Monday, November 30, 2009

Turnabout (1965)

Turnabout was sort of the "budget" avant-garde label. You can usually find loads of Turnabout LPs on eBay for cheap. I like that they put out a handful of pieces by Ilhan Mimaroglu, and this Berio side is a very freaked out listen.

That aside, the design of the label is so solid. It's got exactly the right aesthetic for the avant-garde compositions they released.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Caedmon (1967)

Great colors. This label makes me think of the split-image focus thing in the viewfinder of classic SLRs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Takoma (1976)

Label founded by John Fahey. I have seen a few variations of this label design, but I like this one with the leaves at the bottom the best. This is one of three records that Joe Byrd, (United States of America, Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies) did on Takoma, and is moog versions of patriotic standards.

As a Fahey-related aside, I highly recommend reading his book How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life, which is some combination of an autobiography and a hallucination.

Sun (1966)

The classic Sun label is one of my all-time favorites.

Once I Got An Amazing One I Liked Them A Lot

I recently read an interview with the comics artist Jerry Moriarty in the November/December 2009 issue of The Believer. In this interview he discusses collecting. He says, "I am a collector by nature and learn the most I can just through the act of collecting." Then he says, "I am not a completist. I don't want a complete collection of anything. Every collection ends and a new one begins."

This seems like a really great way to think about collections.

Jerry also says, "In the last few years I have collected Hawaiian shirts. I am not a social guy, so I only get to wear them to the supermarket. I liked them slowly at first and once I got an amazing one I liked them a lot."

I think that about covers it.



I have also recently been reading interviews with Harry Smith, who is probably the Patron Saint of Collectors. On the subject of his collections, Harry says, "The reason for looking at objects is to perfect the self. It's a kind of selfish thing."

He also says, "Like at the present time I'm interested in sorting records, because I think that music has like some kind of powers to it that would be interesting to explore, and I've already done this. I've made a large collection of records."


When I was thinking about my own collections of stuff, I realized that the path of the Completist leads mostly to frustration. Because really, who can compete with Harry Smith? Being a Completist has an edge of competition to it, with an underlying flavor of desperation (see the clip above, from Alan Zweig's 2000 movie Vinyl.)

I like to think that being a Collector is more about appreciation than competition. And then, the key question for a Collector is, can you share something that you appreciate about something you collect, with someone who doesn't collect what you collect, in a way that isn't self-congratulatory?


This blog highlights interesting record-label designs.

The goal is to share well-designed, quirky, and/or beautiful labels. These are original scans of labels I like from my collection, posted on a daily basis. The audio contents of the records are less important than the images on them, although commentary about the artists or genres or labels will surely have a place here. Some records may be rare or obscure, but most will be relatively common. The only criteria is the visual design.

I would like to use this blog as a collaborative forum with other collectors who will post interesting labels from their own collections.

I really like looking at the designs of these labels for several reasons. First, I have a general, if untrained, appreciation for graphic design from the 50's-70's. Second, I'm interested in the fact that, unlike the cover-art of records, these are designs that are not meant to sell records. Third, I like that these labels are associated with the visual culture of recorded music, but they don't bear the responsibility of communicating anything about the actual music. They are designs that reflect the flavor and self-image of the record label, not the band. They show up on dozens, if not hundreds, of different bands' albums. That's a really interesting task for a designer. And lastly, I appreciate that these labels are actually what I'm looking at when I am hearing a record for the first time, and what I'm looking at every time I put my favorite records on the turntable.