Tag Archives: Andy Warhol

My Collection of Andy Warhol’s Record Cover Art — Is This as Far as I Can Go?

I have been collecting Andy Warhol’s record cover art more seriously since about 1982. Once Ebay started I found research into Warhol’s 1950s cover art easier and in the early part of the 2000s could collect some rare covers quite reasonably. But, I suppose it was in about 2006 or 2007 that I got to know Warhol collector Guy Minnebach, who gave me amazing help to boost my collection.

In around 2007, I had the (not too original) idea of putting on an exhibition of ALL of Andy Warhol’s record covers and it came about in time for what would have been Warhol’s 80th Birthday in 2008. The exhibition, at Piteå Museum, in northern Sweden, wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Jan Wimander and, of course, Guy Minnebach–who lent me several extremely rare covers to photograph for the exhibition and who helped hang the covers. Little did I know at the time that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was planning a major Warhol retrospective entitled “Warhol Live!” that concentrated on his connection to music and film and included what would have been the first properly curated exhibition of Warhol’s record cover art had we not pipped the Montreal Museum at the post, by opening a couple of months earlier!

Our exhibition included sixty-five covers. The Montreal exhibition showed Paul Maréchal’s wonderful cover collection that included the “Night Beat” box, that neither Guy nor I had seen. In addition, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts launched Paul Maréchal’s book “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers, 1949-1987. Catalogue Raisonné”, the first serious attempt to document Warhol’s record cover art.

The discovery of the “Night Beat” box, together with Guy Minnebach’s earlier discovery of the “Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr.” EP showed that there were probably more previously unrecognised Warhol covers out there, and, only a month after our exhibition in Piteå closed, I was tipped off about a cover by the Swedish band RATFAB (Roland and the Flying Albatross Band) that Warhol had drawn in 1984. Since then more covers have been found and motivated an updated version of Paul Maréchal’s catalogue raisonné, this time renamed “Andy Warhol–The Complete Commissioned Record Covers, 1949-1987”.

I have several times in blog posts warned against saying a collection is “complete”–as  new items usually turn up immediately one says a collection is complete. So, even with Paul Maréchal’s book!

My list of Warhol covers includes bootlegs and records and CDs released after Warhol’s death in 1987 and today has 248 separate items. 228 of them are currently in my collection, with only five of the twenty omissions that I would call “essential”–the pink version of Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky” (from 1949), the “Night Beat” box (1949 or 1950), the Japanese EP of Mendelsson’s “Scherzo” (with the “Cool Gabriels artwork) , an original “Giant Size $1.57 Each” cover (1963) and the limited edition Keith Richards bootleg LP “Unknown Dreams” (1977).

I have made facsimile editions of the “Night Beat” box, the five versions of the “Giant Size $1.57 Each” cover (with white, red, yellow, green & orange backgrounds) as well as a version of the unreleased “Progressive Piano” EP and 10″ LP and the recently “discovered” “Voices and Events” box. I’m toying with the idea of making a facsimile of the pink “Alexander Nevsky”, which shouldn’t be too difficult, but I don’t have a decent high resolution image for the “Unknown Dreams” album cover to be able to make one of those. So, is this as near completion as I can get?

Advertisements

Collecting Andy Warhol’s Record Cover Art. How to Credit Previously Unrecognised covers?

I curated what I thought would be the first exhibition of Andy Warhol’s record covers in Piteå, Sweden, in July 2008 I enlisted the help of fellow collector Guy Minnebach to assemble as complete a collection of record Warhol’s record covers as possible. Only later did I find out that Warhol’s record covers had been shown before-usually as part of other exhibitions of his art, and then only exhibiting a few covers. My intention with the 2008 exhibition was to try to gather together all the covers he designed or illustrated.

Just two months after the exhibition in Piteå closed, the Museum of Art in Montreal, Canada, put on a major exhibition entitled “Warhol Live!” which showed the link between Warhol’s art and music. Many of the record covers shown came from the collection of Paul Maréchal and his book “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers 1949-1987: Catalogue Raisonné” was published to coincide with the “Warhol Live!” exhibition.

Just before the Piteå exhibition, Guy Minnebach had discovered the “Waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr.” EP and the “Warhol Live!” exhibition showed Paul Maréchal’s newly discovered “Night Beat” box set. Less than a month after the exhibition in Piteå closed, in September 2008, a friend of mine read an interview in a magazine with Tomas Alfredsson, a Swedish musician turned actor, who had been a member of a band called Roland and the Flying Albatros Band (known as RATFAB for short). In the interview he said that the cover of the Band’s second single had been designed by Andy Warhol. Thus started my search for this cover, and I quickly found three copies. The RATFAB single “Det brinner en eld / Mörka ögon” became the first Warhol cover NOT to be included in Maréchal’s 2008 book!

Since then, a number of covers, unrecognised in 2008, illustrated or designed by Andy Warhol have been identified.
1. Margarita Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish, Volume 2 (LP),
2. Vladimir Horowitz – Piano Music of Mendelssohn and Lizst (LP),
3. Mendelssohn – Wedding March / Scherzo (45 RPM EP)
4. Lew White – Melodic Magic (EP),
5. Erika Morini – Tchaikovsky–Violin Concerto
6. George Gershwin / Edvard Grieg – Porgy & Bess / Symphonic Dances (LP and EP box),
7. Curiosity Killed the Cat – Misfit / Man (7″ single).

And this list doesn’t include bootlegs or records and CDs that simply appropriated Warhol’s art for their covers. Nor does it include covers after 1987 that simply use or reuse Warhol’s art, such as Paul Anka’s “Amigos” or Skyline’s “Skyline” or even The Silver Apples’ “Fractal Flow / Lovefingers“.

There has been a problem in having new covers suggested to be by Warhol verified. An example is the rear cover drawing on Keely Smith’s 1957 Capitol Records LP “I Wish You Love“. By this date, Warhol was an acclaimed commercial artist and his “dot and blot” technique was being used by other illustrators. Warhol is not known to have worked with Capitol Records on any other projects, so this drawing cannot certainly be accredited to Warhol. There are similar discussions about the Tchaikovsky (No. 5 in the above list) and the Gershwin / Grieg (No. 6 in the list) designs also released in 1957, but these were at least released on the RCA Victor Bluebird label, and Warhol did many designs for RCA and its other subsidiary Camden Records. Maréchal has included the Tchaikovsky, but not the Gershwin / Grieg in the second edition of his book.

There are variations in some of the covers that Maréchal has described. There are various colour variants of the covers illustrated, starting with the first cover in the book, “A Program of Mexican Music” (Columbia Records – ML 2080). Maréchal includes the green cover variant but doesn’t mention the rarer pale blue coloured version. Similarly, there are five colour variations of the “Alexander Nevsky” (Columbia Records – ML 4247)–pale blue and a deeper, almost turquoise, blue that contained the original LP with dark blue labels. The album was re-released in the late fifties with the cover in green, orange and pink. These copies have records with Columbia 6-eye labels. Maréchal includes the green reissue cover, but not the original blue covers. Then there are minor variations such as the various printings of the “Latin Rhythms by the Boston Pops” EP. Friend and Warhol expert Guy Minnebach noticed that some copies had the text “A High Fidelity Recording” just beneath the RCA logo in the upper right of the cover. Some had this text in silver and some in green. There is a minor variation in the cover of the “Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr.” EP. Some copies have “Printed in U.S.A.” at bottom right while others do not (probably due to the way the slick was cut before being affixed to the cover.)

There are probably more cover designs by Andy Warhol waiting to be identified. A recent case in point is the sister box to NBC’s “Night Beat” entitled “Voices and Events“. As with the designs for the “Progressive Piano” EP set and 10″ LP a lithograph of the “Voices and Events” cover design exists in The Warhol Museum and was shown at the “Adman-Warhol Before Pop” exhibition in Australia early in 2017. It isn’t clear whether The Warhol Museum recognised this to be the design for an EP box set, but when I saw it I immediately saw the similarity to the “Night Beat” design with the dots on three sides. No one knows if the “Voices and Events” box was ever released. I suppose, like the “Night Beat” set, it was intended as a promotional teaser but the radio show it was intended to promote only lasted three episodes… so probably not.

By my reckoning, there are some 55 individual covers that can be attributed to Andy Warhol (I do not count different formats that use the same, or similar, designs), but there is no way that a newly identified cover can be given accreditation, other than being recognised by Paul Maréchal and included in future editions of his “Complete Commissioned Record Covers“.

 

“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.

IMG_0265
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.

 

Adman-Spread5
Julia Warhola’s trial version of the cover text for “The Story of Moondog”.

But what I wasn’t prepared for was:

Adman-Spread3
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“.
Voices&Events-slick
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.

 

A Review of 2015 – Covers by Warhol, Blake, Voormann, Hirst & Banksy

My collection of record cover art by my favourite five artists continues to grow. 2015 provided almost fifty new covers on record and CD. The statistics show there were:
– Twenty-seven covers with Andy Warhol‘s art (eleven on CD) and four covers that were Warhol related – more of those later.
– Five covers (well three really) with Klaus Voormann‘s art,
– Five covers with Peter Blake‘s art
– Three covers with Damien Hirst‘s art
– Two covers with Banksy‘s art
– One cover with Nat Finklestein‘s portrait of Andy Warhol
– One cover with images of diverse pop artists works.

ANDY WARHOL COVERS
There were four really rare covers that I got hold of in 2015. These were:
1. Ultra Violet‘s 1973 album “Ultra Violet“, which I bought in April,
2. A copy of The Rolling Stones‘ “Sticky Fingers” nicely autographed by Andy Warhol,
3. A copy of The Rolling Stones‘ “Love You Live” autographed on the inner spread by Andy Warhol and
4. Carlos Chavez‘ “A Program of Mexican Music” with the rarer blue cover.

Other vinyl releases that I found during the year included.
Tennessee Williams reading from The Glass Menagerie” with the alternative colour variation, I also bought two copies of The Rolling Stones‘ “Sticky Fingers“, an original US release with the title printed over the belt at the top left of the cover and the 2015 reissue with the working zipper, but with the brass drawpull in the shape of John Paiste’s “tongue” design.
Other LPs included The Velvet Underground‘s “Psychedelic Sounds From the Gymnasium” and two versions of The Velvet Underground‘s “Velvet Underground & Nico” – one a picture disc and the other the limited edition “45th Anniversary edition” with the original torso rear cover picture and a peelable banana on the front. I found a UK pressing of Artie Shaw‘s “Any Old Time“. There was also another bootleg, “In 1966 There Was…“, a double album on red vinyl and the official release “The Velvet Underground Live – With Lou Reed“. I also got hold of a Rolling Stones bootleg “Lonely at the Top“, purported to be a limited edition of only 55 copies. I happened upon a modern box set of Margarita Madrigal‘s “Magic Key to Spanish” with the original book and two LPs in a custom box that, however did not use Warhol’s art anywhere.

I also bought some vinyl singles and EPs: John Lennon‘s “Imagine / It’s So Hard” and “Jealous Guy / Going Down on Love” 7-inch singles, Debbie Harry‘s “In Love With Love” 12-inch picture disc, Diana Ross‘s “So Close / Fool for Your Love” and Paul Anka‘s “Happier / Closing Doors” 7-inch singles.

The CDs included both the Q Magazine various artists releases entitled “Lennon Covered #1” and “Lennon Covered #2“. Other official CDs were The Museum of Modern Art‘s various artists release “Open Ends: Musical Exploration in New York 1967 to 2000“, a first CD re-issue of Moondog‘s “The Story of Moondog” on the Prestige label and David Jones & Bill Shute‘s collection of children’s songs “Widdecombe Fair” with beautiful Warhol art on the gatefold cover and the CD booklet. There was also a promotional CD-r collected by MPHO (MPHO Skeef) with DJ Beware called “MPHO and the Art of Pop, Vol 1” with cover art including pictures of record covers and art works by a variety of American Pop Artists.
Sinner that I am, I also bought six bootleg CDs, three by The Rolling Stones: “Marquee ’71 + Sticky Out“, “Rare Tracks +” and “Stereo Baby“. The latter a three CD set in a foldout cover.

The Warhol-related issues included the bootleg LP of Lou Reed’s & John Cale’s “Songs for Drella” LP featuring Nat Finklestein’s Warhol portrait with tambourine and John Cale‘s live recording of “Two Songs for Drella” with cover portrait of Warhol by Robert Mapplethorpe. I also found a cheap sealed copy of “15 Minutes – Homage to Andy Warhol“. This various artists release includes four LPs, three CDs and prints by the artists featured. I am not really clear as to exactly what relationship, apart from the title,  this box set has to Andy Warhol, though.

PETER BLAKE COVERS
This was the area where I expected least and found more than I had ever expected. 2015 turned out to be an exciting year! While there was only one official release with Peter Blake‘s art I found four bootleg CDs. The official release is Mark Knopfler‘s “Tracker” LP which has a picture of Peter Blake‘s painting “I Love You” on its inside spread.

The bootleg CDs were all of concerts by Eric Clapton, who’s 70th birthday was on 30th March 2015. To celebrate this Clapton performed two concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York on May 1st and 3rd – he had intended to play the second concert on May 2nd, but the venue was booked for the New York Rangers playoff. A bootleg tripple CD was released on the Mid Valley label with the complete playlists from both nights entitled “Eric Clapton–Madison Square Garden 2015 – 70th Birthday Celebration” with a cover picture of Eric Clapton painted by Sir Peter Blake earlier in the year. Clapton followed up with seven concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall between 14th and 23rd May. These concerts were also recorded and released in a 14 CD called “Eric Clapton–Royal Albert Hall 2015” set by Mid Valley using the same cover portrait of Eric Clapton. I managed to find the programme from both concerts on Ebay and Blake’s portrait of Eric Clapton is on both front and rear covers.
Finding these two bootlegs inspired me to look for other bootlegs of Eric Clapton’s live shows. I was amazed to find that what appears to be all of his live appearances – at least since the 1980s – seem to be available on bootlegs. However, only two of the hundreds available appeared to use Peter Blake‘s art. These are CDs of the first and fourth nights of Clapton‘s 1991 “24 Nights” series of concerts at The Royal Albert Hall. So I had to chase those, too.

KLAUS VOORMANN COVERS
I have several times thought that I had collected all of Voormann’s covers but I am continuously proved wrong. 2015 was no exception. The first cover I discovered was Harry Nilsson‘s 1982 LP “Flash Harry“, which has a 5 x 5 cm line drawing of Harry by Klaus Voormann on the rear cover. Then towards the end of the year I saw a copy of 10″ EP by Paddy, Klaus & Gibson called, not unsurprisingly “Paddy, Klaus & Gibson“. These three were the remaining members of Voormann‘s group The Eyes when guitarist/vocalist John Frankland left the band. The trio recorded three singles and it is these six songs that make up this EP. The record is a private pressing organised by orthopaedic surgeon Dr Dieter Hoffmann and only 300 copies were pressed, 100 on red vinyl, 100 on clear vinyl and 100 on back vinyl. In order to support this great effort, I ordered one copy of each vinyl colour! There is Japanese glamrock band called GLAY and Klaus drew the cover image for their 2015 CD “Music Life“.

There was, however, some not so good news – Thorsten Knublauch, from whom I had bought one of the copies of the Paddy, Klaus & Gibson 10″ – told me about a record with cover art by Klaus Voormann that I had never heard of. The record is a recording of a jazz radio programme. The cover picture is of a man lying in a hospital bed connected to drip bottles. The title is “Wer nie im Bett Programm gemacht“, or something like that. So far I haven’t been able to find a copy… So my Klaus Voormann collection is still not complete!

DAMIEN HIRST COVERS
I was surprised to see two promotional folders for Dave Stewart‘s 1992 “Heart of Stone” single appear on Ebay at ridiculously inflated prices. They didn’t sell and eventually the price came down to affordable levels when I hopped in. The CD singles came in A5 folders with slightly different texts and different catalogue numbers – explaining why I had to have both. In addition I found a promotional copy of the The HoursNarcissus Road” CD with a cover that I had not seen before.

BANKSY’S COVER ART
There do not seem to have been any new record or CD covers that use Banksy’s cover art since 2008. I did manage to get hold of one version of Blur‘s “Think Tank” CD in a box set with postcards. Then in the last days of December I saw a copy of a test pressing of Junichi Masuda’s LP “Pokémon” with a hand sprayed image of Banksy’s “Flower Thrower” but with a coloured ball substituted for the flowers. There are purportedly on 100 copies of this test pressing and I managed to get one relatively cheap-

So, another successful year’s collecting. But I still guess that none of my collections are complete yet. So I look forward to 2016.

Lou Reed & John Cale – Songs for ‘Drella’ and The Velvet Underground reunion

In 1968 John Cale and Lou Reed had fallen out during the recording “White Light / White Heat”, The Velvet Underground’s second album. They vowed not to play together again. However, they met at Andy Warhol‘s memorial service at St Patrick’s Cathedral on April 1st 1987 after having not had any contact with each other for many years. Apparently, Julian Schnabel suggested that they write a memorial album for Andy.

Warhol superstar Ondine had nicknamed him “Drella“–a contraction of Dracula and Cinderella and Reed and Cale decided to call their work “Songs for Drella“. They previewed the work at Brooklyn’s St. Anne’s Church in two concerts on January 8th and 9th 1989 before it was  complete.And these concerts were recorded and a bootleg LP appeared.
Warhol by Finkelstein

DoubleWarhol

The record cover was a silkscreened copy of Nat Finkelstein‘s 1965 portrait of Andy Warhol holding a tambourine. John Cale recorded a single with two songs from the “Songs for Drella” project live on 27th July, 1989. These were “Style It Takes / Forever Change“. The cover showed two contractions of Robert Mapplethorpe’s portrait of Andy Warhol (C The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation).

AW by RM

Cale_Drella_fr

The complete work was performed at a series of concerts in November and December 1989 and one performance filmed and released on DVD and Laserdisk. Reed and Cale recorded the work over the following two months for an album, which was released by Sire Records on 24th April 1990 on standard CD, a limited edition Digipak CD and on LP.

SongsForDrella
“Songs for Drella” CD with a Warhol self-portrait visible behind Lou Reed and John Cale.

A single “Nobody But You / Style It Takes” was released from the album.

A tour proved out of the question although Cale and Reed did perform together again in 1990 in Paris. They were joined by Sterling Morrison and Mo Tucker to play “Heroin“. This concert was also recorded and released on a bootleg entitled “Paris 1990“, with fluorescent cover art on a black background. The front cover showed a Warhol lily and the rear a portrait of Warhol in a diamond-shaped lozenge.

VU_PAris1990_fr_600

VU-Paris1990_bk

The arrival of Morrison and Tucker at the Paris concert lead to a further reunion concert in 1993 that was also recorded and released on CD and Laserdisk entilted “The Velvet Underground Redux Live MCMXCIII” and later as a four-LP set with Warhol’s banana as the cover art.

VU_1993_Laser_fr_600

 

ABSOLUT VODKA’s RECORD COVER ADVERTISMENTS

This post is not so much about record covers as much as about advertising and focuses on a campaign by Absolut Vodka.

Apparently, Absolut Vodka is the third largest spirit brand in the world. It is distilled near Åhus in Skåne, southern Sweden, and was, until 2008 owned by the Swedish state through its company AB Vin & Sprit when it was sold to the French group Pernod Ricard for €5.63 billion (55 billion Swedish Crowns). Two things – apart from the drink itself – have contributed to Absolut Vodka’s international success; the first is the design of the bottle and the second is the inventive artistic advertising campaigns. And, related to the imaginative advertising was the Absolut Art Collection, started In 1985 when Andy Warhol was approached to paint a picture of the Absolut Vodka bottle.

Exactly how Warhol came to be involved is debated. According to Finbar Krook Rosato, in “Face It! Absolut Art Collection” (2012) One story is that Michel Roux who worked for Carillion importers was a regular fixture in the New York nightlife of the 1980s. Apparently he suggested the idea to Warhol at a dinner and Warhol was enthusiastic saying “I love the bottle. I’d want to do something with it”. Another story is that Titti Wachtmeister, daughter of Sweden’s ambassador to the United States, was a close friend of Warhol’s put the idea to him. Whichever is correct, Warhol painted his portrait of the famous bottle.

Absolut Warhol
Absolut Warhol

Warhol then suggested that Keith Haring make a painting and in 1987 his contribution arrived. Between 1986 and 2004 a total of 850 works were made for the Absolut Art Collection by 550 artists. The collection is now housed at Spritmuseum in Stockholm where regular exhibitions show the varied nature of the art.

A series of one-page ads for Absolut Vodka appeared each week in Time Magazine and many appeared in other magazines including Scandinavian Airways System’s “Scanorama”. A series that was particularly special for me, was run in Scanorama from February until October 2002 and used pastiches of famous record covers to advertise the famous Vodka. You have to really search in some of the adverts to find the Absolut Vodka bottle.

The series started with a reworked version of David Bowie‘s “Aladdin Sane“:

Absolut Bowie.
Absolut Bowie. “Scanorama” February 2002.

The second cover to be manipulated was Miles Davis‘s “Bitches Brew“:

Absolut Miles.
Absolut Miles. “Scanorama” March 2002.

The third cover to be manipulated was Nina Hagan‘s “Om Namah Shivay!“:

Absolut Hagen.
Absolut Hagen.

Next up was INXS‘s album “Kicks

Absolut INXS.
Absolut INXS.

Number five was The Sex Pistol‘s “Never Mind the Bollocks, We’re the Sex Pistols“:

Absolut Pistols.
Absolut Pistols.

Then came Judas Priest‘s album “British Steel”:

Absolut Priest.
Absolut Priest.

Album number seven was Queen‘s “A Night at the Opera“:

Absolut Queen.
Absolut Queen.

The eighth and final cover to appear in the series was The Velvet Underground & Nico‘s “The Velvet Underground & Nico“:

Absolut Underground.
Absolut Underground.

A great combination of advertising and record cover art. No Beatles, perhaps, but at least there was one Warhol cover. I remember seeing a full-sized poster of the Absolut Pistols advert in Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport just when this campaign was running. I was sort of stunned as I hadn’t seen the any of the other adverts at that time! I wonder what other adverts have used record covers. Ideas, anyone?

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.

The
The “first state” torso rear cover. Below: the airbrushed “third state” rear cover.
VU-Airbrush_bk

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.
VU-PictureDisc_fr

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.