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Record Covers, More Than Just Protection

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Record Covers - More Than Just Protection

In addition to offering the record protection from dirt, dust and physical abuse, record covers are also known for displaying artistic, promotional or various other creative themes or messages.

To start off, a quick inspection will show that the front of a typical record cover (a.k.a. outer sleeves, jackets) will contain the groups name, album title, notations and awards. On the back side, often found are song titles, song duration times, names of group members, guest appearances and credits for composition and technical assistance.
A glance at the spine or the skinny side will reveal the catalog number, record title, artist name, record label and the occasional date. The "spine" is often useful in identifying records that are stored on shelves or housed within cabinets.

Depending upon sales figures, the record may also display the Recording Industry Association Of America's gold, platinum, multi-platinum or diamond seal. This indicates unit sales of half a million, a million, two million, and over 10 million records respectively.

The Butcher Cover AlbumWith respect to the latter half of the twentieth century, both recording artists and record labels began producing records with covers, that contained photographs of the artist, title subject or other "eye catching" imagery. Many times, in an effort to make a creative or artistic statement, unusual or otherwise controversial images were employed.

Such is the case with the release in 1966 of the Beatles "Yesterday and Today" title (Capitol C1-90447). This cover originally appeared the with "Fab Four" dressed in lab coats and surrounded with plastic baby parts and animal byproducts. After receiving a flood of negative feedback, the label was forced to replace the front cover photograph (although initially, the new artwork was simply glued over top the original photo).

The Mighty Groundhogs - Who will save the World? In another example of creativity, record covers would sometimes give the appearence of comic books or funny pages. In these cases, the artwork would attempt to project some type of theme or message that was indicative of the times (late 60's - early 70's). A prime example of the extensive use of comic book style illustrations was found in the 1972 release of the Mighty Groundhog's "Who Will Save the World?" (United Artists UAS-5570).
Illustrations adorn the front and back covers with additional drawings found throughout the gatefold sleeve and accompaning fold down flaps or pages.

Another method employed in this creative process was the use of the "die-cut" cover. A "die cut" is essentually the stamping of holes or patterns within the front or back of the record cover. Rolling Stones - Some Girls Die cut covers were found on Led Zeppelin's "Physical Graffiti", the Rolling Stone's "Some Girls" (Rolling Stones 39108) and the Door's "L.A.Woman" (Elektra EKS-75011) just to name a few.

On the "Some Girls" cover, twenty strategically placed die-cuts were placed inside the heads of famous performers. These "die-cuts" would expose the record sleeve within, and at the same time, reveal the faces that matched the outside heads. As a result of multiple legal problems associated with copyright infringement and the unauthorized use of these famous faces, the star studded die-cut "Some Girls" cover, was replaced with a similar design.The Doors - L.A.Woman

In the construction of the Door's "L.A.Woman", a plastic window was affixed to the inside of a die-cut cover. This would highlight the group members, which were stencilled directly on the plastic window.
As was the case with many of the "out of the ordinary" or unusual covers, the die cut version of "L.A.Woman", was limited to the very early pressings and eventually replaced with a non-die-cut version.

Record Covers - More Than Just Protection

Rolling Sones-Satanic Majesties Request Another visual effect sometimes found attached to record covers, was the 3D card or window. This was a very popular technique used in the 1950's and 60's, for showing 3D motion on a 2 dimensional surface. These ribbed plastic windows found their way as toys, into Cracker Jacks and cereal boxes. Two of the more popular examples of this optical illusion was the Rolling Stones "Their Satanic Magesties Request" (London NPS-2) and Captain Beyond's self titled debut album (Capricorn CP-0105). Capt.Beyond

As in the case of the "die-cut" record covers, these 3-D versions only appeared on the early pressings and were eventually replaced with plain looking paper images.
Not surprisingly, the value of the three dimensional version of the Stones cover is nearly 4 times greater than the standard paper version. Additionally, the value is 10 to 15 times greater than the plain paper copy, if the record appears in monaural.

For the collector that has never been exposed to anything other than the typical 12x12 square record cover, a Traffic-Low Sparkssubstantial number of "shaped" covers soon appeared on the store shelves. The two examples seen here, are Traffic's "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" (Island SW-9306) which gave the multiple appearances of a three dimensional room. And Grand Funk Railroad's "E Pluribus Funk" (Capitol 853), which resembles a shiny coin and conforms perfectly to the shape of the 12 inch disc.

Obviously a person, who has a collection which is comprised entirely of compact discs (CDs), is at a definite disadvantage when it comes to all the visual effects and additional information found on the typical record cover.
After all, there is only so much you can do with a 5 inch by 5 inch plastic case.Grand Funk Railroad

Last but not least, for the fan who appreciates a record cover with a little "texture", you might try looking into a copy of the Bee Gees "Odessa" (Atco SD-2-702). The cardboard base of this cover, was surrounded with red felt material and embossed in gold colored lettering. On the inside of the gatefold sleeve is an an elaborate graphic background.

If you were fortunate in acquiring an early version of this disc, you would have yourself a rather attractive record cover.Bee Gees - Odessa

To sum things up, it is apparent that the record cover serves more than just one purpose. Granted, the protection of the disc is of greater importance. But it also informs, educates and entertains the collector or fan of the respective group and deserves a category of its own. Hence, buyers and sellers of records generally include a grading of the cover much the same as the record.

According to the Goldmine grading method:

"Most dealers give a separate grade to the record and it's sleeve or cover. In an ad, a record's grade is listed first, followed by that of the sleeve or the jacket."

It still doesn't get top billing. But it doesn't need to.


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