This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.
Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.
Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue shall we?
Like before, doesn’t matter that a specific album cover was released only on the smaller Compact Disc canvas initially. Goes to show what remains important is the artwork itself. Should be noted, I am not now or have ever been, a follower of the British space band1 Spiritualized. A love ’em or hate ’em band, for sure, yet Allmusic considers this album a masterpiece on more than one front:
“The record is a heartfelt confessional of love and loss, with redemption found only in the form of drugs — designed, no less, to look like a prescription pharmaceutical package, Ladies and Gentlemen is pointedly explicit in its description of drug use as a means of killing the pain on track after track.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Still, the cleverness of the disc’s packaging went beyond a mere contrivance. Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce worked with designer-at-large Mark Farrow to craft what has to be another of the 20th century’s one-of-a-kind covers. Specifically, devised to look like something Big Pharma would package to put in the hands of the prescription needy. The graphic even had its own dosing advice — “one tablet 70 min” — foremost on its overlay.
Ladies and Gentlemen…‘s spartan blue on white typography made the clean 90s styling pretty modish2. Along with its elegant circle graphic, it’s an uncomplicated but strangely eye-catching motif. A special edition of the album would eventually come out in a distinct cardboard box configuration packaged to resemble prescription medicine3, carrying through with its overall theme.
And as Matt Robinson, writing for Music Radar in their “50 greatest album covers of all time” 2011 piece, so eloquently put it:
“…containing each track on its own three-inch CD inside a large blister pack. Totally unnecessary, slightly awkward and 100 percent desirable.”
Title: Ladies and Gentlemen… We Are Floating in Space
Track Listing (originally issued as a CD, available years later as a download, and yes, even released as a vinyl record in 2010):
- “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space”
- “Come Together”
- “I Think I’m in Love”
- “All of My Thoughts”
- “Stay With Me”
- “Home Of The Brave”
- “The Individual”
- “Broken Heart”
- “No God Only Religion”
- “Cool Waves”
- “Cop Shoot Cop…”
The entire series can be found here.
- Who comes up with these categories? ↩
- The registered trademark symbol use, designated by ® on “Spiritualized”, quite cheeky. ↩
- As Jason put it, “The large edition, we sold it to fans at cost basically. Fifty dollars, I think. As soon as they walked out of the store with them they were $200. They were highly desirable things.” ↩