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.

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“Voices and Events” – A Previously Unrecognised Andy Warhol Record Cover.”

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.

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Nicholas Chamber’s exhibition book published by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

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.

 

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Julia Warhola’s trial version of the cover text for “The Story of Moondog”.

But what I wasn’t prepared for was:

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Page 97 in “Adman-Warhol Before Pop” with a picture of the cover slick for an recording of an NBC radio programme called “Voices and Events“.
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The cover slick for “Voices and Events” box set.

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.

 

Banksy Picture Discs – All That Glitters Is Not Gold!

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.
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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.

 

The Beatles–Some Swedish Single and EP Covers.

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!)

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The signed “Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You” single, which I always said would be my pension insurance.
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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover signed by Jann Haworth and Sir Peter Blake.

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.

Some Record Covers Influenced by the Sgt. Pepper Cover.

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 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.
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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!

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The cover of Jun Fukamachi’s “Sgt. Pepper” album painted by Fumio Tamabuchi.

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.

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The Cover of Junichi Masuda’s “Pokèmon” LP. A just recognisable “Sgt. Pepper “pastiche.

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.

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The catalogue cover for the “Pop Art” Exhibition of Sir Peter Blake’s record cove art at Piteå Museum, July 22nd–August 31st 2009.

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…

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Vintage Blake–a limited edition print by Sir Peter Blake to celebrate his 80th Birthday in June 2012.

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.

 

 

It Was Fifty Years Ago Tomorrow…

This is a year of musical anniversaries. One could say 1967 was the year popular music became ART – in capital letters. Seminal albums by The Velvet Underground, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, The Who, The Doors, Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, The Jefferson Airplane and Traffic to name just a few of my favourites were released that year, but none had the advanced expectations of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The album, released on June 1st 1967 had been preceded in February, by the double A-sided single “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever” and the Beatles, despite rumours of drug-taking, could seemingly do no wrong.

May had been a musically exciting month. I had been to The Saville Theatre on the 7th to see the Jimi Hendrix Experience (they played eight songs and I wrote the playlist into my programme). Five days I went to the Pink Floyd’s “Games For May” concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall–the first time I smelled the sweet smell of hash being smoked. I still have the ticked stub from that concert; unfortunately my Hendrix programme was sold to help finance my move to a flat.

I used to take time off from my studies and visit One Stop Records in South Moulton Street, where they sold records imported from America. An imported LP would set med back £3/15/0d–an enormous sum for a student. The guys behind the tiny counter suggested albums I might like and, at the end of May, put a copy of The Doors first album into my trembling hands and sent me to the listening booth to hear it. Even the cover design fascinated me. I was totally floored by the album and bought it on the spot.

The BBC had announced that the whole “Sgt. Pepper “album would be played at midnight and many sat glued to their trannies to hear it. I listened together with my flatmates. I don’t remember exactly when I bought “Sgt. Pepper”; probably in Moorlands record shop across the road from our canteen, but it would have been within a few days of its release. I was careful to buy a stereo copy as my parents had bought me a stereo gramophone for my 21st birthday, the previous year.

The album had an interesting side effect. It introduced me to pop art. I had seen articles on poster design from San Francisco and had started to design my own posters for college dances and lectures. These were heavily influenced by the psychedlic art used my artists such as Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse and Rick Griffin. I started going to art galleries and exhibitions–and buying records with great cover art.

So, I suppose I could say that “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was the start of my addiction to record cover art. I am thrilled to own a copy autographed, not by The Beatles, but by both Sir Peter Blake and his co-designer Jann Haworth.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover signed by Jann Haworth and Sir Peter Blake.

 

 

Wolfgang Tillmans–Some Record Covers.

Back in March I published a post about winners of the Tate Museum’s Turner Prize. A surprising number of these artists are involved in music projects, either as musicians themselves or as contributors of record cover art. Another post dealt with Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz’ records. Wolfgang Tillmans won the Turner Prize in 2000. He was the first non-British winner. Besides being an internationally famous photographer and conceptual artist, Tillmans has also released three extended play 12″ vinyl records and provided their cover art.

Today I went to see the Tillmans exhibition at the Tate Modern.

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The queue to see the Wolfgang Tillmans retrospective at the Tate Modern.

The exhibition was vast. Unfortunately there was no audio guide to help visitors understand what the exhibition was about. I found it extremely difficult to appreciate more than a minority of the photographs on show and didn’t spend much time going through the many rooms. My feeling was that, as most photographs in true Tillmans style, were of everyday objects and often unidentified people I didn’t get much from looking at them. I obviously need a guide to looking at Tillmans art.

BUT, following Banksy’s advice, I exited through the gift shop and there were Tillmans’ three vinyl EPs on sale. As a Tate member I even got a members’ discount.
First there was the 2016-1986 EP:

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Wolfgang Tillmans’ “2016-19862 EP cover.

Second: the Device Control EP:

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Tillmans’ “Device Control” EP cover.

And third: the “Thats Desire” EP:

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The cover of Tillmans’ latest EP “Thats Desire” EP.

Each EP comes with a mp3 download.

I couldn’t resist putting the covers of the 2016-1986 and “Device Control” EPs side by side as the pictures seemed to be from a single image photographed in different lighting conditions and with altered coloured hangings. Are they the same images but manipulated, or what?

 

Record sleeve art by artists I collect