Occasionally serendipity strikes. A week ago I went to Stockholm’s Moderna Museet to see the retrospective exhibition of Marie-Louise Ekman’s art. In true Banksy style I left thru’ the gift shop and while there I noticed a new book about Andy Warhol’s early career–“Adman-Warhol Before Pop“, published b the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia, to coincide with their exhibition of the same name, which ran from February to 28th May 2017.
I couldn’t resist a quick flick through just to see if there were any record covers featured. I was excited to see quite a few of Warhol’s earliest covers, including “A Program of Mexican Music“, “The Story of Moondog“, with Julia Warhola’s beautifully querky calligraphy, Johnny Griffin’s “The Congregation” and sketches for the Tennessee Williams LP, Billie Holiday EPs and one of the “Progressive Piano” designs. There was also a picture of one of Julia Warhola’s early attempts to write the cover for “The Story of Moondog” album.
But what I wasn’t prepared for was:
Having made reproductions of the “Night Beat” box set, I immediately recognised that this was the design for a similar box. While there exists a physical example of the “Night Beat” set, discovered by famous Warhol collector and author, Paul Maréchal, that has a record company catalogue number, as far as I know no physical example of the “Voices and Events” box exists and so I cannot know if it was actually released. I don’t even know if it was intended for a box of seven-inch EPs or for LPs, but I suspect the former.
So–all you Warhol cover collectors out there please start searching! Meanwhile I’m gonna try to make me a copy.
Readers of this blog may already have suspected that I have a serious case of OCD or just plain collectors’ mania. I aim to keep my collections of record cover art by artists/themes I collect as complete as possible. Therefore, I have compiled lists of each of these which I try to remember to update when I find or acquire new items.
So, a couple of weeks ago, picture discs with Banksy cover art began to appear on Ebay posted by a seller from Israel. The looked really cool and I could imagine hanging a selection on my wall.
The prices were high–but genuine records with Banksy covers are fetching quite amazing prices nowadays, so I didn’t reflect too much. I made an offer on one disc which was promptly accepted and I was happy. The seller informed me that he had “a couple of other Banksy picture discs” and was prepared to offer me an even “better” price if I bought those, too. He even offered free shipping, so I agreed.
Less than a week later, the package arrived.
These turned out to be single-sided singles. The “Keep It Real” is a version by Jamal, called “Keep It Real“. As shown, it came in a die-cut, black card sleeve. The other two are shaped picture discs. The Blak Twang record is the “Kik Off” single and the One Cut has the track “Mr. X“.
Examination revealed that the records are 2 mm thick pieces of perspex with a sort of thick flexidisc with the image and sound track affixed. The image is slightly blurred as if it has been copied from a picture sourced on the Internet.The sound quality is poor, probably lifted from an MP3 file.
The seller informed me that he had “bought” the discs and the person who had sold them to him said they were made in Japan and only twenty or so copies existed. He had about twenty-five different discs with Banksy cover art for sale and was prepared to let me have them for the “bargain” price of $139 each.
Further research on Ebay gave more surprises. The same seller is selling picture discs by other artists, such as Björk, Aphex Twin, Led Zeppelin and others at the same sort of inflated prices.
These records are not proper pressings. They are produced to appeal to collectors and sold at wildly inflated prices. They cannot really be called bootlegs as they are not really records at all. And the quality of the artwork, not to mention the sound, is really poor.
I decided not to “invest” in the 25-or-so Banksy picture discs the seller had on offer. I prefer “proper” records, not pieces of perspex with a flexidisc attached. And I would like to issue a warning to other collectors not to support this type of exploitation solely aimed at fleecing collectors.
I used to have a fantastic collection of Beatles records–everything from Mono and Stereo copies of “Please Please Me” LPs with the black and gold Parlophone labels, an autographed copy of “Love Me Do” single and just about every LP and boxes of albums and EPs. I also had a complete set of the HMV boxes of the 1987 CDs. I actually SAW The Beatles live on 24th October 1964 at the Gaumont State Cinema. I still have the “Four Aces” programme from the concert, which cost 1/- (one shilling, for those of you too young to remember pre-decimal currency). However, my Beatles records went when I sold most of my music collection when I moved to Stockholm four years ago. The only Beatles record I kept was my copy of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” as a part of my collection of Sir Peter Blake’s record cover art, a copy signed by Peter Blake, which I later asked Jann Haworth to also sign (which she gracefully did!)
I can’t say I have missed my Beatles collection, though. The Beatles released 22 singles in the United Kingdom and I had them all both in a singles box and as 3″ CD singles and the complete set of picture disc singles released on the 20th anniversary of each single’s original release. However, despite living in Sweden, I was never tempted to buy the Beatles’ Swedish singles or EPs.
The Beatles released 32 singles in Sweden between 1963 and 1970. However, the Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do/P. S. I Love You“, was never released as a single in Sweden. Today, I was given a pile of nineteen mint covers for Swedish Beatles singles (fourteen different single covers plus four duplicates with slightly different colours) together with four EP covers, one of which is apparently very rare. So I now have fourteen of the 32 single covers (43,75%).
The story behind these is that Daniel Burfitt who owns Nostalgipalatset in Stockholm, to whom I sold my record collection, comes from the town of Strängnäs, where the printers of many of the Swedish record covers were located. Daniel was contacted by the printer a couple of years ago when he was having a clear out and wanted Daniel to buy some old LPs. While looking through them, he was shown a box of unused Beatles single covers, which he bought. He asked the printer why he had kept them for fifty-odd years and was told “Well, The Beatles were special”.
The covers for Swedish singles were generally made of thin paper and were easily worn, dogeared or torn and collectors with records in good condition were, naturally, very interested in these pristine covers to replace damaged ones.
There were 20 Beatles EPs released in Sweden. Among the covers Daniel gave me are four EP covers. These were printed on heavier paper and are laminated. Again all are in mint condition.
So, a nice collection of Fab Four singles and EP covers reminding me of some of the best music of the sixties. What a great gift! Thank you Daniel.
The 50th anniversary of the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” has caused considerable interest in various aspects of what came to be called “the summer of love”; 1967’s glorious pop year. It was also the time of “Swinging London” and Carnaby Street’s first heyday.
That the cover of the “Sgt. Pepper” album would become a classic had been foreseen by Beatles manager Brian Epstein who wanted a “proper” artist to design the cover rather than the original psychedelic ideas suggested by fashion designers The Fool. From an idea by Paul McCartney via his friend and gallery owner Robert Fraser, Peter Blake and Jann Haworth were recruited and with some input from Jann’s father, Ted, the couple set to work.
It didn’t take long for the first of many pastiches of the cover art to appear. The Mothers of Invention’s album “We’re Only in It for the Money” released in March 1968, was one of the earliest. Frank Zappa wanted the cover (designed by Cal Schenkel) to be a copy of the “Sgt. Pepper” cover and asked Paul McCartney for approval. Apparently McCartney wished that Zappa’s and The Beatles’ mangers discussed the suggestion. Zappa went ahead but Verve Records, who would release the album, would not allow Schenkel’s copy of the “Sgt. Pepper” montage to appear on the front so the band’s portrait, photographed against a yellow background became the outside of the gatefold.
The front cover of “We’re Only in It for the Money”.
The lyrics, printed against a similar red background to those on the “Sgt. Pepper” cover appeared on the inside of the gatefold opposite Schenkel’s montage.
Release of “We’re Only in It for the Money” was delayed five months because of the record company’s anxiety over a possible infringement of copyright. In the event there was no reaction as the front cover only revealed four band members.
There have been innumerable pastiches of the “Sgt. Pepper” cover since the Mothers of Invention’s album; ranging from albums by the Muppets and Simpsons to more “serious” artist like The Ruttles. An Internet search turns up literally hundreds. Probably only the cover photo from The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” has been copied/parodied more often.
My collection includes only three pastiches of the (probably) hundreds out there, collected because of their originality (and possibly rarity). The oldest, from 1969, is Jack O’Reilly’s “You Can Be a Ventriloquist” (subtitled “Constable O’Rourke’s Wooden Hearts Club Band“, just so that no one would miss the reference to “Sgt. Pepper“). An instructional album that was probably privately pressed and thus in relatively limited numbers. O’Reilly went to inordinate expense to put together a background of forty ventriloquists’ dummies for the cover photograph.
The second example is a Japanese album by Jun Fukamachi called (not so strangely) “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“. Fukamachi plays several of the “Sgt. Pepper” songs rendered as jazz tunes. I like the cover for the idea of reversing the whole scene. It must have taken weeks to paint!
And the final parody that I have collected is another Japanese release–Junichi Masuda’s “Pokèmon” LP from 2015. This is an unoffical release on the Moonshake record label. Masuda, who is programmer and director at Pokèmon also makes the music to video games. The “Pokèmon” album was released in several versions. The “standard” album came in four variations of coloured vinyl housed in a cover that is a parody of the “Sgt. Pepper” design.
Oh, and I have been guilty of plagiarism, too. In 2009 I curated an exhibition of Peter Blake’s record cover art at Piteå Museum. Together with my friends at In the Cold bureau we designed a cover for the exhibition catalogue, of course modelling it on the “Sgt. Pepper” design, but with all the artists that Blake had made record covers for.
In 2010, I showed my collection of Peter Blake’s record covers at the A and D Gallery in London, and Sir Peter Blake signed m catalogue. I wonder if it didn’t inspire him to produce his 2012 update of the Sgt. Pepper cover…
I don’t have this print, though it would make a nice addition to my collection of Sir Peter Blake’s record cover art.
Anyway, I really hope I won’t be tempted to buy any more “Sgt. Pepper” pastiches.