Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It is difficult to define what is so alluring about the cover artwork for Our Favourite Shop by the Style Council. Paul Weller and Mick Talbot, with the assistance of sleeve designer Simon Halfon and photographer Olly Ball, literally recreated their own favourite shop on a set. They filled their imaginary shop with their most treasured cultural artifacts. You are compelled to look closer, to identify the significance of these objects. You can make out a Rickenbacker guitar, a clutch of soul LPs and a poster for A Hard Day's Night. You can make out photos of Brigitte Bardot, Terry-Thomas and David Blaine's portrait of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I can make out several books that I have in my own house, such as George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and Kenneth Williams' Acid Drops. The visual rhetoric of this cover artwork is clear: we are cultural aficionados and these are the things that matter most to us.

Your Favourite Shop? But That's My Favourite Shop!

Listeners use cover artwork to visually connect with both the music and the artist, to make sense of who they are and what they're about. In many ways, Our Favourite Shop reminds me of the cover artwork to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. To identify figures such as Edgar Allan Poe, Marilyn Monroe or Stuart Sutcliffe among an audience of cardboard cutouts can be an incredibly captivating. If you're very cluey, it's almost possible to positively identify some cultural figures in that artwork, with the possible exception of Adolf Hitler. With some imagination, you can even identify the influence of some figures within the Beatles music itself. But above all, the artwork of Sgt. Pepper makes it clear that the Beatles are fans. At a time when the Beatles had stopped touring and "Beatlemania" was dying down, to return the idea of the Beatles were, themselves, fanatical about other writers, actors or musicians was absolute genius. It is an act of creative humility for successful musicians to brand themselves as a fellow fans. This image effectively says to their fans that they understand what it is to follow, love, collect and connect with the creative output of another.

Now, it is hardly an uncommon thing for a successful musician to market himself as a fellow fan in cover artwork. Occasionally the adulation is a little bit more subtle, taking the form of less-than-obvious symbolism of Oasis' Definitely Maybe. Other times it would be far more blatant, such as Morrissey's treatment of nostalgic screenshots as cover artwork for singles by the Smiths. I still love to see fandom in its many different manifestations, particularly from those who don't need to follow the creative guidance of anyone else. Whenever I see the cover artwork of Jamie T's Panic Prevention or Carbon/Silicon's The Last Post, I am grateful that these musicians are fans, too. They are still enthusiastic about following, loving, collecting and connecting with music.. and although we may never meet or exchange words of any particular consequence, I appreciate that understanding of musical love and enthusiasm will always exist between us.

Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Britpop Podcast #16
Blur - End of a Century (Live at Hyde Park 3/7/09)
Stone Roses - Love Spreads
Elastica - 2:1
Black Box Recorder - Start As You Mean To Go On
Badly Drawn Boy - Once Around The Block
Space - Neighbourhood
Eggstone - Wrong Heaven
Elle Milano - The Choreographer (2nd Demo)

Download (28.9 MB)


Louise said...

weeee another Britpoppy one!
I was contemplating cutting out all post 1994 music from my musical diet for the sake of my thesis....then i remembered the two places where I work, and thought...umm. No. Hahaha.

Mike said...

Britpop makes me nostalgic