Am I Alone in Mourning the Loss of Album Cover Art?
Grew up listening to and loving LPs… proper LPs in 12″ cardboard covers with lyrics and band info and photos.
It was always full of cool stuff that I’d study about the band.
Every cover painted a portrait of the band behind it. Not always what they looked like – but how they wanted to be perceived & portrayed.
I’d read every single word, understand where it was recorded then look it up on a map. Ahh, so this is where the band where (on such n’ such a date)… cool!
Take two favourites: Talk Talk & Husker Du
I damn near wore both out on vinyl.
Husker Du‘s was a punk classic, recorded over a couple of days by the band – and all mostly first take (according to the album notes).
And I proudly had/have a 6′ poster of the cover on my wall since 1991. It inspired loyalty… and imagination.
Then theres Talk Talk.
Spirit of Eden (above) was painted by James Marsh, a professional artist and illustrator. He did all their artwork, covers, posters, single releases, marketing… you get the idea.
Each Talk Talk cover had meanings to complement the album’s ethos.
Heck, James Marsh even made a book about it recently (which is superb – and which I happily get a mention in).
But those days are gone…
Sure, musics changed. We (nearly) all download tunes. I’ll admit I still buy the odd CD from time to time.
But the art of album art is gone.
Diminished in stature.
A tiny JPEG in an [insert MP3 player that was marketed most persuasively to you].
And pretty soon the art of the designer/illustrator will be a memory of a bygone era. Something for museums.
I’d frame my Talk Talk/Husker Du album covers – they have that amount of beauty. My Zen Arcade poster serves that purpose already.
Now, I can’t think of a single band in this new age of ephemeral distributed digital commercial music I’d do that for… let alone remember where their album was recorded, any of their lyrics, song meanings, or even what the cover looks like.
Progress always moves on. Better musical quality had to overtake the predecessors (though I still think vinyl has more warmth).
But aren’t record companies missing a marketing opportunity as these album covers drift into the past?
So maybe my question is wrong… Maybe I shouldn’t be asking “where has the art of the album art gone?”.
Instead, I should wonder where the artists of album art are?