As vinyl sales return to levels not seen since the Nineties, fresh cover art by artists such as rock music photographer Michael Spencer Jones is also drawing attention. It’s time to celebrate exclusive music-art collaborations once more…
What album artwork is the most iconic? Which musician or band produced the most memorable cover art? From The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to FKA Twigs’ LP1, via Nirvana’s Nevermind, the eponymous The Velvet Underground & Nico and Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, some album art reaches beyond the discs it covers to become an entity all of its own. The imagery produced by the likes of Sir Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, Jess Kanda, Kirk Weddle, Andy Warhol and Michael Spencer Jones, is as much a part of the experience as the music - it moved into our collective consciousness and onto the walls of our homes.
But, as music consumption went digital, for many of us cover art took a step back; because physical CDs, cassettes (remember those?) and vinyl (old-school) weren’t so prominent, to an extent the art used to sell them was relegated to posters and paste-ups.
Vinyl has, however, made a major – and unexpected – comeback in the past few years, with physical sales defying critics to continue to rise a further 26.7 per cent in the past year alone. And with a demand for physical records comes… shiny new and creative vinyl sleeves!
At one point, a commission to create a record sleeve for a prominent or emerging band was seen as a major career goal and achievement. As well as crossing industries to collaborate with artists working in another field, it promised high visibility for a visual artist or photographer’s work. Our own family of artrepublic artists are no strangers to this: Dan Hillier produced the sleeve for Royal Blood’s’ Falls; Storm Thorgerson worked with the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin; Terry Pastor’s art adorned album covers for David Bowie and The Beach Boys, and that’s just for starters. Today, if the popularity of the annual Secret 7” cover art competition is anything to go by, the enthusiasm for working on sleeve art remains strong.
With all that in mind, what better way to shout about (and enjoy) the recent record store revival than with a whole day dedicated to the places we discover new music and unearth old gems? Record Store Day does just that. On 21 April, more than 200 independent record stores in the UK join together to celebrate their culture, with exclusive vinyl releases as well as live performances and one-off events.
This year we are getting behind it with a launch of our own - Michael Spencer Jones’ new print release, ‘Be Here Now Night’, which you can see in artrepublic’s Brighton gallery. A fixture in the ‘Madchester’ music scene of the 1990s, Spencer Jones is the photographer behind some of Oasis’ most recognisable album art – Definitely Maybe, What’s The Story – as well as The Verve’s Urban Hymns.
This latest print is a nighttime shot of the famed 1997 album Be Here Now, with artwork that shows Oasis (plus glowing red Vespa) in various stances around a swimming pool. With subtle differences from the daytime shot, you can hang the two images side-by-side at home and play spot the difference!
Spencer Jones’ night prints are available on a white or black background – the latter is from a specially released anniversary version, from a super-limited edition of 25. Both limited editions are signed by the photographer.