Vinyl Revival

 

Legendary British trio Cream. At the age of 10 it was the very first album I bought. I had no idea who Eric Clapton was but this was a very cool album. The title was taken from an inside joke. Eric Clapton had been thinking of buying a racing bicycle and was discussing it with Ginger Baker, when a roadie named Mick Turner commented, "it's got them Disraeli Gears", meaning to say "derailleur gears," but instead alluding to 19th Century British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. The band thought this was hilarious, and decided that it should be the title of the album.

This back cover was a photo collage. The original cover art was created by Australian artist Martin Sharp, who lived in the same building as Clapton. I would study this psychedelic cover every time I played the album and spent hours imitating the illustration style with my cheap fluorescent paints.

The iTunes album artwork (shown right) in actual scale to the original album. Sadly, there's not much to see or discover at this size.

My parents were members of the World Record Club and I bought this album at the same time as Disraeli Gears. This was an early cover illustration by the famous Roger Dean. I actually didn't like it very much, it seemed very dark and sinister.

The black and white image on the back cover was very sixties. I didn't like the band's logotype much either. It seemed a little clumsy to me.

Now this was another story. Designed in the late sixties by Roger Dean for the band Yes, this is an iconic band logo of the time. Roger Dean was probably one of the most famous and sought after designer/illustrators during the late sixties, early seventies.

Johnny Winter is a white albino guitarist who plays some mean blues. Apart from the smokin' guitar playing contained in those vinyl grooves, this was a unique album. I have no idea who designed the cover but I loved the photographic treatment of the white albino bluesman on a blue cover.

I also liked the minimal typography on the front and back covers.

The 'posterized' treatment of the images on the album was a popular technique at the time. I'm not really sure how they did all that image manipulation twenty years or so before Photoshop but this is a great album cover.

The unique aspect of this album was the content itself. Double albums (ie, 2 vinyls or 4 sides) were increasing in popularity around this time. It seems they ran out of songs in the recording session and had only enough for 3 sides and released it as such. A 3 sided album!

Formed in 1969, Black Sabbath was Ossie Osbourne's band until the mid to late seventies. This photographic 'tonal drop out' style was a big trend at the time and there was nothing special about this cover. Even the name was unexciting.

What was special about this album cover was the 'bonus' poster. Who would believe, now looking at poor old Ossie, that this poster image of Ossie proves the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Ossie was once a very cool, good looking guy!

Vertigo was the name of Black Sabbath's recording label. This quirky label contained no track listings and when placed on the turntable, you could watch the label go in and out as the record turned. Quite hypnotic really...

The Beatle's label, Apple. Not as 'groovy' as Vertigo...

...but at least they tried and gave you the sliced half on the other side.

Led Zeppelin 2, what an awesome album but terrible cover. At the time, the power and energy of Zeppelin was unmatched and sadly the cover was a dud that didn't do justice to what was contained on the vinyl. Apparently the band's manager made the decision to remove the 'a' from Lead as he believed the band's name would be mispronounced in the USA.

The cover for Led Zeppelin 3 was an improvement on 2 and created some curiosity about what some of the small images were about.

Production techniques for album covers were becoming more adventurous. This was a pinwheel design with die cuts. Hours of entertainment... if you were bored!

By the time Led Zeppelin 4 was released, they had become the masters of curiosity and mystery. This was the first album in history not to have a title or, in fact, not one piece of information or typography on the cover. Not even the spine.

I've never been sure what this cover is about. Even Wikipedia can only offer the following:'The 19th century rustic oil painting on the front of the album was purchased from an antique shop in Reading, Berkshire by Robert Plant. The painting was then juxtaposed and affixed to the internal, papered wall of the partly demolished suburban house for the photograph to be taken'.

If you bought the import version of the album at least you got an inner sleeve. I, like I imagine most teenagers to be, was hungry for as much information about one of my favourite bands as I could get. Remember, there was no internet in those days and Australia was a long way away from the rest of the world. Zeppelin toured Australia in 1972 and played outdoors in Melbourne at Kooyong Tennis Club. Can you believe that? Sadly I was too young and my parents wouldn't let me go.

Apparently it was Jimmy Page's idea for each member to choose a symbol for the album sleeve. Page stated that he designed his own symbol and has never publicly disclosed any reasoning behind it. It has been argued that his symbol appeared as early as 1557 to represent Saturn. The symbol is sometimes referred to as "ZoSo", though Page has explained that it was not in fact intended to be a word at all

Zeppelin's 5th album, Houses of the Holy, was titled in dedication to fans that attended the venues of their gigs. This album also contained no visible title or identification. It was a controversial cover shot at the 'Giant's Causeway' in Northern Ireland. I've actually been there.

Rolling Stones 'Sticky Fingers", one of the greatest albums and greatest cover designs of all time. Conceived by Andy Warhol, the original import copy (in Australia) had a working zip. To me, this cover said everything about the Rolling Stones, the album itself and the attitude at the time. The big red mouth with its protruding tongue logo by London designer John Pasche, first appeared on the inner sleeve and label of Sticky Fingers. He was paid the grand total of £50 for his work at the time, but received an extra £200 a couple of years later in acknowledgement of the success of the design. The Rolling Stones now own the copyright, but in 2006, Pasche sold the original artwork for £400,000.

Then there's this from the Stones. I never really liked this cover, shot ultra sharp and up close. A bunch of pretty ordinary looking blokes but he Stones had been playing on that for years.

To think that Ronnie Woods, an accomplished painter and artist, Charlie Watts a working graphic designer before the Stones, haven't ever designed a Stones cover is a bit of a mystery to me.

More from the Stones, a good album but average cover. I don't know who designed this cover but there's touches of Warhol...

...and more die cuts.

If there's one cover that epitomizes everything about a band and what's contained on the vinyl, this is it. I love this double live album and the black and white cover image captures the rawness and spontaneity of the great Allman Brothers Band to a tee. This was shot in 1971 before one of their legendary gigs at the Fillmore East in NYC. These guys were famous for their live shows and relentless touring. And how cool do they still look 40 years later! Myth has it that the reason they're all laughing was that Duane Allman (2nd from left) had just purchased some illegal substances and was hiding it in his clasped hands whilst the photographer was trying to take the shot.

No such joy for the roadies on the back cover! Maybe these guys look so grumpy because of the constant touring the band were renowned for. At least they've been immortalized on a famous album!

Eat a Peach. The Allman Brothers Band's follow up double album after Live at Fillmore East. Georgia, the peach producing capital of the USA, was the band's home state. Tragically, the great guitarist Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident during its recording and before its release.

Pastel colours and soft illustration. What a massive turn around from the gritty black and white cover of their previous album. What was quite unusual for the time with this album cover was that it was printed on a textured, uncoated stock unlike most covers of the time. It had an appealing tactile feel to it.

The inside spread illustration was quite 'out there'. Very trippy. Maybe some of the substances Duane Allman was clasping on the cover of Live at Fillmore East might have had something to do with it!

Then there were the illegally recorded 'bootleg' albums. These recordings were made, usually with cheap recording equipment smuggled into live concerts. Their quality was as equally as poor as the covers themselves.

Plain wrap sleeves with a 1 colour sheet stuck on with some UHU Glue! Believe it or not, some of these were rare and sought after in Australia.

In the mid to late seventies Lou Reed was probably at the height of controversy with his songs about drugs and drug addicts, prostitutes, transvestites etc. This was still a kind of post hippy era with lots of long hair and 'feel good' songs. The punks were gathering momentum and coming, but I think Lou had already claimed that territory. I think this 'Rock and Roll Animal' cover image of Lou epitomizes his alternative status.

This album was released just after 'Rock n Roll Animal' and contained live songs from the same concert recordings as 'Rock n Roll Animal'. A different looking Lou but still containing leather, studs and some sort of 'punk' attitude.

What I really liked about this cover was the metallic silver and black duotone print technique. I hadn't really seen this effect achieved as well before, and in some respects, since.

Then there is always the absolute shockers. This is a fantastic album but nothing good about any aspect of the cover. What were they thinking?

Another seriously good album with an appalling cover. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr were guest musicians on this album but who was the guest stuffed pink giraffe sitting in the snow with Steve on the cover image? How bizarre. I've searched on the internet (where you can find an answer to everything!) for an answer to this puzzle but have never found it.

Stephen Stills buddy Neil Young's famous album 'After the Goldrush'. A strange treatment or manipulation of a fairly ordinary image. I've never been able to find the reason or meaning of the old woman in the image.

I actually like the back cover of 'After the Goldrush' better. The ultimate pair of hippy jeans from the early Seventies!

Neil Young's 'On the Beach' was supposedly titled after Australian author Nevil Shute's book of the same name. It was made into a film that was shot in Melbourne in the early Sixties about the end of the world after WW3! Maybe the concept behind Neil's cover had something to do with the end of modern life as we know it. At least the stylist or art director got their act together and managed to colour coordinate the props. My copy of this album had a sticker on it with the words: 'Another Superb LA Sound Album'. 'LA Sound' or 'West Coast Sound' was a term used in the mid Seventies that referred to a general style or sound being recorded by many artists on the West Coast of the USA. I think the raw sound of this album actually contradicted that style.

'Zuma' was released the year after 'On the Beach' and I really liked the stripped back nature of this album cover. The illustration was done by Neil himself and the cover and inner sleeve, with more illustration by Neil, were printed on a textured uncoated stock. Unlike most albums being on a gloss coated stock and, like the Allman Brothers Band 'Eat a Peach', it had a nice tactile feel to it.

The double album 'London Calling' by The Clash was voted by the editors of Rolling Stone Magazine as the #1 best album of the Eighties. I couldn't get this off my turntable and felt the black and white image of bassist Paul Simonon smashing his guitar on stage was perfect for visually articulating the music, energy and attitude of The Clash. Whilst the image is a bit soft and perhaps not 'technically' it suited The Clash perfectly and was eventually voted by 'Q' (Magazine) as the best rock and roll photograph of all time.

Years later I was amazed to discover that The Clash's classic album, and what I believed to be its classic cover design, was in fact a 'copy' of the design of Elvis Presley's very first album released in 1955! It was designed by Ray Lowry and was 'a homage to the design of of Elvis Presley's debut album'. Mmmm... that may be so but I was pretty disappointed.

The Clash's next album Sandinista was a triple album with all 3 viynls shoved into one cover. It was almost a bizarre mix of rock, reggae, jazz, mock gospel, rockabilly, folk, dub, rhythm and blues, calypso, and rap.

Shoved into the single with the 3 vinyls was the lyric insert the 'Armagideon Times No. 3'. This was a multi page booklet with lyrics from the entire album contained.

It was quite a production.

On the cover of Sandanista, Mick Jones was strangely wearing an American WW2 combat helmet. Maybe this was a segue to their next album 'Combat Rock'. This was a much more commercial feeling album and I think the cover design reflects this as well. I still can't work out why Joe Strummer is covering his right eye with his hand.

The Cure's first album was titled 'Three Imaginary Boys' yet the only place the title appeared was on the spine in 9pt type. I can only guess the imaginary boys were a lamp, fridge and vacuum cleaner! Maybe this was an early indication of stranger things to come from The Cure.

With virtually the same track listings, this was The Cure's first album released in the USA. The album was titled 'Boys Don't Cry' yet I can only presume the cover illustration was in reference to a track titled 'Killing an Arab'.

'Seventeen Seconds' was The Cure's next album and was a departure from their short and raw style songs to a much more atmospheric feel. I think abstract cover image represented this change in style perfectly.

This was a bit special at the time but becoming a trend for post punk bands. An EP (extended play) 'dance mix' of The Cure's single 'Primary' was a 12" import. I like the cover illustration, The Cure had transformed from 3 imaginary boys to 3 kind of weird looking girls. This cover was printed on uncoated stock which added to the appeal of the illustration.

'Pornography' was a very dark album from The Cure and began to establish them as the purveyors of and the genre of 'gothic rock'. I still find the distorted photographic image a bit creepy. So here we are, I've only just started to rummage through the first box...

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