Collecting Andy Warhol’s Record Cover Art. How to Credit Previously Unrecognised covers?

I curated what I thought would be the first exhibition of Andy Warhol’s record covers in Piteå, Sweden, in July 2008 I enlisted the help of fellow collector Guy Minnebach to assemble as complete a collection of record Warhol’s record covers as possible. Only later did I find out that Warhol’s record covers had been shown before-usually as part of other exhibitions of his art, and then only exhibiting a few covers. My intention with the 2008 exhibition was to try to gather together all the covers he designed or illustrated.

Just two months after the exhibition in Piteå closed, the Museum of Art in Montreal, Canada, put on a major exhibition entitled “Warhol Live!” which showed the link between Warhol’s art and music. Many of the record covers shown came from the collection of Paul Maréchal and his book “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers 1949-1987: Catalogue Raisonné” was published to coincide with the “Warhol Live!” exhibition.

Just before the Piteå exhibition, Guy Minnebach had discovered the “Waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr.” EP and the “Warhol Live!” exhibition showed Paul Maréchal’s newly discovered “Night Beat” box set. Less than a month after the exhibition in Piteå closed, in September 2008, a friend of mine read an interview in a magazine with Tomas Alfredsson, a Swedish musician turned actor, who had been a member of a band called Roland and the Flying Albatros Band (known as RATFAB for short). In the interview he said that the cover of the Band’s second single had been designed by Andy Warhol. Thus started my search for this cover, and I quickly found three copies. The RATFAB single “Det brinner en eld / Mörka ögon” became the first Warhol cover NOT to be included in Maréchal’s 2008 book!

Since then, a number of covers, unrecognised in 2008, illustrated or designed by Andy Warhol have been identified.
1. Margarita Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish, Volume 2 (LP),
2. Vladimir Horowitz – Piano Music of Mendelssohn and Lizst (LP),
3. Mendelssohn – Wedding March / Scherzo (45 RPM EP)
4. Lew White – Melodic Magic (EP),
5. Erika Morini – Tchaikovsky–Violin Concerto
6. George Gershwin / Edvard Grieg – Porgy & Bess / Symphonic Dances (LP and EP box),
7. Curiosity Killed the Cat – Misfit / Man (7″ single).

And this list doesn’t include bootlegs or records and CDs that simply appropriated Warhol’s art for their covers. Nor does it include covers after 1987 that simply use or reuse Warhol’s art, such as Paul Anka’s “Amigos” or Skyline’s “Skyline” or even The Silver Apples’ “Fractal Flow / Lovefingers“.

There has been a problem in having new covers suggested to be by Warhol verified. An example is the rear cover drawing on Keely Smith’s 1957 Capitol Records LP “I Wish You Love“. By this date, Warhol was an acclaimed commercial artist and his “dot and blot” technique was being used by other illustrators. Warhol is not known to have worked with Capitol Records on any other projects, so this drawing cannot certainly be accredited to Warhol. There are similar discussions about the Tchaikovsky (No. 5 in the above list) and the Gershwin / Grieg (No. 6 in the list) designs also released in 1957, but these were at least released on the RCA Victor Bluebird label, and Warhol did many designs for RCA and its other subsidiary Camden Records. Maréchal has included the Tchaikovsky, but not the Gershwin / Grieg in the second edition of his book.

There are variations in some of the covers that Maréchal has described. There are various colour variants of the covers illustrated, starting with the first cover in the book, “A Program of Mexican Music” (Columbia Records – ML 2080). Maréchal includes the green cover variant but doesn’t mention the rarer pale blue coloured version. Similarly, there are five colour variations of the “Alexander Nevsky” (Columbia Records – ML 4247)–pale blue and a deeper, almost turquoise, blue that contained the original LP with dark blue labels. The album was re-released in the late fifties with the cover in green, orange and pink. These copies have records with Columbia 6-eye labels. Maréchal includes the green reissue cover, but not the original blue covers. Then there are minor variations such as the various printings of the “Latin Rhythms by the Boston Pops” EP. Friend and Warhol expert Guy Minnebach noticed that some copies had the text “A High Fidelity Recording” just beneath the RCA logo in the upper right of the cover. Some had this text in silver and some in green. There is a minor variation in the cover of the “Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr.” EP. Some copies have “Printed in U.S.A.” at bottom right while others do not (probably due to the way the slick was cut before being affixed to the cover.)

There are probably more cover designs by Andy Warhol waiting to be identified. A recent case in point is the sister box to NBC’s “Night Beat” entitled “Voices and Events“. As with the designs for the “Progressive Piano” EP set and 10″ LP a lithograph of the “Voices and Events” cover design exists in The Warhol Museum and was shown at the “Adman-Warhol Before Pop” exhibition in Australia early in 2017. It isn’t clear whether The Warhol Museum recognised this to be the design for an EP box set, but when I saw it I immediately saw the similarity to the “Night Beat” design with the dots on three sides. No one knows if the “Voices and Events” box was ever released. I suppose, like the “Night Beat” set, it was intended as a promotional teaser but the radio show it was intended to promote only lasted three episodes… so probably not.

By my reckoning, there are some 55 individual covers that can be attributed to Andy Warhol (I do not count different formats that use the same, or similar, designs), but there is no way that a newly identified cover can be given accreditation, other than being recognised by Paul Maréchal and included in future editions of his “Complete Commissioned Record Covers“.

 

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The 50th Anniversary Box Set of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” – a set I didn’t think I needed.

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The deluxe 50th anniversary box set of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with all the ‘goodies’.

It seems I’ve been writing a lot about “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” since it’s 50th anniversary on June 1st. In March, I heard about the projected release of an upgraded version of the stereo version of the album together with a variety of previously unreleased alternative takes of the songs (including “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane“, which had not been included on the final album) on double vinyl, double CD and a four CD, Blu-ray and DVD box set which included a 144-page LP-sized book, and 2 posters as well as a reproduction of the original cutout from the LP.

I decided that I already had the original LP (actually TWO copies) and didn’t think I needed to shell out £30 for the double LP or over £100 for the box set as I am not particularly interested in hearing alternate takes. And I felt I didn’t need to listen to a third re-mastering of the original, though I listened to the new stereo version on Spotify and definitely heard a new, clearer mix. My main interest in “Sgt. Pepper” extends to the cover design.

But on a visit to my favourite record store I saw a copy of the box. What first caught my eye and made me take it off the shelf was the lenticular version of the cover image, which made it appear three dimensional. Now, that was a version of Peter Blake’s & Jann Haworth’s cover that I hadn’t seen before. Then, on opening the clamshell inner box I found what I thought was a copy of the LP–but the box clearly stated that it didn’t include the LP only 4 CDs, a Blu-ray and a DVD. There were three posters and the book which had a chapter devoted to the story of how the cover came about. Now, THAT did interest me. So I decided I’d try it and the offer of a 10% discount clinched the deal!

When I got home, I removed the plasticwrap from the LP sized album and from the book. On opening the gatefold I saw the CDs, Blu-ray and DVD were housed in separate LP-style covers. Only when I started to upload the CDs onto my computer did I notice that each CD had a different version of the classic “Sgt. Pepper” photo, with the Beatles in different poses in front of the Blake/Haworth montage.

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Four different variations on the original “Pepper” cover. The one at top left is is the standard photo.

The book tells Paul McCartney’s version of how the cover art came to be. He tells that he had the idea of the “Sgt. Pepper” theme while on a flight back from America. He says that Mal Evans asked for him to pass the salt and pepper and he misheard it as Sgt. Pepper, which immediately inspired him to create an alter ego for The Beatles. He says that he mad some sketches for a possible cover scene and took them to his friend, gallery owner Robert Fraser, who proposed Peter Blake and Jann Haworth as artists to realise his ideas.

There is no mention of John Lennon’s discussions with design group “The Fool”, though the chapter ends with an interview with Marijke Koger who tells of the visits by The Beatles to their home, which inspired them to commission a design for the planned “Sgt Pepper” album cover. However, only The Fool’s design for the red, pink and white inner sleeve was used.

I have also now listened to the re-mastered stereo version included in the set as well as the original mono version. There really is a new clarity in the stereo version. But–I have lived with the original stereo version for just over 50 years and it still remains the one I probably will listen to on vinyl.

Anyway, no I can add the lenticular cover of the Blake/Haworth design and the alternative Michael Cooper photos of the “Sgt. Pepper” set to my cover collection.