Exhibition of Banksy’s record and CD cover art has the go-ahead

So, I’ve collected over 50 record and CD covers designed or illustrated by Banksy – or that use his art. And now it’s all systems go for our exhibition of Banksy’s record and CD cover art to be held at Stockholm’s Konserthus, in the heart of Sweden’s capital city. The exhibition opens on July 3rd 2012 and runs until July 28th. A splendid time i guaranteed for all! Entry – as far as I can gather, is free, so there’s no excuse for not going.

I am hoping that the exhibition will be taken over by Sweden’s Folkets Hus & Parker organisation in the autumn and tour Sweden.

Ball and chain

I have to get rid of my music collection in the next three months. I had a visit from a British company that buys record collections. Two guys spent 36 hours going through my collection and making notes and agreed that it was a pretty interesting collection. A week after they left, I received an offer for about one fifth of what my estimation of the collection’s value. So I turned it down. Now I’ll probably have to sell on Ebay. That’ll mean a lot of hard work.

As I have previously stated, I will keep my specialist collections of record cover art. My Banksy collection lacks just three covers. I have a possible contact for getting hold of the elusive “Monkeys With Car Keys” CD, but I’m not sure how reliable that contact will prove to be. We’ll see. My Klaus Voormann collection is still growing as I find more covers. I’ve just found an further two; Heinz Rudolf Kunze’s “Reine Nervensache” from 1981 and what appears to be a new release – Van Dyke Parks’ “All is Golden” seven inch single – which has a lovely Voormann painting on the front cover.

This coming week I’ll be discussing the possibility of putting on an exhibition of Banksy’s record cover art in Stockholm this summer. It seems highly likely that it will come off. Just some niggly little details like finance to be ironed out.

The wonders of research

My collections of record cover art are nearing completion. The main subjects are:

1. Andy Warhol’s record covers

2. Sir Peter Blake’s record covers

3. Martin Kann’s vinyl record covers

4. Neville Brody’s record covers

5. Vaughan Oliver & v23 covers

6. Damien Hirst’s record covers

7. Klaus Voormann’s record covers, and

8. Banksy’s record covers.

All these artists have a finite number of record covers and it should, at least in theory, be possible to collect all the covers by each of these artists. In practice, however, some covers are so incredible rare that they are impossible to find (or afford). So far, I only have a complete collection of Sir Peter Blake’s recrod covers. I have all Martin Kann’s 12″ and LP covers and many 7″ covers, but I’m sure there are a few 7″ singles missing. I have all Neville Brody’s covers for Fetish records.

There are five Warhol covers that I do not have in my collection. These are, of course among the rarest – and therefore the most expensive of his covers. I have scans of all of them and have made copies of his silkscreen entitled “Giant Size $1.57 Each”, originally shown at the Contemporary Art exhibition at Washington’s Gallery of Modern Art in 1963.

Vaughan Oliver & Chris Bigg at v13 have produced a prodigious number of covers and I have limited myself to a representative collection and limited the further by concentrating on their most productive period up to about 2000. Even here there are a few expensive rarities, but I have managed to pick up most of these quite early.

Martin Kann is a Swedish designer who, with few exceptions, only designs the covers for the Swedish band bob hund (note the lower case). He is notable because he, like Andy Warhol, has given his name to an album (“Omslag: Martin Kann” (trans: Cover: Martin Kann) by bob hund.) His latest covers are really weird. One of the most recent just has the text: “Jag har ingen omslagsidé, Sorry /Martin (trans: I have no idea for the cover, Sorry /Martin.)

Damien Hirst has not been responsible for many covers as yet (I’ve found 18, thus far), but a few of them are already collectors’ items. In particular his cover for the self-released single “Use Money Cheat Death” that featured his portrait of Kate Moss with half her face dissected. The LP of Joe Strummer & The Mescalero’s album “Art Rock and the X-ray Style” is also extremely hard to find. His latest (2011) cover is the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “I’m With You” Album.

Apart from Andy Warhol, all the above designers are still active and more covers may be expected from them. Klaus Voormann still designs record cover art and is active as a session musician and record producer. His 41 year (and counting) career in record cover design outdoes Andy Warhol’s 38-year productive life. He started designing record covers while still at art school in Hamburg in the late 1950s and made his first commercial cover in 1960. It is only this first cover that eludes me so far.

Nobody knows if Banksy will continue to design record covers. The majority of covers in recent years have use his images apparently without his approval. Banksy allows anyone to copy his art and use it for non-commercial purposes. His early covers are becoming exceedingly difficult to find and the two that he hand-stencilled himself (Röyksopp’s “Melody A.M.” promotional LP and The Capoeira Twins “Four (4×3)” promotional single) command very high prices. I started collecting Banksy covers rather late. I found a list of his covers at http://banksysforum.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=allelse&thread=159&page=1 and started collecting from this. However, I soon found out that this was by no means complete. A contact via Ebay helped expand the list and at the time of writing this I have identified 50 covers with Banksy art. Check them out at http://rateyourmusic.com/lists/list_view?list_id=303286&show=25&start=0

The exciting thing about collecting individual artists is the amount of research that is needed to find all the covers each artist has designed. I started to collect Andy Warhol’s record covers by accident. I bought “The Velvet Underground & Nico”  in 1967 and The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” in 1971 when they were released. The Stones’ “Love You Live” came next and then John Lennon’s “Menlove Avenue”, Aretha Franklin’s “Aretha” and Diana Ross’ “Silk Electric”. So, there was the basis of a collection and I started trying to find other covers Warhol had designed. There were no books at that time and the best research tool was Ebay. I managed to pick up several of his rarer early covers for reasonable sums before prices started to go through the roof. Now several of the covers I bought sell for hundreds of dollars each. But some of his early covers are so rare that I will never see them. Through Ebay I made contact with Guy M, a true Warhol collector, who has helped me enormously.

My Vaughan Oliver collection started when I bought a pack of posters designed by 23 Envelope, his first design group. I had a couple of Cocteau Twins albums and things started to grow from there. I visited his studio in 2001 and he gave me a further 30-odd posters.

I loved Neville Brody’s typography and bought most of the Fetish records as they came out. I have only been able to identify forty covers so far.

Sir Peter Blake has only produced 20 covers, so it is not too difficult to get a complete collection. However, he admits to having designed four additional covers that were never used. Apparently, he does not have copies of all of these.

Klaus Voormann, can truly lay claim to the title the 5th Beatle.He got to know them in Hamburg and, as everybody knows, designed the cover of their “Revolver” album, for which he earned a Grammy. He has played with all of the Beatles at different times. My collection started out from the discography on his own webbsite, This list, however, is far from complete and the man himself says he has forgotten many of the covers he has designed. I’ve had fun searching German sites to find many of the covers he has not listed.So far I’ve identified 56 covers!

Another fascinating thing about collecting reord cover art is that I get to listen to music I would otherwise never have heard. Everything from the classical music and jazz of the Andy Warhol records to Lex Voix Bulgares on 4AD or hip hop of One Cut or Talib Kweli (with Banksy covers.) Then there is the industrial music of Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire (Neville Brodie covers) and the pop & rock of The Beatles (Voormann & Peter Blake), the Pentangle, The Who, Ian Dury  or Paul Weller (Peter Blake.)

 

I keep finding Klaus Voormann covers

Last week, that is the week before Christmas, I came across a record by the Les Humphries Singers entitled “Seasons Greetings”, which, as the title suggests, is a record of Christmas songs and carols. It was released in 1972. Despite the English sounding name, the Les Humphries Singers was formed in Germany by Englishman Les Humphries, who had been a musician in the British Army in Germany. The singers were from many nationalities and had several hits in the early seventies. The “Seasons Greetings” album comes in a gatefold cover with artwork by Klaus Voormann.

A further search this weekend turned up a single by Stephan & Nina called “Fireworks”. Stephan Remmler, a member of the German group Trio, teamed up with actress Angela Smecca (under the alias Nina) in 1984 and recorded the single “Feuerwerk”, which was also released in English as “Firework”, produced by Klaus Voormann, who also did the comic book artwork for the cover.

Neither of these releases are listed in Klaus Voormann’s own discography at http://www.voormann.com.

New Banksy and Klaus Voormann record covers

During the past few days, I have scoured record sites and found two Banksy covers that I previously had missed; one by UK hip hop artist Blak Twang called “So Rotton” (yes, that is how ‘rotton’ is spelt) and a promo of Danger Mouse’s “Keep It Real/Laugh Now” 12″ single. Hopefully, they will soon be winging thier way to my collection. Then via a chance Ebay search, I came across an LP by the Les Humphries Singers from 1972 with cover art by Klaus Voormann and a CD by R.A.M. Pietsch of Beatles’ songs entitled “Norwegian Wood”, neither of which I knew about. Nor are either on Klaus Voormann’s own list of his record covers!

Jan W, my exhibition producer, organised a photo shoot last week to have my Banksy and Klaus Voormann cover professionally photographed. Jan also scanned a picture of the cover of The Capoeira Twins’ promo single “four (4×3). The exercise photographing the covers went welL, but when I got home I found I had forgotten at least one Voormann cover and now I have four more covers that will need to be photographed.

I will post pictures when the new covers arrive.

Banksy’s cover art

So far I have identified 46 covers that use either authorised or unauthorised Banksy art. The first cover by Banksy apeeared in 1998 and was hand stencilled by Banksy himself. The record was by Bristolian dance duo The Capoeira Twins (4×3). Banksy worked in the same building as Blowpop Records and used one of his stencils to decorate a promotional version of the record. One hundred copies were stencilled and these were distributed to DJs.

Promo for The Capoeira Twins "Four". 100 copies handstencilled by Banksy.

As the artists were unknown, it is not certain that many of the original hundred copies have survived. There was also a promotional box made that had the stencilled design. There were probably only a few of these made and I have never seen one.

Hiphop gruppen One Cut had Banksy design the cover for their first releases “Cut Commander”, “Mr. X” and “Underground Terror Tactics” together with their first album “Grand Theft Audio”.

Banksy made a second hand stencilled cover for a promotional release of Norwegian duo Röyksopp’s first LP “Melody A.M.” in 2002. One hundred numbered copies were made.

Numbered promo for Röyksopp's 2001 album "Melody A.M." - handstencilled by Banksy.

In 2003, Blur had Banksy design the cover for their album “Think Tank” together with the covers for three of the four singles culled from the album.

Since then only a few covers have used Banksy’s art officially. These include Benjamin Zephaniah’s “Naked”, Talib Kweli’s “Madlib Liberation” and a “Peace Not War” compilation released in February 2004 together with the magazine The Big Issue.

DJs Danger Mouse and Dirty Funker have used Banksy’s images on record covers unsanctioned. These have usually been released as limited editions. Dirty Funker’s reworking of The Knack’s hit “My Sharona” called “Let’s Talk Dirty” used Banksy’s famous Kate Moss portrait. This record was first issued with the unadulterated portrait on the cover’s front and rear. A second pressing had the record’s title on a banner of the model’s eyes. The original cover has become very rare. Other titles by DJ Danger Mouse have been issued as limited editions on his own label, including “From Man to Mouse” and “Keep It Real”, which was released with four different cover colours. Dirty Funker’s “Future” single was released with five colour variations on the cover.

First pressing of Dirty Funker's "Let's Get Dirty" Single with Banksy's portrait of Kate Moss.

Banksy’s stencils were used by the hiphop group One Cut for their singles “Cut Commander”, “Mr. X” and “Underground Terror Tactics” as well as on their  LP “Grand Theft Audio” released 1998–2000. Other authorised releases include a C D my Monk & Canatella entitled “Do Community Service”, a CD by Benjamin Zachariah called “Naked” with several Banksy images in the booklet and three compilations entitled “We Love You… So Love Us”. The first of these was released as a limited edition LP while the other two were only available as CDs.

In 2003 Blur had Banksy design the cover for their “Think Tank” album and three of the four singles taken from it.  A Promo CD had a cover design logo handstamped on the cover and a promo 12″ had the same images on its label. The Observer newspaper gave away a promotional CD advertising the “Think Tank” album that also used a Banksy image (the same images was used on the reverse of DJ Danger Mouse’s “From Man to Mouse” cover.)

A further rare CD with official Banksy art was the “Peace Not War” CD given away with the February 2004 number of the magazine “The Big Issue”. It seems that few of these compilation CDs have survived.

"Peace Not War" compilation CD given away with The Big Issue with Banksy's "Girl clutching a bomb" image on the cover and CD.

The plan is to present as many covers as possible in an exhibition this summer and possibly write an article about Banksy’s record cover art. I have managed to collect the majority of the record covers that use Banksy’s art. The biggest thrill was obtaining a copy of Röyksopp’s handstencilled “Melody A.M.” cover. My collection is almost complete with only the Capoeira Twin’s “Four” promo missing.

The second pressing had the title banner across Kate's eyes.

Collecting’s impossible ambition – getting a complete set of anything

No matter what one collects, there will almost always be one item missing from one’s collection. I’ve been lucky for the most part. I did collect complete sets of The Beatles’ picture disc singles and their limited edition CD boxes, although I almost didn’t manage the latter. I missed the first box of four CDs and the very limited “Yellow Submarine” box but managed to find the former unexpectedly in a Stockholm record shop and the latter at Vinyl Experience in Hanway Street in London.

It took me a while to collect all six cover variations to Led Zeppelin’s “In Through the Out Door” album, but eventually I managed it. My collection of Andy Warhol’s record covers will, I realise, never be complete. There are a couple of covers that are ridiculously rare and even one that only exists as a test lithograph (the record appears never to have been released.) I am happy to anyway have a couple of really rare covers.

My current interests are collecting record covers that use Banksy’s street art and covers with Klaus Voormann’s art. Finding Banksy’s covers has not been difficult. I have managed to obtain all but two – his first cover (which is ridiculously rare) – and a CD of poetry that was only released locally in Bristol.

Klaus Voormann’s covers have been relatively easy to find, too, despite his career spanning fifty years. So far I lack his very first cover for a German band called The Typhoons and his latest cover for a band called The Dogs of Bali, which thus far has only been released as a download. I was pipped at the post for a copy of the The Typhoon’s cover last night when one was sold in Ebay. Someone managed to top my bid!

Record sleeve art by artists I collect