As readers of this blog will know, I collect both Andy Warhol‘s and, not by any coincidence, Peter Blake‘s record cover art.. I would list these great Pop Artists as the equals–Warhol as an exponent of American Pop Art and Blake curiously English.
Andy Warhol died on 22nd February 1987, just 30 years ago. Art lovers, it seems, love and hate him in almost in equal measures. However, Warhol‘s art still causes excitement and discussion. Peter Blake‘s art continues to evolve, now in his 85th year.
In 2009 Sir Peter Blake produced a 355 x 355 mm (14 x 14 in) print of Andy Warhol in an edition of 25, complete with diamond dust. A new, larger (510 x 510 mm) edition 0f 75 was produced in 2016.
This would make a great addition to both my collections! I’m going to start saving up tomorrow.
I dedicate this post to the memory of Daniel Brant of the A and D Gallery, who died on 19th January 2017 and who gave me many insights into Andy Warhol‘s art and gave me the opportunity to meet Sir Peter Blake at the opening of the Gallery’s show Peter Blake‘s “I Love London” in 2010. I suppose it is also an homage to Andy Warhol and Peter Blake, too.
As a child, my parents frowned on popular culture – unless it was Sinatra or musicals. Comics were a definite “no-no”. So I had to sneak looks at The Eagle, Beano, Dandy and others. I only caught up on Asterix and Tintin much later. This probably explains why, today, I am fascinated by comics; the parental disapproval as well as the obvious evolution of comics as high art–from Roy Lichtenstein onwards.
Mauri Kunnas is is a great illustrator and is well-know as the author of many children’s books. His books are usually populated with animals dressed in human clothes and up to all sorts of adventures. Less well-known is the fact that he plays in a cover band and loves 60s and 70s British bands like the Beatles, Stones and Hollies.
Last year, on a visit to Helsinki, my wife and I went into publishing house Otago’s shop and I saw Mauri Kunnas‘s recently published “Beatles With an A“, in Finnish (original title “Piitles – Tarina erään rockbandin aikutaipaleesta.“). It was a comic strip history of the early life of the Mop Tops up to and including the recording of “Love Me Do“. There was also a version in English Great research and clever drawings–obviously I had to have it!
Kunnas has also written a companion book on the Rolling Stones entited “Mac Moose ja Jagge Migreeni tapaus” which, strangely, only seems to be available in Finnish and Portuguese but not in English!
Then for my most recent birthday my daughters, well conversant with my interest in Andy Warhol‘s art, gave me “Where’s Warhol?” by Catherine Ingram & Andrew Rae. This large-format book is made up of a series of twelve scenes each populated by hundreds of people. These range from Studio 54 through places and times before Andy was born (such as Marie Antoinette’s execution and Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel) to Basquiat in Washington Square. The clever drawings are by Andrew Rae and many celebrities are recognisable in each double spread picture. The game is to identify all of them and to find Andy among the host of figures. Catherine Ingram has written explanatory essays at the end of the book with a key to let one know which celebrities are included in each scene.
The latest addition to my comic library is Klaus Voormann‘s “Birth of an Icon-Revolver 50“. His history of how the Grammy-winning cover for The Beatles‘ seventh album was created. Klaus calls it a”graphic novel”, obviously a misnomer as it is as near as you can get to a true story. I am an ardent admirer of Voormann‘s draughtsmanship and–as readers of this blog will know by now–have spent endless hours searching for records with cover art by him.
Klaus Voormann’s new book celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of “Revolver”.
The quality of the drawings is amazing. Just imagine (pun intended) how long it must have taken to produce the 32 pages of drawings for the graphic novel–and (if I have counted correctly, a grand total of 166 separate drawings throughout the book! Even with the advantage of digitalising backgrounds so that he only needed to redraw the foregrounds in some pictures, that’s a massive amount of work! Anyway, “Birth of an Icon-Revolver 50” is a genuine treasure.
I believe every collector would really like to be able to show off his or her collection to others, and not just to fellow collectors. I am no exception having lent record covers to numerous exhibitions, but I don’t have any on show at home! “Why?” I hear you ask. Well there are two reasons:
1. it has taken a long time for my wife to see the aesthetics in my collection, and, most importantly,
2. I have not been able to find an attractive way to display the record sleeves.
Well, thanks to Lars Magnell (and his company Wag the Wall), who reads this blog, I may have found the answer. There are, as I am sure many of you will know, loads of frames for LP records, ranging from the cheap IKEA version to Vinyl Art’s relatively expensive (but to be fair, the Vinyl Art frame has the advantage that one can take the record out of the frame to play, without having to take the frame off the wall).
In September 2015 I went to an auction of Andy Warhol‘s record covers at Sotheby’s in London. The records were displayed in individual perspex holders each hung on a perspex rail. The rail is just discernible on the right of the picture. Obviously this system had been custom-made for the seller, who was an art gallery owner.
However, I don’t fancy screwing several rails on to my walls to hang the perspex record holders on.
Lars Magnell has invented a cleverer method that he calls “The Magic Vinyl Display“. His perspex record holders hold up to seven LPs and have a self-adjusting flap at the rear that holds the records flat against the front of the holder even if there is only a single LP in it. The holder is open at both sides so one can slip the record in and out at will. If one tires of the cover currently on show, just take it out and the cover underneath becomes visible. These holders would be a great way to store one’s LPs, too. They attach to the wall with a single screw which holds a magnet against the wall and the record holder has a “coin” that attaches to the one on the wall. And thanks to the magnetic wall docking ystem mounting the frame on the wall is quick and easy and it’s easy to adjust if the frame isn’t initially sitting straight without having to undo any screw. Really simple and efficient!
Thus, I could store all my 24 Peter Blake LP covers in three holders and change the cover on display daily, or seventy of my Andy Warhol covers in ten of these holders.
I can imagine that exhibitions would be able to use these provided it was possible to prevent visitors removing the covers. And record stores could use the to display and hold LPs that are for sale with up to seven copies of each LP in a separate holder.
The largest exhibition of the works of the artist known as Banksy opened at the Palazzo Cipolla in Rome on 24th May–4th September 2016. The exhibition is organised by the Fondazione Terzo Pilastro – Italia e Mediterraneo and curated by Stefano Antonelli, Francesca Mezzano and Acoris Andipa and collects works from private collections including paintings, prints, sculptures and – not least in my humble opinion – record and CD cover art and a book cover. There are no works removed from walls.
Acoris Andipa, director of the Andipa Gallery in Knightsbridge, London, which has sold many works by the artist known as Banksy, contacted me in March 2016 to enquire whether I would be willing to lend my collection of records and CDs with Banksy’s cover art to the exhibition. He had been tipped off about my collection by fellow gallerist John Brandler to whom I had once sold some covers. I was flattered by the invitation and agreed.
In return for the loan, my wife and I would be invited to the private showing of the exhibition on 23rd May.
Coincidentally, we had previously booked a trip to Rome at the end of April and we had the opportunity to meet Andipa’s chief assistant Chiara Tognacci with exhibition curator Francesca Mezzano who showed us round the Palazzo Cipolla. We could see the exhibition hall, which was in a very raw state before the carpenters and painters started preparing for the exhibition.
We flew into Rome after lunch on Monday the 23rd Maj and were picked up by limo and driven to our hotel. we had time for a short walk, and relax for an hour and dress for the viewing. Just before 6 p.m. a car collected us and drove us the short distance to the Palazzo Cipolla. We were checked in and given tickets to admit us to the reception after he viewing.
We were greeted at the exhibition by the head of the FondazioneTerzo Pilastro, Prof Emmanuele F. M. Emanuele and a group of officials together with Acoris Andipa, who presented us as lenders to the exhibition! We were then free to view the show and were impressed by the breadth of the exhibits, which were arranged by themes – war, capitalism and liberty.
The orange area is the entrance hall with several classic Banksy works including four portraits of Kate Moss. The black are is the “war” room that leads to the green area and the first room on the left contains my records and CDs and Nick Cave‘s book “And the Ass Saw the Angel” with its Banksy cover.
Thus 44 records and 28 CDs are on display – all from my personal collection. There was only one small problem. The curators had intended that the records and CDs would be protected by a plexiglass cover. However, this was not ready for the exhibition’s opening, so an armed guard was on duty in the room!
I would like to thank Acoris Andipa for including my collection in this wonderful exhibition.
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.
On 26th February 2016 Jeff Wootton (born 12 May 1987) released his first solo album entitled “The Way the Light“. The album, is released on the British Sympathy for Vinyl (not to be confused with the American Sympathy for the Record Industry) label. Well, I had not heard of Jeff Wootton but a quick gander at his CV reveals that he is a demon guitarist. When Noel Gallagher left Oasis, Liam Gallagher recruited him to his new group Beady Eye. Wootton has played along side Damon Albarn in Gorillaz and on Albarn‘s solo project as well as with Brian Eno,Noel Gallagher (appearing in Gallagher‘s 2015 video “Ballad of the Mighty“). He also travelled to Mali together with several other musicians, including Damon Albarn, Brian Eno and Nick Zinner with a group called Africa Express to record a version of Terry Riley‘s “In C“–a work I first heard in the mid sixties.
“The Way the Light“album is released in a limited edition of 500 copies (mine is No. 403) which include a limited edition book with ten new Damien Hirst spin paintings–one for each album track. The gatefold album cover also has one of the Damien Hirst paintings on the rear cover.
The booklet contains a number of classy photos of Wootton playing his guitar (a Stratocaster) and another is used on the centre spread of the gatefold cover.
And here are the ten Damien Hirst spin paintings mounted together.
I have not yet been able to find any details of how Damien Hirst came to cooperate with Jeff Wootton on this album project. This is Damien Hirst’s 28th record cover.
Well, well, well! This is a surprise! A record on ventriloquism! What on earth is it doing in my record collection?
As anyone can see the cover picture is a pastiche of Peter Blake‘s and Jann Haworth‘s “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” cover, but that’s not why I bought it. I really love the “drum” with the title “Constable O’Rourke’s Wooden Hearts Club Band“! That adds something extra that is not often found on other pastiches. And there, just right of centre is Jack himself; in front of just over forty ventriloquists’ dummies.
The story begins with Chris Jagger‘s 1974 album “The Adventures if Valentine Vox the Ventriloquist“.
I started doing some research on Peter Blake‘s record covers and mailed Chris Jagger for details about how this LP cover came about. He told me that he had come across the book “The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox”, by Henry Cockton (1807-1853). The book was originally published in 1840 in installments and in 1842 in a single volume with sixty illustrations by Onwhyn) and Jagger liked the title and decided to use it for his second album. Peter Blake apparently supplied the ventriloquist’s dummy. So, I got hold of a late 19th Century copy of the book, unfortunately though not the illustrated version.
Then curiosity took hold. I found out that there is (or was) a ventriloquist by the name of Valentine Vox and started to search for information about him, but turned up little. But my searches did find a museum of ventriloquism at Vent Haven, Kentucky, and I contacted the curator Lisa Sweasy for information. She told be that at least six ventriloquists have used the stage name Valentine Vox, or variations on it, such as Valentine Fox or Valentine Faux and wondered which I was interested in. Of course I had no idea! So I suggested the most recent. She informed me of a Jack Riley that used the used the Valentine Vox alias and told me that he had written a book on ventriloquism called “I Can See Your Lips Moving–the History and Art of Ventriloquism“, published in 1993 under that name. However, Riley had also appeared using the stage name Jack O’Reilly and had recorded the LP entitled “You Can Be a Ventriloquist“, in 1969. It has since been re-issued as a CD.
Now to find out more about the mysterious Jack Riley. Apparently, he was born in England in 1939. He moved to America and–at some point–to Toronto, Canada, where the “You Can Be a Ventriloquist” was released. In 2003 he married fellow ventriloquist Eyvonne Carter. That’s what I have been able to find out so far.
And, before anyone starts to ask–No, I’m not going to learn to be a ventriloquist. But researching a record cover can turn up some weird and wonderful stuff.