Take a trip down musical memory lane with 59 signed album jackets dating from 1923 to 2003 at Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC). The album covers will be on display today through March 27 at the OCCC Visual and Performing Arts Center, Inasmuch Gallery, 7777 S. May Avenue.
Jackets have been around in one form or another since 1910. However, the jacket, as most people think of it today, was introduced in 1938 by Columbia Records’ first art director, Alex Steinweiss. His introduction of album covers and cover art caught on and by the late 1940s most major record companies featured artwork.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, the 12″ LP record and the 45 rpm were the major formats of the distribution of music, and jackets featured the creations of a variety of artists, graphic designers, photographers, writers and typesetters. The jacket became an important part of musical culture, both as a marketing tool and expression of artistic intent. Listeners, as well as shoppers, had ready and easy access to an outpouring of creativity that dazzled, delighted and shocked.
“Jackets influenced the way people looked at and interpreted a world that was changing almost as fast as albums. They allowed ‘the voices of the people’ to express their hopes, dreams, desires, observations and even their fears, while they were receiving airplay,” said Scott Tigert, Cultural Programs assistant.
The jackets in this exhibit are special and were, in addition to their designed function, utilized to accept the signatures of the musicians whose music led to their creation. The collection varies in musical genre with something for every music fan from “Downhearted Blue/Gulf Coast Blues” (1923) by Bessie Smith to “The Soft Parade” (1969) by The Doors to “Vitalogy” (1994) by Pearl Jam.
With the advent of CDs and digital downloads, the classic 12″ LP is in hiatus, if not an endangered species. In August 2008, album cover designer Peter Saville, responsible for cover art on albums by New Order and Roxy Music, suggested that the album cover was dead.
“With this exhibit, we hope the public gain an appreciation for a musical format that is now rare. Artistic expression through this musical medium was a phenomenon that for 30 years was a predominant part of our culture,” Tigert said.
The Inasmuch Gallery is open 1 to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Admission is free. Those who visit the gallery will be eligible to win a Bessie Smith poster featuring a 78 rpm of “Downhearted Blue” ca. 1923. To enter you must visit the gallery in-person and complete an entry form. The winner will be announced March 30.