I usually write about records and covers I either own or have owned. This time I write about one I have on my wishlist and need to complete my collection of record covers designed or illustrated by Banksy but I cannot now possibly afford. I mean, of course, the promotional 12″ single “4 x 3” / “Truth Will Out” by The Capoeira Twins, released on the Blowpop label.
This, The Capoeira Twins’ first single, was released on 25th October 1999, so this post is written almost on the 18th anniversary of its release. John Stapleton, the owner of Blowpop asked Banksy to make the cover for a proposed promotional 12″ single by the Bristol duo Ian Stratford and Tim Hancock who call themselves The Capoeira Twins. Banksy had his studio in the same building as Stapleton’s Blowpop Records and made a stencil which he used to hand spray the 100 promotional covers. The stencil was also used on a wall in Bristol–I presume after it had been used for the record covers–at Portland Square (post code BS2 8SA).
The white label promotional records were sent to DJs and reviewers with no indication of the band name or the record title on the cover or record together but with an A4 letter that Blowpop asked to be returned a couple of weeks prior to the release date. The record was a trip hop single that failed to garner much attention when it came out. I suppose the DJs who received copies played them a couple of times and filed them away or–as was common in the nineties and early 00s–sold them to secondhand record shops, or simply chucked them away. And–had it not been for the Banksy cover–would probably never have been heard of again.
A couple came up for sale on Ebay in around 2008 and, if I remember correctly, sold for £400-600. In the last couple of years the prices of vinyl records with Banksy art covers has increased dramatically and suddenly four or five copies of the Capoeira Twins “4 x 3” have been auctioned off for amazing prices of £5000-6000! Another sold today for a bargain £4223.23.
There is another hand sprayed Banksy cover that has also increased dramatically in price recently. I refer to Röyksopp’s “Melody A.M.” promotional double LP.
According to http://www.popsike.com half a dozen copies of this have been sold. One copy went for £195 in 2007 and another for £2750 in 2011. Someone got a bargain in 2013 when a third copy sold for £770. Two copies were sold in August 2017 for £2939 and £5655, respectively!
The unusual thing about the latest copy of the Capoeira Twins promo sale is that it included the Blowpop A4 letter. The first copy I have heard of to be “complete”.
I have now invested in a piggy bank and have started saving my pennies so that one day I might be able to afford a copy of the “4 x 3 / Truth Will Out” promotional single.
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.
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.
First pressing of Dirty Funker’s “Let’s Get Dirty” Single with Banksy’s portrait of Kate Moss.
The second pressing had the title banner across Kate’s eyes.
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.
I have not been able to find any record or CD covers with Banksy art since the release of Danger Mouse‘s set of limited edition 12″ singles “Keep It Real/Laugh Now” in 2008, so in December 2015 I was surprised to see an LP advertised that uses a modified version of Banksy‘s “Flower Thrower” image where a ball had been substituted for the bunch of flowers.
This record is purported to be a test pressing for Junichi Masuda‘s unofficial album entitled “Pokémon“released in 2015 with a sort of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” pastiche cover. The album was released on red/white swirl vinyl, which I suspect is the reference for the red/white ball being thrown. The test pressing album, however, was only available on black vinyl.
Junichi Masuda (born 12th January, 1968) is extremely influential in the field of computer games and is a director of the Pokémon company and designs games for the company and composes music to accompany them.
Apparently, the idea for the test pressings of this album was to stencil 100 covers with the “Flower Thrower” image but something happened during the spraying and (I suppose) the stencil was damaged so the final ten copies were sprayed with a stylised rabbit chasing a balloon – a pastiche (to my mind unsuccessful) of Banksy‘s “Girl With Balloon” artwork.
This one, however, seems too far from the Banksy original for my taste. I was lucky to be able to get hold of the “Flower Thrower” version at a reasonable price but this “Rabbit” version would cost between $300-400, which helps solve my quandry as to whether or not to include one in my collection.