OH, HOW many of these did my mom and my grandmother prop against the old console stereo? I couldn’t count. Beautiful squares of color or mood. The idea that an album cover should showcase an image that in some sort of way conveyed the music inside was something I figured was a given. LP sets of jazz, classical, pop illustrated some sense of the journey you were going to take aurally. They might be abstracts, metaphors, puns or literal. But I was a kid who studied them and tried to determine the connection even as I listened.
Who knew that this was a relatively recent concept, one that artist, Alex Steinweiss, was the progenitor.
From the New York Times obit:
The record cover was a blank slate in 1939, when Mr. Steinweiss was hired to design advertisements for Columbia Records. Most albums were unadorned, and on those occasions when art was used, it was not original. (Albums then were booklike packages containing multiple 78 r.p.m. discs.) “The way records were sold was ridiculous,” Mr. Steinweiss said in a 1990 interview. “The covers were brown, tan or green paper. They were not attractive, and lacked sales appeal.” Despite concern about the added costs, he was given the approval to come up with original cover designs.
The fabulous website/blog L.P. Cover Lover art is hosting gorgeous gallery display of the bounty of impressionistic images that blooed in Steinweiss’s imagination. For something that for most listeners is so very personal — the visual image that evolves from the music — Steinweiss was expert at hinting at an overall feeling and letting you fill in the spaces.
image via New York Times