Top 5 Fifties Covers

From time to time it feels like the right time to assess the best covers from the collection of covers at Cover Heaven. This time around we’re looking at covers from the fifties and attempting to rank the top five based on nothing but aesthetic pleasure, the greatest representation of the fifties decade and our own predilections. You might agree with our choices or you might think we have it all wrong, either way we’d love to hear what you think. So without further ado let’s get ranking!


# 5 – Mohammed El-Bakkar & His Oriental Ensemble – Music Of The African Arab Vol. 3

Bringing up the rear at number 5 is this daring (for the time) cover from Mohammed El-Bakker. Featuring a bare-breasted dusky beauty this came at a time when breasts were acceptable so long as they weren’t attached to an obviously Caucasian woman.

Mohammed El-Bakkar & His Oriental Ensemble - Music Of The African Arab Vol. 3

The old stereotype of dusky maiden performing for the benefit of men is present and correct, she’s bare-breasted and showing every sign of being happy about it even while we know she’s the exploited one here. What is the man at her feet doing? Promising more to the crowd? Asking for requests? Money? Who knows. We do know this is “a study in stereophonic high fidelity sound” so we’re definitely being asked to treat it seriously. If only we could! Instead we’ll simply reflect on how daring some aspects of the fifties were when it comes to record covers and celebrate it’s existence as a reminder.


# 4 – Ron Goodwin and His Concert Orchestra – Music For An Arabian Night

There’s a lot to like about this record cover from 1959. Starting with the beautiful typeface of the album title which lends the whole design a seductive air that complements the photo of the attractive lady. The lady herself is dressed “middle-eastern” style or at least in a style that designers at the time thought represented that exotic area.

Ron Goodwin and His Concert Orchestra - Music For An Arabian Nights

Her top half is alluringly under-covered in a way that wouldn’t fall foul of any censorious busybodies at EMI, the home of the Parlophone label (later to become very famous for being the Beatles’ label). Her gaze into the camera adds a different reaction to the viewer from profiles that cannot convey the same sense of connection. The colours are velvety and tasteful while the overall lighting is expertly arranged. A worthy entry in our top five fifties covers. But what do you think?


# 3 – Lou Busch his piano and orchestra – Lazy Rhapsody

The attractive woman on this cover is very much covered up but as is often the case, less is sometimes more. Beautifully posed, skillfully lit and photographed this cover epitomises the nineteen fifties in a way others struggle to emulate.

Lou Busch his piano and orchestra - Lazy Rhapsody

Lou Busch (who also released albums under the moniker of Joe “Fingers” Carr) was by no means an unattractive guy but he probably knew the benefit of keeping well away from his album photo shoots in favour of leaving the heavy lifting of promotion to more appealing visions such as this. Nevertheless the way the cover model drapes her fingers lightly over Lou’s ivories tells us all we need to know about Lou (Joe “Fingers” Carr) Busch and his penchant for a pretty lady. A year later Lou released this album cover with a more playful theme.


# 2 – Philadelphia Orchestra – Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade – Symphonic Suite/Capriccio Espagnol

Classical recordings were big business in the fifties not least because, being quite expensive to buy, they appealed to the wealthy who could afford half-way decent hifi equipment at home. To shift records off the shelves more quickly many releases featured racy, exotic, sexy and classy covers. Always tasteful of course so the record didn’t look vulgar in the drawing room.

The Philadelphia Orchestra - Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade - Symphonic Suite/Capriccio Espagnol

This cover plays into the exotic theme (nowadays might likely be called a “trope”) of femme fatale ready to ensnare or hypnotise unsuspecting males. In this example the beautiful woman is lying on the floor, presumably waiting patiently and attentively for her man to come and pull the curtains away (snigger). The beauty looks down not at us but at the whimsy of what she wishes to happen. Or something like that. In any event it’s a fabulous cover complete with perfectly designed and arranged typography and makes a worthy runner-up in our top 5 fifties covers in our humble opinion.


# 1 – Morton Gould and His Orchestra – Blues in the Night

Okay our number one in the top fifties covers in Cover Heaven is this wonderful example from 1957.

Morton Gould and His Orchestra - Blues in the Night - beautiful record covers from Cover Heaven

A deceptively simple cover at first sight but one that yields more pleasure the longer one lingers over it. The colour palette is gorgeous featuring a range of blues but with a punctuation of red in the model’s hair, lips and record title. Her direct to camera look fixes the viewer to her eyes making it difficult to escape. The out of focus background hints at where she is – a late-night club? The photographer is Ben Somoroff who began his career as a painter and this shows in his unique style. His images have often become notable works of art and we feel that this example encapsulates both his fabulous talent as well as the look that we come to associate with the fifties, at least in album cover designs, and is therefore a worthy top place winner in our fifties top five..

Listen to the title track here:


What do you think about our Top Five fifties covers? Have a look at all the fifties record covers we have and see if you can find worthier contenders. Let us know what you think below.

Look out for the top five sixties covers coming soon!

The budget “Hits” genre of vinyl records

The record covers featured in the Cover Heaven archives come from a diverse range of genres, styles and artists but among them you’ll find a more than fair representation of records from what might be labelled the “budget” end of the spectrum. These were usually records released by record labels – some well-known, some not so – featuring cover versions of contemporary hits made by session musicians of varying abilities from the utterly lame to the near-perfect copyists.

The Main Players

Of the well-known labels involved in this genre perhaps Music For Pleasure and Hallmark (home of the “Top of the Pops” series) stand out but of the lesser known labels there are many. They included Deacon Records; responsible for the “Pick of the Pops” series as well as many “tribute” type albums that focussed on one artist, Boulevard Records; who made many a “Sounds Like…” album as well as various Tijuana related releases – all with covers featuring attractive women, Windmill Records; famous for the “Parade of Pops” series – another cover versions genre, Stereo Gold Award and Marble Arch records who were one of the first to release hits of the day albums recorded by session musicians (who often included then unknown but now global superstars like Elton John).
Titles followed a predictable style ranging from the aforementioned Top of the Pops, via Pick of the Pops, 16 Chart Hits, 12 Tops, Chartbusters, World of Hits, Parade of Pops, Super Hits all the way to Hit Parade Special.

From forgotten to desired

At the time budget albums like these were somewhat inconsequential, garnering no great love among the wider record buying public but finding their niche nevertheless. Niches included satisfying those with limited budgets who couldn’t afford to buy up all of their favourite hits of the day so contented themselves with passable versions. Let’s not also forget that for many a young boy with pocket money to spare these albums were the only route into having a pretty and/or sexy woman staring back at them!

Now the outlook is very different for these formerly budget LPs and some change hands for significant sums on the auction sites such as eBay with collectors determined to snap up every volume of every set to form a complete collection. There are even those who want to listen to the records within the sleeves though whether this is out of a sense of nostalgia or masochism is open to debate. In truth some of the production values were quite high as evidenced with this rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” from 1980’s “Parade of Pops”:

On the other hand there were also cringe-inducing attempts like this:

For those interested beyond the pretty covers there are websites that catalogue these records in fine detail. If you’re at all interested in delving further into this fascinating world then check out these excellent sites:

Top of the Pops portal http://topofthepopslps.weebly.com/

Hit Covers – http://hitcovers.weebly.com/

Here at Cover Heaven you can view a selection of these album covers, all in high quality, from the sixties to the eighties and more are being added all the time. Check back soon to see more!

Blog: Why does vinyl still matter?

It goes without saying that there would be no Cover Heaven without vinyl records. If vinyl had never existed it’s doubtful anyone would find CDs as compellingly collectable or desirable. Yes there are some CDs that are valuable as a quick trawl through eBay’s listings would confirm but they are mostly valuable for being associated with collectable artists – the Beatles, Bowie, Dylan and many other classic artists. It’s hard to imagine an auction battle for One Direction’s third single or second album, let alone “XArtist featuring ZArtist (romping mix)”.

Vinyl records on the other hand continue to gain value as the years roll by. This value can be monetary – for example a first issue of The Beatles’ “Please, Please Me” album on a gold Parlophone label would empty your bank account of at least £5000 ($7000) – or aesthetic. By this I mean an album and its cover can have value to an individual such that he or she will pay considerable sums to own it. This is down to several factors including the “feel” of an album, the weight, the artwork, the lettering, the inner sleeve, the centre labels, and perhaps most of all – the sentimental value that a particular record has for the individual. For people over a certain age the experience of buying and owning vinyl records is seared into their memories and the mere sight of a 12 inch disc of black plastic of the right vintage and providence is enough to get the nostalgic juices flowing. Alongside that is the pleasure of sharing the love with others in a way that is simply impossible with downloads or other digital versions. Who hasn’t enjoyed slipping a record out of its 12 inch square cover (30cm for the younger readers) and handing it to your guest/friend/girlfriend/boyfriend while you take the record to the turntable and ever so carefully drop the needle onto the start of side one. The necessity of turning the record over for side two becomes a ritual rather than a chore and listening through from the beginning to the end pays respect to the artist in a way that shuffling digital MP3s around fails to achieve.

It isn’t only old vinyl records that are changing hands for sums that might surprise. New vinyl sales continue to rise with the top twenty vinyl charts seemingly evenly split between current artists and artists of yesteryear. For example as of July 2020 at number thirteen on the vinyl sales charts for 2020 so far is the Beatles’ Abbey Road – a release that is now almost 51 years old. In the same chart is another Beatles album – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“. Other “classic” artists in the vinyl charts include Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Queen, David Bowie and Bob Marley.

The market for second hand records remains buoyant if the listings on eBay are anything to go by. A current example is this Della Reece album – and it’s also one we have within the hallowed portals of Cover Heaven – which is going for £15. The interesting thing about it is that it’s not the 1960 original but a 1983 reproduction complete with “old” stickers. There is clearly a demand out there for it despite its lack of originality.

Investing in vinyl is a little like investing in the stock market – if you don’t know what you’re doing you can get burnt quite easily! If, however, you are collecting for personal pleasure then there is plenty of opportunity out there to grab the memories you hold dear, at reasonable cost – in physical vinyl form.

CH

Blog: The Typography of Record Covers

Typography is everywhere. You can’t escape it or ignore it. It’s on your phone, your TV, that packet of ginger biscuits you just polished off with your tea no doubt was prised from a packet with typography on it too. An amble around the Cover Heaven record covers will quickly demonstrate the sheer variety of typefaces used throughout the decades. The development from the fifties to the eighties in the way type looks is clear. It’s always a delight to be able to identify a typeface (aka “font”). One such example is this record cover from 1974.

Joe Loss and His Orchestra - Dance At Your Party

This is “Dance At Your Party” and the title is presented in a cracked-mirror-like type presumably to convey the earth shattering nature of the kind of party you might have were you to dare to place the needle onto this record. The typeface used is in fact Lower Westside also known as LowWe. As a demonstration of how important it is that the typeface is used with the appropriate words, here’s what is looks like when used for this site:

As you can see it doesn’t work well here at all.


Here’s a different typeface altogether as used on Frank Chacksfield’s “Hawaii” LP from 1967. In this record cover we see the use of the typeface “Hobo Std”

This has been a popular typeface throughout the 20th century and beyond and it may surprise you to learn is was created in 1910. Perhaps its use here was because it has kind of “sway” and a curviness to it, like the palm leaves and hips respectively of fabled Hawaiian life! This typeface may also ring a bell with some of you; maybe you’ll recall its use on this famous film poster.

Again context is everything, here it is as used for this site:

It doesn’t appear quite as ill-suited as the previous typeface but we won’t be swapping it over any time soon!

Have fun checking out the endless typefaces you see on record covers, and everywhere else for that matter.

CH

Blog: The “Sound-alike” Record Industry

The record output of the sixties and seventies was peppered with what we may call sound-alike albums. Records made up entirely of remakes of the top hits of the day. These albums aren’t to be confused with interpretive cover versions that add a new twist to songs or present them in new and different ways like Joe Cocker’s “With A Little Help From My Friends”, or Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”. The ones we are talking about here were aimed to be as precise a copy as possible to the original in an effort to make the listener feel they were getting two sides of hits for not much more than the price of a couple of singles. By far the most well known of these efforts, and the longest running and most successful, were the “Top of the Pops” series of albums which ran from 1968 to 1985. In total 92 volumes were released in addition to a few Best Of albums.

Though sharing the same name the Top of the Pops series of albums had nothing in connection with the long-running TV series. The BBC, who produced the Top of the Pops weekly programme hadn’t thought it necessary to trademark the name so the record makers wasted no time in grabbing the name for themselves knowing the record buying public would hopefully assume the two were connected. You can view a selection of these here in Cover Heaven.

There were many competitors to the Top of the Pops series inclduing “Hot Hits”, “12 Hits”, “16 Chart Hits”, “Pick of the Pops” and so on.

Alongside these “versions” releases was a further strain that sought to devote an album to a particular artist usually using less than subtle design tricks to fool the record buyer into believeing they were getting the original artists’ recordings. The most common of these was the prominence of the covered artist’s name on the cover with the accompanying text that revealed it was not the actual artist in much smaller type.

Among several examples we have in our collection are:

Sounds Like James Last
Sounds Like Ray Conniff
Sounds Like the Carpenters
Million Copy Sellers Made Famous By Tom Jones
Engelbert Humperdink songs
Chartbusters Salute the Hits of Gilbert O’Sullivan

These kind of records clearly wouldn’t be met with any enthusiasm today but back then they sold in such healthy numbers as to make the genre a sub-industry of its own.

CH