The cartoonist’s life is full of a lot of radio and music listening, and a lot of us are obsessive WFMU-listening music geeks in addition to being comics devotees. It’s pretty common to see comics art on album covers, from Charles Burns covering Iggy Pop to William Stout [correction: it’s David Gibbons–M] covering Jethro Tull. But it’s rare to see a cover that actually reads as a comic. I realized this as I looked at the (rather ugly) cover of this early 70s Marcos Valle album:There’s an actual narrative there, which is kind of cool (the fact that it’s there, if not so much the comic itself!). The most famous “comics” album cover is probably R. Crumb’s cover of Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills, but it’s not really a comic–it doesn’t read in any particular order or tell a story. The symmetrical design emanating from the circular panel at the middle reinforces the comics-in-the-service-of-design aspect of the art. There are also lots of comics hidden in what we used to call “inner sleeves” and which are now, if you are lucky, reproduced in miniature as part of a CD reissue. For instance, I just bought The Damned’s Machine Gun Etiquette and the CD has a reproduction of the original inner sleeve (it actually fits inside the CD cover envelope as if it were an LP!), one side of which is a crude sketchbook comic showing you the chord changes to their song “Smash It Up,” (the link is to a sloppy-great live 1979 performance on the “Olde Grey Whistle Test”) along the way taking swipes at Tom Verlaine and Pete Townshend. Robyn Hitchcock also includes his own inscrutable comics on some of his albums’ inner sleeves, most notably (because it’s my favorite one) I Often Dream of Trains, although it’s almost impossible to read since it’s printed in gold on dark green! I can’t find examples of any of these things on line, I guess you’ll just have to track down the vinyl LPs…
Anyway, nothing deep to say here, just something I noticed. If anyone knows of other comics album covers send a link if you like.
(Scan of Vento Sul taken from the excellent Brazilian music blog J Thyme… Kind)
I was always wondering about the fact that most albums that have artwork by comix artist, usually suck. like if Dan Clowes did the cover, garuanteed its gonna be crappy.
Neat post. It seems that you could do a parallel one about book covers (I would, but I’m too busy/lazy (circle one)).
And I hope it doesn’t smash my reputation for good taste (such as it is) but I must admit I kinda liked the Marcos Valle album cover. I liked the lines and style of the top row, and particularly the colors… and then the explosion of blue sky/water in the bottom. So while the actual picture of the musician isn’t anything to draw home about, I still like it overall.
Never heard of the music, though. Is it any good?
Johnny B says
That’s Dave Gibbons on that Tull album, not Bill Stout.
Austin Kleon says
Thanks for pointing these out! I too was trying to dig up some “reads as a comic” album covers when I was doing an album cover for my buddies, but fell short. (Mine falls into the “comics-in-the-service-of-design” category. )
Matt Madden says
Thanks for the comments everyone and sorry they took so long to appear–a little glitch because of re-routing my e-mail.
I wonder why I thought that was William Stout on the Tull cover? I did have a Who bootleg in my teen year’s called Who’s Zoo with a Stout cover. That Tull album–not a very good one as I remember–was one of those random rock LPs (ironically, another one was Cheap Thrills) that ended up in my parents’ record collection over the years.
Stephen, I wouldn’t say I hate that Marcos Valle cover at all, it’s just very dated looking more than anything. And yes, it’s a great album.
As for Marcos Valle himself, he is one of THE great pop composers/performers, at least in his prime period from the bossa nova early 60s until the prog samba rock early 70s. There are two great comps out there, The Essential Marcos Valle in two volumes from Bongo Records and another one called Antologia. Highly recommended!
And “Inkstuds:” your comment is hilarious and I’m afraid it’s often been the case–although Gary Panter (as usual) has a better than average track record there…
Not always, the cover for Menomena’s Friend and Foe is done by Craig Thompson and it’s a great record.
I remember that the inner sleeves of The Clash records used to have nice little drawings.
Matt Madden says
Hmm, I don’t recall drawings on any Clash albums. I must have had the later, cheapo re-issues where they get rid of all the extra art, lyric sheets, and other goodies. I always hated that about vinyl…
Don’t leave out Kid Koala! His albums come with comics, or I believe he says his comics come with albums…though you’re a lot more likely to find them in record stores. good stuff on both counts. Inkstuds did an interview with him recently.
Matt Madden says
yes, good one.