Monday, 31 March 2014

hand drawn long player

Here's a cool idea - hand drawn long players. @danblahblahblah is collecting hand drawn album covers and publishing them at  If you have five minutes to spare maybe you could sketch one and send it to him (instructions at

This is Happening, thecornpoppy

Once upon a time, when I was young, an LP was a big deal.  First of all you needed to have some cash to buy it.  When you're 11 or twelve that is tricky,  You had to save up the half crowns that Christmas and birthdays brought.  As time went by it got a little easier - a paper round helped.  As did some trading of bootlegs. 

The Velvet Underground & Nico, Abi

Here's a little aside regarding bootlegging.  The music industry (deliberately) confuses bootlegging with piracy.  As an historian I am often asked the difference between piracy and  privateering. Well, students, "pirates" were seamen who attacked other vessels and took their cargoes, whereas "privateers" were seamen who attacked other vessels and took their cargoes - but had a letter from the king saying it was ok so long as the cargoes taken were French. Or Spanish. Or Dutch. Or otherwise furrin. A "free trader" is a holder of the political point of view that government regulation should be minimised - in commerce, trade and usually everything else.

In modern terms, intellectual copyright and all that, the following applies:
Making illegal copies of legitimately released music/film/etc to sell:     piracy
Making illegal copies of legitimately released music/film/etc to share:    viral marketing
Making copies of non-commercial recordings to sell: piracy
Making copies of non-commercial recordings to trade/share: free trade
Utilising free download sites: free trade
Record companies selling music downloads instead of hard copy:    privateering
Record companies selling the same cd with a few extra tracks, a few months after the original album came out: grand theft audio.

I was never in the business of making illegal copies of legitimately released music to sell.  That's just wrong.  But making available product that was hard to get . . . it was a service.  The only people who buy audience recordings of gigs by their favourite bands are people who already have all the commercially released stuff.  Not only that but all the money I ever made from selling stuff to my schoolmates went back to the music business - I bought records and went to gigs with the proceeds.

Pendulum In Silico, James
Back to album covers.  Having acquired the funds to purchase a record it was time to go off to a record shop.  For younger readers, these were like the physical embodiment of iChoons where all of the mp3 files were printed onto slabs of vinyl, some 7", some 12" and wrapped in artworks.   You could lose youself for a Saturday afternoon looking through the racks.  Maybe you went with a specific record in mind, maybe the choice would be made as you looked through the racks..  Maybe you'd been through the racks every Saturday afternoon for the last month and now you had amassed the cash.  Now you could buy something.
Some records were more special than others.
Dark Side of the Moon, thecornpoppy
When you arrived home with a copy of, say, Dark Side of the Moon you were about to embark on a journey.  The gatefold cover was an important part of that journey.  The cover set the scene.  If the cover of DSOTM had looked like Tales of Topographic Oceans, or even Wish You Were Here, it would have sounded like a different album.  The cover was just right.  The cover, the lyrics, the credits, it was all part of the experience.  The pyramid poster was on my wall all through the Punk Wars, increasingly covered with (punky) stickers. 
There was a golden age of record cover design which passed when cds superceded vinyl.  There is no need for sleeve design for mp3s so the craft of the sleeve designer will go the way of the wagon wheelwright and the lamplighter.  Maybe there'll be a section for them at Country Fayres, close to the coppice workers and charcoal burners.
Help keep this dying art alive by celebrating long players and hand drawing an album sleeve.  Don't forget to send it to

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