The record cover had become Fine Art. Even in England cover art was moving in a similar direction. Many musicians in sixties’ bands had a background in studies at art schools and this was reflected in album cover design, most famously in the design of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
John Lennon had asked his old Hamburg chum Klaus Voormann to design the cover for “Revolver”, The Beatles’ preceding album, and this design had resulted in a Grammy for best album cover. In 1966-7 The Beatles were inbeing influenced by psychedelia and initially suggested a psychedelic cover design for the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” cover by design group The Fool. Manager Brian Epstein, however, felt that a psychedelic cover would soon become outdated and wanted a “proper artist” to make the cover. Paul McCartney knew gallery owner Robert Fraser who suggested Peter Blake and his then wife Jann Haworth for the job.
For their next album “The Beatles”, the band chose pop artist Richard Hamilton as the designer. Hamilton came up with the antithesis of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” cover and made a plain white sleeve with the title embossed on the front.
Meanwhile in America other artists were embracing psychedelia and their work was transferring from posters to record covers. Rick Griffin (1944 –1991), a master of typography, produced posters and record covers with almost unreadable type as well as some more conventional ones.
Other California artists including Victor Moscoso and Mouse & Kelly produced startling record covers. Even singer Dean Torrence (1940-2008), of Jan & Dean fame, starting his own company, Kittyhawk Graphics and designed record covers for The Beach Boys, Diana Ross and man others and won a Grammy in 1971 for his design for Pollution’s debut album.
Record companies followed Columbia’s lead and started art departments and hired graphic designers to design their artists record covers. Others such as Command Records commissioned artists to produce their covers. Josef Albers (1888-1976) produced a beautiful series of graphic covers for the label.
In the 1980s several British companies had their own designers; Vaughan Oliver at 4AD, Peter Saville at Factory and Neville Brody at Fetish. All produced fascinating and sometimes extraordinary designs.
In part 3 we’ll be brought up to date with the influence of street art on record cover design.