Book Talk: Sex, drugs and classic record covers

Mon May 3, 2010 10:47am EDT
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By Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A new book of record covers shows how musicians forged an identity and communicated with fans, using an art form that has sometimes endured longer than the music between the covers.

"The Art of the LP: Classic Album Covers 1955-1995," by Ben Wardle and Johnny Morgan, which will be published in the United States and Britain on Tuesday, groups rock, pop and jazz images by theme: sex, drugs, death, and escape.

The escape theme has cropped up in lyrics and imagery of popular music since the beginnings of rock 'n roll half a century ago.

The imagery on album covers became an important part of the music experience. In the book fans will find Eric Clapton, ABBA, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Tony Bennett and others.

Morgan spoke with Reuters about the images, baby boomers' deep pockets, and why some album covers were more useful than others.

Q: Album art got shrunk for CDs, and now in the iPod age it's reduced to about one inch square. Are we seeing the death of an art form?

A: "I genuinely think we are. You haven't anything to replace it with. For a while I had high hopes for the front pages of websites, but every site now has to have everything on the front page. There was a time when teenagers would carry albums around with them. The covers served to identify these tribes. The whole Baby Boomer generation's world changed after World War Two.

"Music has become incredibly homogeneous. There are no style tribes anymore. You can become a national star much quicker. Look at Lady Gaga. What's interesting is how old-fashioned her references are, whether it's David Bowie or Grace Jones or Madonna. The names she drops are '70s and '80s stars."   Continued...