An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Record Collector's Wife

Okay, bit of a change today, Helen here, Jonny’s wife.  Jonny has asked me to contribution to his blog this week and give you an insight into what it is like to live with a collector and what I think about it – so here goes…..

When I met Jon in 1994 he already possessed quite a lot of 4AD stuff but this was just because he liked a lot of the bands on the label, particularly Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Lush, etc, not particularly because he collected it but just because he was always buying music.  I can vaguely remember a conversation about starting a proper collection at some point in time, I think it was when he decided to make a list of what he already owned to ensure he didn’t buy things twice as he was losing track of what he had and had not got.  It went something along the lines of how cool it would be to own everything 4AD had produced in the Eighties, my response being well why don’t you go for it! 

Did I know what I had let myself in for I hear you ask?  Well, having been on quite a few record shopping trips with Jonny, I was well aware of what was probably in store.  Bizarrely enough, the reverse has happened!  Let me explain, pre-4AD collection, we would go into town and check out the local record shops quite regularly and, of course, would have to find out if there were any record shops in any other towns or cities we visited.  On entry to said record shop, Jonny would basically start at one end and end at the other, looking for anything and everything to take his fancy.  I would groan inwardly, look for a while and after about half an hour would make my excuses to meet him later and take my strategically packed book and find a bench somewhere to wait. 

Slight diversion here but whilst I am on the subject, please note any record shop owners who may read this, why don’t you ever think of us poor wives when designing your record shops??  In all the shops I have visited (and there have been many believe me) I have only ever been in one that had a sofa and a coffee machine – I was in heaven.  Anyway, back to the point…….

So that was how it used to be.  Once Jon decided to take his collection seriously, he obtained a list of 4AD releases for the relevant period, catalogued what he already had and highlighted what he didn’t.  This meant record shopping was now a much more selective experience, the sections to be scoured were smaller and as his collection grew so that he had most of the general released stuff, the items he was after became rarer and rarer.  To the point now that he hardly ever goes record shopping to an actual shop (I suppose the recession plays a big part in this too, as independent record shops don’t really exist in many places any more), most purchases are now done online.  The good side for me is I no longer have to go record shopping, the down side is that it is far harder to keep track of your spending online as no actual cash is changing hands!  Jon has a perpetual guilt trip about this and gives himself a strict budget and feels bad if he spends a lot.  I keep trying to tell him I don’t mind about this but I think it’s the Northerner in him which means spending money does not come naturally. 

So, what do I think about his collecting, do I think it sad?  Absolutely not!  There are many things my husband could collect and spend his time and money on, 4AD records is not a bad one to be collecting (did I mention that I am actually a HUGE Dead Can Dance/Lisa Gerrard fan and really like most other stuff on 4AD).  To my mind, he doesn’t go out drinking every weekend, he doesn’t spend a fortune on going to football or cricket and he’s definitely not the sort of man to spend loads of money on clothes or new fangled male cosmetics either.  Of all the hobbies he could have, it’s not a bad one is it??  Carry on dear xx 

Monday, 11 July 2011

Majestic Art Or A Mug?

I met a work colleague last week who, I discovered after an interesting afternoons chat, did Graphic Design at University where Vaughan Oliver lectured.  Vaughan Oliver was the mastermind behind V23 and the design and identity of 4AD.

I have a love/hate relationship with graphic design.  I personally think that in the modern era it has helped to blur the lines between art and commerce to the point that we are all confused as to where the line exists.  Please allow me to explain.

4AD – or Vaughan Oliver, Nigel Grierson and V23, have done some incredible and beautiful designs.  One of this weeks purchases has been the Cocteau Twins CD single “Love’s Easy Tears” on Relativity from the US
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Beautiful artwork that reflects the music really well.  Could it be argued that it isn’t art though?  To some maybe.

I have a problem defining the difference between art and manufacturing.  Ok, two extremes would be the ceiling of the Sistine chapel and a bolt.  But take for instance pottery, my greatest bug.  A mug created at a factory would not be considered a piece of art.  Stick a transfer on the side, is it then a piece of art?  Probably not.  What if the same picture was hand painted?  I still don’t think this is art, but some argue that it is.  What if the mug had two handles on it?  Now many would argue this is art, I still think it’s a mug and it holds tea.

I personally believe that record covers are an art form, some more than others.  4AD were always expressive with their covers, which along with the music, makes collecting them all the more enjoyable.

Whether this expression of art in graphic design holds true for a chair is one where I get a little lost.  Although functionality can be boring it can be alleviated by good design and good design can also help move units, I struggle to see art in the attempt to shift volume.  Maybe the same could be said for 4AD record covers, really they were designed for shifting units weren’t they?  I would like to think not.  I would like to think Vaughan Oliver, Nigel Grierson and V23 had fun messing about, experimenting and expressing themselves and the commercial success was more a lucky bi-product than a primary intention.

Maybe one day I’ll find out……….

Some of this week’s additions