While it seemed like vinyl was officially pronounced dead in the ’90s as a format, nostalgic lovers of the black wax held on tightly to their supposedly outdated platters. Stubborn vinyl enthusiasts could even be found among the artists themselves, who continued to release vinyl albums and singles and the occasional ode to their favorite recording medium (see Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam’s “Spin The Black Circle” as one such reference point).
As the industry moves back to black, the sales of vinyl have moved far beyond “fad” status and these days, it seems like that death sentence for vinyl might have been a bit premature. Whether it’s at the record store or the merchandise table at a rock show, these crazy kids of today are all carrying around stacks of albums under their arms.
Author Matthew Chojnacki is putting his own spin on the revival with a new book, Put The Needle On The Record, which takes a loving look back at the game-changing and often, career defining artwork found on the sleeves of 7” and 12” singles in the ’80s.
Put The Needle On The Record features more than 250 singles from the decade with exclusive commentary and stories from over 100 of the artists featured within, including Annie Lennox, Duran Duran (Nick Rhodes also penned the afterword for the book), The B-52’s, Scorpions and more.
The stories behind the artwork are also captured for the first time, as Chojnacki connects with the designers and artists to talk about their iconic imagery for artists and bands from Iron Maiden to Madonna to Queen to Van Halen.
We offered Matthew the chance to reflect on five of his Desert Island Discs for Popdose and he was happy to do so (choosing to focus on his favorite singles to stay in line with the subject matter of the book), with the understanding that if he does indeed depart for that desert island, we’ll allow him to bring his turntable with him.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, “Maid of Orleans”
Hands down, one of my favorite groups of all time. Sometimes very mistakenly referred to as a “one hit wonder” in the states (see “If You Leave” from Pretty in Pink), OMD has a deep catalog of electronic masterpieces. My favorites include “Electricity,” “Genetic Engineering,” and of course, “Maid of Orleans.” “Maid” still has me slack-jawed after all these years – a timeless classic.
The 7″ sleeve for “Maid” was by legendary designer Peter Saville, who was also responsible for the majority of Joy Division and New Order’s catalog.
Modern English, “Gathering Dust”
Forget everything you know about Modern English (namely their sole hit “I Melt With You”). The band should best be known for their early, more experimental direction which landed them at Brit indie label 4AD. “Gathering Dust” is a perfect example.
The eye-catching sleeve was designed by 23 Envelope, who also worked with Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance, among other bands. Here 23 Envelope was inspired by the Diane Arbus photograph Retired Man and His Wife at Home in a Nudist Camp One Morning (1963).
Adam & The Ants, “Stand and Deliver”
Adam and the Ants often distracted with their theatrics and makeup, but make no mistake, they had the musical substance to back their style. The tribal beats of classics including “Kings of the Wild Frontier,” “Antmusic,” and “Stand and Deliver” are perfect examples. While The Ants subsequently to Bow Wow Wow, Adam Ant (solo) continued on quite well (e.g., “Friend or Foe,” “Apollo 9.”).
The sleeve was designed by Adam with long-time creative companion Jules Balme, a fan who chased down Adam in the corridors at CBS Records and proved that he had the artistic chops to join his visual team.
Depeche Mode, “New Life”
Depeche Mode is mostly known for their dark, brooding material, but my favorite LP has always been Speak & Spell, which was driven musically by then-member Vince Clarke (Erasure). “New Life” is my favorite track on the album, with its bouyant dance beats that seems totally at odds with their eventual subdued direction as a band.
The sleeve, shot by Rodney Martin features a image of a adult birth. Kind of daring for ’81.
Yazoo, “Only You”
Before Erasure, and after Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke landed with Yazoo. “Only You” was originally intended as a parting gift to Depeche Mode from Vince, but they rejected it. With bluesy vocalist Alison Moyet, it became arguably the best torch song from the ’80s. Alison’s voice still has more soul than an entire Nike factory.
Rocking Rick Lego sketched the sleeve.
Thanks to Matthew for an awesome list of tunes! If we were going to that desert island, chances are good that we might swipe his stack of music to take with us. At the very least, we’ll be taking a copy of Put The Needle On The Record with us and you should too (no desert island necessary). Grab your own copy of the book right here!