rd May 2016. The exhibition is called “War, Capitalism and Liberty” is not sanctioned by or involves the artist, will show works from private collections and hopefully many record and CD covers.
Well, hearing about the exhibition prompted me to return to my collection of records and CDs designed by The Artist Known as Banksy or that use his images. I have, for the first time, made a proper catalogue of ALL my records and CDs. I don’t really know why I haven’t done it before!
The urge to catalogue my collection was further stimulated by my most recent purchase of a rare–and, dare I say–classic piece of Banksy‘s art: The infamous spoof on Paris Hilton‘s debut CD “Paris” from 2006. You probably already know the story… Heiress Paris Hilton, apparently not satisfied with being a television and American Society celebrity, decided that she should be a music star too and gathered well-known songwriters and music producers to help her make a CD. Banksy and his compadre DJ Danger Mouse got wind of the project and decided to play a trick on a series of HMV record stores throughout the United Kingdom by placing 500 copies of a CD-rom with music by DJ Danger Mouse in a jewel case with cover art taken from Paris Hilton‘s original CD but with her portrait on the front rendered “topless” and Banksy quotes placed over the pictures on the inside of the booklet. Banksy and his assistants managed to get these spoof CDs onto HMV’s shelves beside the real CDs so that customers buying the album would, by mistake, take the “wrong” version and find DJ Danger Mouse‘s music rather than Paris Hilton‘s. I suspect that many who made this mistake returned to HMV to exchange their “defect” CD for the real thing or to get a refund. No one knows exactly how many of the 500 CDs placed in the HMV stores still exist. Genuine ones have sold at auction for over £3500!
A second edition of 1000 CDs with similar artwork, but with the sticker that was on the outside of the Jewel case on the first 500 copies now smaller and printed at top right on the front of the booklet. For this edition the CD was a proper mastered CD with printed design rather than the CD-rom with “Paris” written on the front that had been included in the HMV version. I got hold of one of these “second pressing” “Paris” CDs soon after it was released in about 2008.
So, once the Banksy/Danger Mouse HMV version of the “Paris” CD arrived I invested in a copy of the original Paris Hilton CD as a comparison.
Now with my set of “Paris” CDs complete, I set about compiling a list of all my records and CDs with Banksy artwork.
The earliest Banksy artwork I have is not on a record or CD at all. It is on the cover of Nick Cave‘s 1989 book “And the Ass Saw the Angel“, originally published by Black Spring Press in 1989 and reprinted by Penguin Books the following year. I have the Penguin edition.
The first record cover to have Banky‘s art was released almost ten years later, in 1998, and was for Banksy‘s friend Jamie Eastman‘s Hombre record label. It was by the hip Hop group One Cut and was an EP entitled “Cut Commander“. One Cut, sometimes written as OneCut were a trio formed in Bristol in 1989. Band members were Riski Le Bizniz, MC Reds and Master Chef and their music is described as being made up of “crusty beats and deep sub bass”. Jamie Eastman continued to release One Cut‘s EPs, singles and sole LP “Grand Theft Audio” as well as a compilation CD “Hombremix” remixed by Riski Le Bizniz despite having left Bristol for London around 1990; in total six releases plus two promotional 12″ singles.
Banksy‘s official designs appear on only four record labels. Hombre Records owned by his friend and former flatmate, Jamie Eastman, Blowpop Records from Bristol, owned by John Stapleton. The third label that Banksy has designed for is Wall of Sound Records and the final one was Parlophone Records which commissioned him to design the cover for Blur‘s 2003 album “Think Tank” and three singles and CDs/DVDs from that release. Interestingly, Blowpop Record’s office was in the same Bristol building as Banksy‘s studio and in 1999 Stapleton just popped in to ask Banksy if he would like to design the cover for a promotional version of The Capoeira Twins first single “4 x 3/Truth Will Out“. Banksy took a stencil he had used on a Bristol wall to advertise Blowpop Records and handsprayed 100 covers.
The Capoeira Twins were unknown and this was their first single. The promotional copies were sent out to DJs, record stations and music journalists, but the record was not a commercial success and the majority of the promotional copies just got lost. A few have surfaced and are becoming increasingly sought after. This was the sole cover Banksy did for Blowpop.
The two most interesting Banksy designs for Wall of Sounds Records are the promotional copies of Norwegian group Röyksopp‘s first LP “Melody A.M.“, released in 2002. The double LP was housed in a sleeve once again handsprayed by Banksy.
The second Wall of Sound album with special interest is the label’s compilation triple LP “Off the Wall – 10 years of Wall of Sound“. The cover, designed by Banksy, shows some of the artists who recorded for the label and, at far right on the cover, with his back to the camera is a man purported to be Banksy himself!
The list of officially accredited covers thus includes those covers for these four record labels. (Note: The Bad Magic label, which released all the Blak Twang records and CDs is part of the Wall of Sound group).
In 2009 Banksy terminated his association with manager Steve Lazarides and nominated Pest Control to be his official spokespeople. Pest Control has been unwilling to assign accreditation to Banksy‘s record cover art, so I have had to guess which covers are “official” and which are not. There are some that I am not sure about. First the “official” cover list:
Then there are several covers that I cannot be certain are “official”:
And, the list of those covers whose artwork has definitely not been authorized:
So, as of April 2016, I know of a total of seventy records, CDs, DVDs with Banksy‘s cover art. While I have included Nick Cave‘s book “The Ass Saw the Angel“, however, I have not included Banksy‘s film “Exit Through the Gift Shop“. Perhaps this should make item number seventy one.
Interest in everything by Banksy has increased since 2010 and record covers are – as Andy Warhol foresaw – a way for the ordinary person to collect fine art. I hope records and CDs with Banksy designs will continue to be affordable. However, many covers, particularly those LP and 12″ covers, have become very scarce, while CDs remain affordable. One Cut‘s recordings were not released in very large numbers, the two handsprayed covers are already considered fine art prints as are Dirty Funker‘s “Let’s Get Dirty” covers with their Banksy portraits of Kate Moss. In particular, the first pressing without the title strips is extremely rare.
Banksy‘s and DJ Danger Mouse‘s “Paris” CD is also difficult to find, even the second pressing has increased in value. Complete sets of Dirty Funker‘s “Future” single with “Radar Rat” on the covers and DJ Danger Mouse‘s “Keep It Real/Laugh Now” are commanding high prices on auction sites.
An even rarer variation of the “Keep It Real/Laugh Now” single is a test pressing whose cover has a white background.
In February 2004, the magazine The Big Issue included a compilation CD entitled “Peace Not War” with Banksy‘s cover art. The CDs were taped to the magazine with sellotape and most, if not all covers were damaged when the tape was removed. This CD has become extremely rare.
I am considering returning to the subject of Banksy’s record cover art with a picture discography of all his covers. That will take some considerable time, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.