Thursday 28 April 2011

Record Sleeve Love and Girl Groups

As I think I've mentioned before, old record sleeves are a constant source of inspiration or fascination. Best of all are the old paper sleeves from 45rpm 7" singles.

Things that I love:
  1. the typefaces
  2. the limited colours
  3. the wear of the thin paper
  4. the way that the designs work with the hole in the middle
  5. the occasionally-misaligned printed blocks
  6. the arcane company addresses
  7. the enthusiastic advertising language
...and I could go on.

Well, they're hardly in short supply: you can go into any charity shop and find boxes of singles to rifle through. You can probably find a relative with a box somewhere.

Today I've found a website that does that job for you and collects gems from all eras and styles of music on vinyl: Record Envelope: The Little Library Of Factory Sleeves.

I've dipped into my parents' little carry-case again and again over the years. The designs are often fun to behold, but even more interesting are the advertisements that used to cover inner sleeves. The same goes for paperback books from around the 1940s. Advertising wasn't any less pervasive in those times.

Here's the back of a Colombia Records sleeve, on Des O'Connor's "Thinking Of You", the b-side of "I Pretend",

efore bed-time...
A Great Morphy-Richards Offer!
"Simply beautiful hair"
by French of London

It's a cross between an instruction diagram and a teen-drama comic strip, another bit of pop culture that is revived from time to time. Here's Betty Rizzo's moment in the titles from Grease (from a full dissection at Clothes On Film).

Those titles in turn inspired Kenickie (if the name wasn't an obvious enough homage), the band that Lauren Laverne fronted in the late 1990s. They started out with a strong girl-group / heartbreak / biker gang vibe, like the Shangri-Las, the Crystals, the Shirelles and so on. Here's the cover of the "Punka" single from 1996.

The style pops up every few years: The Pipettes were doing much the same thing; and over the past few years The Girls, two British artists (Andrea Blood and Zoe Sinclair) have been installing their exhibition / performance art piece "The Paper Eaters", making modern-day teen-drama photo-stories. They had amazing dresses made out of comic strips.

Back to the sleeves: other great finds at Record Envelope include the Micron Music sleeve (the black one near the top of this post) and the home-made Elvis Presley sleeve.

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