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the album cover art of Hipgnosis – in
G Tuesday 18 April
2017 07.00 BST
record sleeve designer
The 10 best albums inspired by drugs – in pictures
The worst album sleeves of all time - in
From breasts and balls to the Beatles,
Guardian readers pick the worst album sleeves
they've ever set horrified eyes
– featuring a line-drawn howler from Neil Young,
space-cartoon rubbishness from
an unfortunate back-seat mishap
with some chewing gum
and Kevin Rowland dressed
as a girl
album / record covers UK
album / record covers USA
cover art USA
covert art > Hipgnosis
As design collective Hipgnosis,
Storm Thorgerson, Aubrey Powell
and Peter Christopherson
gave 70s rock
UK > Roger Dean UK
Gary Burden USA
Gary Burden (...)
beginning in the late 1960s
designed memorable album covers
for Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, the Doors
and numerous other stars
of rock and folk-rock
Working in the predigital era,
when music was sold primarily on vinyl
and artists were often trying
to make a personal statement
with their albums,
Mr. Burden created cover after cover
that seared their way into the minds of fans.
the first Crosby, Stills & Nash album in 1969,
featuring a Henry Diltz photograph
of the three on a ragged couch.
He also designed the cover
of Ms. Mitchell’s
acclaimed 1971 album, “Blue,”
a striking close-up of the singer
in blue and black tones.
He put the Eagles
in Wild West regalia for “Desperado”
and Mr. Young in a cheesy yellow jacket
for “On the Beach” (1974).
Among his most recent work
was Conor Oberst’s “Salutations,”
released last year.
Storm Elvin Thorgerson, graphic artist
Alex Steinweiss USA
art director and graphic designer
who brought custom artwork
to record album
and invented the first packaging
for long-playing records
album artwork UK
Full Album Sales
Showed a Little Growth in 2011
The New York Times
By BEN SISARIO
beleaguered music industry, any positive news about sales is cause for
celebration. And in 2011, the numbers were slightly up.
Sales of complete albums, the industry’s most profitable product, reached 330.6
million in the United States last year, a 1.3 percent increase from 2010,
according to Nielsen SoundScan, which collects sales data from retailers. Some
businesses might call that level of growth flat, but since album sales had
fallen every year since 2004, it was a notable improvement.
Some of that marginal growth came from one album, Adele’s “21” (XL/Columbia)
which sold 5.82 million copies, the best one-year sales count for any album
since Usher’s “Confessions” sold 7.98 million copies in 2004.
The increases were largely driven by consumption of digital music, whose growth
quickened last year after a slow 2010. Last year 1.27 billion individual tracks
were downloaded in the United States, up 8.5 percent from the year before, and
sales of complete digital albums reached 103.1 million, a 19.5 percent gain from
Yet music executives, accustomed to the industry’s downward sales slope over the
last decade, were cautious about interpreting last year’s gains as representing
more than a small uptick. According to the Recording Industry Association of
American, revenue from recorded music fell 52 percent from 2000 to 2010.
“It’s encouraging,” said Rob Stringer, the chairman of Columbia Records, which
distributes Adele’s album in the United States. “But we’d be silly to jump up
After Adele’s “21,” the most popular titles of 2011 were Michael Bublé’s
“Christmas” (143/Reprise), with 2.45 million sales; Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”
(Interscope), with 2.1 million; Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter IV” (Cash
Money/Universal Republic), with 1.92 million; and the country singer Jason
Aldean’s “My Kinda Party” (Broken Bow), which had 1.58 million sales.
Adele, 23, a British retro-soul singer, has a straightforward style that is at
odds with the electronic dance-pop that dominates the Top 40, yet her songs
“Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You” became hits on multiple radio
formats. That helped her album, released in February, remain one of the Top five
sellers for almost every week of the year.
Mr. Stringer attributed Adele’s success to the quality of her music, to a
marketing plan that made use of all the modern tools like social media, and
strategically chosen placements in film and television. Yet the label avoided
the excessive branding deals and product endorsements that could have turned her
“We were omnipresent but not overexposed,” Mr. Stringer said.
Analysts also pointed to several beneficial trends in retail. Online, record
labels and digital shops like iTunes and Amazon now regularly promote deluxe
versions of albums, which offer bonus content for a premium price.
“Digital retailers are getting better and better at giving customers what they
want,” said David Bakula, a senior analyst at Nielsen.
For the first time, digital music purchases surpassed those of physical albums
like CDs and vinyl records: 50.3 percent of all units sold — whether singles or
full albums — were digital, according to SoundScan.
But fire-sale pricing by retailers online and offline may be conditioning
consumers to expect unsustainable discounts. In a promotion that enraged
brick-and-mortar record stores, Amazon briefly sold the download version of Lady
Gaga’s album for 99 cents. And to lure consumers to ever-shrinking CD racks,
big-box stores regularly price “catalog” albums — titles more than 18 months old
— at $5 or less.
Those discounts may have contributed to one of the more surprising statistics in
SoundScan’s annual report: sales of CDs, after dropping 19.5 percent in 2010,
fell only 5.7 percent last year, to 223.5 million. (As recently as 2004,
however, total CD sales were almost three times that number.)
And sales of vinyl albums, which have bolstered independent shops, rose 36
percent to 3.9 million, their highest level since SoundScan opened in 1991.
Analysts and music executives pointed to the continued growth of digital music —
and the expansion of streaming services like Spotify and MOG, whose revenue from
advertising and subscriptions is not tracked by SoundScan — as the most
promising signs for an industry in which hitting a low point is seen as a
“It’s a bit more than a blip,” Michael McGuire, a media analyst at Gartner, said
of the slight growth in music sales last year. “I think it’s the sign that the
music industry is finally starting to come to figure out the digital present and
future, at least when it comes to download sales. Perhaps we’ve seen the
Full Album Sales Showed a Little Growth in 2011,
Scratching Under the Vinyl Era
November 8, 2010
The New York Times
By TIM ARANGO
The images have been scattered about in dusty and moldy
warehouses, relics of the pre-Internet age when photography was integral to
selling music, and the photographers — names like Irving Penn, Annie Leibovitz,
Lee Friedlander and Robert Mapplethorpe — went on to become nearly as famous as
the subjects they captured and defined.
“Every day is like, what am I going to find today?” said Grayson Dantzic, the
archivist for Atlantic Records in New York. With colleagues at Warner Music
Group, Atlantic’s parent, he is part of an ambitious project to recover the
company’s story — and a good chunk of American cultural history as well — by
excavating the contents of nearly 100,000 boxes from warehouses around the
globe, whose accumulated photographs and other memorabilia track popular music
from the Edwardian and Victorian ages to disco and jazz, from Beethoven to Miles
In an industry whose product is now compressed into tidy digital bits, the
project is an exercise in record-keeping that is partly motivated by the
urgencies of economics. The material is potentially quite valuable, and the
company is searching for ways to make money from it, through high-end art books,
sales to collectors and applications for iPads.
The project is also a story of what media companies have left behind as they
increasingly move to digital formats, a reconfiguring that has upended the
economics of the business.
“I wanted to take an inventory of what we had,” said Edgar Bronfman Jr., the
chairman and chief executive of the Warner Music Group. “We thought it was
important from an artistic standpoint, from a corporate culture standpoint and
potentially from a consumer standpoint.”
Mr. Bronfman, who calls the project “Sight of Sound,” added: “I think there’s
the potential to make money. It’s indefinable.”
The archive project may also be instructive for reintegrating visual art into
“Visual art has historically been a powerful component that deepens fans’ music
experience,” said Will Tanous, an executive vice president at Warner who is
overseeing the project. “We lost that in recent years. But with today’s emerging
digital platforms, we have the opportunity to inspire a renaissance in visual
art associated with music.”
After Mr. Bronfman and investors bought the company in 2004 from Time Warner, it
took a few years for executives to realize what the company had in storage under
Time Warner’s name, and they sent lawyers to the former owners to secure
permission to release the materials.
In close to a year of digging, the company has only pricked the surface: there
are still 14,000 boxes in New Jersey alone that haven’t been touched, and tens
of thousands more elsewhere in the United States and abroad in places like
Brazil, Japan and Australia.
Warner Music traces its corporate lineage back to 1811 through its ownership of
the music publisher Warner Chappell, whose business then was selling sheet music
and the machines to play it: pianos. Among the finds is a black-and-white photo
of a Chappell piano being delivered to Buckingham Palace. Songbooks dating to
the 1830s are among the oldest items. More recent materials include drawings by
Maurice Sendak, who produced cover art for Elektra Records before he became
famous as a children’s illustrator; a hand-written history of Atlantic Records
by its co-founder Ahmet Ertegun; and recording contracts for some titans of
“Aretha’s contract is right there,” said Mr. Dantzic, referring to Aretha
Franklin and pointing to a box on a shelf above his computer. In another box is
Ray Charles’s original recording contract, signed with an ‘X.’ In a separate
office is a piano from the 1920s that George Gershwin played, come upon in a
cluttered storage area.
A photocopy of a letter from Beethoven to a former pupil recommending Chappell
as a music publisher, dated 1819, has sent Warner’s archivists digging for the
But the bulk of the delights — of potential value to high-end collectors — are
the rock and jazz photographs, including a series of unpublished black-and-white
shots of Led Zeppelin in the studio in 1969 by Jim Cummins. The intimate
collection by Mr. Cummins, who was an Atlantic photographer, portrays a group of
young rockers before they became hugely famous and includes a rare image of
Robert Plant, the band’s singer, playing the acoustic guitar.
“There was a real sense of documentation back then,” said Bob Kaus, an Atlantic
executive who is involved in the project. “Music and art really go together.”
Among other images Mr. Dantzic displayed recently were platinum palladium prints
Penn took of Miles Davis; New Orleans jazz photos from the 1950s by Mr.
Friedlander, whose work is currently on display at the Whitney Museum of
American Art in New York; a contact sheet of Ms. Leibovitz’s images of Ms.
Franklin at the Fillmore West in 1971, as well as a collection of shots of the
same event taken by Jim Marshall, the rock photographer who died this year.
(Photography aficionados will enjoy an image Mr. Marshall took of Ms.
Leibovitz.) Materials related to some of Mapplethorpe’s early days as a
photographer for Elektra in the 1970s — he shot at least one album cover for the
band Television — are being sought in an archive on the West Coast.
Before the Internet, photography was so much a part of selling music that record
companies spared little expense to hire photographers to shoot album covers and
document a band’s work, on the road and in the studio. Today that documentation
occurs, but often by the bands themselves, with flip cameras and mobile phones.
The vinyl record, in effect, provided a large canvas for a photographer — a
surface made smaller with the advent of the compact disc, and virtually
non-existent in today’s world of digital downloads.
“I’ve had my ego stroked a lot,” said Mr. Cummins, who recalled entering record
stores and seeing his work on giant displays. “You were definitely an integral
part of what was done.”
Jac Holzman, who founded Warner’s Elektra Records 60 years ago, was a pioneer in
integrating visual art and popular music — and documenting the artistic process
at every stage, including the marketing and business aspects. When the company
placed a billboard for the Doors on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in the
1960s, the Doors were on hand, and Mr. Holzman made sure it was all
“We were all adept at photography,” Mr. Holzman said. “Any employee who would be
at a session was given a camera. I never went to a session without a camera.”
These days “you don’t have the canvas to show your work,” said Neal Preston, a
photographer who worked for Atlantic in the 1970s and whose own images of Led
Zeppelin and others from that era have been uncovered in the archive project.
“There is a deep connection for a lot of us in terms of what an album cover
means to us emotionally,” he said. “It goes hand in hand with the music. At
least it used to.”
Mr. Preston spent years on the road with bands, photographing fly-on-the-wall
moments at the behest of Atlantic Records.
“These jobs aren’t given out anymore,” he said. “Bands and labels don’t want to
spend the money.”
Lisa Tanner was hired as a photographer by Atlantic in the late 1970s when she
was just 17, and hit the road with bands like the Rolling Stones, Foreigner and
“You just sort of hung out,” she said, “and waited for a moment to happen.”.
Scratching Under the
Retailing Era Closes
With Music Megastore
June 15, 2009
The New York Times
By BEN SISARIO
The sounds of the Velvet Underground echoed in the Virgin
Megastore in Union Square on Sunday afternoon, as bargain-hunting passers-by and
hard-core music shoppers poked through what few items remained at the last
large-scale record store in New York City.
It was the final day of business for the Virgin Megastore chain in North
America, which at its peak had 23 locations but by Sunday was down to two: the
57,000-square-foot, two-level New York outlet, and a smaller Hollywood shop that
was also set to close. In Union Square posters trumpeted 90 percent discounts
and offered the sale of “all furniture and equipment.” But when the store
opened, perhaps 90 percent of the merchandise had already been sold, leaving two
tables of CDs and DVDs, a dozen T-shirt racks and a few other scattered
With the music industry stuck in a decade-long crisis, the sight of a record
store closing is hardly surprising. But for many shoppers at Union Square on
Sunday the loss of a big outlet in one of the most heavily trafficked areas of
the city was particularly dispiriting.
“Unfortunately the large retail music store is a dinosaur,” said Tony Beliech,
39, a former Virgin employee who was lugging around an armful of CDs that he
said would cost him no more than $20. “It does matter because it was also a
social gathering space, and that’s one thing that buying music online lacks.”
Dozens of smaller record stores are still open in New York, and at least 2,000
independent shops exist around the country, according to the Almighty Institute
of Music Retail, a market research company. Many of those independents have
banded together to promote events like Record Store Day, which had its second
anniversary in April. They are also promoting Vinyl Saturday on June 20, which
will feature specially produced records by artists like Wilco and Modest Mouse
to draw customers.
But the record store ranks have been severely thinned in recent years, and New
York, once home to at least three large-scale music chains, now has none. Last
month Virgin shut down its other New York Megastore, in Times Square. (There are
still Virgin Megastores in Europe and the Middle East, but under different
ownership.) HMV — like Virgin, of British origin — pulled out of the American
market in 2004; Tower Records closed its 89 American stores in 2006. Trans World
Entertainment, which operates the FYE chain, has closed at least 280 of its
locations over the last two years, leaving it with about 700, but none
comparable in size to the Virgin Megastore.
“It’s clear that the model of the large entertainment specialist working in a
large space is not going to work in the future,” said Simon Wright, the chief
executive of Virgin Entertainment Group, North America.
To an extent the closings are a result of the overall drop in music sales. From
the industry’s peak in 2000 — when some 785 million albums were sold — until the
end of 2008, album sales fell 45 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Even
with the rise of iTunes and other online outlets, however, CDs have remained
consumers’ format of choice, though that advantage is slipping. As recently as
2006, CDs accounted for more than 90 percent of album sales. Last year that
proportion dropped to 84 percent, and so far in 2009 it is 77 percent. As many
as two-thirds of all album sales are made at large chains like FYE, Wal-Mart and
Best Buy, according to industry estimates.
“The Titanic that is physical media started slowly sinking in 2000,” said
Michael McGuire, an analyst with Gartner, a market research firm, when asked
about Virgin. “Certainly this is a traumatic event for those who worked there,
but it’s an expected product of the digital transition.”
But the end of Virgin is also a product of business concerns unrelated to music.
Its first American store was opened in 1992 in Los Angeles, and it set itself
apart from rivals by developing a clublike atmosphere with booming sound systems
and by offering steep discounts. “The indies learned from them and applied that
to our stores,” said Michael Kurtz, president of the Music Monitor Network, a
coalition of about 100 independent retailers.
As CD sales declined, the Megastores remained profitable by offering T-shirts,
DVDs and other items. The Times Square outlet, for example, had annual sales in
excess of $50 million, according to company reports, making it by many industry
estimations the highest-volume record store in the United States.
In 2007 Virgin’s North American branch was bought by two real estate firms,
Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust, and in a Reuters interview last year
an executive from Vornado made it clear that the chain’s true value was not in
its sales but in the real estate that its stores occupied. In both Times Square
and Union Square, analysts say, Virgin’s rent was a fraction of the going rate.
Forever 21, a fashion chain, is taking over the Times Square store; a
spokeswoman for Related Companies said it was in negotiations for the Union
Square site but declined to identify any potential new tenants.
At Union Square on Sunday most new and popular titles had long since been
gobbled up. In relative abundance, however, were Virgin-branded black T-shirts
($1), Guitar Hero action figures ($1.39) and a variety of Jonas Brothers
memorabilia. Yet there were still some hidden gems. Mr. Beliech, the customer
and former employee, scored CDs by, among others, the British folk-experimental
group Current 93 and the hyperkinetic Japanese band Melt-Banana.
Max Redinger, 14, who was walking his dog, picked up some anime books and Guitar
Hero figures. He said he buys most of his music on iTunes but still likes going
to record stores and mentioned that a friend had recently introduced him to an
independent shop upstate.
“I don’t really buy stuff from it,” Mr. Redinger said, “but it’s a really cool
Retailing Era Closes
With Music Megastore,
In Harlem, 2 Record Stores
Go the Way of the Vinyl
January 21, 2008
The New York Times
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
On Saturday morning, Bobby’s Happy House, a music store in Harlem that opened
in 1946, was in a state of chaos.
The store’s owner, 91-year-old Bobby Robinson, who was wearing a dark blue suit
and his trademark black fedora, seemed bewildered as he surveyed his store.
Albums were stacked on the floor, photographs of him with Fats Domino, James
Brown and others had been pulled from the walls and the store’s glass display
cases contained only a few scattered CDs and cassette tapes.
A few hundred yards northwest, at the Harlem Record Shack on 125th Street, an
employee with a handmade sign was urging passers-by to sign a petition to keep
that store from being evicted.
Inside, the voice of the store’s owner, Sikhulu Shange, 66, rang through the
Record Shack as he vowed not to go easily, even though he was under a court
order to leave within a few weeks, after 36 years in business there.
Mr. Robinson and Mr. Shange, who have been friendly rivals for Harlem’s music
dollars for almost two generations, are on the cusp of being forced out of
business here within weeks of each other as Harlem continues its uneasy
transition from being a haven for some of the city’s poorest residents to a
place where apartments selling for $1 million and tripling commercial rents have
become unremarkable occurrences.
Bobby’s Happy House, on Frederick Douglass Boulevard near 125th Street, is
closing on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Mr. Shange has been given until
the end of March to vacate his store.
Each man represents a distinct generation of black men who arrived in Harlem as
young men seeking to contribute to a neighborhood they had long heard about and
Mr. Robinson, originally from South Carolina, came after World War II. He speaks
in the language of that time, using words like “colored,” which has long been
Mr. Shange, who arrived from South Africa in the 1960s, came of age during that
era’s tradition of protest. He wears dashikis and repeats words like
Each man said the runaway pace of change in the neighborhood during the past few
years was unlike anything they had seen before.
“Everything you see here, I built,” Mr. Robinson said, waving his arm around his
store as friends and family members boxed up decades of mementos. “How do you
think I feel?”
On the other hand, Mr. Shange, who was at the center of an eviction battle in
the 1990s that culminated in gunfire and an arson attack that killed eight
people, left no doubt about his feelings. He was angry.
“There was a time when everybody was running away from Harlem, but we stayed,
keeping the culture alive,” he said, as shoppers surveyed the small store’s
African, gospel, jazz and R&B selections that are kept in locked glass cases.
“We don’t have nothing to show for being in the community all these years and
keeping it beautiful. Tourists are not coming here to see McDonald’s and Burger
King. They are coming here to see black culture.”
The two stores have survived so long, the owners say, because they offer
services and products customers cannot get anyplace else.
At Bobby’s Happy House, those services included recording albums onto cassettes
or CDs for customers and allowing visitors to pull up a plastic chair and chat
with Mr. Robinson, who was a noted record producer. His work included Wilbert
Harrison’s No. 1 hit “Kansas City” in 1959 and groundbreaking hip-hop songs by
Doug E. Fresh and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five during the late 1970s.
The inspiration for the name of Bobby’s Happy House, which has had various names
over the years, was a doo-wop song Mr. Robinson wrote for Lewis Lymon & the
Teenchords in 1956 called “I’m So Happy,” a hit in the Northeast. (Lewis Lymon
was the younger brother of Frankie Lymon, best known for a song with the
Teenagers, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”).
At the Record Shack, customers have found in Mr. Shange, a former dancer, an
authoritative source on American soul music and hard-to-find African music. In a
nod to their customers, both stores continued to sell records and cassette
tapes, formats most other stores have not sold for years.
“A lot of old people are ashamed to go to a store and ask them for cassettes,”
said Mr. Robinson’s daughter, Denise Benjamin, who has managed Bobby’s Happy
House for her father in recent years.
Both Mr. Robinson and Mr. Shange said it was unclear what role the downturn in
the record music industry has had on their stores, but HMV and the Wiz, two
large retailers that sold CDs and other items, have closed stores on 125th
Street during the past few years.
Mr. Robinson and Mr. Shange said they had been caught off-guard by their
evictions and the transformation of the neighborhood. Each has a different
landlord. Within a few blocks of their stores are more than a dozen construction
sites for projects that include a 19-story hotel, office towers and luxury
co-ops and condominiums.
Once the last of the old records have been cleared from Bobby’s — and other
tenants in the block-long building have moved out — the new owners, a
partnership of the Sigfeld Group and Kimco Realty Corporation, have said they
will tear down the structure and replace it with a four-story office building,
including retail space on the ground floor. None of the old tenants, including
Mr. Robinson, said they had been invited to set up shop in the new building.
Several store owners have filed a lawsuit contesting their evictions.
Ms. Benjamin said family members decided not to join the lawsuit because they
wanted to save their money to find a location nearby.
Representatives for Sigfeld and Kimco, which bought the building for $30 million
in August, did not respond to phone calls and e-mail messages seeking comment.
Mr. Shange’s landlord, the United House of Prayer for All People, won a court
order forcing Mr. Shange to leave the store empty and “broom clean” by March 31.
The church has not announced its plans for the space, and a church
representative at its headquarters in Washington declined to comment. David M.
Grill, the attorney representing the church in New York, did not return a phone
call and an e-mail message seeking comment.
Mr. Shange, who has been paying $4,500 a month — about $500 more a month than
Mr. Robinson at Bobby’s Happy House — said that he was willing to pay more, but
that the church, which is above the store, had refused to negotiate.
Mr. Shange said the store was organizing a protest rally on Sunday at 11 a.m.,
when many of the church’s parishioners will be arriving for services.
A flier at his store advertising the rally reads: “Protest Greedy Landlords! We
will not be moved from Harlem!!! We must reclaim, preserve and protect our
historic black community. If we do not, no one will!!!”
Eight thousand people have signed a petition opposing his store’s eviction, he
When Mr. Shange faced eviction in 1995 during a dispute with a different
landlord, who held the sublease for the Record Shack, weeks of demonstrations
over the plans of the landlord, who was white, to evict the black-owned store
took on a racial tinge. The dispute ended after a protester walked into the
landlord’s store, which was next to the Record Shack, carrying a handgun and a
container of paint thinner. After shooting and wounding four people, he set the
store ablaze before shooting himself. He and seven other people died in the
Mr. Shange said he expected the coming demonstration to be peaceful, just as
others in support of his store have been in recent months.
Unlike Mr. Shange, Mr. Robinson’s daughter said she did not particularly object
to the changes occurring in Harlem, which have included new bank branches and
“I don’t mind change, but when people have had to endure everything — and you
know if you’ve been here 60 years you’ve endured a lot,” she said, her voice
trailing off. “This is everything to him.”
In Harlem, 2 Record
Stores Go the Way of the Vinyl,
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