A look at some of the classic album cover remakes going on display from this weekend at Pete McKee’s Month of Sundays Gallery in Sheffield.
Below are some of the albums entered into the exhibition, including explanations from the designers as to why they chose each album cover to rework and their thoughts behind the design work.
1) Melody (Histoire de Melody Nelson) par Serge Gainsbourg by Lord Dunsby.
Middle aged French roue in a Roller “knocks off” shove-iron borne Anglo teen nymphette …
Interesting facts regarding L'histoire de Melody Nelson;
Serge really did own a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost but never passed his driving test … choosing to use it as a rather expensive ash tray.
The Serge wrote that the character Melody Nelson was to be from Sunderland, a place he thought sounded glamorous and exotic - he’d never been.
One of the session musicians on the LP was Alan Hawkshaw, later to write, amongst other things, the theme from Countdown, Grange Hill, Give Us A Clue and the Milk Tray advert.
Jane Birkin (the eponymous Melody Nelson) wears a wig in the original album photograph, and also in the family way, hence the top button of her jeans being undone.
The cuddly toy monkey, that Jane holds on the sleeve picture, was laid to rest with Serge upon his demise.
2) Dust's reworking of album cover: Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy
Cover: Same composition out of context
This was not our first Public Enemy album — that came 3 year earlier with "Yo! Bum Rush the Show". We were 16 at that point - young minds felt music beige, with punk and synth book ending the Rocky theme tune at school discos. With no obvious or relevant scene to speak of - swapped/borrowed TDK Mix tapes played on machines that could only go forward became the medium for inspiration.
So the curiously named Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, Terminator X and the S1W's made the journey over the atlantic to Barnsley and Ashton-Under-Lyne. Bringing textural intricacy alongside a message that we couldn't truly understand — it wasn't just sound — it had meaning and purpose that made the world a little smaller and unnervingly a more complex place to live.
It's not lost on us how completely abstract yet influential the relationship between ourselves and this outing became - there were no marches or rallies, just market stalls and chip shops. This being the basis for our cover.
Patrick: Bought on import at FON records, Sheffield
Alun: Bought on import at Spin Inn, Manchester
3) Ian Anderson's reworking of The White Album cover, entitled 'Double Magnolia'
When The Beatles Ninth UK studio album, The Beatles aka The White Album aka (more colloquially, at least in my seventies), as 'Double White', was released in 1969 there was precious little white around to be seen anywhere in this green and pleasant sceptre'd isle.
My dad's paintwork in our suburban semi was Magnolia – in fact everyone's doors, walls, bathroom suites were magnolia, kitchens were magnolia, garages (and their doors) were magnolia, fabric was cheesecloth, newspapers were pre-yellowed, and the exuberant psychedelia of the previous pop years was fading to hangover beige. The lights were about to grow power-cut candle-lit dim; nicotine-stained ceilings in pubs, planes and automobiles were de rigeur, and the omnipresent Helvetica of its day, Magnolia, was the accepted colour de jour. White showed too dirty too quickly in those pre-wipe clean days and boy there sure were dirty times ahead just around the corner.
Look back at old photos and everything we'd expect to see white seems cream, that's not the process, that's not the fading through time, things really were Magnolia... But as with anything the times change and Dulux and friends found new improved washes whiter ways of peddling Magnolia. Off-white, ecru, white with a hint of barley, and all the shades between ushered in more mass appeal colour literate times. Magnolia bathroom suites became 'champagne', cars became ivory and even The Beatles abandoned ship not to white with a hint of Apple, or Zapple, but to the pastel shaded cult-cheese bed ridden primal scream ram-rusticism that ultimately ushered in Mull of Kintyre - Kintyre being Old Norse for Magnolia.
4) Jonathan Wilkinson has reworked the cover for Animals by Pink Floyd
Records and LP sleeves played a big part in my upbringing as the hi-fi was always the centrepiece of our living room. Spending most of my time on the carpet as nippers do, records were at the perfect level to catch my attention. As the years went by and I gained the trust of my folks, I was allowed to give the records a spin. It was then that I found that our household record collection consisted of three main types: The Beatles, The Beach Boys and prog rock.
Whilst the happy cheer of The Beatles was familiar and entertaining and the cover of Pet Sounds similarly fun but creepy, it was the muted and murky tones of the seventies prog bands that gained this teenager’s attention.
A notable shift for better or worse from grown men petting and feeding goats to a diagram of light refracting through a prism was what attracted me to Pink Floyd. The Radiohead of their time, they had a knack for stretching a song usually over ten minutes and beyond. Ponderous and camera-shy, you would be hard pushed to find a single photo of them on any of their LP sleeves. This may have been down to the fact that the music was concept-driven or because they were the unlikeliest of poster boys.
Continuing their trend of album cover as visual puzzle, they produced their best album (cover that is) in the form of Animals. Not much fun to listen to, but probably the most stunning combination of brooding sky, power station and inflatable pig that you are ever likely to come across.
Shot on the scale of a small film project, Pink Floyd used a team of 11 photographers and an eight-man movie crew to capture the industrial gloom of Battersea. So the story goes, on the third day of shooting, the helium-filled pig broke free from its shackles and headed into the flight path of Heathrow airport. That sense of drama is a far cry from today, when you’ve got a band like Radiohead giving an album away for free and asking the fans to design a cover. I mean come on, how lazy is that?
5) A reworking of the cover for The Jam's album, All Mod Cons by Mick Marston
From the perfunctory "1,2,3,4" intro on the title track to the fade out tube trains on the last, All Mod Cons is a record choc full of tennis racket guitar riffs & cricket bat bass lines, pivotal for a boy of 13 years old who was a bit too young for Punk & who hated his step brothers Genesis & Yes albums.
Released in November 1978 – in what was to become the winter of discontent & coincidentally the coldest winter in my lifetime – All Mod Cons was The Jam's third album in 18 months & is considered by many to be their finest achievement. Not only a brilliant record in its own right, more importantly this record opened the door (albeit a back one) to a (re)discovery of Soul, classic 60's pop & Ska – cut forward 32 years & i'm still listening & (re)discovering.
The original cover – as with all The Jam's sleeve art – is fairly rudimentary. We see Messrs Weller, Foxton & Buckler in a near empty room which was intended as an ironic twist on the album title (although it has since been noted that Weller just simply wanted the word 'mod' in the title). The inner sleeve's tableau of mod fetishes – scooter diagrams, badges, targets, cappucino's, records etc were intended as clues to the groups ever expanding fan base & would be the taste of things to come.
My own version of the cover is both a personal recollection & another play on the irony of the title. I had an attic bedroom with no central heating (apparently you couldn't get radiators higher than your water tank in those days). I sat by an electric fire almost identical to the one featured listening to All Mod Cons, occasionally burning my pencil/drumsticks on the bars during English Rose.
More information on the Month of Sundays gallery exhibition can be found on Pete McKee's website