The ever-changing face of Bowie
David Bowie, Young Americans. RCA, France, 1975. Photography: Eric Stephen Jacobs
David Bowie, Starman, RCA, Germany, 1972
The exhibition, entitled David Bowie Nacht Musik, follows a near-identical format to the recent Kraftwerk 45RPM show. It will feature the collection of original singles from 1972 through to 1984, co-curated by The Vinyl Factory and Toby Mott (The Mott Collection) which have been mounted in one large frame to be displayed and offered for sale. "We selected the singles based upon their musical and aesthetic interest/influence and how collectively they reflected Bowie's many phases, musically and stylistically, over the years," says The Vinyl Factory's Sean Bidder.
And boy did Bowie have a lot of styles - he made his appearance a huge part of his performances - which goes some way to explaining why his face is on pretty much every one of his single sleeves. I suppose there's a practical element in that showing Bowie's appearance kept fans up to date with his ever-changing image but looking at this selection, it would seem that in the mix of appearance and sound, a coherent graphic approach didn't feature highly in the make-up of brand Bowie.
Here's a selection of sleeves that will feature in the forthcoming Vinyl Factory exhibition:
David Bowie, Life on Mars? RCA, Germany, 1973
David Bowie, Rebel Rebel. RCA Australia, 1974
David Bowie, Suffragette City. RCA, Germany, 1976. Photography: Tom Kelley
David Bowie, John, I'm Only Dancing. RCA, Netherlands, 1979
The sleeves suggest there wasn't much (any) continuity or over arching sense of a well-thought out design approach for Bowie's releases - there's some terrible type decisions on display. Different territories seemed to have carte blanche to present each single how they pleased, with RCA's German releases eventually (from 1977 to 1980) exhibiting the most coherent looking releases with the textual information arranged across the top of the sleeves in the simple heirarchical row solution of artist name at the top, then the title of the a-side, followed by the title of the b-side:
David Bowie, Heroes. RCA, Germany, 1977. Photography: Massayoshi Sukita
David Bowie, Beauty and the Beast. RCA, Germany, 1977. Photography: Massayoshi Sukita
Check out the red, white and blue designs on both the English language version of Heroes released in France:
And the French language version of the same single:
Here's the Japanese release of Soul Love from 1978:
And this single for Ashes to Ashes (German release, 1981) featuring photography by Brian Duffy:
The collection is particularly pertinent given the design of Bowie's new album The Next Day which explicitly and very definitely rejects this image-centred approach. (You can read a little about designer Jonathan Barnbrook's approach to the design of The Next Day in his blog post.)
As well as the single sleeves on display, The Vinyl Factory is working with Ditto Press (as they did for the recent Kraftwerk 45RPM show) to produce a limited edition catalogue that documents each of the 45 single sleeves which will be Risograph printed in 2-4 colour stencil prints using special inks. The publication will be housed in a screen printed dust jacket and contain an essay by collector Toby Mott, a pull-out 3-panel print showing all 45 singles, plus a white vinyl 7" pressing of a David Bowie interview from 1978.
David Bowie Nacht Musik runs from February 7 to March 3 at The Vinyl Factory gallery at 91 Walton Street, London SW3 2HP.
We'll have photos of the printed exhibition catalogue to share in a week or two (so stay tuned). In the meantime, find out more about the exhibition at thevinylfactory.com.
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Looks like they just took the worst examples of localised sleeve design and ran with them.
Huge Bowie fan, so thanks for the article.
A wonderful article - for Bowie-Lovers!
My dreams comes true - Bowie gives us the most wonderful present. I was and I am and I ever will be one of his spiders from Mars...as there is life! I know it since 38 years...
the record collection is art? i'm confused. isn't MAKING the record art
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