Call Something Classic…

When I see a great picture of someone I often say ‘Ooh that could be your album cover.’ What could be a better compliment?

I’m obsessed with music, always have been. So were my brothers (both musicians), so were most of my friends. I did my homework with music playing sitting cross-legged in front of the stack of LPs serving as my desk. It was quite a stack – made from both my brothers’ and my vinyl babies. We didn’t have an alphabetical system but I knew where each one was and replaced it in the exact spot.

If I hear a tune on the radio from our old joint collection, I will picture the cover in my head. I’d drawn them on the back of exercise books and painted them for every house art competition or gap on my bedroom wall. I thought they were the pinnacle of art.

Not old art, not dappled leafy stuff my mum and dad would hang up, this was our youth culture, this was for us. Old people can’t have it.

I could think of stories related to the cover photographs – the Crosby Stills and Nash derelict sofa, Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies impulsive money-throw, The Clash’s London Calling bass smash – but they’re not my stories. I have a friend who’s in the crowd shot on the inside fold out of a Dire Straits live album – I wonder if his now adult daughter thinks it’s cool or cracked? I must ask him. Another friend will shout ‘album cover’ when she’s out with her family and they will all stop where they are and stare blankly for a photo. It’s very funny but again it’s not my story.

What are my stories? Finding the truly awful paintings in my mum’s garage and ramming them into the bin before James could send them to the Museum of Bad Art as threatened. I had memories of being good at art… Turns out memories are very unreliable.

I can’t access my vinyl at the moment (it’s buried in our garage). I have massive gaps from the album collection divorce settlements when each of us sibs moved out followed by subsequent relationship gulps when the presents we bought are now in the other’s sole custody. Dammit.

In self-preservation mode, James and I never really let our collections mingle – they’d share the space but kept to themselves. I flicked through his stack with interest but no emotion (unless I spotted an old friend. ‘Ooh I’ve got that. We must be compatible. What’s next? Oh nooo…’) Mine all had a warmth and a buzz – something CDs never had.

I can picture very few CD covers. All that clunky plastic kept the warmth out. James and I let the CDs mingle, they didn’t matter as much. We’ve since shoved them all in the garage to chuck, saving a few stripped of their covers in zip-up cases for streaming failures in the car. We’ve gone digital. I only see a quarter of a postage stamp-sized image on my phone playlists these days but it somehow seems more interesting than CDs ever did – like a tiny peep hole into an artist’s work.

For my research I needed a full screenful of these wonders, I flung open the saloon doors of Pinterest to drink from its boundless cellar.

What was this? Where had the magic gone? Was it the digital distance or were these once-worshipped images always a bit naff? Was the magic tied to the tangibility or the feeling of youthful discovery or is it my unreliable memory again. I struggled to find a familiar album cover that I thought worthy of a frothy gobbet.

Maybe it wasn’t a concentratey day. I left it. Funnily enough the next day the February daily creative challenge I’d signed up for was to reimagine an album cover so back I went. The disappointment was real. Nonplussed with the so-called iconic ones, I ended up

using a very recent album – Wet Leg’s snap of the two gals in a post-performance nuzzle. My daughter bought this for me last June and it’s stayed in my car CD player ever since. When I’ve too little battery for Spotify and all the pre-tuned radio stations are grating I whack it back on. Me, an old crone, enjoying young people’s noise, and admiring the cover, the card cover, so much so that I painted it.

I told James I thought all the old album covers from our rock ‘n’ roll history were rubbish. ‘Nonsense’ he scoffed and looked them up himself. ‘Ohhh… yeah… Oh no… Oh no… Mmn how about this one?’

Yes London’s bloody Calling. Yes the Elvis one. I quite like Pretzel Logic… I’m glad it’s not just me… Maybe the old jazz ones?

Oh the old jazz ones? The stuff my dad liked? The stuff I think is so cool that it’s not for old people (Hester from Wet Leg says ‘What?’) but too cool for my kids to get?

‘I’ve got a new song for you Mum’ says my youngest, 16, obsessed with music. He plays me an old jazzy tune. I love it. I’m asking him who it’s by. He hasn’t got a clue who they are, what they look like or when it was recorded. He just likes it.

I looked it up – Influencia Do Jazz by Tamba Trio, recorded in Brazil, 1962. I bet you want to know what the cover photo looks like.

It’s a bit crap.