It's true---a picture is worth a thousand words. And in the case of this two-volume look at the history of what are commonly referred to as "picture sleeves" for 45 RPM vinyl singles, a picture is worth considerably more. It's virtually impossible to look through either volume without having a thousand (musical) notes start playing in your head, maybe meaningful ones like those from Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," jumping to life after you look at the iconic sleeve that shows The Boss leaping in the air and wind milling his Telecaster while an American flag hangs prominently in the background. Perhaps something whimsical will swirl through your grey matter, maybe Queen's "Bicycle Race/Fat Bottomed Girls" after you've peeked at the semi-naughty sleeve that shows, yes indeed, a fat-bottomed girl riding a bicycle. With that in mind the reader needs to be thankful to author Marcus for choosing to include only the "Super Trouper" sleeve to represent the output of Swedish pop band ABBA and therefore keeping "Chiquitita" from playing on an endless loop subconsciously. Marcus of course had a daunting task in front of him in compiling these books, choosing about 150 sleeves for the 50s/60s edition and about twice as many for the 70s/80s. The format is fairly simple and straightforward; for each sleeve portrayed Marcus writes a few informative paragraphs about the sleeve and/or about the artist, often tying-in what was generally going on in pop culture at the time. So you can pick up lots of fun rock'n'roll tidbits like the one that accompanies the Chuck Berry sleeve for the Chess Records release "Promised Land"---that the duck-walking legend used to wear a nylon stocking on his head when he slept so as not to disturb his conked (straightened) hair. Berry's luxurious mane, fully on view on that picture sleeve, has nothing on the boufy 'dos of the '80s; I doubt that anyone who watched MTV in its nascent years will ever forget the crazy mop sported by the lead singer of A Flock of Seagulls. Do you remember what your life was like when you first saw the goofily-coiffed band perform "Space Age Love Song"? Marcus has done a good job of not focusing solely on superstar or super-significant acts in these pictorials; Vol. 1, by nature of the era, includes representations mostly from important acts including mega-stars like Elvis, the Beatles and the Beach Boys but you'll also see and read about the Three Stooges via their "Have Rocket, Will Travel" release, and similarly amongst all the hit makers represented in Vol. 2 you'll find one-off sleeves from folks like Robert Guillaume, television's "Benson." Marcus also gives each sleeve a rarity rating on a scale of 1-5 so that collectors and crate-diggers will have an idea of just how precious their little 7" treasure is. Collectors and others interested in this aspect of pop culture, still hanging on by a thread today, will love these books. But leave either or both volumes lying on the coffee table and you're well set for conversation starters---just be prepared to talk and laugh all night.
Marcus will autograph copies ordered at www.recordsleevebooks.com
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