Tag Archives: record collecting

This Is (the Other Side of) John Wallowitch–A Rare Warhol Cover.

It has been my ambition to collect all record covers with Andy Warhol‘s art. Most of the seventies and eighties covers are relatively easy to find and shouldn’t cost the earth (an exception is Ultra Violet‘s eponymous LP from 1973), but the earlier ones, particularly the fifties covers have become increasingly expensive. And the original “Velvet Underground & Nico” (1967) along with many of it’s reissues are becoming increasingly expensive.

I have long searched for decent copies of Moondog‘s “The Story of Moondog“. While copies of the Moondog album do pop up relatively frequently on Ebay, most are in pretty poor condition with severely discoloured covers, but I had the great good fortune to find a near mint copy on Discogs which I bought as a Christmas present to myself.

The other major hole in my collection was John Wallowitch‘s second album for Serenus Records called “This Is (The Other Side of) John Wallowitch“. This album doesn’t come up for sale very often and bidding goes crazy on good copies. A reasonable copy popped up on Ebay in late January and despite having depleted my funds the previous month for the Moondog album, I managed to win it with a not too outrageous bid.

As can be seen, Wallowitch chose as the rear cover picture to reuse the “photo booth” photos taken by Warhol that were on the front cover of his previous Serenus Records release “This Is John Wallowitch“. It’s sort of ironic that the “Man of a Thousand Faces”, as stated on the front cover, is portrayed on the rear from the chin downwards, so one cannot see any of the thousand faces (actually, there are only 56 photos, or parts of photos on the cover, not thousands).

So now there are two of Warhol’s original covers and one bootleg that I need to complete my collection of Warhol’s record covers. These are the pink version of Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky, Cantata Op 78” and the unobtainable “Night Beat” promotional box set that Guy Minnebach wrote about in his Andy Earhole blog (https://warholcoverart.com/2017/03/25/night-beat-rarest-of-the-rare/). Though I do have the facsimile box of the latter.
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The remaining bootleg I am still looking for is the limited edition of Keith Richards‘ “Unknown Dreams” (Outsider Bird Records, OBR 93009).

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Keith Richards’ bootleg “Unknown Dreams” with Warhol’s car drawing cover.

Will my collection ever be “complete”?

 

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Alexander Nevsky – Columbia ML 4247 With 1949 Illustration by Andy Warhol

Sergei Prokofiev‘s  cantata “Alexander Nevsky, Opus 78” was written in 1938 as the soundtrack to Sergei Eisentein’s film of the same name. “Alexander Nevsky” was Prokofiev’s third film score; the others being “Lieutenant Kije” (1934) and “The Queen of Spades” (1936).

The first American performance took place on 7 March 1943 in an NBC Radio broadcast with Leopold Stokowski conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra and Jennie Tourel (mezzosoprano) as soloist. Eugene Ormandy gave the first concert performance of “Alexander Nevsky” a fortnight later, on 23rd March 1943 with the with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Westminster Choir , and Rosalind Nadell as soloist and in 1945 recorded the work in English for Columbia records with Jennie Tourel as soloist. The recording was forst released as a a 78 RPM album with cover art by Alex Steinweiss.

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Alex Steinweiss’ cover for the 1945 recording of Alexander Nevsky.

When Columbia Records introduced the 33 1/3 RPM long playing album in 1948 many of the old 78 RPM recordings were released in the new format. Alex Steinweiss, Art Director at Columbia, had not only designed the cover structure for the LP . The very first Columbia LP covers used a generic design based on the simplified capital of a Corinthian column.

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First cover design for Columbia LPs.

Steinweiss‘ next development was a new basic design layout with space for an illustration.

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Early Columbia LP cover with illustration.

Then his layout evolved with large blocks of colour on the front over which the record’s title and other information were printed. He also provided space for an illustration. These covers were introduced in 1949 and Steinweiss, who by this time was inundated with work, commissioned outside artists to provide the illustrations. These included the young Andrew Warhol as well as Jim Flora, and less well known artists such as Darryll Connoly. The 1949 re-issue of Ormandy‘s recording of “Alexander Nevsky” used this cover variation.

Andrew Warhola had graduated from the Pittsburgh College of Art and moved to New York to start work as a commercial artist. He contacted record companies trying to get commissions. Columbia Records was one he contacted. Steinweiss gave the young artist three commissions. The “Alexander Nevsky” was the second after Warhol‘s illustration for the re-issue of Columbia’s record “A Program of Mexican Music” by Carlos Chavez. Ten years had passed since Eisenstein‘s film was made but it was probable that Warhol saw the film at some stage. Guy Minnebach suggests that the his drawing was probably made from a film still.

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Warhol’s illustration for the cover of Alexander Nevsky showing the “Battle on the Ice”.

The first pressing–identifiable by the dark blue label “Columbia Masterworks” labels on the record itself and the fact that the front cover slick was pasted onto the front of the cover,  that folded over onto the rear and included the information on the spine.

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The first Columbia Records LP label was dark blue.

this first issue’s cover appeared in two shades of blue: the most common is a shade of pale

blue, but there is also a darker turquoise variation.

Sometime later, in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Columbia re-released this album.By this time the method of manufacturing LP covers had changed and the rear slick was pasted on first and overlapped the edges of the front cover and the spine text was now printed on the rear slick. Front slicks were then pasted onto the front, leaving a small margin of visible rear slick.

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The lower right corner of the 1950s Nevsky cover showing the front cover slick overlapping the rear slick.

At least three different colour variations of This re-issue’s records had the modernised Columbia Records labels, known as the “six-eye” label because of the six Columbia logos at three and nine o’clock.

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Columbia Records’ “six-eye”label introduced in the mid 1950s.

Three colour variations of the front cover art were produced over the years. I don’t know if this was intentional or due to the printers’  own decisions. There were green, orange and pink covers.
nevsky_grn_frnevsky_orange_frprokofiev-pink

I had hoped to be able to picture my own pink copy, but I haven’t managed to find one yet. This picture is from a recent Ebay sale that I bid on, but failed to win.

I only found my copy of the turquoise cover in early January 2017 and thought at first sight that it was one of the later green covers, though with the record with the dark blue label. I had to compare them to see the difference.

The picture shows the green cover on the left and the turquoise cover on the right. The difference is obvious, even without being able to see the difference in the way the covers are constructed.

SKYLINE – a bootleg with Andy Warhol photo.

I don’t know anything about the band called Skyline, but they released a 12″, 5-track bootleg album in 1978 on the Four Stars label (catalogue No. FS001) with a cover picture of Manhattan. On the rear of the cover the photo was credited to “A. Warhol.”
skyline-orig

The album had totally impossible credits beside the “Warhol” cover credit. The musicians were listed as Johnny Thunders (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Lonnie Davis (Keyboards), Peter Ford (Drums, Percussion) and Charles La Croix (Bass, Keyboards, Vocals). However, the album became a kind of underground disco hit and was re-issued with a different cover.

Skyline-new-fr
Skyline’s 1978 EP “I’m Gonna Fall in Love” with cover picture of Susanne de Maria from a Warhol screen test.

A few years ago Guy Minnebach, who has an encyclopaedic memory about Andy Warhol‘s art, and Raimund Flöck recognised the cover photo of Susanne de Maria as being from one of Andy Warhol‘s 1964 screen tests and is published in a book of them. And since then this version of the record has been in demand not only by fans of the disco music but now also by collectors of Andy Warhol‘s record cover art. Interestingly, the original bootleg  lacked the photo credit to A. Warhol on the rear. I have been looking for a copy for my collection and saw one recently on Ebay on which I bid unsuccessfully. However, I noticed in the photos on Ebay that the cover had the “Photo by A. Warhol” credit on the rear cover and also included a photo of Susanna de Maria (note the correct spelling of Susanna), which sparked my curiosity..

About a month later the seller contacted be via a second chance offer and told me he had another copy for sale, and a deal was done. The record duly arrived and I realised this must be a reprint of the original 12″. It is on a different label–Paint the Case Productions–and has no obvious catalogue number. Included in my copy were two photos of Susanna de Maria; one with “No 49” on the rear and the other with “No 49 out of 50” on the back. Could it be that this repressing was limited edition of just 50 copies?

skyline12-fr
The repressed version of Skyline’s 12″ EP.

As anyone can see, the image is much less sharp than on the original 1978 pressing (no, it’s not due  camera shake). Even the included photos of Susanna are not 100% focused.

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One of the posters included with the album.

Anyway, the album is a nice addition to my collection of Andy Warhol covers. But I suspect I’ll still look for one of the original 1978 pressings.* After a discussion with Guy Minnebach who originally recognised the photo as being from one of Andy Warhol‘s screentests, I conclude that this must be a bootleg of a bootleg! Guy pointed out that bootlegs have previously always been about making music recently an LP version of Paul Anka‘s “Amigos” album appeared. This album was only officially released on CD so the vinyl version seems to be a bootleg only produced for it Warholian cover art. This seems to be the reason for the new pressing of the Skyline album.

 

*I finally found a copy on 8th August 2017. Hooray!

Alex Steinweiss – The Inventor of the Illustrated Record Cover.

I have been collecting record cover art since the 1980s. First designers including Vaughan Oliver and his collaborations with Nigel Grierson as 23 Envelope and, later, as V23 with Chris Bigg.  Neville Brody ,with his covers (mainly) for the Fetish label, was another designer I collected. Then, when I moved to Sweden, I started collecting covers by Martin Kann, who is responsible for the cover art for Swedish rockers bob hund. Most of the record covers I had by these designers disappeared when I had to sell my record collection and I had to decide which designers’ covers to keep.

I thought I knew the history of record cover design, but to my eternal shame, I only found out that one individual, Alex Steinweiss (1917-2011), had started the whole field of record cover design in about 2005 when I read Nick de Ville‘s great book on record cover design “Album-Style & Image in Sleeve Design” from 2003.But I HAD for years seen some of Steinweiss‘s work at my parents’ home! They had a condo i Sarasota, Florida, for many years. Sarasota was Steinweiss‘s retirement home and he produced posters for the celebrated Sarasota Jazz Festival and my father had bought three of these posters, which hung on a bedroom wall at home, but I had no idea Steinweiss had designed record covers! Once I had seen de Ville‘s book, I started looking for some Steinweiss covers. They were not easy to find as few Internet sellers recognised Steinweiss‘s work and sold records only by their artist/title. Then, in 2006, I bought Jennifer McKnight-Trontz’s “For the Record: The Life and Work of Alex Steinweiss, Inventor of the Album Cover“. A great place to start researching Steinweiss‘s production of over 2500 record covers.

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Jennifer McKnight-Trontz’s “For the Record-The Life and Works of Alex Steinweiss

Steinweiss may not have been the first to illustrate record covers–here the purists argue–but he was the first to convince a record company that pictures on covers could actually sell records. In 1939, at the tender age of 22, he was hired by Columbia Records as art director for the company’s recorded music division, principally to be responsible for advertising material.

Few dedicated record shops existed in the 1930’s. Music was mainly sold as sheet music and records were usually sold in general stores, electrical appliance stores and i a few record shops. Records were only available as 78 r.p.m shellac discs, ten or twelve inches in diameter. Single discs were generally packaged in brown envelopes with or without a central hole that showed the record label with the title and artist on the record. Longer works, such as classical recordings had to be split onto several discs and were packaged in book-like albums that contained any number of records from two to ten. The front covers were generally plain perhaps with record company, the record’s catalogue number and the record title. They were affectionately known as “tombstone covers”!

tombstone-cover
A “Tombstone cover” as albums were sold prior to Steinweiss deciding to add pictures to covers.

The album’s spine showed the title and artist and the record’s catalogue number. These albums were generally stored like books in a library, with only the spines visible.

Steinweiss, during his artistic studies,  had seen the power of pictures in selling and suggested to his superiors that adding a picture to illustrate the music might actually increase sales of these albums. Despite initial scepsis the directors allowed Steinweiss to produce a limited number of pictorial covers and the first “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers & Hart” appeared in 1940 (Jennifer McKnight-Trontz says 1939).

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Alex Steinweiss’s first picture cover for Columbia Records “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers & Hart” from 1940.

I collected about fifty Steinweiss covers and was lucky enough to find a copy of the “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers & Hart” in really good condition early on. This album seems extremely rare as I have been on a fruitless search for a second copy ever since. It seems important for anyone particularly interested in record sleeve design to have this seminal design, so I kept it when my other Steinweiss covers vanished.

Of course, Steinweiss‘s new picture covers increased the sales of Columbia Records’ Albums and he was allowed to continue producing sleeve art. When, in 1948, Columbia introduced the microgroove LP, it fell to Steinweiss to design a suitable packaging and he came up with the LP record sleeve with a design on the front, text on the rear and on the spine. Many of the designs he produced for the 78 r.p.m albums were transferred when a work was reissued in the new format. But Steinweiss‘s burden of designing new covers meant that he couldn’t do them all himself. He enlisted other talented designers to work for Columbia, including Jim Flora and a commercial artist named Andrew Warhola, just arrived in New York from Pittsburgh.

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Steinweiss (in dark suit) with other Columbia employees including Jim Flora (With the striped tie standing behind Steinweiss).

Steinweiss left Columbia in 1949 and went freelance. He subsequently designed covers for several other record companies including Everest, Decca and London and RCA.

in 2009, Kevin Reagan and Steven Heller convinced Taschen to publish a luxurious book simply entitled “Steinweiss”  with the subtitle “The Inventor of the Modern Record Cover“. I addition to a standard edition Taschen produced an art edition; one hundred copies numbered 1-100 contained a print of Steinweiss‘s design for Decca Records’ recording of Igor Stravinsky‘s “The Firebird“, the second time Steinweiss had designed a cover for that work.

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The lithograph of Steinweiss’s design for Decca Records’ recording of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite”.

There were also a further one hundred art copies, numbered 101-200, that did not contain the print. Steinweiss, aged 92, was involved in the production of the book and the art editions were all signed by him as were the prints included in the first one hundred copies. My copy is No. 96.

The book contains full-sized pictures of over two hundred of Steinweiss‘s cover designs as well as pictures of posters and books and ceramics that he made. A worthy tribute to the man without whom I probably wouldn’t be collecting record cover art.

 

Record collecting – a love affair or an addiction?

Okay, as you probably have gathered if you read my blog, I live in Sweden. This is not a very important piece of information, but it explains why this post was inspired (probably not the right word) by a recent book and a magazine number. The book, by Olle Johansson, is called “En skivsamlares memoarer” (ISBN 9789163776618, Rabarber förlag, Stockholm, 2015), which translates to “A Record Collector’s Memoirs” and the magazine is the Spring 2016 number of the Swedish music magazine Sonic–a 116 page special number entitled “Alla talar om skivsamlande“, again in translation “Everyone is talking about record collecting“.

Most people would not see any difference between a record collector and a music collector, but there is huge difference and these two publications illustrate it perfectly. Olle Johansson is a MUSIC collector. He is not interested in the format the recording is presented on. He does not care about record labels, catalogue numbers, or the cover art. He wants the music, and it doesn’t matter if it is a reissued CD or vinyl. He doesn’t search for original pressings or special editions. He just wants the music or the artist.

A record collector, however, cares about all, or at least some, of these things. There are those who collect a particular artist–and must have EVERYTHING released by that artist, including unofficial (bootleg) releases. Alternatively, the collector may collect a particular record label, quite independently of the type of music released (though the label will probably have released music that suits the collector’s taste). Then there are collectors who will collect a particular format– say 1960s EPs, or picture discs; the options are endless. And there are strange types, like me, who collect record cover art. Even here there are subdivisions; record cover art by a particular artist, cover art by any famous artist, or cover art that uses a particular design feature or a certain typography.

There are loads of books on record cover art and others on greater or lesser celebrities’ record collections. One recent, almost encyclopaedic one is Eilon Paz‘s “Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting“. Paz visited record collectors and photographed them with their hoards of vinyl–everything from rare 78s to the world’s largest collection of coloured vinyl records. Sonic magazine interviewed musicians, DJs, record collectors and record buyers at record stores. I used to have a library of books about record cover art. I have only kept a few that I really treasure. These include Nick de Ville‘s “Album: Classic Sleeve Design: Style and Image in Sleeve Design“, Richard Evans‘ “The Art of the Record Cover“, Paul Maréchal‘s “The Complete Commissioned Record Covers“, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz’ & Alex Steinweiss’For the Record: The Life and Work of Alex Steinweiss, Inventor of the Album Cover” and the catalogue from Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum’s 1981-2 exhibition “Ytans innehåll: utställning av skivomslag” [“The Surface’s Contents: An Exhibition of Record Covers“].

Where did my collection begin? Born in the mid forties, I was raised on vinyl records. My father loved music and had a few hundred LPs and a few 78s. In my late teens I had a friend, Chris,  who worked on Saturdays at The Chelsea Record Centre, a shop on The King’s Road, Chelsea. We used to go to pubs and listen to R ‘n’ B and, when I went to University we started going regularly to the 100 Club on Oxford Street. We could see The Pretty Things, The Graham Bond Organisation or The Artwoods. One night–I suppose in 1964 or 1965– we went to see Bo Diddley and his famous band (who I had at that time only heard of through some Buddy Holly recordings.) Well, to call that concert mindblowing was an understatement.

The first records I bought were LPs–Eddie Cochran‘s “Memorial Album“, “The Buddy Holly Story” and John Lee Hooker‘s “Don’t Turn Me From Your Door“. One evening in late November 1963 my friend Chris came home with a copy of “With the Beatles” and we spent an evening just playing and replaying the album. And almost a year later on the 24th October 1964, Chris and I went to the Gaumont State Cinema in Kilburn to see The Beatles–I can’t say we heard them because of all the screaming. I still have the “Four Aces” programme from the concert! I started buying records and became a regular at two of London’s independent record shops that imported American albums; One Stop Records in South Moulton Street and Musicland in Berwick Street.

In early 1967, My brother, who had been living in America, returned to England and presented me with a bundle of records including Big Brother & The Holding Company‘s eponymous first album (on the Mainstream label), Country Joe & The Fish‘s “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die“, The Jefferson Airplane‘s “Takes Off” and “Surrealistic Pillow“. I  bought The Doors‘ first album, which was one of the greatest albums of 1967, at One Stop, and they recommended an album by The Velvet Underground & Nico, which I bought but didn’t really get into. I liked the cover, though. Then I discovered bluebeat, ska and reggae and for the first time bought singles. Prince Buster, The Ethiopians and Desmond Dekker before finding Phil Spector and then soul music in the form of Doo Wop with Clyde McPhatter & the Dominoes, The Coasters, The Drifters, Don Covay, Joe Tex and, of course, Otis Redding. Thus far, I was still a music collector.

Then in April 1971, I bought The Rolling Stones‘ “Sticky Fingers” with its Andy Warhol designed cover. I already had The Velvet Underground & Nico, so this was my second Andy Warhol cover. I also had two covers by Peter Blake: “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and The Pentangle‘s “Sweet Child“. So I had the beginnings of two cover art collections. In the early 1980s I stumbled across an album by The Cocteau Twins and soon started collecting albums on the 4AD label designed by Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson (as 23 Envelope) and Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg (as v23). I also found Fetish Record‘s “Final Testament” and collected every cover I could find with Neville Brody‘s art.I also had all three of Joy Division‘s albums but didn’t start collecting Peter Saville‘s record covers in any systematic way, though a few did find their way into my collection. In the early 2000s I fell for Rob Jones‘ work–both as a poster artist for the White Stripes, The Raconteurs and Dead Weather–and for his record cover art. I also collected Swedish designer Martin Kann‘s covers for the band bob hund. All the while my collection of covers by Warhol and Blake grew. I also found that I had many covers by Klaus Voormann and then Damien Hirst produced a few record covers that found their way into my collection. In about 2008  I picked up a couple of albums with cover art by the artist known as Banksy and managed over the course of two years to collect almost all the covers bearing his art.

When I retired in 2010 it was apparent that my wife and I would have to move to a flat and that I would not be able to take my collection of records, posters and CDs with me. I had to downsize. I decided only to keep my collections of record cover art. I said “good bye” to my 4AD, Martin Kann, and Rob Jones records and kept only my Banksy, Blake, Hirst, Voormann and Warhol collections. So now I am a RECORD collector rather than a music collector. The music is secondary to the cover art.

 

 

Peter Blake and Eric Clapton’s “24 Nights”

During the past few months I have been concentrating on Sir Peter Blake’s record cover art and trying to do some in-depth research to find out how his record covers came about, who made the commissions, which techniques he used, upon which photographs were illustrations based and any other facts, relevant or not. I have tried to contact the artists involved where possible. I have also nurtured a lust to get hold of the one item of Peter Blake‘s record cover art that I had not managed to find. I refer to the Genesis Publication’s set “24 Nights –  The Limited Edition. Music by Eric Clapton / Drawings by Peter Blake“. This box set included two books – a “Scrapbook“, an A4 sized book of Peter Blake‘s drawings and photographs and a 58-page “Commentary” by Derek Taylor – some “memorabilia” comprising a badge, guitar strings, four plectra and a backstage pass from the Journeyman tour and two photographs of Eric Clapton. This set was published in a numbered edition of 3,500 copies as well as a further 200 copies numbered in Roman numerals “for review purposes”. All copies were signed by both Peter Blake and Eric Clapton. Published in 1991, it soon sold out.

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The cast:
Eric Clapton (born 30th March 1945)- legendary guitarist and lover of the Blues.
Peter Blake (born 25th June 1932) – equally legendary artist.
Derek Taylor (1932-2008) – Journalist, author, friend of the above and former press officer for The Beatles.
Brian Roylance (1945-2005) – founder of Genesis Publications and friend of all three above.
Roger Forrester (born August 1949) – Eric Clapton’s manager until 1998.

The 24 night series of concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall were to be the finale to Eric Clapton‘s “Journeyman” world tour that played 153 concerts in 78 cities around the world over 14 months and were seen by almost 2.5 million fans. The tour was a promotional tour for Eric’s 1989 album “Journeyman” and his record company Reprise Records, a Warner Brothers subsidiary, planned a live album to be released after the tour. Eric Clapton knew Brian Roylance (1945-2005) the founder of Genesis Publications and suggested a documentation of the tour. Warner Brothers commissioned Peter Blake to paint a portrait of Eric Clapton, and wanted three other artists to do the same for an album to be called “Four Faces of Eric Clapton” but in the end only Peter Blake was commissioned instead to draw four portraits. Peter Blake had not met Eric at this time.

The Journeyman tour started in Birmingham on January 14th 1990 and ended at the Royal Albert Hall on March 9th 1991. There was a break for Christmas from 13th December 1990 until 31st January 1991 when it would resume in Dublin. The band reconvened in Dublin earlier to rehearse. Brian Roylance wanted Eric Clapton‘s longtime friend Derek Taylor (1932-2008) to write a commentary to the project and asked Derek and his wife Joan to travel to Dublin to be at the rehearsals. Peter Blake arrived in Dublin around the 26th January and had dinner with Roger Forrester who asked Blake if he liked Eric Clapton’s music. Blake replied, “No, I’ve never been a fan. I hate long guitar solos.”

Peter Blake had access all areas to make his sketches and said everyone got so used to him being around that they hardly noticed him. He could sketch freely. He followed Eric Clapton back to England and continued sketching at the Royal Albert Hall and at the two blues concerts at the Brixton Academy on February 21st and 22nd, 1991. Warner Reprise Records got their cover drawing for the “24 Nights” album released on 8th October 1991.

Twenty-five years after the release of the “24 Nights” album and Genesis Publications’ box set I managed to get hold of my own copy of this wonderful set. And thanks to Derek Taylor‘s “Commentary” book included in the set and Peter Blake‘s detailed notes in the “Scrapbook” have helped me piece together this story.
24Nights_Commentary.jpg

 

 

John Lennon’s Records and Compact Discs with Andy Warhol Art

john Lennon’s 1986 album “Menlove Ave” is probably the best known of his recordings that use Andy Warhol’s art. But there are some others and one, in particular, that has not previously been recognized.

John and Yoko Lennon and Andy Warhol were friends. I’m sure they basked in each others’ glory. Andy Warhol took Polaroid photos of John and two of these were recently auctioned at Christies (https://onlineonly.christies.com/s/pop-culture/john-lennon-97/3106/).

Andy Warhol's Polaroid pictures of John Lennon. Circa 1969.
Andy Warhol’s Polaroid pictures of John Lennon. Circa 1969.

The photo on the left bears a striking resemblance to the cover photo on Lennon’s album “Imagine”, released on 5th September, 1971. Only the position of the cloud is different.

John Lennon's "Imagine" LP cover.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” LP cover.

There may be an explanation for this, however. Photographer Iain Macmillan was a good friend of the Lennons. He had been introduced to John by Yoko at her 1966 exhibition at the Indica Gallery in London, where she first met John. Macmillan was commissioned to take the cover photo for The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album and had take portrait photographs of John as well. It was he, apparently, that placed the cloud on the cover of the Plastic Ono Band’s “Live Peace in Toronto” 1969 album.

"Live Peace in Toronto" cover art.
“Live Peace in Toronto” cover art.

The cover design of Lennon’s “Imagine” album is credited to Yoko Ono but Wikipedia’s article on the album credits the cover photo to Andy Warhol. Thus this album is a previously unrecognized Andy Warhol cover appearing only five months after Warhol’s cover design for The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” LP. Several singles bear the same cover photo including Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”/”Going Down on Love” and versions of “Imagine”.

Macmillan’s Lennon portraits turned up first on Lennon’s posthumous “Menlove Ave” LP compiled by Yoko Ono and released in 1986. According to the story I have heard, Yoko approached Warhol with Macmillan’s Lennon photographs and asked him to paint two portraits for use on the album cover.

"Menlove Ave" LP front and rear art.
“Menlove Ave” LP front and rear art.

These portraits would reappear when Q magazine with the May 2005 edition which contained two CDs of John Lennon’s songs covered by other artists including Madonna, Oasis, Paul Weller, Wilco and Badly Drawn Boy, amongst others.

John Lennon Covered #1 and #2.
The Front covers of Q Magazine’s CDs “John Lennon Covered #1 and #2.”
Andy Warhol's two portraits of John Lennon.
Andy Warhol’s two portraits of John Lennon.

There are other pressings that use Warhol’s Polaroid photos, including a 12-inch maxi and the 1971 Japanese “Imagine/It’s so Hard” 7-inch single.