Saturday, 6 February 2010


If you have received a letter (you remember, those paper things that arrive through your letter box) from the UK in the last month you may have noticed that the postage stamp is a tad familiar. This is because The Royal Mail has issued a series of 10 postage stamps depicting an eclectic sample of record album sleeves from the last 40 years.

This is an interesting development as it is an instance of the cover art being celebrated in its own right rather than in conjunction with the music contained on the record within. The 10 covers thought worthy of inclusion in the set are:

1. Rolling Stones/Let It Bleed (1969) - Designed by Robert Brownjohn (with cake created by the then unknown Delia Smith).

2. Led Zeppelin/’IV’ (1971) - The painting of the faggot-bearing old man was, it is said, found by singer Robert Plant in a Reading junk shop. For the cover it was nailed to a demolished house in Dudley.

3. David Bowie/The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972) - Designed by George Underwood with artwork by Terry Pastor.

4. Mike Oldfield/Tubular Bells (1973) – Designed by photographer Trevor Key

5. The Clash/London Calling (1979) - Ray Lowry designed the artwork around Pennie Smith’s iconic shot of bassist Paul Simonon.

6. New Order/Power, Corruption and Lies (1983) - Peter Saville’s design juxtaposed French impressionist Henri Fantin-Latour’s painting with a colour-coded strip.

7. Primal Scream/Screamadelica (1991) – Designed by Paul Cannell.

8. Pink Floyd/The Division Bell (1994) – Designed by long-time collaborator Storm Thorgerson.

9. Blur/Parklife (1994) - The racing greyhounds were captured by photographer Bob Thomas, and the sleeve designed by Chris Thomson and Rob O'Connor of London design firm Stylorouge.

10. Coldplay/A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002) - The work of Norwegian photographer Solve Sundsbo, and the result of medical imaging technology.

Predictably, 6 out of the 10 hail from the great era of the twelve inch record sleeve when cover art was displayed to its best advantage. Although the remaining four are memorable, they have that diminished CD jewelcase aura about them that somehow detracts from the effect. There is nothing quite like a ‘proper’ record sleeve. Twenty years after their final demise twelve inch sleeves suddenly seem overlarge and in-your-face – almost startlingly so. I have on the wall in my ‘music’ room (read: spare bedroom) some of those picture frames that you can display album covers in and change them around every few weeks. Each one holds great memories in its slightly garish glory.

Will CD inserts be revered like this in the future? Clearly four already have but generally I suspect not.


YourZ said...

I loved the era of the LP, not because I'm into analogue but because of the artwork. While I'm not picky about my format, in other words, CDs are all right by me, I can't sit back and be absorbed by the art work. It is just too small.

I remember staring at the covers of new LPs, looking for minute details as I listened to each side over and over. Those days are (sadly) gone...

It'd be great if Australia Post were to do a similar run.


musicobsessive said...

YourZ - those were the days. I learned most of what I know now from reading LP sleeves (and record labels). Unlike today where you need an electron microscope to reveal any info at all on a CD insert. Isn't today's generation interested?

Adrian said...

Very cool! I have always liked postage stamps and music, and the combination is most pleasing. Our Canada Post has been issuing music stamps for the past couple of years, not quite as groovy as those Royal Mail album cover issue stamps. One year, my fave, we got Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Anka and Anne Murray stamps. This past year, it was Stompin' Tom Connors, Bryan Adams, Edith Butler and Robert Charlebois (the latter two artists are stars in Francophone Canada).

Now, this blog has given me an idea... perhaps we could have some kind of cross-pollination of ideas - that would result in the supermarkets offering stamp booklets. A complete row of Pete Shelleys or Steve Diggles, would be good for some lipstick, or a love battery. Collecting all four Fabs would get you a basket of strawberries, or a deal on walrus...

woke up, got out of bed, licked a stamp across my head...

I hope for more pie charts soon!

musicobsessive said...

Adrian - Hahahahaha! I love this comment. Got any good recipes for Walrus...would a set of Pink Floyds get you a pig hot air balloon? So many questions. One day I'll think of a lyric line as good as yours but for the moment I'm stumped.

As for the pie charts, I'd almost forgotten about them. perhaps I need to dust down a few new ones. Thanks for brightening my day - that gave me a good laugh.

Alan said...

Some how I think the era of album art is gone - the "canvas" is too small or just non-existent in these days of digital download. A massive gatefold sleeve, just for the sake of it, is something we are unlikely to see again.

While you mentioned CD jewel cases, I must admit I feel better disposed to CDs with cardboard sleeves. Ecological issues to one side, it feels so much better to hold cardboard reminiscent of an album sleeve rather than hold a piece of plastic.

Adrian said...

My post is the result of licking too much glue off the back of stamps ( :

For several months, the local record shop had on display in its window "Black Moses" by Isaac Hayes. This remarkable vinyl album cover opens up to be four full panels long and three wide - in the form of a cross. With Haye's outstretched arms and full body, sandals and all it's mighty impressive. Small wonder someone bought it before Christmas. In the right home, you could skip the tree with that sort of album-era decoration hearth-side.

To reproduce that as postage, you'd need six stamps. Good for international mailings.

goo goo goo joob!

Perplexio said...

That is too cool! I was actually just rearranging my office space and stumbled upon my very very limited vinyl collection. I have a few old Chicago LPs. I wouldn't mind seeing some of those as stamps. I think Chicago VII, X, & XI had the best cover art and packaging (although X was a bit of a lemon musically-- too much grass and Bolivian marching powder in the studio methinks).

musicobsessive said...

Alan - I agree that the digipak sleeves are a mild improvement on the jewel case but the difficulty here is that all my old digipaks are looking a bit scuffed and worse for wear. Irritatingly, all the jewelcase inserts are fine. Still, the scuffed nature of digipaks do look more like old LP sleeves!

Adrian - better keep off the stamps for a bit! I well remember the 'Black Moses' cover as it was unfolded in every record store window you visited. I think it must hold the record for the most fold-outs in an LP sleeve although Curved Air's 'Second Album' with the rainbow motif opened up into a huge cross as well (but only 5 panals).

Perplexio - Actually 'Chicago II' is framed on my wall as we speak - and the music's great. The Chicago albums would make a good stamp set as you could have a different one for each denomination. I'll speak to the Royal Mail!

Adrian said...

Perhaps with the right amount of grass and Bolivian marching powder in the system, even a Black Moses stamp set could appear - in the nick of time for Christmas.

(I fixed the original post - couldn't find the edit option once I'd posted, in case you wonder what I deleted, it's this same post, only edited.)

musicobsessive said...

Adrian - I know, it's a real pain that you can't edit comments once posted. I've done it many times and it kills me to see my spelling errors carved in stone for all eternity. Anyway, I'll be looking out for your Moses stamps this Christmas...

kanishk said...

A complete row of Pete Shelleys or Steve Diggles, would be good for some lipstick, or a love battery.
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