Category Archives: Andy Warhol’s record cover art

More Sources of Warhol’s Record Cover Illustrations and Daniel Blau’s Book of Warhol’s 1950s Drawings.

Artipelag is an art gallery on Sweden’s Baltic coast about a 30-minute drive eastwards from Stockholm. It was founded by Björn Jacobsson, the man behind the Baby Björn range of infant products. Jacobsson had a vision for a gallery located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea and found an architect willing to design it. There have been many inspiring exhibitions there since it opened in 2012. One of the more recent exhibitions was “The Legacy of Andy Warhol” which ran from 15th April until 25th September 2016. This exhibition was curated by Artipelag’s artistic director Bo Nilsson, himself an avid Warhol fan and, as far as I have been able to ascertain, the first to write about Warhol’s record cover art in the catalogue to Sweden’s Nationalmuseum’s 1981-1982 exhibition of record covers.

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The subway poster for Artipelag’s exhibition “The Legacy of Andy Warhol”.

The first thing that met visitors to the exhibition was a mountain of Brillo boxes, like the ones on the poster, specially made for the show.
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One large, silver foil-clad exhibition space was devoted to films including Roland Nameth‘s 1966 film “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable” featuring the Velvet Underground, apparently the first time the film has been shown with its original soundtrack, and Warhol‘s “Empire State Building“.

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There was a small room with walls lined with a selection of reproductions of Warhol’s record covers–though mainly from the 70’s onwards, although the “Velvet Underground & Nico” cover was there, too, and surprisingly one of Warhol’s drawings for a projected Billie Holiday EP was included. I thought it a pity that there were no actual record covers, only prints.
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A real surprise waited just through the sliding doors into the next space. The walls were lined with a large selection of Daniel Blau‘s collection of Warhol‘s drawings from the 1950s. I suppose there were about thirty drawings, but the two that I immediately reacted to were obviously related to Warhol‘s record cover art.

The drawing of the apple made me think of the “William Tell Overture” cover and the reclining woman was obviously a study for Kenny Burrell‘s “Blue Lights” album cover.

There was also a photo booth at the exhibition–a real Warholian touch! Visitors could photograph themselves free. And out came a card with four Warhol-style photos!
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I visited the exhibition twice and photographed myself both times. but I lost the second photo in the restaurant. Clumsy!

I put the exhibition out of my mind until I read Guy Minnebach‘s wonderful “Andy Earhole-Another Blog about Andy Warhol’s Cover art” and a post about the “Night Beat” box set, which Guy illustrated with a picture of a man talking on the telephone from Daniel Blau‘s 2012 book “From Silverpoint to Silver Screen–Andy Warhol, 1950s Drawings“. I immediately ordered a copy and consider it one of the best books on Warhol‘s art in my book collection. Not only are the pictures superb, but the essay “Environments, Situations, Spaces” by James Hofmaier is a wonderful introduction to Andy Warhol‘s world.

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Daniel Blau’s “From SIlverpoint to Silver Screen–Andy Warhol, 1950s Drawings”.

There were more drawings in Blau’s book that resembled Warhol’s cover illustrations. The only one I couldn’t find in the book was the apple drawing I saw at Artipelag. Here are a selection with the respective cover.
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Note that the original drawings for the “Blue Lights” cover and the hands on the Jan August cover are mirror images of the original photos. This is because they are blots of Warhol‘s original tracing. The drawing of the piano playing hands from the Jan August album was used for the unreleased “Progressive Piano” LP and EP.

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Cover lithograph of the unreleased “Progressive Piano” 10″ LP with Warhol’s drawing of hands playing the piano copied from the Jan August LP cover.

The drawing I have placed beside the Horowitz album is not the one used on the record sleeve, but just shows how Warhol drew many pictures of hands playing the piano. Perhaps this drawing was intended for the “Progressive Piano” cover too, but was never used.

I really must thank Guy Minnebach for telling me about Blau‘s magnificent book “From Silverpoint to Silver Screen–Andy Warhol, 1950s Drawings“, I will spend many happy hours enjoying the superb drawings. It obviously is the catalogue of an exhibition of Warhol‘s 1950’s drawings–an exhibition I would love to have seen. But seeing many of the original drawings at Artipelag feels like I did get a little peek.

The Velvet Underground & Nico Album Cover

The album “The Velvet Underground & Nico” is remarkable for many reasons–not least the music. a. It is one of only two albums that I know of that names the cover designer rather than the band or the record’s title on the front (the other being Swedish band bob hund‘s 1996 LP “Omslag: Martin Kann“.) b. The cover provoked two lawsuits (more on those later). c. Gatefold covers had generally only been used for double albums. Elvis Presley’s “Elvis Is Back!” from 1956 is said to be the first gatefold cover for a single LP and “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was not released until two months after the Velvets’ album.

In 1965 Andy Warhol became The Velvet Underground‘s manager and he booked them into New York’s Scepter Studios in April 1966 to record the group’s first album which was de facto produced by studio owner Norman Dolph rather than by Warhol. Warhol insisted that chanteuse Nico (real name Christa Päffgen) sing on the album and she sang on three songs. For unknown reasons some songs were rerecorded and some new songs recorded by producer Tom Wilson in Los Angeles later that year. Wilson was a staff producer for Columbia (and later Verve) Records and had produced three of Bob Dylan‘s early albums (“Another Side of Bob Dylan“, “The Times They Are A’Changin’“, four tracks on “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan“, “Bringing It All Back Home“) including the hit single “Like a Rolling Stone“. Warhol offered the album to Columbia Records, who turned it down! Then through the Andy Warhol association Verve Records agreed to release it. Logically enough, as Nico was not a member of the group the album’s title was “The Velvet Underground & Nico. The “&” emphasizing the fact.

Warhol gave his Banana painting to the band for the album cover. The removable banana on the front was difficult to produce and delayed the album’s release until March 1967. Acy R. Lehman, who designed the cover, decided on the gatefold to be able to include photos of the band members taken by Paul Morrissey, and colour photos by Verve photographer Hugo. I have seen the large band photo on the rear cover credited to Andy Warhol, so I am not sure it was by him or, as stated in the album credits, by Hugo.

The rear cover photograph showed actor Eric Emerson the lights projected behind the band with his inverted face superimposed on the picture of Lou Reed‘s head. This is commonly called the “Torso” version”. Emerson was in need of money as he had been charged with drug offenses and sued Verve Records to pay him for the use of his photograph. Verve refused to pay and recalled as many copies as it could and stuck a large black sticker over the offending photograph. On subsequent printings of the album sleeve the photograph was airbrushed to obscure Emerson’s portrait before the album could be reissued in June 1967. This delay badly affected the album’s sales; only about 30,000 copies being sold between 1967 and 1972 – I must be one of the early buyers as I bought my copy in late 1967 on the strength of the review in Rolling Stone. Brian Eno is quoted as saying in 1982 “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” – obviously, with one exception – me!

There were promo copies distributed with the “Torso” cover which had white or yellow record labels. I think all promos were mono versions with “Torso” rear cover. There are three versions of the cover of the original American release: a first state with the “torso” rear cover, a second state with the sticker over the upper part of the torso picture and the third state with Emerson airbrushed out.

The front cover of the mono version.
The front cover of the mono version.
The front cover of the stereo version. Note the lower positioning of the banana.
The front cover of the stereo version. Note the lower positioning of the banana.
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The “first state” torso rear cover. Below: the airbrushed “third state” rear cover.

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The rear cover with the sticker covering Emerson's face.
The rear cover with the sticker covering Emerson’s face.

This album has never been out of print since it was originally released. There have been several variations on the cover design and recent re-issues have once again reverted to the original “torso” rear cover photo. Some re-issues have appeared with coloured vinyl (yellow or red) and a limited edition by Newbury Comics is on black and yellow vinyl.

The original UK version was released with a single cover and the banana was not peelable. A later German re-issue showed only the peeled banana and other re-issues have added the album’s title to the front cover. There are at least three picture disc versions of the album; two from Russia on the Vinyl Lovers label (one in a die-cut card sleeve and one in a clear plastic sleeve. These have the title at upper left and “Andy Warhol” at lower right while the third picture disc has all the text at upper left, including “Andy Warhol”.

Re-issue with title on front.
Re-issue with title on front.
German 1975 re-issue with unusual cover.
German 1975 re-issue with unusual cover.

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Vinyl Lovers picture disc in die-cut card sleeve.
Vinyl Lovers picture disc in die-cut card sleeve.

I mentioned at the start of this essay that the album was the cause of two law suits. The first was Eric Emerson’s suit for compensation for the use of his face on the cover. This was resolved by Verve airbrushing out the offending face. However it seems that the hatchet has been buried since as recent re-issues have reinstated the torso picture on the back.

The second law suit was when The Warhol Foundation in 2012 licensed the banana image for use on smart phone and iPad accessories. Lou Reed and John Cale sued the Foundation, claiming that Warhol had given them the image and that The Warhol Foundation did not have the right to license it to third parties. The case was settled out of court the following year. Neither party has revealed the terms of the settlement.

The Velvet Underground & Nico is a great album with a great cover that is one of the ten most recognisable covers, alongside “Sgt Pepper“, “The Dark Side of the Moon“, “Sticky Fingers“, Nirvana’s “Nevermind“, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run“, “Never Mind the Bollocks–Here’s the Sex Pistols“–and you can name the others.

Records and CDs with Andy Warhol Cover Art – Where to Draw the Line

I suppose it was the fact that a collection of 105 record covers bearing cover art by Andy Warhol or his associates is currently up for auction at Sotheby’s in London (auction date 29th & 30th September, 2015) with an estimated sale price of £30,000 to £50,000 that made me sit down and think about which covers should and should not be included in a collection of Warhol covers.

I have made a list of record (LPs, EPs and singles) and CD covers that currently includes 218 items. I have included some doubles like various pressings of Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” album as well as re-issues of the Alexander Nevsky cover and various formats of fifites EPs by Artie Shaw and The Joe Newman Octet. However, I haven’t included the Liberty re-issues of Kenny Burrell’s Blue Note albums with Warhol drawings or the various Blue Note issues with different New York addresses in my list.

The collection on sale at Sotheby’s includes some covers that I have not included in my list – such as Loredana Berte’s “Jazz” album. Also included in the sale are some “replica” covers. As I know whose collection this is, I can guess that these “replicas” are a couple of the covers I made (“Progressive Piano” and “Night Beat“). I wonder how Sotheby’s views the inclusion of these “fakes”. I shall visit the pre-auction viewing and try to find out.

The collection on sale includes some very rare items including a “Giant Size $1.57 Each” cover signed by Billy Klüver (who together with Warhol silkscreened the covers) and copies of “Sticky Fingers” and “The Velvet Underground & Nico” signed by Andy Warhol. But – some rare covers, like the Lew White “Melodic Magic” and “Waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr.” and the rarer blue version of “A Program of Mexican Music” – are missing. It also includes the East Village Other’s “Electric Newspaper” (incidentally, also included in Paul Maréchal’s book), which has no other connection with Warhol than the record contains a track “composed” by him. The cover art is definitely not by Warhol.

My list includes more thirty-five CDs – only one of which (Aretha Franklin’s “Aretha“) was actually released in Warhol’s lifetime. Should these really be considered to be “Warhol Covers”? Just this week two more bootleg CDs arrived that use Warhol’s 1975 folio of prints of Mick Jagger for their cover art. The first is called “Marquee ’71 + Sticky Out” and the second “Raretracks+“.

The Rolling Stones' bootleg CD
The Rolling Stones’ bootleg CD “Raretracks+”.

Stones_RareTracks+_frMany of the records and CDs on my list are bootlegs – by The Velvet Underground or, like these most recent additions, The Rolling Stones. Should a serious collection include bootlegs or be restricted to officially released material?

I would be interested in reading other collector’s opinions as to where to draw the line when collecting Warhol cover art.