The vinyl resting place

Matthew Valentine savours Albums Covers from the Vinyl Junkyard – a new book which stands as a tribute to the nice ‘n’ cheesy world of record cover art

Some record sleeve designs are born to greatness, others have greatness thrust upon them. Having reached middle age the examples selected for this book are achieving not greatness but a form of cult fame among dedicated followers of kitsch.

Album Covers From the Vinyl Junkyard is, according to its foreword by Rob Chapman, stocked with images which we naturally discard. “Many of them were pitched at that most tenuous of constructions known as ‘the mainstream’. Their functionalism and their lack of aspiration is precisely what’s made them enduring – the polar opposite of all those rock covers (and rock careers) wrought with significance,” he writes.

As well as enduring, they are politically incorrect and outrageously funny. The images featured form a cringe-worthy collection of widespread bad taste as well as an eye opener as to what “the mainstream” audience was until recently subjected to. And with the post-modern nature of life in the Nineties many of them are now fashionable again.

Where these sleeves really show their age is often not in the way they look, but in what they say. Looking at them you suspect the record industry was, until recently, a very different environment.

The albums Music To Strip For Your Man By and How To Belly Dance For Your Husband seem to be prime examples of an industry with a distinctly male bias. Fewer artists these days could try to sell more albums simply by standing next to a naked woman on the cover.

As well as the truly terrible looking country and folk music albums there is a plethora of “how to” records. Relax, You’re Going to Lose Weight, record buyers were informed. Law, You and… Divorce (priced $3.79 back in 1968), surely deserved to top the hit parade just for its title.

A common complaint with this type of book is the sketchy information concerning the designers responsible for the work. For once, this is justified, as few designers would admit to having created some of the work on show.

Album Covers from the Vinyl Junkyard is published by Booth-Clibborn Editions and priced 24.95

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