Album Cover News Recap for December, 2015

Album Cover Hall of Fame’S Album Cover News Recap for December, 2015

It’s early January 2016 here in the Pacific NW and, I don’t know about you all, but I could surely use some sunshine, having been treated to the first extended stretches of Winter weather, making for great skiing in the nearby mountains while creating a ghost-like pallor on our skin. On the plus side, we (i.e., the city of Portland, OR) were recently rated #1 best food city in a major East Coast publication, so life here’s not all that bad.

Our collective recuperations from the past Holiday season and the Winter blahs have done little to stem the tide of album art-related news, though, with the ACHOF news feed showcasing the many exhibitions, books and other such activities we reported on during the last 30 days. With stories on the interviews, features, book releases, gallery/museum shows and annual  “best and worst” lists adding to the endless sources of excitement and inspiration found in our news feed, I’ll spend a few paragraphs giving you a summary of these highlights and updates but, after that,  it’ll be up to you  to visit our site to complete your re-reading of these items of interest on this list by reading/viewing these items at your leisure…

Lots of interesting interviews this past month – both in print and on video – with album artists, rock photographers and others involved in the record packaging world, including designers Vaughan Oliver, Sir Peter Blake, Brian Cannon and others and photographers Gary Heery and Anton Corbijn who, most interestingly, is taking a leave from the music industry to focus on topics of his own interest.

In the fine art book category, there was news of new and upcoming book releases from Elliott Landy (photos of The Band from 1968-69), Jay Blakesberg (with two books – one on the Grateful Dead and another on “hippie chicks”), David Hamsley (with a fine book on the art of the disco era) and Marvel Comics’ latest releases using “variant” covers, where superheroes inhabit classic album cover art.

World-wide, there were a large number of exhibitions and shows in museums and galleries that premiered during the month of December, with collections on display that show a broad range of album art and related imagery. You’ll read more about current and just-completed exhibits such as Brian Cannon/Microdot’s 25th Anniversary show in the UK, new Herb Ritts’ photos at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, painter Michael Mendel’s new show in upstate NY, Cal Schenkel’s work at the recent Zappa Week in CA and a museum display in Germany called “Cover Art, A Dying Breed” (!!)

Other interesting articles appeared on a wide range of subjects including the nominations in the packaging categories for next year’s Grammy Awards, album art featuring the stars of Star Wars and others made from your favorite emojis, Trans Siberia Orchestra cover illustrator Greg Hildenbrandt’s comic book-style LP insert, a special sale of a just-found cache of bomber jackets designed 30+ years ago by Peter Blake, the results of Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach’s mega-auction (featuring items seen on several album covers by The Beatles), a crowd-source-funded banner for the Aston Villa soccer club done in Jamie Reid/Sex Pistols-style, designer/writer Darren Melchiorre’s fine blog on album art called RoticTalk, several examples of year-end “Best of” and “Worst of” 2015 album cover art lists (our analysis and summary of these to follow in early January) and the Smithsonian Institution’s launch of an effort to gather rock & roll-related photos from fans and photographers in order to build a huge, crowd-sourced archive of them (and to publish books of these at the appropriate times).

As it typically the case, I don’t have the time/space to include everything in this summary, so please take a moment to dig through the rest of what’s below – I’m sure you’ll find something that stimulates your interest!

One final note – In case you hadn’t seen the list of this year’s inductees into the ACHOF that was published on December 2nd, you’ll find that info via this link – https://albumcoverhalloffame.wordpress.com/achof-class-of-2015-inductee-intro-page/  Based on the bios of the people that were enshrined this year, I’m sure you’ll find some of your favorite album art producers have been added to our growing list of honorees.

With all of the excitement of the new year before us , I’m trying to do my part to help you in your efforts to stay up to date on any recent news you may have missed but, as I repeat (incessantly, I know) every month, regardless of how hectic your lives may be, there’s no reason that you should go without getting yourselves up-to-date info on one of your favorite topics – it’s my New Year’s resolution for you!  You can be sure that I’ll continue to work every day (except weekends and the occasional personal days) to prove to you that there’s always something new to see and learn in the world of album cover art, and you know that you’ll find it all here on the ACHOF site (keep your eye on our News Feed for the latest updates). Happy New Year to all of our supporters!

December 31st  – 1) Long-time Columbia Records and independent artist/ designer Michael Mendel might be in his early 80s, but he continues to impress art lovers with his talents, particularly when he sits down to paint one of the many scenes he’s re-created from photos he’s taken over the years. With a past music industry client list that included a huge variety of rock and pop music luminaries such as Roy Orbison, Tommy James, David Cassidy, Captain Beefheart, Van McKoy, Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight and many, many others, Mendel was never at a loss for inspiration, but it is the everyday scenes he comes upon while in various locations in the New York-area that provided him with the impetus to create paintings and watercolors of stunning beauty for himself and collectors that he puts regularly on display in shows like the upcoming one featured in this article on The Bronx Times web site – http://www.bxtimes.com/stories/2015/52/52-painting-2015-12-25-bx.html

2) I learned recently that the newer works of Porl (AKA “Pearl”) Thompson – founding member of The Cure and the person responsible for the wonderful paintings that were featured on some of their early records – are now being offered to collectors in signed, limited editions by the Mr. Musichead Gallery in Los Angeles. The three prints offered – while not the album covers – are colorful prints based on the oil and acrylic paintings he now does, so if you’d like to own one of these, please visit the gallery’s site via the link to learn and see more – http://mrmusichead.com/portfolio-items/pearl-thompson/

December 30th – 1) ACHOF fan Lee Barry shared this link to an article on the Noisey/VICE site by Joe Zadeh that highlights a series of album cover images made with emojis! There’s an application developer in New York named Eric Andrew Lewis who has come up with software that allows you to plug in an image and, after an analysis of its basics, spits out a re-creation made with emoji characters. Some work out better than others but, overall, the mosaics are rather entertaining (where the chocolate doughnut emoji ends up on the Nikki Minaj cover is a hoot, for sure). Now, if they can get the app to analyze both the image and the music and then spit out a cover that’s context-sensitive, I’ll really be impressed – http://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/blog/emoji-album-covers 

2) “OOOOH, and it makes me wonder”….you have to scratch your head a bit on this one. While I realize that, in Gangsterland, pride is an important element, why someone who is a known gang member would think that an album cover featuring a loaded handgun and the words “No Safety” would not inspire certain like-minded individuals to walk around equipped as such – and, express themselves through violence – I’ll never understand. It turns out, though, that the district attorney in San Diego felt the same way, charging rapper Tiny Doo with 9 felonies relating to a series of shootings allegedly done by fellow gang members purportedly inspired by the rapper’s album art. Interesting to see how this turns out, with details explained somewhat in this New York Daily News article by Daniel McDonald – http://www.dailynewsx.com/entertainment/promoting-album-cover-gang-violence-may-lead-to-life-imprisonment-for-rapper-6059.html

As a follow-up to our previous story, I wonder whether the “Emoji-izer” software would use the “doo pile” emoji to recreate this cover…

3) What was the most-popular home audio item sold by HMV and Amazon this Christmas season? A digital music player, you guess, or a wireless speaker system – WRONG! Turns out that more folks bought record players (in particular, an all-in-one Jensen model) than anything else (!!). What this means, I can only guess, but I’m sure that more LPs will be played shortly thereafter, with more album covers viewed in their 12″ glory than in any time in recent memory. The surprising details are there in this recent posting on The Vinyl Factory site – http://www.thevinylfactory.com/vinyl-factory-news/amazon-sold-more-turntables-home-audio-christmas/

December 29th – 1) Rachael Steven has posted Creative Review’s “Record Sleeves of the Year” listings on that magazine’s blog and, based on the 10 packages they’ve selected as their top examples – including works for fine-album-art stalwarts such as Bjork, Blur and Tame Impala – there’s hope still for the ongoing production of great record packaging. Many different techniques have been employed to deliver compelling and eye-catching record/CD sleeves, with Rachael providing us with the intricate details on each example shown, so I’d like to compel fans of this blog to pay a visit to the CR site via the link to learn more about the people who’ve chosen to keep giving us works to be proud of – http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2015/december/record-sleeves-of-the-year-our-top-10-from-2015/

2) Over on the Goldmine Magazine site (where you’ll occasionally find interview articles with album art producers, written by Yours Truly), Martin Popoff has posted an article urging the Chosen Ones that decide who’s in and who’s not at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to correct a long-standing omission from their hallowed halls – that of the rock band YES. In addition to the many undeniable reasons why the group should be included (song-writing, longevity, virtuoso musicianship, record/concert ticket sales and fan appreciation), Popoff also makes a case regarding the importance of the band’s visuals – record covers, stage designs, etc. – and how they (and Roger Dean, their principal image-maker) delivered “the whole enchilada” to their fans (including, quite obviously, many science fiction/fantasy film-makers whose names will be tactfully omitted here). Based on this important combination of all aural and visual aspects of a successful recording act, I’d certainly add folks like the Moody Blues (with their great Philip Travers covers), Supertramp and Journey for consideration (among several others).

Until the cabal is broken, I don’t have much hope that these bands will be recognized, but we fans certainly will continue to support the acts as best we can…read the nicely-written argument on behalf of our favorite Starship Troopers via the link – http://www.goldminemag.com/article/yes-belong-rock-roll-hall-fame

R.I.P. Lemmy – keep givin’ them Hell, wherever you end up. (Oh, yeah, and Motorhead, too – great band, great album covers).

December 28th – Gifts I’ve received this Holiday season (clockwise, starting upper-left):

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1) I was finally able to track down and purchase an original copy of Frank Sinatra’s 1958 album titled Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely. This is a milestone record for album art fans in that it was the first LP to win a Grammy Award for “Best Album Cover”. The cover art is a painting done by the late celebrity portrait artist Nicholas Volpe, showing Sinatra as a clown which, at least to me, is somewhat fitting in this case as Mr. Sinatra convinced Capitol Records to give him the credit for the cover (along with the Grammy Award) as the Art Director (“I use a little muscle to get what I need”). In any case, glad to have this in my collection now (it does have “One For My Baby”, a very fine Sinatra tune, so that’s a bonus!)…

2) Received my autographed copy of Elliott Landy’s nice new book titled The Band Photographs, 1968-1969 and was very happy to read it from cover to cover over the weekend. In addition to the photos he took that were featured on the first two records by The Band (Musc From Big Pink in 1968 and The Band in 1969), there are dozens of photos – including a number of images taken with infrared film, with my favorite being a close up photo of Robbie Robertson – taken in studio, on the road and with the players just relaxing and enjoying their time together. Brian Hollander just published a nice intro to the book in an article for the Woodstock Times, in case you want to learn/see a bit more on Mr. Landy’s latest achievement – http://www.woodstockx.com/2015/12/25/the-band-photographs-defines-a-moment-in-time/

3) David Hamsley and his publisher (Flatiron Books, NYC) were kind enough to send me a copy of David’s book about the album art of the disco era called To Disco, with Love, and having had some time to look through it, I have to tell you just how impressed I am with both the imagery and Hamsley’s writing. It presents a strong argument for the notion (one I keep repeating incessantly) that album cover art and photography, along with a genre’s music, dance and public imagery, combine to leave a lasting legacy for fans of recorded music and Pop Culture. Even if Disco wasn’t your thing, you can’t help but be impressed by the visual impact of the hundreds of examples of album art included in this book. Thanks again, David!

R.I.P. Ellsworth Kelly

December 24th – 1) Washington Post writer John Kelly shares the details of a 20+ year Holiday tradition – the making of album cover-inspired cards! Since 1993, he’s featured his family as the main characters in 10 different re-makes of classic Beatles album art, including Meet The Beatles, Abbey Road, Help! and others. I was particularly impressed with his wife Ruth’s abilities with a pen in the re-working of Revolver...Inspiration comes from many sources this time of the year – glad that this family found it in great album imagery – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2015/12/22/deck-the-halls-with-boughs-of-beatles/

2) Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame hosted a craft workshop on Saturday (12/26) where kids of all ages were invited to review iconic examples of, and then create, their own album artwork, with finished examples put on display as part of the museum’s Taylor Swift Education Center’s Community Creations effort. More details are available on the museum’s site at http://countrymusichalloffame.org/calendar/event/family-program-design-an-album-cover1   Album cover fun for the whole family!

3) And this all grew out of Savatage – amazing! The huge holiday spectacle that is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s annual tour (now in it’s 17th year) has featured the artwork of famed science fiction/fantasy illustrator Greg Hildenbrandt on its programs and album covers for the past 10+ years, and this year they’re upping the value of the album package by the addition of an 8-page book of sequential art (AKA “a comic book”) featuring a story written by Hildenbrandt and TSO founder Paul O’Neill. The book’s material is based on a story about “redemption of an inner city drug dealer and an old man who seeks to brighten up the once-friendly neighborhood he had grown up in.” Writing for Comic Book Resources, Jim Johnson talks to the pair about their concept, its current iteration and where it might go with further development – http://www.comicbookresources.com/article/paul-oneill-greg-hildebrandt-bring-sequential-art-to-the-trans-siberian-orchestra   One thing’s certain – there will be a LOT of pyrotechnics in the finished product!

December 23rd – 1) Writing for Interview MagazineT. Cole Rachel brings us an interview with one of the most-accomplished album cover designers (as the author puts it, someone whose “work transformed two pieces of glued cardboard into art objects”) Vaughan Oliver. As lead designer at the 4AD record label, Oliver’s work for acts such as the Pixies, Cocteau Twins and Throwing Muses were always eye-catching, and though today he divides his time between ongoing commercial work and teaching the next generation of graphic designers, he is still passionate about the work and its inspirations – i.e., admiring the product and wanting to do your best to present it to the buying/music-loving public. A thoroughly enjoyable interview, available via the link at http://www.interviewmagazine.com/culture/vaughan-oliver#_

2) AdWeek Magazine writer Aneya Fernando shines a light on the design duo of Sagmeister & Walsh – well-known to LP cover fans for their work on music packaging for clients including Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Marshall Crenshaw and the Rolling Stones – and their continued expansion in to projects for non-music industry clients, with examples shown of their work for cloud software provider Fugue (featuring an appropriately musical logo animation) and (via a click to their Vimeo site) Aizone and the Frooti beverage company. Logo lovers, enjoy the ride – http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/ny-design-firm-branching-out-music-biz-168590

December 22nd – Two more “best of 2015” compilations, for your review, that show the huge range of imagery used to promote and sell the music of your favorite acts:

1) The staff at rap/hip-hop mega-site XXL has released its “20 Best Album Covers of 2015” list and, I have to admit, the range of talent and subject materials is quite enlightening. Rather than rely on the old cliches of the genres (sex, guns, bling, etc.), it seems that musical acts are really much more interested in using well-conceived graphics and photography to make their records stand out from the pack – very happy to see this begin to spread throughout the offerings of both major and up-and-coming acts. There’s still a lot that is provocative, but for all the right reasons, IMHO… http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2015/12/best-album-covers-2015/

2) Way over on the other side of the musical spectrum, hard rock/metal acts are also working hard to break with tradition and move beyond shock and gore to deliver great packaging to fans. While the Grim Reaper and friends still play an important part in the mood of most of these cover images, examples from bands such as “dark metal” act Arcturus, The Darkness and Graveyard, among others, eschew blood and torture and give us something we can stand to look at for more than a few seconds! Don’t worry, metal fans, Cattle Decapitation, Five Finger Death Punch and Satan deliver covers in the classic, puke-your-guts-out style that is lovely to see around the Holidays (I know, somewhat different holidays might be celebrated by some fans of the genre but, as my Grandfather always said, “as long as they’re happy”…). Read Joe DiVita‘s complete list of 25 Best on the Loudwire site via the link – http://loudwire.com/best-hard-rock-metal-album-covers-2015/

December 21st – 1) If you find yourself visiting the German city of Ludwigsburg any time between now and the 16th of February, 2016 and are needing something to do, I’d suggest traipsing on over to the Kunstverein Ludwigsburg museum and touring the recently-opened album cover art exhibition there called “Cover Art, A Dying Breed”, organized by Dr. Andrea Wolter-Abele. According to the Google Translate(d) details on the museum’s site, the show “presents original drawings, sketches and illustrations by artists like Andy Warhol (facsimiles for the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers LP, Daniel Richter originals for the cover of the band Angeschissen, Wes Benscoters cover works for various death metal bands and Mati Klarwein’s works found on covers for Miles Davis and Santana, among other things.” There’s a brief intro on the show posted on the Yahoo 7 News (Australia) site – https://au.news.yahoo.com/entertainment/a/30417871/album-cover-art-exhibit-opens-in-germany/ , with more details (in German) on the museum’s own site at http://www.kunstverein-ludwigsburg.de/deutsch/ausstellungen/archiv/cover-art.html

2) We all know why Adele’s latest record has been a huge seller – just about everyone seems to like the music, no? – but what is it about the album’s cover that makes it hard to look away? Writer Darren Melchiorre (on his Rotic Talk site) presents his case for what he believes is the reason and backs it up with evidence of other covers that grabbed our attention in a similar fashion. Think Mona Lisa and you’ll be headed up the right road – http://rotictalk.tumblr.com/post/133753695667/the-art-of-the-stare-why-adeles-album-cover

3) 200 Aston Villa fans crowd-funded the £3,000 needed to produce an enormous flag that draws inspiration from Jamie Reid’s iconic “Never Mind The Bollocks…” cover he created for the Sex Pistols to support their efforts to disgrace their arch-enemies Arsenal this season. The “Never Mind The Arsenal, Here’s The Aston Villa” flag was intended to be on display recently when the two teams met but was banned from use as it mentioned the name of the other team. Fans will be able to proudly display it at other matches, though, and go on to discuss their ongoing efforts in support of their favorite footballers in this article by Mat Kendrick on The Birmingham Mail site – http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/aston-villa-fans-explain-thinking-10588075

December 18th – 1) Of course, why wouldn’t I shamelessly hop on top of all the Star Wars excitement from this weekend and point you to a recently-posted article by Benjamin Wermund on the Chron.com (Houston Chronicle) site detailing the smartly-done work of a talented record store clerk/Photoshop artist named Steve Lear (AKA “WhyTheLongPlayFace?”). In the article, you’ll see Lear’s re-working of nearly 30 well-known record cover images, subbing imagery and titles to create Star Wars-based versions of those classic covers. You’ll find examples from rock (Fleetwood Mac, The Band, Nirvana and others), Pop (Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson, etc.) and rap/hip-hop (Kanye, Eminem, TLC, more) and, I have to say, they’re mostly really well-done. Glad to see another fine example of the close connection between album art and Pop Culture – enjoy – http://www.chron.com/news/article/Rage-Against-the-Empire-Artist-mixes-Star-Wars-6702971.php

2) More of the Best – On the East Coast Radio site, you’ll get to see a “best of” list with more of a world view than we typically get to see. The South Africa-based site has posted an article titled “The 17 best album covers of 2015” where you’ll find examples of their notion of what makes for impressive cover design, including records by Dr. Dre, Kid Cudi, Fall Out Boy, Marilyn Manson and many others. https://www.ecr.co.za/music/music-blog/17-best-album-covers-2015/

3) And more of the Worst – Writer Josh Baines has posted a listing on the Thump/Vice site where you’ll find the author lamenting both the loss of a girlfriend, the general state of the fine art world and the many examples of just-bad album art that were featured on records this year. While I might not agree with all of the choices, at least Josh has provided us with specific details as to why he’s made these choices and, in most cases, I must agree with his assessments…there must be a better way, don’t you think? https://thump.vice.com/en_ca/article/the-worst-record-covers-of-2015

December 17th –  1) A group of young artists/designers working all over the U.S. (including three here in Portland!) have gotten together to publish a web site that lets them share their favorite music of 2015 in a rather unique way – via their own re-interpretations of their top records’ cover art. When you visit the site – called 10×2015.com – you’ll see a daily display of each participant’s entry, with all 10 days reached individually via the main page. While Fader‘s Elias Light doesn’t really provide much background for the project in his intro article – http://uk.thefader.com/2015/12/11/artists-reimagined-their-favorite-album-covers  – when you visit the site itself at http://www.10×2015.com/ , you’ll be able to find out a little more about the participants, along with links to their own sites. Certainly more visually interesting than a run-of-the-mill “Top 10” list, don’t you think?

2) Assembling a collection of “22 hilariously bad Christmas album covers” for the Official Charts web site, writer April Clare Welsh presents readers with an image gallery that includes the efforts of a number of well-known – and lesser-known – musical acts including Cee-Lo (riding in a tricked out, reindeer chauffeur-driven convertible “sleigh”), New Kids On The Block (on a set that doesn’t even remotely look real), Mariah Carey (what would Mrs. Claus think?), Lady Gaga (was Mary’s robe trimmed with fur?) and many others who all should have been gifted with a sense of propriety…Yuletide Cheese! http://www.officialcharts.com/chart-news/22-hilariously-bad-christmas-album-covers__12679/

3) While not keeping with the Holiday spirit of the previous entries, I did want to share a link to writer James Stafford‘s article about Cody Critcheloe’s “zine-inspired” collage used on the cover of the 2003 debut record by Yeah Yeah Yeahs titled Fever To Tell. Drawing on the influences of graphic designers such as Winston Smith and Art Chantry, Cody’s commission for this project came after a series of encounters with the band, one of which had him create a blood-filled effigy of Tori Amos which YYY front-woman Karen O smashed to a pulp on stage (all the makings of a great creative kinship, for sure). Get the rest via Stafford’s recent posting on the Diffuser.fm site – http://diffuser.fm/cover-stories-the-subway-inspired-artwork-for-yeah-yeah-yeahs-fever-to-tell/

December 16th – 1) Australian photographer Gary Heery – best known to album art fans world-wide for his cover shots for musical acts including Madonna, Average White Band, The O’Jays and the back cover photo for Paul Simon’s Graceland – is stepping outside his celebrity-portrait comfort zone and releasing a new book of portraits he’s taken of several species of birds. He approached the project as he would any person-based work, creating a comfortable working environment where the birds were able to display their individual characters – the results are quite unique and beautiful. Writing for the ABC News site Down Under, writer Corey Hague interviews Heery and shares the intimate details of this talented shooter’s latest work in this article – http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-09/gary-heery-swaps-celebrity-portraits-for-bird-photos/7009966

2) The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum has just announced that they’re going to be refreshing the Herb Ritts photo show they have up on display (until the end of February. 2016) with a whole new cache of images from the photographer’s estate, beginning soon after the current show closes. They’ve latched on to a collection of over 60 additional shots of Ritts’ subjects, including Michael Jackson, Bjork, Madonna and many others, along with more videos the late photographer was involved with, so it seems quite certain that fans of the medium will find something to gawk at during any visit to the Cleveland-based museum in the coming months. For more details, read Troy Smith‘s article on the subject on the Cleveland.com site via the link – http://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/12/more_herb_ritts_photos_to_arri.html

3) Bruce Jenkins has posted Part 2 of his “Ten Terrific Album Covers” article and include his take on five more record covers that impressed him over the past year, including a re-issue of a live record by the Velvet Underground, the Brian Ellis Group’s trippy cover for their Escondido Sessions LP and, riding the mania being created by the release of the new Star Wars film, a revisit to the disco-era hit by Meco titled Star Wars And Other Gallactic Funk, featuring a cover illustration by Robert Rodriguez. Looking forward to see how he expands his collection in the coming year – thanks for sharing, Bruce – http://vinylconnection.com.au/2015/12/17/10-terrific-album-covers-part-2/

December 15th – 1) Was introduced recently to the the blog of a fellow album cover lover and wanted to share it with the rest of you. Darren Melchiorre is a working designer himself and has displayed a deep admiration for album cover art (and the people that make it) for a number of years now (you’ll find evidence of this in his art school thesis project, where he created a virtual museum exhibition, complete with catalog and promo materials – http://design.sva.edu/podcast/darren-melchiorre-on-coverculture/ ). He also maintains a blog (called Rotic Talk) where he posts reviews of album cover images in three main categories – “classic”, “indie” and “mainstream” – and he just recently posted his top pick this year in the “mainstream” category, an honor bestowed upon Lacey Sturm’s Live Screams. His archives provide us with his unique insights about a nice selection of record covers going back 40 years, so I’d invite you all to bop on over to his site to read the latest in his series – I’m happy to have found this site – enjoy! http://rotictalk.tumblr.com/

2) Writing for the What Culture site recently, contributor Brian Wilson gives readers a look at the stories behind eight well-known albums that, for a variety of reasons, either were not released with the album art done originally or were forced to make mods in the final retail packaging in order to meet the demands of record sellers world-wide. Some of the stories are pretty well-known, but there were several that were “news to me”, so if you’re eager to learn a bit more about the delicate balancing act that sometimes takes place between the musicians, record labels, art directors and sales reps, you’ll find a lot that will interest you via the link – http://whatculture.com/music/8-bizarre-reasons-famous-album-covers-were-rejected.php   As for me, I’m very glad that Metallica was persuaded to not stab fans in the buttocks….

3) Two young women in NYC have opened up a retail store that should be of interest to locals looking for unique, rock music-influenced clothing that’s more than a t-shirt or a leather jacket with a patch on the back… The Village Voice writer Lindsey Rhoades introduces us to Cara and Carmen at the East Village’s Love Gang, where you’ll find limited-edition and handmade wares such as a white, reversible jacket decorated with illustrations of rocker David Bowie and many other examples of cool rock-ware. Cara Bloch is a former rock photographer, while Carmen Ruiz-Davila is a sculptress and vintage clothing restorer, so I’m quite sure that they’ll be able to curate an always-interesting collection for rock fans looking for something unique to add to their wardrobes – http://www.villagevoice.com/music/meet-love-gang-the-villages-one-stop-shop-for-the-quirkiest-rock-merch-7945732

December 14th – 1) Fans of the work of the late designer Storm Thorgerson were recently able to participate in a daily opportunity to obtain – either by winning a daily quiz or browsing the Stormsight site to find the perfect gift for the album art fan(s) in your lives – great art and/or a copy of the new Taken By Storm DVD. In a promotion sponsored by both the team at StormStudios and film maker Roddy Bogawa, “12 x 12 x 12 – The Twelve Stormy Days of Christmas” was a twelve-day-long festival of quizzes (such as Q – “What was the most-expensive album cover Thorgerson ever made? A – Momentary Lapse of Reason), “goodies, freebies, competitions, film teasers and offers” that runs through Christmas Eve. To review the festivities (including several chances to win something extra-special), click on over to the promo page  – http://www.stormsight.co.uk/twelvedays.html

2) Over on the Vinyl Connection site, Bruce Jenkins has put together a list of his 10 favorite album cover finds of the year. Some of the records/covers were new, some not-so-new, but all impressed Bruce with their beauty and how they’ve continued to push the envelope of great cover design, and since he’s also giving us his take on the music packaged inside the cover, he’s decided to present the article in two parts, the first of which you’ll find via the link – http://vinylconnection.com.au/2015/12/14/10-terrific-album-covers-part-1/

3) Creative Review is one of the best publications that provide ongoing coverage of what’s new and exciting in album cover design, so now that they’re asking us for help in determining the winners of their “Record Sleeves of the Year” contest (with winners announced in their January 2016 issue), I thought that we’d all want to submit a list of favorites for their consideration and for inclusion in a special reader-selected category. More details are available on their site at http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2015/december/record-sleeves-of-the-year-nominate-your-favourites/  Where do I begin?…

December 11th – 1) Nice story about talented designer/photographer Brian Cannon, whose Microdot design firm is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a travelling exhibition that closes this Sunday the 13th from a month-long showing at the former Leeds hot spot La Boheme. Cannon’s work for clients including Oasis, The Verve, Super Furry Animals and others over the years has built him a legion of fans over the years and, in the interview with Molly Lynch on The Yorkshire Post site, Brian relays the story of how a combination of talent and “right place at the right time” luck helped bolster a career that continues to impress us with great work – http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/yorkshire-living/arts/music/sleeve-notes-the-man-who-designed-britpop-1-7602613

2) Famed photographer Elliott Landy was on hand at the Morrison Hotel Gallery on Price Street in NYC on Saturday the 12th to sign copies of his new book The Band Photographs; 1968-1969 and offer up some very rare production proofs for sale as well. Fans of The Band will be in 7th Heaven when they have a chance to see some of the thousands of photos Landy took of the group during that period (and meet the man that took them). He also brought along a sampling of his fine art/silver-gelatin prints for sale, so if you’re looking to give that Band fan in your life a most-impressive gift, head on to the gallery or read more details about the book, which are available on the gallery’s site at https://www.morrisonhotelgallery.com/merchandise/default.aspx?MerchandizeID=2083

3) Lastly, test out your knowledge of Beatles-related album art via this special quiz assembled by Adam Boult on The Telegraph‘s site. While we all know that the band has presented us with some of the best-known album art ever to grace a recording (with some covers, such as the ones for Sgt. Pepper’s.. and Abbey Road, always placing at or near the top of “best album covers of all time” lists), but can you identify all 10 of the ones presented in this quiz? I couldn’t (I missed one!), but I’m assuming that many of you are better-informed…prove it to yourselves via the link – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/artists/the-beatles-how-many-of-their-album-covers-can-you-identify/

December 10th – 1) So, here goes…in one of the first of the many “Best of” and “Worst of” album art lists we’ll see this month, Canada’s Exclaim.ca site treats us to their 10-least-favorite album covers of the year. As you’d figure, some are really quite bad, while others (at least to me) are just either confusing or somewhat intriguing. In fact, I even like one of them – the overtly-political but nicely rendered cover for Muse’s Drones record – to me, it had a bit of a Hipgnosis vibe to it (done by well-known illustrator/film director Matt Mahurin, who has done work for Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Mother Jones and many other publications). You can take a look at the rest of the list in Gregory Adams‘ article via the link – http://exclaim.ca/music/article/exclaims_2015_in_lists-10_worst_album_covers

2) To add a bit more detail to my recent note about a feature on Jonathan Barnbrook‘s work on the cover for David Bowie’s new record, I wanted to point you to another article (this one, in Ad Week, by Angela Natividad) from a short while back that shows you more about the designer’s scope of work. Jonathan is part of a group of designers/artists named Brandalism who, according to the reporter, in order to “highlight the hypocrisy inherent in those companies associating themselves with an event that their actions suggest they don’t really care about”, placed hundred of outdoor ads all over Paris to run during the COP21 Climate Conference that update “classic” brand ads (for VW, Dow Chemical, French oil company Total and others) with messages that state what the artists feel are the companies’ true feelings. Another fine example of album artists helping to define Pop Culture with their work – http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/600-fake-outdoor-ads-paris-blast-corporate-sponsors-cop21-climate-talks-168358

3) Oh, the power (and revenue-generating capabilities) of a well-done music industry brand…In this recent article on the License! Global site, fans of the b(r)and AC/DC can take a look at a list of new licenses that the b(r)and’s management/licensing agent have signed for products – from beverages to electronics to clothing and beyond – produced and sold world-wide that will bear their iconic logo and imagery. You’ll read more about refrigerators that will be sold by Husky in Germany, a ready-to-drink bourbon and cola mix targeted at customers in Australia and New Zealand, and a “High Voltage”-branded electric services that will be marketed by Energis. You can be sure that these licenses were not “done dirt cheap”. Moneytalks, right? http://www.licensemag.com/license-global/ac-dc-continues-global-growth

December 9th – 1) Bowie and Barnbrook – a powerfully-interesting album art combination! You’ll recall designer Jonathan Barnbrook’s controversial re-working of Masayoshi Sukita’s Heroes cover photo for Bowie’s 2013 record The Next Day…the duo have paired up again to create a cover image for Mr. Bowie’s new release titled Blackstar and, once again, the graphic is generating a lot of buzz as it includes no picture of the singer, no title and is based on a simple-yet-in-your-face image. Writing for the Creative Review site, Mark Sinclair talks to Barnbrook about his latest work and then expands to get the designer’s take on the current state of the art in record packaging – https://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2015/november/bowie-barnbrook-and-blackstar/

2) ‘Tis the season for album art-related quizzes, so I’ll be forwarding on several links to the brain-teasers as they emerge from a variety of sources. In today’s example found in the Culture/Music section of The Independent‘s site (authored by Roisin O’Connor), the viewer is asked to identify 15 album covers after viewing a small portion of the cover image as a clue. While the selection is definitely “U.K. oriented”, it’s still a decent sampling of both “classic” and more-current (but still well-known) album cover imagery. I got 13 out of 15 – how’d you do?  http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/album-cover-art-quiz-can-you-recognise-the-famous-artwork-a6756196.html

3) Just found a new supplier of licensed album cover art prints and have added them to the ACHOF’s Resources section. As it is the Holiday season, I was happy to see that these prints from The Flood Gallery (London, U.K.) include images from bands including Black Sabbath, The Beatles, David Bowie, Queen, the Rolling Stones (and many others), are quite affordable and come framed and ready-to-hang. Licensing rules limit sales to U.K. addresses only, so get your pound sterlings ready and take a look – http://thefloodgallery.com/collections/athena-prints

December 8th – 1) Two album artist appearances/displays this week that you might want to know about….The works of Cal Schenkel, the man responsible for the subject-perfect graphics found on the covers of many classic Frank Zappa/related band albums (Uncle Meat, Cruising With Ruben & The Jets, Hot Rats and many others) was featured in a display on Wednesday, Dec. 9th, at Tower District Records’ (Fresno, CA) “Zappa Week” event. Attendees also had the chance to meet Pamela Des Barres, animator Bruce Bickford and Zappa historian/archivist Gerry Fialka – details available on the event site – http://www.zappaweek.com/  Photographer Jay Blakesberg – best known for his amazing collection of Grateful Dead photos – was at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, CA on Sunday (December 13th) at 1:00pm with a narrated slide show featuring samples from his works from the past 35 years. He was also showing shots from his latest book titled Hippie Chick: A Tale of Love, Devotion & Surrender and signed books for fans at the event as well.  http://www.sweetwatermusichall.com/event/1016515-chasing-light-rock-roll-mill-valley/

2) I’m not sure how to feel about this…in this interview in The Economist, famed album cover photographer Anton Corbijn states that he’s withdrawing from the field of professional photography and will only create photographs as a hobbyist. His reason, according to the article, is that “photography as a slow pursuit is being lost, and Mr Corbijn is unwilling to spend his time to speed it up to today’s pace.” With millions of photos published every day by most anyone with a mobile phone, it is harder and harder for the works of true, well-trained photographers to be seen and appreciated and so, rather than have to rely on other methods of self-promotion to be seen, he’d rather pursue other ways to make a living (which he’s done nicely, as a videographer and film-maker). There’s a career-spanning exhibition of his work currently on display in Berlin at the C|O Berlin Gallery (details at http://www.co-berlin.org/en/anton-corbijn-retrospective ) that runs through the end of January, 2016 that includes many of his best-known shots (from The Stones to U2 and many others), and if you’d like to read more about this sad turn of events, click on over to the Prospero article via the link – http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2015/11/musical-iconography  My feeling is that, just like you’ll find in the “slow-cooking” world, people interesting in getting the best-tasting food will continue to invest the time to make it and will continue to find an enthusiastic following for those efforts. You?

December 7th – 1) It’s Grammy nomination time, folks! This year marks the 58th Grammy season, and the people represented in the packaging area include new names and old. Here’s a recap of who is currently up for consideration…

Nominees for “BEST RECORDING PACKAGE” are:
– Alagoas by Alagoas (on Better Problems records) – Alex Trochut, art director;
– Bush by Snoop Dogg (on Doggy Style/ Iamother/ Columbia Records) – Anita Marisa Boriboon, art director;
– How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Deluxe Edition) by Florence + The Machine (on Republic Records) – Brian Roettinger, art director;
– My Happiness by Elvis Presley (on Third Man Records) – Nathanio Strimpopulos, art director
– Still The King: Celebrating The Music Of Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys by Asleep At The Wheel (on Bismeaux Records) – Sarah Dodds, Shauna Dodds & Dick Reeves, art directors

Nominees for “BEST BOXED OR SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION PACKAGE” are:
– Beneath The Skin (Deluxe Box Set) by Of Monsters And Men (on Republic Records) – Leif Podhajsky, art director;
– I Love You, Honeybear (Limited Edition Deluxe Vinyl) by Father John Misty (on Sub Pop Records) – Sasha Barr & Josh Tillman, art directors;
– The Rise & Fall Of Paramount Records, Volume Two (1928-32) by Various Artists (on Third Man and Revenant Records) – Susan Archie, Dean Blackwood & Jack White, art directors;
– Sticky Fingers (Super Deluxe Edition) by The Rolling Stones (by Universal Music Enterprises) – Stephen Kennedy & James Tilley, art directors;
– 30 Trips Around The Sun by the Grateful Dead (on Rhino Records) – Doran Tyson & Steve Vance, art directors;
– What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World (Deluxe Box Set) by The Decemberists (on Capitol Records) – Jeri Heiden & Glen Nakasako, art directors

Congratulations to all of the Nominees – join us again in February when the Winners in each category are announced.

http://www.grammy.com/nominees/search-page%3D29?genre=22

2) Talented designer Jon Blosdale has released a number of new Beatles-related prints recently, with a couple of them catching my eye, including a) a very crafty remake – featuring the Saturday Morning Cartoon Beatles – of the infamous “Butcher Cover” version of their Yesterday And Today record (with cartoony baby and meat parts) and b) an entire series of limited-edition prints for seven of the band’s best-known singles. Jon’s products are all very reasonably priced and are officially-licensed by Apple Corps, so if you’re looking for a unique gift for your favorite Beatles fan, click on over to his site –
Butcher Cover Canvas art – http://www.beatlescartoon.com/SaturdayCartoons/smc_specials/index_smc_specials.html  (scroll down a bit) or
Lithos – http://www.beatlescartoon.com/beatles_lithos/beatles_lithos_singles.html

December 4th – 1) Adding to the growing list of comic book publishers that are drawing inspiration (and displaying inspired drawings) from classic album cover art is Titan Comics, the brand responsible for the books based on the BBC’s Doctor Who series. Three new issues, featuring artwork by the accomplished comic artist Simon Myers, come with “variant covers” that riff on record art for musical acts including Blondie, David Bowie and Bob Dylan. You can read and see more on the Comics Alliance website in Andrew Wheeler‘s article on the topic – http://comicsalliance.com/simon-myers-doctor-who-album-variants-titan/

2) To follow up on yesterday’s posts regarding pop artist Peter Blake’s new exhibition, here’s some information that might be of interest to collectors looking to own a Blake design in a somewhat-unusual format – i.e., on a vintage (1978) bomber jacket. It turns out that, all those years ago, Sir Peter and two other artists were tasked to come up with designs that would be featured on a series of jackets that were to be sold to raise funds for the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. A small cache of these jackets (in several sizes for women) were unearthed recently and, in honor of the organization’s 70th anniversary in 2016, 70 of them will be sold for £70 (approx. $105). Quite the opportunity, I think, to own an item designed by one of the world’s top Pop artists, so if you’d like to read a bit more, check out this recent NY Times article by Hettie Judah at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/24/t-magazine/peter-blake-art-jackets-london-ica.html  and, to place your order in time for Holiday deliveries, click on over to the ICA’s site at https://www.ica.org.uk/shop/ica-art-jak

3) With an appreciation of album cover art for musical acts ranging from Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass to Roxy Music to Iron Maiden (with several stops in between for records by some very strange musical sources), musician/vinyl art collector Andrew Liles shares his list of his 13 favorite album covers of all time in this recent article on The Quietus site – http://thequietus.com/articles/19305-andrew-liles-favourite-album-covers For each work of art featured, Andrew provides some details as to why each was included, whether he liked the music packaged inside or not. We’ve all been there, right?

R.I.P. Scott Weiland

December 3rd –  1) There’s a new exhibition that opened recently at the Waddington Gustot Galleries in London that puts on display, for the first time, a comprehensive display of the portrait work of Sir Peter Blake, best-known for the album cover collage he created for The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s record. The show includes works both old and new and includes portraits of friends and associates from his 50+ year career as a fine artist/designer. The designer, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, has selected items that feature people including actress Helen Mirren (“She was so gorgeous and wonderful-looking. It frightened me. I panicked’), friends including designer Paul Smith, art dealer Leslie Waddington and collector Simon Sainsbury, Elvis Presley, rocker Ian Dury. several professional wrestlers and HRH Queen Elizabeth II (who made Blake a CBE in 1983). You can read more about the artist and what’s featured in this show, which runs through January 30th, in this ArtDaily article – http://artdaily.com/news/83124/First-exhibition-to-focus-on-Peter-Blake-s-portraiture-opens-at-Waddington-Custot-Galleries

1.1) Providing some additional exhibit details, as well as an interview with the artist, writer Michael Hodges‘ recent article in the Event Magazine section of the Mail Online site is a must-read for fans of Peter Blake’s work. In the interview, he talks honestly about his relationship with The Beatles, sharing “tales of John Lennon’s rudeness and Paul McCartney’s strange behaviour on LSD”, his role in defining the “pop art” genre and how he hopes for the opportunity to paint a portrait of Prince Charles, to follow-up the two he’s done of the Prince’s mother – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/event/article-3325533/Peter-Blake-Beatles-John-Lennon-painting-Queen-giving-alcohol-80.html

2) While we’re on The Beatles today, I’d like to share this one story by Phil Booth written for The Huddersfield Daily Examiner (UK) in which he shows how the constabulary in West Yorkshire have recently published a road safety poster based on The Beatles’ Abbey Road cover design that aims to show youngsters how to properly cross the road via the “Zebra crossings” found in the area. According to the article, “Pc Sally Baines said ‘We are hoping that this week we can encourage people to think safety and use the crossings, and teach their children to do the same’.”While the message is a little Graham Nash-y, the visuals are classic Fab Four… http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/famous-beatles-album-cover-used-10488292

December 2nd and 3rd – In an auction that took place on December 3rd, Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach auctioned off over 1300 items from their personal memorabilia collection, including drum kits, clothing, furniture, fine art and, of particular note to ACHOF fans, original artwork by Ringo (who has done several of his own album covers), Sir Peter Blake and David Hockney. The item drawing the most interest, though, is a true Beatles/album package rarity – Ringo’s personal copy of “The White Album” bearing serial # 0000001 (the band members were each given one of the first four records, with Mr. Starr getting Number One). Writing for the UK’s IndependentPeter Silverton gives us a look at the offerings there – http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/ringo-starr-auctions-off-the-first-copy-of-the-beatles-white-album-the-story-of-a-revolutionary-a6756411.html

If you’d like to look through the catalog, click on over to the Julien’s Auctions page on this special event – http://www.juliensauctions.com/auctions/2015/ringo-starr-barbara-bach/index.html  and, for a Ringo-hosted video tour of some of the items, watch this video on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6lbYX6J_WA

Follow-up note – this auction was a record-setter for the auction house, having raised millions of dollars, some of which was donated to the Starr/Bach-founded Lotus Foundation charity organization. The #1 White Album sold for an amazing $790,000, while Ringo’s famous 3-pc. Ludwig Black Oyster Pearl drum kit – used in over 200 performances and in the studio to record songs such as “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “She Loves You”, was purchased by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for $2.2 million. This sale follows a previous successful auction in November during which the bass drum head seen in use during The Beatles’ famed performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the only working drum head ever featured on a Beatles album cover (seen on  the covers of the Capitol LPS The Beatles Second Album and Something New ) sold to a collector for $2,125,000

December 2nd extra bonus announcement – Well friends, it is that time again – time to announce the list of Inductees into this year’s Album Cover Hall of Fame, Class of 2015! Based on the tally of votes by the 75 current voting members of the ACHOF (made up of writers, curators, gallerists and music industry promo people), this year’s class includes many names you’ve heard of, along with some you might not be so familiar with but, when looking at the sum-total of what they’ve contributed to the art of the album cover and record packaging overall, each one of them rightly deserves to have been included.

Since this was the first year of “open voting” – i.e., being able to vote for anyone working between the years of 1960 to present (vs. the limited period of years included in the three previous years’ nominating/voting efforts), there’s an interesting mix of talent that began their careers early on in the business and several who knocked us out with their talent later on.

Working either as freelancers, specialty design firms or staffers for record labels and music industry clients from every corner of the rock and pop music world, these talented men and women have left a portfolio of work that have inspired (and continue to inspire) both fans and others working towards greatness in their respective fields themselves, so, without further delay, I’d like to congratulate those selected and invite you (and your friends) to visit the ACHOF site to see who has been given this heartfelt honor – https://albumcoverhalloffame.wordpress.com/achof-class-of-2015-inductee-intro-page/

December 1st – 1) So, you’ve collected years of rock and roll memorabilia, photos and memories of rock music events and are looking for a way to share it all with the world at large? Of course, you could always do something silly – like launch a blog or web site – but, on a new site launched on December 1st, the curators at The Smithsonian want you to share with other fans via a new site they’re launching because, according to their press release, “we want rock’n’roll as seen through your eyes: at clubs, concerts, festivals, and beyond.” With one of the ultimate goals of this project being the publication of a book of crowd-sourced images (in the Fall of 2017), the new site (rockandroll.si.edu) will work to be ground central for amateur archivists from around the world. I hope to find out more about the details of this project and will share them with you soon but, in the meantime, you can learn more about how you can help our National Museum become one of the world’s most-complete storehouses of rock music imagery via the link – http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-smithsonian-wants-you-to-hit-them-with-your-best-shot-300182334.html

2) Holiday time is the time where rock imagery fans scour the world trying to find never-before-sent gifts to their fellow collectors and, each year, I’m always impressed with some of the unique items I find and am able to share with you. While I’m working on a more-comprehensive article for later in the month, I did want to show you one example I found recently – a collection of cozy blankets and tapestries adorned with well-know album cover and rock portrait designs. Writing for Fast Company‘s design site, Joe Berkowitz introduces us to products sold by a company called society6 that include several well-known album covers nicely-rendered in fabric – you’ll find art for musical acts including Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, Primal Scream, Seal and many others. Lots to choose from, so if you’re stymied for an idea for something new and exciting, take a look – http://www.fastcocreate.com/3053856/wrap-yourself-up-in-music-with-blankets-patterned-after-your-favorite-album-covers#2

That’s all for now – look for updates every week day on our news feed –https://www.facebook.com/AlbumCoverHallOfFame – we’ll be back early next month with another summary for you.

 

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