The Artwork– Part One: In the Beginning

Most of the questions I get have to do with the Beatles artwork– the process of  restoring the art, how I got the rights to do it, the editorial decisions I made (why some say “mono,” some say “stereo”, some are mixed, and why i didn’t include 14 different butcher covers… etc. Rather than try to talk about it all at once (which will just give me the opportunity to procrastinate and never actually do it) I will do it in a series of blogs.

So if you can bear with me, i will go back to the beginning and explain the background of why i did what i did …. if i provide too many  boring details about myself along the way, i apologize up front, but it may help me remember more clearly.

And so the “beginning” is January 2000. I had recently left a job in NYC and decided to get away for awhile– which for me turned out to be West Palm Beach Florida. I had all of my things packed up and shipped down to Florida, bought a new house, and had to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life…and with all my CDs. (By the way, that job I had left was at a record company where I had worked the previous 10 years and had accumulated literally thousands of CDs.)

With all those CDs, I could never find the one I wanted to listen to when I wanted (this was the very early days of MP3 s and Napster, and I was not yet adept at just finding a track online, and couldnt just fire up the ipod).  After realizing I bought the same Warren Zevon CD about three times, I begain to consider how  CDs were so awkward and difficult to organize in any satisfying way and that this had led me to disconnect from the joy i once had in amassing a music collection. It was not as compelling for me anymore to go out and find every release by a particular artist  I liked (something i used to love to do when I discovered a new artist). What was the point of having everything if i couldn’t see it all lined up together so nicely on a shelf like I used to do with my vinyl?  Obsessive compulsive? Maybe, but i knew I was not alone. (And since meeting and talking to a lot of you folks, i now know i only had a tiny touch of it!)

I will get into the development of the storage structure that is used in the BoV in a later post… but I wanted to explain here that it all started with  CD storage:  envisioning a way to store an artist’s entire catalog in a single, really nice, hard cover book that i could line up alongside similar books for each of my favorite artists– and get back  those great feelings I used to have about all that music.

Of course, I have always been a big Beatles fan, and I did have my Beatles CDs in the famous black “breadbox” that seemed to fall apart the fourth time you touched it. I  always could find Abbey Road at will. So while i definitely thought about the Beatles right away when i had the original idea, it was less out of necessity (regarding the Beatles catalog) and more out of realizing i could do something really nice for the single most important catalogs of popular music.

With that idea as the starting point,  I thought about the other thing that most bothered me about CDs and that i knew must have been disconnecting everyone, particularly new music fans,  from music– the fact that LP artwork had been reduced to tiny little squares and that liner notes were becoming a relic (or impossible to read on those little CD booklets).

When I grew up, the LP art was intertwined with the music and was a part of the “body of work.” All those great memories of being a kid and sitting with the LP on my lap while I listened to a brand new album… how unfair that kids today would not have that experience. And that was when i realized how great it would be to have an LP size book with all the artwork, in chronoligal order, front cover then back cover, so you could turn the pages as if all the LPs were on your lap. I thought I had a lightning bolt idea– make the LP cover book a part of the same book that stored the CDs, and that would be the perfect way to reconnect the entire body of work– the music and the LP art.

So, the beginning point i want to make: i was not aiming to create a reference book of every album cover variation– i was aiming to create a single set of each LP’s art that could be enjoyed as if you had a full set of the LPs in your lap….

I will elaborate on this coming up……

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One response to “The Artwork– Part One: In the Beginning

  1. MrKite

    Got my Box and want to say the packaging was beautiful! The high quality care and effort that went into that is truly appreciated!
    Having grown up with LPs, enjoying the artwork in that format is a pleasure. Also nice to get the ‘butcher’ cover to Y&T and the MMT 24-page booklet in its larger psychedelic glory.
    Now for a couple of ‘nits’: yes, I’m wondering about the back cover of the US Yellow Submarine. It would it have been nice to have been included (and I think it was much more clever than the UK Derek Taylor cop-out). I am interested in your access to the artwork itself. In some instances I’ve seen reproductions of the LP artwork that are superior to what is presented here in the Box. After seeing the care that went into the packaging itself, this was sort of a let-down. Was Apple & co being stingy?

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