My thoughts on the new and expanded edition of “Andy Warhol: The Complete Commissioned Record Covers”

Let me start by saying this. Who the hell am i. And what the hell do i know about anything. Without a doubt i don’t know half as much about Warhol and his work as Paul Maréchal does nor have i spent anywhere near as much time collecting record covers and other stuff as he has. I’m still somewhat of a rookie when in comes to all this, though i’m continuously learning more and more as time goes on. That said, (and in the words of M.C Hammer) here comes the hammer.

Anyways, about two weeks ago the new and expanded edition of the “Warhol record cover collectors bible” was published – Andy Warhol: The Complete Commissioned Record Covers written by Paul Maréchal. Even though i’ve had the first edition for quite some time i must admit i have not spent an enormous amount of time with it. The first edition was published in 2008 and by that time i had not even started my collection. And when i eventually got started there were images, lists and blog posts about the covers all over the place. That said it was and still is a great book and a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in this thing. And so far nothing even remotely close to it has been published so i would say that it still stands out as the book when it comes to Warhol’s work in record cover design. That said i take issue with a lot of things in this new edition. I had hoped that a lot of the omissions, errors and mistakes that were in the first book would have been corrected. Sadly this is not the case.

But let’s start with the title and what really constitues a “commissioned” cover. One thing with the WCCC that i think is pretty great are the discussions that pop up from time to time about whether this and that cover really should be considered a “Warhol cover”. Personally i have a pretty strict view on this and will usually try and narrow the definition down to only include covers where the intention of the drawing, design or whatever was to end up an an album cover. Or at least something along those lines… The way i see it there is no definite answer to this question though, everyone has their own opinion about what to include or not in their own personal collection of “Warhol covers” and that’s part of what’s so great about all this. Anyways, english is not my mother tongue but in my world “commissioned” basically means to carry out an assignment, or something like that…The way i see this pretty much automatically disqualifies any bootlegs using Warhol’s work. So to start off i was both shocked and amazed to see that the Emotional Tattoo was still in the book. Personally i would never ever in a million years consider this to be labeled “commissioned” in any way. What makes this stand out and worthy of presidence among the other bootlegs using Warhol’s designs like Mick Jagger in Japan, Live in Laxington or Orange Disaster just to name a few? I agree that’s it’s a cool album cover and that it has a place in any collection but nah, by no means can this be considered “commissioned” and should without a doubt have been given the boot.

It doesn’t end there though. I also can’t begin to understand how an album like The East Village Other – Electric Newspaper/Hiroshima Day could not be kicked out from an updated version of the book. After all, isn’t the book supposed to focus on the COVERS? Warhol had NOTHING to do with the cover design of this album and the fact that he is credited with a track on the record and thus having his name on it does not make this a COMMISSIONED Warhol cover in my book and i find it very strange that this album is still included. The same can be said about the album Made in Italy by Loredana Bertè. To the best of my knowledge the photography on the cover of this was taken by Factory associate Christopher Makos and i have never seen or read anything that would imply that Warhol had any hand in this cover design. So again, just because the name “Andy Warhol” is printed on a cover or the fact that one of his buddies designed a cover for an album and took the photograph in his studio does not grant that album a place in a book like this. But this is of course just my own thoughts and personal opinions.

There are a couple more covers like these that i don’t agree with but i don’t want to go on an on… But i guess i have to mention the cover for The Smiths. If i’m not mistaken the cover design for this album is generally credited to Morrissey and granted what’s on the cover is a still frame from Warhol’s film Flesh. However, i don’t see how and why the use of a still frame image from any of Warhol’s films for this (or any other) album would automatically make such an album deserve to get hit with the big old “COMMISSIONED” stamp. And while we are on the topic of this album and film let’s set something straight. In the book Maréchal states that “in the missing part of the shot, selected by singer and frontman Patrick Morrissey, a man performs fellatio on Joe, played by Dallesandro”. I don’t know who selected the image and it’s true that the character Joe was portrayed by Joe Dallesandro but everything else in that sentence is incorrect. The original image/frame that the cover shot is cropped from can be seen below, and i don’t know… looks like he has his underwear on thus making it difficult to get any kind of funny business going… Call it nit-picking but false/incorrect information or statements like this in this type of book are in my opinion unacceptable and in lack of a better word lazy. This was also present in the first edition and it blows my mind that it has not been corrected. The same can be said about the image of E.T on the back cover of Emotional Tattoo. In the book it said that “the connection between this advertisement and the Stones album has yet to be established.” Again, this might very well be considered nit-picking but i think it’s a pretty sure bet that the use of the image of E.T is nothing other than a play on the name Emotional Tattoo. The original bootleg was released in 1983 and the movie hit the big screens the year before so the cute little alien was of course very popular at that time so i don’t think there is any more to his presence of the cover than a joke of sorts.

smiths_album_cover_photo

Moving on… and i’ll get to the good stuff i promise! There are just a couple of more issues i need to vent. And some of these might also be considered minor and perhaps even non-important. For starters i would have liked to see images of the EP’s being added, granted all of these use the same design but there are still minor differences like text color on I’m Still Swinging and the placement of the clocks on Any Old Time. Most readers of the book might not care about things like this but for the “die hards” i think information like this would be appreciated and it would certainly add to the feel of the book holding a “complete” record of all the covers. There are also similar things like not adding an image of the blue version of A Program of Mexican Music or the “yellow version” of the cover for MTV High Priority but at least the existence of both of these variants are noted and “indexed” in the book.

still_swinging_any_old_time

And when it comes to colors and variants these is one more thing that i find close to inexplicable, and that’s the cover for Alexander Nevsky. Someone might come along and stomp me on this but to the best of my knowledge the original release of this had a light blue cover. However, in Maréchal’s book an image of the green version is shown and as i understand it this is presented as the original with a note that later 60’s reissues are available in pink and orange. A quick google search on “alexander nevsky warhol” instantly shows a light blue, green, orange and turqouise cover. You have to do some scrolling to see the pink one but how one can settle for there being just three differently colored versions of this cover is quite remarkable. And to completely disregard and NOT even mention the color of the original!? Until someone tells me otherwise i will continue to consider the original cover of this to be light blue. Then comes the turqouise cover found by Frank Edwards that has been dated to sometime in the 50’s and finally the three 60’s reissues in pink, orange and green. And while on the topic of colors and versions, and this is once again just my personal opinion, but i strongly disagree with there being three versions of A Program of Mexican Music. In the book Maréchal mentions there are also a green and blue version of this meaning that the image in the book should be a possible yellow or pale green version. This is a topic that has been up for “discussion and debate” in the WCCC and as i recall opinions are somewhat mixed and even if i might have been on the fence for a while i now think there are only two versions of this. I’ve stared at so many images of this cover and i’m pretty sure that what might appear to be distinct differences are nothing other than poor lighting, the use of crap cameras and things like that. Until someone shows me three mint copies that can prove me wrong i’ll stick to this opinion.

nevsky_five_colors

And what about the “new discoveries”? Well, there are six new additions and why not start with a personal favourite and reason this blog was even started – the Ratfab. In short the basis of the story is basically this, Carl Häggqvist’s grandfather knew Andy Warhol and once upon a time they all met at The Factory where Warhol’s was asked to design the bands logo. This logo was then used for the basis of the cover to the bands second single Det brinner en eld / Mörka ögon. I might be splitting hairs or even atoms here but to go from a logo design that was used on the cover of a single to a “commissioned” album cover is a bit of a stretch. Compared to some other inclusions i don’t object too much to this one though, but i might be considered somewhat partial but the whole story and the awsomeness of the cover i think makes it worthy of a place in the book. On to the much discussed Rhapsody in Blue and Violin Concerto that are now also included. I’ve mostly enjoyed following the discussion about these within the WCCC from the sideline and really not forming an opinion. I had also forgotten that Matt Wrbican had signed of on the legitimacy of the Rhapsody cover but as i understand it he has not really commented or given his thoughts and views on the Violin Concerto cover. So where does that leave us? Well, there has been some kind of general consensus in the WCCC that both of these covers are probably by the same artist. And since Violin Concerto is now included in the book i guess Maréchal has also come to this conclusion, but i still find it odd that this is included without any kind of “definite proof” other than what is basically nothing else than his personal opinion. To go from that to calling it “commissioned” is once again a bit of stretch. Another cover that should be mentioned while on this topic is the one for Porgy and Bess. This cover has also been up for discussion as a possible Warhol and as with the previous two this is also considered to be by the same artist, so one might argue that either all of these are by Warhol or none of them are. And since the Rhapsody cover has gotten a kind of seal of approval… well, i don’t know what to make of it all. Moving on to Walter Steding’s Secret Spy, i am not a fan of these video/film still frame covers and say what you want about the inclusion of this cover. But since it’s now been included that would open the door for some other covers as well, for example Misfit by Curiosity Killed the Cat.

I’ve got nothing to add when it comes to Piano Music of Mendelssohn and Liszt and Melodic Magic being included and it’s really great to see some high quality images of both of these. And i’m really looking forward to see what effect this will have on the price and demand for Melodic Magic. This has been on ebay a couple of times since Frank Edwards posted it on his blog and it was of course also included in his exhibition. Compared to other “super rare holy grail type albums” people have not gone totally crazy over this one so far with many listings remaining unsold. So, it will be very interesting to see what happens now that it is approved, certified and acknowledged in print as being a genuine Warhol cover. Another thing i would have liked to see when it comes to these “new discoveries” is a little bit of background information and to get the who, when, where and how’s of how these were made. But there is nothing like this anywhere, but maybe that’s not how these things are done.

Phew… i was reading all this back and oh my, it sound pretty harsh. But it is not all bad. This book is still the best printed and published source of information on Warhol’s record cover art that’s available today. And in parts it’s still a great read and it’s wonderful to get high quality photos of all these great looking covers. All in all there is no doubt that this is an quintessential book for anyone already collecting or thinking about starting a collecting of Warhol’s record covers. But sadly it could have been so much better, and i was really hoping most of the errors and mistakes from the first edition would have been adressed and corrected. If you’re going to publish a book that’s trying to carry it’s weight as a catalogue raisonné and that is supposed to be updated and extended i don’t see how obvious errors like with the Alexander Nevsky album and the information on The Smiths cover photo can be left uncorrected.

Anyways, putting something like this book together must be an incredibly difficult task. And i admire and appreciate the time and effort put into it. The same goes for Maréchal’s other and similar books on Warhol’s magazine and poster work. I am also hoping that he (or someone else) will take on the task of doing the same with the dust jackets. However, i had very high hopes and expectations for this updated edition and these were sadly not met. So, until someone new comes along with a fresh pair of eyes and an equally fresh typewriter and a new approach to it all this will be as good as it gets.

Oh, and please comment and let me know if i’ve made any mistakes or if you don’t agree with anything so that i can correct it……………..

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