Posts Tagged ‘album art’

33 1/3: Part Two: Andy Warhol’s Album Covers

April 16th, 2022

Advertising became driven by cultural shifts happening post-WWII and a new market that was emerging: teens and young adults. Plus, innovations made during the war effort and now consumer market ready— the turntable (with the emerging standard of 33 1/3 RPM) and the reel-to-reel recorder/player—had an eager population wanting to experience the joys of collecting; of having a home stereo system to explore the latest sounds. To capture this new consumer group, and to invoke the “new” modern sensibilities, design in the 1950s started moving away from standard fonts and visual narratives.  Record labels were a big part of pushing graphic design into new frontiers.

Reid Miles (of the iconic 1950s Blue Note covers fame) partnered with Andy Warhol looking for eye catching designs for the album covers for the Prestige label. Miles felt that Warhol’s graphic design had a powerful combination of “freedom and structure.” This Monk album from 1956 is a potent example: MONK spelled out in a basic font proclaims the artist’s name easily despite the letters uneven placement.  A florid script gives more details about the recording.

The combination of these fonts are arresting, underscoring the “freedom and structure” that Miles appreciated about Warhol’s work.

Warhol had asked his mother to do the calligraphy for this Monk release. Julia Warhola, an ardent illustrator herself, grew up drawing and doing calligraphy, developing her own type-face in a sense. Warhola herself eventually published a book of her drawings on her favorite subject: cats.   

Lastly, here’s another album cover that Warhol was assigned—“The Story of Moondog” featuring musician Louis Thomas Hardin (Prestige 1958)— and it featured his mother’s script entirely. Next time, Warhol’s sketches on albums.

33 1/3 on Thursdays: Warhol Album Art

April 7th, 2022

Here at KCSM, we love dropping the needle on an Lp, savoring sounds of Jazz from an era before CDs and enjoying the spin of 33 1/3.

With one of the largest radio broadcast libraries, our vinyl library is a Jazz treasure trove. In anticipation of Record Store Day on April 23, we want to feature some of the album covers from our collection. In particular, cover art done by a very well-known artist: Andy Warhol.

Before The Velvet Underground or the Marilyn Monroe screen prints, Warhol made his way as a pen for hire, working often with legendary graphic designer Reid Miles. As a result, some of Warhol’s early design work can be seen on the Columbia Masterworks label on releases for Carlos Chavez, Vladimir Horowitz and Arturo Toscanini.

From 1955 on, we find Warhol’s work exhibiting a more personal touch. Which, if you consider the genre and the artists he was assigned, it is a logical, and necessary, progression for his work. In a sense, one could say that this “begins” mid-decade of the ’50s with a full face portrait of Count Basie.
This album features a pen and ink drawing that Warhol did of the band leader. Turning the Lp over, next to the liner notes, there is a photograph showing Basie seated at the piano, smoking a cigarette. Warhol used this photo to sketch the portrait on the front. It wasn’t until he began working for Prestige and Blue Note that Warhol began to sign his work.

Next week, another Warhol cover featuring his graphic design and his mother’s calligraphy.