It’s a great pleasure to introduce my good friend (he DJ’d at my wedding), author and vinyl obsessive Mr Tim O’Brien. He and I share a love of a funky tune and the graffiti you find on record covers but Tim has done more research into the field than anyone I know. His physical collection of graffiti vinyl has to be second to none and through his numerous essential blogs it a subject he generously shares with the world…
– Tristan Manco
Hello, my name is Tim and I have a problem with vinyl…
The humble album cover tells the whole story of graffiti. From the earliest tags to the latest styles, the album cover has used them all. Any styles in-between, it’s used them too. Go into any record shop, search long enough and you’ll come across some graffiti-based album art. Look in any of the Hip Hop, Jazz, Rock, House, Indie, Electronica sections and you’ll find graffiti based album art. Look to some of the most famous artists of all time – James Brown, The Rolling Stones, The Jam, Run DMC – and you’ll find graffiti based album art. Go through the bargain bin and you’ll find disrespected tunes with great graffiti based covers. Don’t forget, if the owner/assistant/loiterer gives you a hard time, for some obscure and unfathomable reason, you can always get them elsewhere.
The first time graffiti album art caught my eye was in HMV, Oxford Street, in the late 80s. The shop was clearing out their vinyl and in a back room they had rows of Ultimate Breaks & Beats LPs. The artwork really captured my imagination, classic as it was and is. Straight away I loved the colours, design, themes and styles and have done ever since, the music on the LPs too. HMV were switching to selling CDs of course. 25 years later and CDs are on the way out, vinyl is still going strong and the Breaks & Beats series looks as fresh as ever.
The inspiration for these blogs came courtesy of a lucky break/some small success with the publication of Naked Vinyl in 2003, thanks to Chrysalis Publishing. For a while I was on the same label as Blondie, kind of and it was a fun time. The graffiti vinyl blogs followed from there and are well on the way to becoming a follow up book in their own right. This is pleasing in lots of ways, firstly because computer servers don’t destroy enough trees for my liking and also because album art is such a great way to showcase the ongoing creativity of graffiti/street art.
The best thing about graffiti vinyl is that it includes artwork by classic artists like Futura, Seen and Keith Haring, plus lots of different graff/street art styles, and lots of modern graffiti based design too. While, I’m happy to say, the Thames & Hudson titan of street art, our very own Mr Tristan Manco, has designed (with the artwork of Banksy and others) his own graff vinyl covers too. These come courtesy of his freelance design work and are pictured here in all their glory.
Most of the covers were bought in the UK or online. With special mentions going to the Notting Hill Soul & Dance Exchange, Rarekind Records, Brighton, West Pier Records, Brighton and FOPP, Cambridge. The mighty Worldwide Empire of Discogs is, of course, due a mention too. Some of the vinyl was, and is, pretty pricey and a few of them I still haven’t been able to find – the, stunning, graffiti picture sleeve of Tyrone Brunson’s The Smurf and the Trouble Funk, 7”, graffiti picture sleeve, of Pump me up, spring to mind. So, if you’ve got them, please send them on to Vandalog for safe-keeping.
The graff blogs created include three themed around graffiti vinyl – an overview with info and links, a gallery and the story of graffiti vinyl:
Graffiti Vinyl – A Tag-time Story
Plus one that’s about graffiti’s place in relation to design and wider culture:
These compliment the original Naked Vinyl and Naked Vinyl gallery blogs:
Some of the above blogs are archives and complete, while others will have content added on an on-going basis. Finally, if you get a chance to check my google blogger profile, you’ll find some more blogs based around other left-field themes. New blogs will be likely added as inspiration strikes.
Photos courtesy of Tim O’Brien