This is the fifth in our series Under The Covers, in which we shine a spotlight on a significant album with a seminal design approach to match. We kicked off the series with Kraftwerk’s iconic, mysterious Autobahn motorway graphics, and last time looked at Jean-Paul Goude and Grace Jones’ collaboration on Island Life.
A great deal has been made of the nightclub simulation currently housed at the Design Museum in London, and the timing of Electronic: From Kraftwerk to the Chemical Brothers hasn’t been lost on those who’ve attended. Dancing among the dry ice and lasers of Smith and Lyall’s “Got To Keep On” installation, which closes the show, comes with a certain poignancy as nightlife stares over the edge of the precipice and begins to feel like a relic of the old world.
Less, however, has been said about the Electronic exhibition being a great place to nerd out for vinyl obsessives. The show offers a thrilling history of design in club culture, seamlessly fused with the more art-focused Jean-Yves Leloup-curated Electro: From Kraftwerk to Daft Punk expo that ran at the Philharmonie de Paris last year.
At the Design Museum show, Jeremy Deller’s “The History of the World” takes up prominent wall space. Other contemporary art pieces include the rave landscapes of German photographer Andreas Gursky and various works by Christian Marclay, from a 1991 Body Mix to his 1984 Recycled Records, a series of collaged vinyl records where Elvis Presley is visually mashed up with Barry Manilow, the Human League, and Disney cartoon characters. The London-based Swiss artist was remixing records both in the real sense and in the visual sense long before the practice became a cornerstone of contemporary culture, and his inclusion adds some Dadaist anarchy and playfulness to proceedings.
In terms of graphic design, we see the club posters of Peter Saville for Manchester’s Hacienda, Jonathan Cooke for Fabric, and Anthony Burrill for The Social (both in London). Elsewhere, there are covers from music magazine NME, which documented the explosion of dance culture. But central to everything is the vinyl record itself, the “sacred object” that made all of this possible. Here are three album cover designs found within the exhibition and the stories behind them.