Album Cover Hall of Fame News Update and Summary – End of August/September, 2019
By Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com
It’s almost Labor Day weekend again, which most of us use to mark the end of Summer while some of us cling with every fiber of our being to hold on to the season’s last vestiges. We did use a nice day recently to tour Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood (visiting the National Museum of Mexican Art, which sports one of the best museum stores I’ve ever been to) and, while strolling down W. 18th Street after a dessert stop at Creperia Nuevo Leon, we came upon Pinwheel Records, a place that was advertising an upcoming fund-raiser for a local kitten support group with a window display of well-known album covers that had been “kittenized” (see photo). This reminded me of just how important album cover imagery is in the promotion of music products and in building lasting memories for fans and consumers of these products. Great new examples of these can be found in the 200+ submissions we judges had the opportunity to see and review for this year’s Making Vinyl Packaging Awards (see item on this competition, which follows) and also in the many shows, articles and more you can read about (if you give me a few minutes of your time) by scrolling through this month’s easy-to-digest run-down of all of the album cover artist/art-related news I think might be worth your time investigating:
BONUS AWARD SHOW CONTENT – The finalists for the annual Making Vinyl Packaging Awards – in which yours truly again participated, along with a number of other notable designers, packaging experts and writers, in the initial judging – has been released, and I’m happy to see that many of the packages I was impressed with, in all categories, have made the cut and are now being considered by another panel of judges for the final awards, which will be presented in a ceremony during the Making Vinyl conference that will be held in Hollywood, CA this coming October 14-15. According to the conference’s PR team, this year’s competition “garnered 234 online submissions from both sides of the Atlantic, and were reviewed by a stellar jury of more than two-dozen award-winning judges in music design the U.S. and Europe” (including several who’ve earned their own Grammy Awards in the various “Packaging” categories).
To view the finalists in the Award show’s 15 categories – including “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done,” (which recognizes innovation in vinyl packaging’s structural design); “Save the Earth” (demonstrating sustainable solutions in both record printing and packaging); and “Best Record Store Day Vinyl,” which brings us the best-designed and produced limited-edition releases created for Record Store Day 2019 this past April and “RSD Black Friday” from 2018 – follow this link – https://pro.evalato.com/813/submissions and be sure to watch the ACHOF site for the announcement of the winners in October. Best of luck to all.
Before we go on, I have to report some sad news. Artist Pedro Bell has died, and the world is a bit less funkier today because of it. Bell, perhaps best known for the eye-popping artwork he created for some of the most-creative musical and visual ensembles to ever land a mothership on an unsuspecting (but very appreciative) music buying public – those being Parliament/Funkadelic/P-Funk All Stars and whose credits include the covers/packaging for One Nation Under A Groove, Hardcore Jollies, Cosmic Slop, Standing On The Verge of Getting It On, Let’s Take It To The Stage, The Electric Spanking of War Babes, Uncle Jam Wants You, T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M and How Late Do U Have 2 B B 4 U R Absent ? – is credited for using his skills as both a writer and artist to build the back story for P-Funk, developing their “superhero” personalities and their missions to fight society’s evils on Earth and throughout the Universe. He worked to give African-Americans another way to see themselves and their lives (and the band) connected to powers that would help lift them up together, regardless of the realities of their circumstances at the time.
His provocative art and text were often “problematic” for the record companies and retailers – his sexually-suggestive cover art for Funkadelic’s 1981 album The Electric Spanking of War Babies was originally rejected by Warner Bros. Records executives, with Bell “correcting” the artwork to include a shapeless blob over the original design along with the words “Oh Look! The Cover That ‘They’ Were TOO-SCARED To Print!” Bell’s work became synonymous with the band’s popular (and multi-million-selling) messages of positive “funkativity” (“free your mind, and the rest will follow”).
Bell went on to design the artwork for nearly two dozen Clinton/Funkadelic records before splitting with the band in the late 1990s and, besides his inclusion in nearly every discussion about the ongoing influence of the band and it’s message – and being the subject of a number of exhibitions at galleries and museums in North America, including two gallery exhibitions in Canada in 2009-10 called “Funkaesthetics” and in former Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago) curator Dominic Molon’s traveling exhibit “Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock ‘n’ Roll since 1967”- Bell’s life and career since his P-Funk work had been quite sad. Nearly blind, he lived in near-poverty in the Hyde Park area of Chicago and, despite the efforts of his brother and the fans who’d learned of his condition to improve his situation (via sales of his works and other fund-raising efforts), he continued to hope for a better life until his death this week at the age of 69.
More on this artist – along with tributes from friends George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, can be found via this web site – http://georgeclinton.com/family/pedro-bell/
Several publications have written obituaries with more of the details of Bell’s life and career – https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/funkadelic-cover-artist-pedro-bell-dead-877565/; longer obits on the Chicago Sun Times and LA Times sites – https://chicago.suntimes.com/2019/8/28/20837264/pedro-bell-artist-george-clinton-parliament-funkadelic-album-cover-designer; https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2019-08-28/pedro-bell-funkadelic-george-clinton-album-covers-obit
In 2013, as part of BBC special called “When Albums Ruled The World” which included a number of interviews with album cover artists (Roger Dean, Aubrey Powell) and musicians (Grace Slick, Noel Gallagher, Rick Wakeman) with a keen appreciation for the importance of album art, at the 49:00 mark there’s a nice overview of Pedro Bell’s covers for Parliament/Funkadelic – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em4kpy1YuNQ
New Exhibitions/gallery shows –
a) NEW AT THE GRAMMY MUSEUM – While not specifically an album cover art show, there is a new show at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles featuring the portrait work of Richard Ehrlich, a photographer whose five-year project meant to capture the emotional expressions of music-makers enjoying their favorite music – a project called “Face The Music” – was originally shared via several videos and a book of the same title that was published in 2016 and soon, beginning September 12th, in a fine art photo display at the museum.
According to the museum’s advance PR, Face The Music showcases Ehrlich’s artful shots of 41 musicians in a variety of musical genres. You’ll find portraits of artists including and emotionsFace the Music exhibition –
To showcase these portraits, the GRAMMY Museum® proudly announces Face The Music, a new photography exhibit showcasing 41 legendary musicians including Quincy Jones, Ringo Starr, Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, Wayne Shorter, Iggy Pop, Esperanza Spalding, Herb Alpert, Sir Graham Nash, Sheryl Crow, RZA, Philip Glass, Emmylou Harris and many more, each who were photographed while listening to three pieces of music of their choice. The samples I’ve seen are truly stunning examples of just how deeply music can touch anyone/everyone, so I hope that you’ll take the time to visit the exhibit during its run (through January 6, 2020). More details of the show are available on the museum’s web site – https://www.grammymuseum.org/exhibits/traveling-exhibits/face-the-music – with more examples from the photographer’s portfolio available on his own site (including some of the aforementioned video clips) – https://www.ehrlichphotography.com/facethemusic; https://www.ehrlichphotography.com/face-the-music-video
BTW – Mr. Ehrlich does indeed have an album cover credit – he shot the cover for Steve Tibbet’s 2010 jazz/rock album titled Natural Causes – so I feel much better now about including this item in my summary.
b) NEW OPENING SEPTEMBER 4TH – Two early 2000’s album cover images – Urs Fischer’s (egg) smashing cover for It’s Blitz by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and Colin Lane’s B&W photo of a very nice section of his freshly-showered girlfriend’s anatomy, accented with a Chanel glove, that The Strokes chose for there Is This It record – were (to me) rather transcendent when compared to much of the competitive product at the time, so I have to admit that I was quite pleased to see BOTH of those works, along with a nice selection of other imagery and timely ephemera in a new show that will be put on display from September 4th thru the 22nd at the Hole Gallery in NYC’s Bowery. “Meet Me in the Bathroom: The Art Show” was organized by UTA Artist Space (sponsored by Vans) and curated by author/music journalist Lizzy Goodman (with Hala Matar), who wrote a best-selling 2017 book on the emerging early-2000 rock scene in NYC titled Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City, 2001–2011.
A recent article on the Artnet.com site notes that the show “aims to mimic the grimy, drug-driven vibe of the era: battered microphones and scuffed-up high tops from Karen O will be juxtaposed with Doug Aitken’s broken iPhone. A guitar belonging to Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio will share space with Ryan McGinley’s youthful Polaroids.” The two previously-mentioned album covers will be displayed alongside the photos that were used in their production and those images, along with everything else selected for inclusion in the show, will help visitors enter “portal to the past that also serves as a prologue to the present”. More info at https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/interpol-strokes-the-hole-1637038?; http://theholenyc.com/2019/06/29/meet-me-in-the-bathroom/
It was also heartwarming to learn during my research for this item that Colin Lane’s fine work for the band earned him another commission – he was hired to shoot The Strokes’ lead singer Julian Casablancas’s wedding.
c) NEW TO ME BUT ENDING SOON – After the death of Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis, his remaining bandmates re-organized into a new group – New Order – and when they hired designer Peter Saville to create the record sleeve for their single “Blue Monday” in 1983, what he delivered – a design which mimicked an large monochromatic floppy disc, with no title and no band name – became a design-industry icon as it anticipated the emergence of computer-based technology in both art and music, so its inclusion in a show built around Saville’s art (and that of another Pop Art icon – Richard Hamilton, of Beatles “White Album” fame) at London’s Spruth Magers Gallery called New Order: Art, Product, Image 1976–1995 provides viewers with just one of many great examples that would emerge from Saville’s graphic design portfolio for Factory Records.
As it was recently reported in The Standard, the show “surveys identity and image in British art, culture and society. It places Saville’s piece of graphic design for Factory Records as a pivotal marker for the blurring of boundaries between art, design, pop and product during this period.” And while I’m late in my reporting of this show to you (it launched in late July – so shoot me), I can let you know that, prior to the show’s conclusion, there will be an artist’s talk – “Art, Design and Factory Records: Peter Saville in Conversation with Michael Bracewell” (who is the show’s curator) scheduled for the 5th of September beginning at 6:30 PM London time (welcome drinks to be served from 6 PM).The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to Johanne Juell at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 207 408 1613. Read more at https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/esmagazine/tony-chambers-home-pop-art-a4217546.html; http://www.spruethmagers.com/pdf.php?active=exhibitions&nr=504&rotz=press
d) NEW BEGINNING 9-11 – Also in London, the Design Museum will be putting on display nominees and winners of their annual “Beazley Designs of the Year” competition. Now in its twelfth year, the Beazley Designs of the Year is an annual celebration of “the most original and exciting products, concepts and designers across the globe today.” New this year was the addition of designs nominated by the public.
The last time an album cover was given one of these prestigious awards was back in 2017, when designer Jonathan Barnbrook won for his memorable package for the late David Bowie’s Blackstar album (being crowned “Graphic Design of the Year”). I’ve seen some impressive work this year, so let’s hope the judges are as impressed as I’ve been…https://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/beazley-designs-of-the-year;
e) NEW, RECENTLY OPENED – In addition to the photo portrait show mentioned previously, the busy curators at the Grammy Museum recently (opened August 15) launched a new show built around memorabilia – album and advertising art, clothing, tour documents and lots of photos – taken from the archives of one of the music industry’s best-known concert promoters/artist managers, Jerry Weintraub and Concerts West – the man/team responsible for a number of memorable shows by musical acts including John Denver, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Rick James, Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, The Commodores, the Bee Gees, The Moody Blues, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and many others. While he’d begin his rise to the top of the entertainment business in the early 1970s, he’d expand his empire to include a long list of successful film/TV productions, including hits such as Oh, God!, Nashville, Diner, the Karate Kid movie franchise and the Emmy Award-winning TV documentary on global warming – Years Of Living Dangerously – among many others. This expansive look into the career of one of the best showmen in the business runs through early December, and you can learn more on the Grammy Museum site – https://www.grammymuseum.org/exhibits/current-exhibits/jerry-weintraub-presents; https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/jerry-weintraub-presents-exhibit-coming-grammy-museum
f) NEW – RECENTLY OPENED – Some of you might recall that I was honored a few years back to write an article for Rockwell Museum curator Jesse Kowalski’s “Illustration History” site about album cover design and production (which you can find at https://www.illustrationhistory.org/essays/producing-album-cover-art-for-clients-in-the-music-business). As we corresponded recently about a VR-based initiative the Museum is involved with (people love their little screens these days, right?), Jesse shared some info on a new show he’s got up that focuses on two hot topics this year – the 50th anniversaries of the Woodstock Art & Music Festival and Man’s landing on the Moon – along with everything else that made the year 1969 a memorable one in our history.
Running now through October 27th, “Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated” fills two of the museum’s galleries and, according to the show’s PR, “those galleries are well provided for and cover a lot of range. A display relating to Sesame Street, which debuted on public television that year, is an implicit reminder that Woodstock was by no means the most important cultural event of 1969. An early draft of the screenplay for Easy Rider sits near a poster for the movie version of Hello, Dolly!…In a nice nod to another Massachusetts museum, the show includes artwork for ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ (yes, published in 1969), whose author-illustrator is the namesake of the Eric Carle Museum, in Amherst.” The show also includes a number of famous concert posters (including Arnold Skolnick’s iconic Woodstock poster) groovy examples of mind-bending psychedelic found on the album covers and other materials from bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, and the Grateful Dead. I do hope that you’ll visit https://www.nrm.org/2016/12/woodstock-to-the-moon-1969-illustrated/ to plan on your trip to see this show, and if you’d like to read a recent review on it as seen in the Boston Globe – https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/art/2019/07/10/illustrating-year-when-rad-met-trad/8PUuaMrm3FOREZV0PoONkL/story.html
CLOSING SOON Exhibitions/Gallery Shows:
g) ENDING SEPTEMBER 8th – The exhibition in Malmo, Sweden at the Moderna Museet that featured the works of Pop Art master Andy Warhol continues on display now through September 8th. What makes this show all the more impressive is that it is one in which a fellow album cover lover/blogger – Dr. Richard Forrest – had given his entire collection of Warhol-crafted album covers (some 81 covers in all, spanning from the 1950s through the 1980s and including Warhol’s work for clients in the jazz, rock and pop genres) in support of.
Since that time, the show has attracted fans from all over the world, and Dr. Forrest was kind enough to send along several photos of his collection as it’s on display, and all I can say is WOW and suggest quite strongly that anyone travelling to that part of the world be sure to take the time to see these covers – and the entire Warhol collection – in this setting.
More details on the show (and its previous staging in Stockholm) can be found on the museum’s web site at https://www.modernamuseet.se/malmo/en/exhibitions/warhol-1968/
BONUS CONTENT – I recently posted my interview with Mr. Forrest in which we learn more about his fascinating collection of album covers/cover art. Please click on over – I’m certain that you’ll enjoy the read. https://albumcoverhalloffame.wordpress.com/2019/08/02/achof-featured-fan-portfolio-a-tour-through-collector-richard-forrests-favorite-album-covers/
UPDATE – EXTRA BONUS CONTENT – while there are only a few days left to the Warhol exhibition in Malmo, Sweden, esteemed Warhol album art collector/blogger Andy Earhole shared collector Guy Minnebach’s posting about the availability of a recording – “Why should I just write about the how and why of Billy Squier’s Warhol portraits on the cover of his 1982 hit album Emotions In Motion, when we can hear it from the rocker himself. This is Billy Squier in an interview on “Rolling Stone Magazine Rock Revue”, aired in the week of May 17, 1982” – https://andyearhole.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/billy-squier.mp3
h) CLOSING SEPTEMBER 15 – Now running at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland is a show whose history began almost 20 years ago when the curators from London’s Victoria & Albert Museum put on a show called The Art of Selling Songs: Graphics for the Music Business 1690 – 1990 that dug deep into the museum’s impressive collection of music-related graphics to show how graphic design was used to promote and sell musical performances and products. The updated version of this show now on display in Belfast presents an “A side” – artwork from “the olden days” thru the introduction of pop music – and a “B side” of more recent work, featuring works from artists and designers including Julien Opie, Peter Saville, Andy Warhol, Albert Watson and many others. A bonus show called Overtones: Irish Music Art celebrates artwork created by Irish artists/designers and works for Irish acts including Ash, Snow Patrol, Them, U2 and others. Here are a couple of recent articles – one in the Irish Times– https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/music/great-irish-album-artwork-goes-on-display-at-ulster-museum-1.3924937 and one on the Irish News.com site – https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2019/06/14/news/sgt-pepper-and-alternative-ulster-star-in-striking-new-exhibition-of-album-artwork-1641599/ – that serve to provide overviews of the show, with the second one also including a short video interview with the exhibition’s curator, Anna Liesching, curator of art at National Museums NI.
The displays are available for your enjoyment from now through the 15th of September, with more info available on the museum’s site at https://www.nmni.com/whats-on/the-art-of-selling-songs
i) CLOSING SEPTEMBER 29th – While some may think that the most-notable Black Sabbath-related event this year was the “Grammy Salute to Music Legends” event on May 11th in Los Angeles when they received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy – an event highlighted by the reunion of Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler (Ozzy was home recovering from a spill) with long-time drummer Bill Ward – those with a respect for “the big picture” will give a nod to the Home Of Metal: Black Sabbath – 50 Years exhibition currently up and running (now through September 29th) in the band’s home town of Birmingham, U.K. at the city’s Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
One of the things that makes this exhibition so special is that it pays tribute to the fact that it was the band’s loyal fans who embraced them as a proud product of their upbringings in the area – “to show the impact and cultural legacy of the band as pioneers of Heavy Metal, and to celebrate this unique, significant part of British music heritage.” According to the show’s producers, the exhibition puts on display an impressive collection of “historical photos, ephemera, and memorabilia sourced directly from all of the original Black Sabbath members” and highlights “personal stories that will demonstrate the extraordinary scale and diversity of Black Sabbath’s international fan-base together with a vast photography collection of over 3,000 portraits of fans from all corners of the globe.” I was particularly impressed with the photo I saw of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that had been customized with several examples of the band’s great portfolio of album cover images. What’s more, on August 3rd, at the Custard Factory nearby, artists Robert Ashby, Holly Ashby, Elle Donlan and Ellie Williams were on hand to offer tattoos inspired by the Home of Metal exhibition. Motorcycles, loud music and tattoos – how metal can you get? In any case, if you’d like to learn more and see the details, click on the link – https://homeofmetal.com/
j) CLOSING LATE SEPTEMBER – Fans of photographer Jim Marshall can still catch one of the two recent exhibitions of his work curated by the team at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Last year from late July thru late September, the Summer of Love poster show was staged at the Andaz Gallery/Hotel in Hollywood, CA featuring 17 original posters from the 1960s by noted visual psychedelic artists including Wes Wilson, Bonnie MacLean (AKA Mrs. Bill Graham), Jim Blashfield, Greg Irons and Stanley Mouse.
The partnership proved to be a good one and, to our benefit, they’re joining forces again to provide a new show based on selections from the late, great photojournalist Jim Marshall’s portfolio. Just launched at the end of June and running through the end of the year, the GRAMMY Museum® has once again teamed with Andaz West Hollywood hotel to showcase a collection of 12 of Marshall’s original photographs documenting the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) peace symbol. Marshall, best known for documenting the lives of rock bands and artists (including the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and the Beatles), along with producing images for hundreds of album covers, also excelled as a photojournalist for several major publications (including Rolling Stone and Life magazines), documenting the emerging (and rapidly-expanding) cultural movements begun in San Francisco during the 1960s. The photographs will be located in the hotel’s public space and available for public viewing. The Andaz West Hollywood is located at 8401 West Sunset Blvd.,West Hollywood, CA, and the photographs – available for public viewing – are located in the hotel’s public space.
k) CLOSING OCTOBER 1st – SHOW UPDATE – this exhibition hit an attendance milestone during the afternoon of August 14 when it entertained its 500,000th visitor – To celebrate the attendance milestone, a catalogue of the exhibition was presented to a visitor by the show’s curators, Jayson Kerr Dobney, Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge of the Department of Musical Instruments at The Met, and Craig J. Inciardi, Curator and Director of Acquisitions of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In the 18 weeks since it opened on April 8, 2019, the exhibition has drawn many visitors to the Museum for the first time. Surveys conducted by The Met’s market research team showed that, of the 500,000 total visitors to the exhibition to date, 12% (or 60,000) were first-time visitors to the Museum who came specifically to see the exhibition.
Continuing on now through October 1st at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC is the Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll exhibition co-organized with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve written about this show previously and, while it’s not a show with a focus on album cover imagery, the fact that approximately 130 of rock music’s most-recognized instruments (and costumes, posters, etc.) – many of which have appeared in photos that have been used on album packages – are on display and, at several points during the show, will be played by their owners – is a unique opportunity for us mere mortals to see the instruments that made the music that made us so happy over the years.
More at https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2019/play-it-loud
ONGOING Exhibitions/Gallery Shows:
l) CONTINUING – There’s a new exhibition that opened on Saturday, July 20th at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, PA that I urge any fan of great design – particularly in the realm of album/poster art – to make a beeline to ASAP. Era of Cool: The Art of John Van Hamersveld (running now thru Sunday, October 20, 2019) includes a selection of Van Hamersveld’s album covers, poster designs, drawings, mural designs, photography and paintings. His portfolio of music-related artwork is legendary – Exile on Main Street for the Rolling Stones; Hotter Than Hell for KISS; The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour; Blondie’s Eat To The Beat and Autoamerican; Skeletons From The Closet for the Grateful Dead and many others for Steve Miller, Van Morrison, Jefferson Airplane and more. If you’ve been to Fatburger, you’ve seen his work (that’s his logo). And that “Endless Summer” artwork you see on t-shirts, beach bags and on a poster that hangs in the lobbies of many beachfront hotels – it’s his work as well. Quite the portfolio, you have to admit…
Nice interview with JVH by Bonnie C. West, the curatorial assistant at The Westmoreland – https://thewestmoreland.org/blog/
For more information on this exciting new show featuring one of the best-recognized album cover artists/graphic designers in the business, click on over to the museum’s web site at https://thewestmoreland.org/exhibitions/era-of-cool-the-art-of-john-van-hamersveld/
Local reporter Lisa Cunningham, writing for the Pittsburgh City Paper, provides us all with more background on John and this news show – https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/artist-behind-hundreds-of-iconic-album-covers-debuts-first-solo-show-at-westmoreland-museum-of-art/Content?oid=15431122
John’s work has been featured many times in many different articles on the ACHOF site. I’m a proud owner of several of his works of art and had the pleasure of meeting him (and his wife, Alida), interviewing him and, back in the day, selling his works in my gallery, so you can imagine how happy I am to see such a retrospective made available to fans of great art and design. Go, Go, Go!
m) CONTINUING – A show at the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, MI looks to be a must-see for students of the art of the album cover. According to the advance press, “For the Record: Artists on Vinyl mines a unique vein of creative expression, the design of the record album cover and the use of phonographic recordings by artists as a vehicle for creative expression…This exhibition features more than 50 designs, many of which are paired with artworks, drawn from our permanent collection, by the same artist.” Most readers of this site know how often it is that now-famous artists either got their start in the album cover art business (Andy Warhol and Drew Struzan are prime examples of this) or, as musical and graphical artists are often on the same wavelength, how many successful collaborations there have been between music and art makers.
For the Record: Artists on Vinyl is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum curator Ian Gabriel Wilson, the Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow, with the assistance of Frank M. Edwards, with many of the artworks on display drawn from the collection of Mr. Edwards. Previously, Mr. Edwards and his wife, Ann M. Williams, who serve on the museum’s board, were the principal sources for another Crankbrook exhibition – Warhol On Vinyl The Record Covers, 1949-1987+ that was on display there June 21, 2014 – March 21, 2015. Artists in the show include: Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Harry Bertoia, Salvador Dalí, Richard Diebenkorn, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, Claes Oldenburg, Yoko Ono, Robert Rauschenberg, Bridget Riley, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, among many others.
For the Record: Artists on Vinyl can be found in the museum’s deSalle & Lower Level Galleries – now through April 19, 2020 – https://cranbrookartmuseum.org/exhibition/for-the-record-artists-on-vinyl/
n) ONGOING – Let’s begin with a fun fact – although Linda McCartney had great talent with the camera and had the last name Eastman, she was NOT, as was widely thought, a scion of the Eastman family associated with the Eastman-Kodak company (her dad was, in fact, a copyright attorney). Nevertheless, after graduating from high school in Scarsdale and then becoming an Art History major at the University of Arizona, where her love for nature motivated her to purchase a Leica camera and stud the photography of horses under the tutelage of Hazel Larsen Archer (and then marrying/divorcing cultural anthropologist Melville See, with whom she had her first child, daughter Heather, in 1963), Linda and her daughter moved back to New York City, living off an inheritance her mother had left her and take a job as a receptionist/editorial assistant for Town & Country Magazine in 1965.
A romantic relationship with photographer David Dalton allowed Linda to study how a professional shooter works and, soon after, she began to manage her own photo sessions, using her knowledge, good looks and ability to communicate with even the most-difficult subjects to secure gigs featuring people in the music business. She became a house photographer at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East venue and, over time, she’d shoot music superstars including Eric Clapton, The Doors, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young (one of her photos of Young performing in 1968 at Canterbury House would later become the cover of a record called Sugar Mountain) and others – in fact, her photo for Rolling Stone Magazine’s May 11, 1968 issue was the first cover taken by a female photographer to appear in that magazine – and so when she met Beatle Paul McCartney while covering the release of the band’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP and married him a couple of years later, it marked the beginning of a long and productive creative relationship as well – one that ended, sadly, with her death in 1998.
So, while she might not be with us, her portfolio lives on and is the subject of a show which has toured the world for the past 5+ years, with stops in Vienna, Montpellier and Seoul and is launching today at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland – it’s first display in the U.K. and is on display now through the 12th of January, 2020. Simply titled “The Linda McCartney Retrospective,” the show was curated by the photographer’s husband, fellow musician Paul McCartney and their two daughters, Mary and Stella, and, according to the pre-show press, “It brings together dozens of Linda McCartney’s photos—from famous portraits of 1960s rock icons to more personal snapshots of her quiet home life with Paul—as well a trove of archival materials being shown in public for the first time, including cameras, her personal magazine collection, and even a diary from the ’60s.” More info is available at https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/event/1/linda-mccartney-retrospective
Linda was also credited with a number of well-known-and-loved album cover photos, including the shot of Paul and his newborn daughter Mary taken in Scotland that was used on the back cover of Paul M’s solo debut album in 1970 titled McCartney. Available in the museum’s shop – quite the nice souvenir – is a limited-edition (one of 12), 20” x 24” fine art print of that photo (signed by Mary, who is now old enough to sign her name), priced at only £4,200.00 https://shop.glasgowlife.org.uk/mccartney-album-cover-scotland-1970-limited-edition-print. Get one for someone you love.
More details also at https://www.lindamccartney.com/the-linda-mccartney-retrospective/
Artist News and Interviews:
a) NY Times “Popcast” podcast host Jon Carmanica talks with designer Teddy Blanks of the Brooklyn, NY-based graphic design firm Chips about recent trends in music packaging design (what works online vs. what works in retail packaging), some of the key figures in album cover art history and whether cover design – now miniaturized in many formats – matters much any more. The show’s impetus came from Blanks, who was so impressed with the photo-collage artwork for the Young Thug album So Much Fun (“the peak of Photoshopping”) that he listened to the record the whole way though and wanted to share this experience with a larger audience, many of whom might only see album art as a way to easily-catalog music on their Smartphones. He then called Carmanica and invited him out on a field trip to Urban Outfitters to take a look at examples of current/classic album cover art – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/29/arts/music/popcast-album-art.html
While the firm’s portfolio includes lots of web site, film title, book cover and other brand-identity work, I’m particularly fond of the animations they created for the past season of the Amazon Prime series Mozart In The Jungle – they really bring music to life, simply and beautifully – https://chips.nyc/work/mozart-in-the-jungle-season-4/
b) Famed photographer Janette Beckman, who recently announced the publication of a new book called Raw Punk Streets UK 1979-1982 (Café Royal Press) that digs into her impressive portfolio of UK punk scene imager to share many previously-unreleased images of that scene’s early years. Vice magazine recently caught up with Beckman “to discuss the D.I.Y. ethos that became the basis for punk—and her life’s work, which includes photographs of everyone from the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and X to Debbie Harry, Dee Dee Ramone, and Siouxsie Sioux” – https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7xg5qd/never-before-seen-images-of-londons-punk-scene
Beckman’s punk, hip-hop and pop album cover credits include – The Police – Outlandos D’Amour, Reggatta De Blanc, Zenyatta Mondatta and Every Breath You Take: The Singles; Squeeze – Six Of One; Arthur Russell – Another Thought; Gang Starr – No More Mr. Nice Guy; Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – On The Strength; Salt-n-Pepa – A Salt With A Deadly Pepa and Push It and others, so to learn more about this artist, please visit her web site at – http://www.janettebeckman.com/
c) Ragazine Music Editor Fred Roberts recently published a new article titled Cover Me: Taking Album Art To New Heights in which he interviews one of the industry’s best-known designers – Spencer Drate, along with his design/life partner Judith Salavetz – about some of their early work and the books they’ve authored on the topic – https://www.ragazine.cc/interview-with-spencer-drate/
d) While working on some research for the new Universal Hip-Hop Museum’s website, I was introduced to another writer/researcher named Jay Quan who runs a comprehensive and authoritative site about all aspects of hip-hop called Tha Foundation. Doing a little digging there brought me to an interview he did with Sugar Hill Records/early hip-hop designer Hemu Aggarwal that I know you’ll want to read and learn from – http://thafoundation.com/hemu.htm I know that I’ll be using this as a reference site on the topic going forward – enjoy the read.
e) During a panel discussion at the most-recent San Diego Comic Con, the Hollywood chapter of the International Animation Society ASIFA sponsored a gathering of a number of illustrators – together known as the “Masters of the Illustrated Film Poster“ – that included a number of people who’ve also made names for themselves doing work for clients in the music business. In this video of that discussion, you’ll hear from folks like Matthew Joseph Peak (who has the covers of 50+ soundtrack albums, including Shrek, Out Of Africa and the Nightmare on Elm Street series in his portfolio), Jason Edmiston (who did the eery cover for the Misfits’ 2013 album Dead Alive!), Steve Chorney (many covers for Time Life records, including their Classic Rock and The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era series) and cartoonist William Stout, who did some of the more-memorable covers for Firesign Theater, The Smithereens, Ramones, Iggy Pop and Todd Rundgren, among others. You’ll learn a lot from listening to these talented illustrators who’ve entertained our eyes many times over the past 50 years –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoaYhP_4eZU&feature=youtu.be
f) I recently discovered another podcast about album cover design that I thought you should know about – https://www.designfreakspodcast.com/ – which is hosted by Seattle-based professional multi-media graphic designer (and artist and music collector) Clarita and who, over the last year in eight episodes, has lead discussions with other designers and those “in the know” about some of the most-influential designers in the world of album cover art, including Peter Saville, Arturo Vega, Raymond Pettibon, photographer Pennie Smith and others. Coincidentally, her seventh episode from this past February was about (the now late) artist Pedro Bell and his work for George, Bootsy and the Parliament/Funkadelic gang – https://www.designfreakspodcast.com/episodes/2019/2/22/pedro-bell
g) Over the years, I’ve written a number of times about some of the many ways that fans and artists (and fans who are artists) have worked to re-shape and re-imagine some of our favorite album cover images into something new and, quite often, very entertaining. Album cover art parodies have existed as long as there have been album covers to parody and, from time to time we get to see designs that are true works of art. You might recall artist Christian Marclay’s Body Mix album sleeve “mash ups” and cartoon artist Uwe de Witt’s clever mixing of classic album covers with comic book superheroes (I’m particularly fond of the way he had The Thing clobber through Pink Floyd’s The Wall), as examples, but in a recent article in the Los Angeles Times by Carolina Miranda, you’ll get to see some really-impressive and imaginative album cover parodies by LA-based artist Gary Cannone who, over the past five years, has been “making and collecting mock album covers that fuse the wildly different universes of popular music and conceptual art”. Cannone recently held a show at the Arcana Gallery in Culver City and has published a book built around some of the best examples of his work – https://www.arcanabooks.com/catalog/book/E000GCFN/. These are works of art that continue to support my contention that album art can be fine art of the highest caliber. Let me know what your favorites are – https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2019-08-02/gary-cannone-parody-album-covers-conceptual-art-heavy-metal; https://garycannone.net/
He’s also involved in a coordinated album art parody project featuring works by other artists – https://albumsbyconceptualartists.tumblr.com/ Keep up the good work, everyone!
New Products (Books, Prints, Other):
a) The Fantoons art/animation studio demonstrates their love of animation, story-telling and music via the release of their latest graphic novel (to follow-up their 2015 effort on Kickstarter) that chronicles the making of Canadian rock legend Rush’s chart-blazing 1977 release A Farewell To Kings. Over the past seven-plus years, the Fantoons team (led by Creative Director David Calcano, who co-wrote this new book with Lindsay Lee) has impressed clients with their work so much so that they’ve been able to earn commissions (and licenses) from some of their favorite musical acts, including Def Leppard, Mr. Big, Rob Zombie, Rush and the estate of Frank Zappa. Two recent articles dig more into the details of this group’s latest exploits – https://geekdad.com/2019/09/the-making-of-a-farewell-to-kings-graphic-novel/; https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/rush-comic-making-farewell-kings-graphic-novel-debuts-1202796 – and if you’d like to see more of their work (and order the new book), click on over to their site at http://fantoons.tv/#section-1064 Personally, I’ve got my eyes set on a really nicely done Zappa-related print they’ve produced…
b) When you say “classic album cover”, one of the best-known/most-loved examples must be artist Robert Crumb’s cartooned cover for Big Brother & The Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills. Having moved to France many years ago and producing epic projects including an entire illustrated version of the Bible’s Book Of Genesis that toured museums for several years, new album cover print releases are few and far-between, so when I read about the availability of a new item in stock at my chum’s gallery in the U.K. (Hypergallery), I knew that I would have to let you know about it quickly. Here are some of the details from the publisher’s press release – ABOUT MAXWELL STREET ALLEY BLUES – This limited edition silkscreen print by Robert Crumb was produced by Griffioen Grafiek in 2017. As Robert Crumb collectors will know, he doesn’t publish very often and so it is with huge excitement that Crumb fans all over the world receive his new works. Hypergallery works quickly to secure a stock for our regular collectors but also to give new Hypergallery customers a chance to choose from as many of his album cover art prints as possible. This is another jewel in his crown. Big John Wrencher, also known as One Arm John, was an exemplary American blues harmonica player and singer, well known for playing at the Maxwell Street Market in Chicago in the 1960s. Maxwell Street Alley Blues is the first of only two albums released by Wrencher leading his Maxwell Street band. Beautifully printed on 300gsm Conqueror Connoisseur paper (18” square image size, 20” square overall) and signed by Robert Crumb in an edition of only 125 prints, priced VERY affordably at £120. Hurry before they’re gone – https://www.hypergallery.com/maxwell-street-alley-blues?
a) Posted 8/8/19 special breaking news – Today marks the 50th anniversary of the photo shoot that produced what is perhaps the best-known (certainly, in the “Top 3”) album cover image used on a Beatles album – that being Iain Macmillan’s picture of the Fab Four traversing the zebra-stripe crosswalk over the B507 road running in front of EMI/Abbey Road Studios in London used on the cover of their Abbey Road LP. Originally hailing from Scotland, Iain moved to England in 1958 to study photography at the Regent Street Polytechnic (now University of Westminster) in central London. After graduating, Macmillan returned to the Dundee area in 1959 to document the people and scenes of the Dundee tenements and when local publishers saw his portfolio, he was offered a variety of commissions, including work for The Sunday Times, the Illustrated London News and Plays & Players magazine. In the mid-late 1960s, he found work shooting exhibition catalogs (including one for sculptor David Wynne titled “The Sculpture of David Wynne – 1949 – 1967”) and, as luck would have it, co-authoring (with writer J. Roger Baker) the 1966 photo book The Book of London in which he features a shot of local artist Yoko Ono performing “Handkerchief Piece”. Ono then asked Iain to photograph her upcoming exhibition at London’s Indica Gallery and, as Beatles fans know, this is the exhibit during which she met John Lennon. Remembering the photographer after being introduced at the gallery, in 1969 Lennon asked Macmillan to shoot the cover for the band’s next album, one being recorded at EMI’s studios on Abbey Road in London. Working based on a sketch from Paul McCartney, the resulting photo became the cover for Abbey Road.
MacMillan worked with the couple on a variety of projects, including photos for the packages of Live Peace in Toronto and the Wedding Album (1969) and Sometime in New York City (1972). He also participated in the production of the experimental film Erection which featured an animation of his photos of a London hotel under construction with a soundtrack by John and Yoko. With them in New York, he photographed most of Yoko’s projects and created the record label featuring the couple’s merging heads that was featured on the aforementioned album Sometime in New York City single “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”. After his time with the Lennons, Iain spent much of the 1970s teaching the technical and creative aspects of photography to students at a college in Stoke-on-Trent.
In 1980, Iain was hired to re-create his Abbey Road photo as a parody cover for the comedy duo Hinge and Bracket’s album titled Hinge and Bracket at Abbey Road. Throughout the 1980’s, exhibitions of his work were staged in the US, UK and Europe and The BBC licensed some of his photos for the “The Rock and Roll Years”, the long-running TV series that provided year-by-year capsule summaries of that year’s events in the popular music business.
Iain moved back to Carnoustie after his parents died and continued to document – often with a borrowed camera – the people and landscapes of the area (as well as his pet collie, Mac!). In 1993, to help Sir Paul prove, once and for all, that he was NOT quite dead yet, Macmillan brought the Beatle bassist back to Abbey Road, shooting him traversing the zebra crossing in front of EMI’s Abbey Road studio along with a sheepdog (and a crowd of onlookers/witnesses to his aliveness), with the resulting shot used on the cover of the Paul Is Live record. Sadly, Macmillan died of lung cancer in 2006 at the age of 67.
While there may be some argument concerning whether this was The Beatles’ best-known cover, there’s no argument that it has been the most-parodied album cover (there are sites dedicated to this fact) and, all these years later, it still inspires music fans from all over the world to travel to that same spot and re-create their own version of the event, as shown in this illustrated article on the BBC News site – https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-49267561 If you’d like to read more about the details of the Abbey Road shoot, the nice people at the Daily Record in the UK just posted an article for you – https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/music/music-news/how-scottish-photographer-created-iconic-18837236
Hundreds of fans showed up that day to celebrate the anniversary and traipse one more time across the famous crosswalk – https://variety.com/2019/music/news/beatles-abbey-road-50th-anniversary-1203296915/
b) SPECIAL ITEM POSTED 8/15/19 RE: My Woodstock Poster – 50 years ago, when I was a wee lad of 13, I read and watched with fascination about the huge gathering of young people on a farm site in New York. While many of my favorite bands at the time (The Association, The Turtles, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Iron Butterfly and a new band I’d just discovered called Black Sabbath) were not scheduled to play at the event, a couple of bands I was quite fond of – The Who and the Jimi Hendrix Experience – were on the docket and, of course, I hoped that they’d play bits of their performances on the radio or TV (that didn’t happen). Not long after, I saw an album on display in my local record store (EJ Korvettes had the best selection at the time) with a pen-and-ink cover that, from one angle, showed a lion’s head and, at another, a standing figure with several faces looking in different directions – very trippy! This Santana band had also played at Woodstock and had received a lot of press about their performance, so I handed over my hard-earned $3.99 (plus tax) and went home to play the record (of course, I had to wait until my parents were out of the house – didn’t want to disturb them with my “noise”).
As a young drummer, I was in seventh heaven – so much percussion there to underlay Santana’s screaming guitar! Soul Sacrifice – how the heck could someone (besides Keith Moon) play drums like that? It made me even all the more jealous of the young people who were able to have been at that concert, and after watching the Academy award-winning Woodstock film by Michael Wadleigh (with help from Martin Scorcese) a number of years later, my lament continued – why didn’t my parents take me there? Did I even ask? I don’t remember…
Over time, I did manage to pick up some Woodstock-related memorabilia, including this poster signed by Grace Slick, Richie Havens and the designer of the famous image, Arnold Skolnick (see below) as well as a commemorative plaque with a couple of original tickets, signed by the festival’s main producer Michael Lang, which served to make me feel a bit more-connected to the event. And I did greatly enjoy the parody of the festival (“Lemmings”) produced by the folks from my favorite magazine at the time – the National Lampoon – but I’ll always feel a twinge of jealousy when I meet or hear from someone who was one of the fortunate half-million or so who had the means to take part in this milestone in rock music/youth culture history.
The folks at the Poster House were kind enough to post an article about “the making of” the poster advertising the event which I think you’d enjoy, so here’s the link – https://posterhouse.org/hot-poster-gossip-woodstock-edition Also, after I started my old (and long-defunct) art gallery, I was fortunate enough to form a business relationship (i.e., I sold his prints) with the talented man (Lee Conklin) responsible for the aforementioned Santana album cover image and, 10 or so years ago, interviewed him about the hand-drawn work and how it came together, so if you’d like to read that interview, click on the following link – https://rockpopgallery.typepad.com/rockpop_gallery_news/2008/03/cover-story—s.html That reminds me – I have a couple of prints that Lee made of that image in my personal collection, so there’s another tangential link back to Woodstock. I feel better now.
More to come on Monday – sorry I couldn’t get it all in place!
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