Sunday, January 10, 2010

British Bands Get Royal Stamp of Approval

Affix You
Coldplay's Chris Martin saw this image in Dazed and Confused magazine and wanted it for the group's sophomore album, 2002's A Rush of Blood To The Head. It's the work of Norwegian photographer Solve Sundsbo, and the result of medical imaging technology. Coldplay is so taken by the launch of these stamps that they're running a competition for a fan to win them. "We visited our local post office earlier today and bought some of the Coldplay stamps," the band wrote on their website. "Very nice they are too." But it's not exactly a prize money can't buy: a stamp will cost you 44p (70 cents).

For Whom The Bell Tolls
Pink Floyd's final studio album, The Division Bell from 1994, had long-term collaborator Storm Thorgerson designing these memorable metal heads. Standing over nine-feet tall, they were photographed over a two-week period in a field in Cambridgeshire, England. The sculptures now reside in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

Life's A Blur
Blur's third album, 1994's Parklife, was nearly called London and anyone who's listened to it can't fail to notice how the English capital informs and inspires the record. And you can't get a more working-class image (though admittedly the band has always played up its dubious working-class roots) than a night out at the greyhounds. Guitarist Graham Coxon has said that, "We chose the ones with the most teeth. They look deranged, just longing to kill, and there's a bizarre look in their faces." Some might say that sums up the look of rival band Oasis during the following year's Britpop war.

Movin' On Up
Primal Scream's Screamadelica (1991) was cited as one of the best records of the 1990's, effortlessly fusing house music to disperate influences such as gospel and dub. Its cover image is no less eclectic: created by Paul Cannell, the in-house artist for the Heavenly and Creation record labels. The record went on to win the inaugural Mercury Music Award in 1992

Power Corrupts
Manchester band New Order released their second album, Power, Corruption & Lies, in 1983. The album design was orchestrated by one of the maestros of the Manchester scene, Peter Saville, and is a reproduction of the painting A Basket of Roses by French artist Henri Fantin-Latour. It's said that the owner of the painting — The National Heritage Trust — originally refused New Order's label, Factory Records, permission to use it. When the head of the record label, the late Tony Wilson, called to ask who owned the painting and was told that the Trust belonged to the people of Britain, Wilson famously replied, "Well, the people of Britain now want it."

Culture Clash
Pennie Smith's iconic image of Clash bassist Paul Simonon, in the throes of doing something destructive to his guitar, has been hailed as the greatest image in the history of music. And now it can adorn an envelope. London Calling just celebrated its 30 year anniversary and still sounds as vibrant and vital today as when it shook the music world to its core in December 1979.

Rise and Fall
David Bowie's seminal The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was a concept album released in 1972. And photographer Brian Ward helped to conceptualize Bowie's notion of the alien pop star for the cover image, which became this painting on Heddon Street in London's West End.

Virgin Record
Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells (1973) was an album of firsts. Not only Oldfield's debut release but the first record ever released on Richard Branson's fledgling Virgin label (hence the catalog number V2001). As for the design, the concept for the triangular bell originally came from the idea of a bell which had been destroyed. Oldfield had come up with this when he dented the set of tubular bells used to record the album while playing them.

Led Zeppelin's fourth album, from 1971, doesn't actually have a title nor anything on the sleeve to even indicate it was by the British band. But it's commonly called Led Zeppelin IV and is one of the best-selling albums in history, having shifted some 37 million units. The 19th century rustic oil painting on the front of the album was supposedly purchased from an antique shop by singer Robert Plant. Bandmate Jimmy Page said, "Almost 40 years after the album came out, nobody knows the old man who featured on the cover, nor the artist who painted him — that sort of sums up what we wanted to achieve with the album cover."

Lick Jagger
Let It Bleed was the eighth album released by the Rolling Stones and it came out in December 1969. The cover is a surreal sculpture designed by Robert Brownjohn, consisting of the record being played by the tone-arm of an antique phonograph, and a record-changer spindle supporting several items. Then unknown chef Delia Smith created the cake; she's now a household name in the U.K

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