One of the things that vinyl has in its favour – and you’ll always hear a vinyl enthusiast trot it out as one of the virtues of the format – is the cover artwork; it actually works, it actually is (or can become) art. The CD has a lot of faults and though it seemed convenient and portable it was a catastrophe design-wise. An embarrassment – particularly the early lazy transfers and the dodgy reissues where the artwork from the original LP was shrunk to less than a quarter of its size, sometimes even left as nothing more than a thumbnail in the corner, a sea of white around it.
Now you might have no interest in vinyl – you might have no interest in cover art, in the idea of artwork being associated with music at all – and that’s fine. Now more than ever there’s a drive towards the music, making it accessible and available, focussing on the availability of individual (key) tracks. But that drive is also part of the renaissance that vinyl (as a format) is enjoying. In an age where more and more people have de-valued the album, record sales (LPs that is) are not dropping; people are actually buying new turntables and creating new record collections, disappearing off into a world of back cover photos and liner notes, of flipping through the files, of changing sides after 20 minutes.
There are some amazing LP covers out there – and with new albums being produced on vinyl it’s clear that this is an area that plenty of people (both artists and their audience) still care about. There are records that feature amazing photography, illustrations or paintings. Sometimes it’s from a member of the band – sometimes it’s from a band member who is, in their own right, an artist/designer.
It might be a dying medium; the fully unified album, the concept of a bunch of songs that hang together and are tied up by the cover artwork – but if that’s the case it’s another reason for the preservation.
If you can’t afford artwork a great cheap way to decorate a room is to find some bargain-bin records and use the kitsch covers as some kind of statement. We’ve all seen it, or done it. A Val Doonican here, a bit of Zamfir there. Or you might have seen (or done) the more serious angle: Pet Sounds on display; The Velvet Underground’s third album or The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. You can of course combine elements of the kitsch with the classic – heck you can do whatever you want. But vinyl is a cheap way to make a statement on the wall. And you can take the actual LP out and still play it.
A while back I had the idea that it would be cool to create a frame for a favourite record – actually frame it on the wall – but have access to still lift it out so that the actual album could be accessed; could be played from time to time. My father is a very handy carpenter-type guy (very handy given it’s only his hobby). So I figured he might be able to create something.
Katy had the very good idea that we could frame up the Velvet Underground & Nico album cover – you know, the “banana” – it’s by Andy Warhol and has his name on it. Katy liked the idea that we’d a) be able to say we had an Andy Warhol on our wall and that b) given Warhol’s aesthetic and his understanding of and for appropriation and the idea that you get to declare an object as art we’d be carrying on the lineage. Also c) it’s an album we both like.
So I was close to making the call home to order up a frame-prototype when we had the thought that such a thing – a frame with access for playing the album still – probably already existed. Turns out it does. You probably know that. You might have one. Or more than one.
A fun wee gift for the record-bore that has everything music-wise (I should know, we smell our own). And a fairly cost-effective way of actually making your vinyl become art.
Since we’ve had the frame we’ve had Bernard Purdie’s Lialeh on display. We’ve had Chet Baker Sings: It Could Happen To You in there. And there’s been many more. I don’t plan a change, I don’t allocate an amount of time…it’s random. But it’s fun. Currently my copy of The Muppet Movie soundtrack cover is in there – because Oscar’s lost the record, and we’ve bought a new copy of the Muppet Movie soundtrack to play…
I’ve had Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew in the frame. It looked cool – and obviously it’s a great album. You may remember the time recently where I talked about what value you place on music – after watching a person turn his nose up at the $60 tag on the Bitches Brew double-LP I made a point of going back to the store and purchasing it. I’d always wanted it on vinyl but that was the decider. And so it worked well hanging on the wall next to the turntable. It both sounds as good as I remembered and looks as good as ever. Better in fact, given it is framed.
So if you could have one album hanging on your wall next to your stereo what would you pick? Would you want a funny/interesting/cool cover? Would you want a favourite/most-played album? Would you want an album as a talking-point? Would you want something kitsch/quirky? Something with sentimental value perhaps. And can you think of something that encompasses all (or most) of those attributes?
What album would you first display if you had a vinyl frame on your wall? Or do you already have one – or several? Perhaps you don’t see the point at all? You could always frame up your USB stick I guess, right? Or a framed photocopy of the Spotify logo with the most amount of plays you’ve given your favourite? A CD shining down from the wall?