I’m a Lover of Album Covers – Selections from a Fan’s Collection
by Mike Goldstein, Curator, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com
I know you’re out there. You’re just like me – someone who just loves album cover art. It is something more to you than just being the image that somebody chose to wrap your favorite music in. To you and me, the cover image is a direct connection to the creative energy of our favorite musical acts – it represents who they are, or who they want us to think they are. It is usually what we first think of when we think about those acts, and it’s also how we organize ourselves when we think about an artist’s musical output. Interestingly, when I talk to people about their history in appreciating the various aspects of the creative arts, it often times is one of their first remembrances of having a deference for a work of fine art.
Like many music fans, over the years, as I listened to new music on the radio and at my local record haunts where, with whatever limited resources I could muster, I worked on expanding my record collection. Back then, there was no simple way to find new music without devoting time to the effort. Of course, retailers did what they could to highlight what was new, organizing new releases on end-caps, on specially-built displays on the walls, or in the window, but what I remember most was digging through the bins, hoping to see something new or something I’d missed during previous searches. Inevitably, I’d spy an album that had a cover that grabbed me and I’d pull it out of the bin, turning it over and over in my hands, trying to “hear” the music simply by looking at the cover and imagining what could be inside.
A great example of this (for me) was Black Sabbath’s first record – the one featuring the fuzzy photo of the somewhat-green mystery woman standing in front of a wall outside a large house in what I imagined to be the English countryside. Was she a specter? Was she standing in or near a graveyard? Who was this that stood before me, this figure in black (you know the rest)…Instinctively, I knew that the music would be dark and foreboding – perfect for a 14-year old hoping to impress his parents – and so the cashier at Korvette’s was able to ring up another $3.99 sale, no demo required. Occasionally, I’d also buy a poster or two for my bedroom and, at one point, even recreated one of Roger Dean’s flying machines on my basement wall but, in my mind, my favorite album cover art best served its purpose enveloping the vinyl disc containing the music it was associated with.
When I many years later found myself working as a producer, straddling the lines between music, TV and later the Web, I learned that some of my favorite album cover art was available to collect. I’d already started to collect fine art prints – mostly, works from the WPA-era and some examples of early California Modernism – but when I learned that some of the people who created some of my favorite album covers were now selling fine art prints of the same images, it simply made sense for me to try and own some and display them on the walls of my home. Whether these prints were “worth” – in terms of “value” according to appraisers working in the fine art world – the prices being asked didn’t really matter to me…I just wanted them near me. The fact that I could also support and, with my purchases, say “thank you” to the talented people who’d produced these images was simply an added benefit.
Over the years, I’d slowly built a collection of these works of art, trolling art auctions, galleries and web sites to find examples of works that appealed to my broad music and art tastes. I’d hang them up at home and my office at work and nearly every visitor would marvel at the variety and the artistry. “Where did you GET all of these – they’re amazing!” they’d say. I loved being able to share the history of each piece and talking with them about the artist who produced the work, the musical artist who influenced the work, and even the ‘state of the world’ at the time each one was created. Eventually, I figured out that there are a lot of people who have the same passion (or is it a sickness?) for this artwork as I had and, therefore, when the opportunity arose, it just made sense that I’d open a gallery. RockPoP Gallery opened in 2005 and went on to become a popular place on the Web when collectors want to see the both classic images and the latest works presented by many of the best album art producers in their respective fields.
Besides its obvious retail component, I found that music/art fans would also visit when they wanted to find out more about collecting these works, preserving their collections and learning more about “the making of” their favorite cover designs. The gallery’s web site also became a place for fans to share related experiences with others and, whenever possible – via interviews and chat sessions – the artists who created great album cover work. After closing the gallery in late 2012, I conspired with a small-but-knowledgeable group of people – all working in the music and art worlds – to launch a site dedicated to documenting and showcasing the talents of the designers, artists and photographers that have produced notable album covers and, thus, the Album Cover Hall of Fame was launched.
Recently, I was wondering aloud to my wife about why it was that we have album cover art displayed as proudly as our other works of fine art. Was this normal? While I assumed that many Pink Floyd fans have Dark Side of the Moon or “Scream” posters up in their rec rooms, I wondered how many collectors, gallerists and curators have chosen to display examples of album cover art in the same room as their Chagall, Dali, Ansel Adams or Edward Hopper prints. Intrigued, I laid out a plan to find out, which leads us to this new editorial section on the ACHOF site. These articles will, if all goes according to plan, serve both to highlight works found in the collections of gallerists, curators, music marketers (and, with any luck, other artists and musicians) and to let you know why certain works are included in the selections featured in the articles. Over the next weeks and months, I hope to include more features on others like me that have made it their business to expand their art collections to include examples of album cover imagery. I hope that you enjoy these photo-editorial articles and invite each of you to both comment on what you see and read and, if so motivated, submit your own collections for us to see and learn about as well (please send me an email – use form below – with the details and we’ll do our best to include it on the site).