29 Jun 2017
Cover Versions - an exhibition of recent record covers 
Cover Versions - an exhibition of recent record covers

APRIL 30 - MAY 21 1981
Tues-Fri 10.30-5.00 Saturday 10.30-4.00

Transcript of exhibition introduction


an exhibition of recent record covers

The idea which emerged in the 1960's that a record, its packaging and artwork might have its own visual identity, was distorted or lost in the early 1970's, and, like much of the music of that decade, sleeve design tended towards the slick and empty. The obvious experimentation, seen for example in The Beatles' 'Sergeant Pepper' or the 'White Album', disappeared in a mire of air brush and weak surrealism.

However, the most original graphics that accompanied the profusion of new wave records released since 1977, were imaginative, colourful and energetic, reflecting to some extent the vitality of the new music. During this period, countless groups and individuals committed their songs to vinyl, some adopting a do-it-yourself approach by financing, recording, packaging and distributing their product themselves, while some secured deals with the major record companies, and others found a home amongst the emerging small independent record labels, such as Stiff, who worked creatively with their artists, emerging with a world of witty parody, slogans and good design.

The picture sleeve, customary packaging for e.p.'s by '60's pop groups, made a reappearance, and indeed became almost obligatory for any single release. The designer's job therefore became increasingly more significant, especially when there were additional requirements such as separate covers for 7" and 12" releases, artwork for advertisements, t-shirts, badges, stickers, posters, and assorted promotional ephemera. For this exhibition, we have made a selection from record covers produced over the past four years, concentrating on those designers whose work we consider to be consistently innovative, visually interesting and witty. Included are individual designers Malcolm Garrett (designs for, among others, the Buzzcocks and Magazine) and Peter Saville (Factory and Dindisc); record labels Stiff, Radar and F-Beat, and Bob Last's Edinburgh-based Fast Product/Pop-Aural; Al McDowell's Rocking Russian, with the extension of its activities into related areas such as t-shirts and magazines. This diversification into other areas is illustrated elsewhere in the exhibition, e.g. Fast's 'Quality of Life' packages, Stiff's promotional material.

Chris Kennedy, Bryan Biggs
exhibition organisers

We would like to thank the following for their help in arranging this exhibition: Malcolm Garrett, Chris Morton, Peter Saville, Al McDowell, Bob Last, Frances Lupton, Jez Miller, Peter Richmond, Jeremy Stickings, Penny Lane Records, A&M, Albion, Arista, Blueprint, Charisma, Decca, EMI, F-Beat, Groovy, MCA, New Hormones, Pre, Radar, RSO, Trojan, Virgin, WEA.


Exhibition booklet images follow. Many thanks to Brian Nicholson.

Note: this is the exhibition to which Tony Wilson is referring in his essay 'Saville - the partner's story' which we published in May 2017.

Cover Versions - an exhibition of recent record covers

Cover Versions - an exhibition of recent record covers

Cover Versions - an exhibition of recent record covers

Cover Versions - an exhibition of recent record covers

Cover Versions - an exhibition of recent record covers

Cover Versions - an exhibition of recent record covers

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Biting Tongues

In the grey days of late 1970s post-punk Manchester, youth culture was a serious affair: every musical performance was measured mostly by the conviction of its delivery. The term 'New Wave' opened up free vistas where acquired skills could once again be exercised after punk's monochrome blur. It could be applied to anything from a James 'Blood' Ulmer record to the latest Throbbing Gristle release, Magazine to Swell Maps. Move outside that terrain into Sun Ra, Parliament, Frank Sinatra and Martin Denny, and your options were suddenly without limit...

Then came Tony Wilson's Factory Club (at the Russell Club in Hulme) offering an open invitation to experiment that was taken up when Ken Hollings, Howard Walmsley, Eddie Sherwood and a few others decided to make some noise to accompany their 16mm silent epic Biting Tongues. A further performance followed a few weeks later, when Colin Seddon and Graham Massey disbanded their Post Natals project and joined up. The film itself, a flashing series of negative images, became a memory; the name remained.

- extract from the LTM Biting Tongues biography

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