Because of my age, I came into the 1980s late. It was in high school when my finger nails turned blue, my skirts included clingy black shorts sticking out from under that you could see, and on days when I wasn’t wearing a Sandman t-shirt (I must have had 6 or 7 different ones) my shirts tended to be mesh, neon, or perhaps ripped to expose a shoulder. There I was at the beginning of the grunge era, most days looking like I was on my way to audition to be an extra in a Cover Girls or Salt-N-Pepa video. (Don’t you worry your pretty little heads, as Courtney Love happened some floral dresses and combats boots showed up in the wardrobe as well.) In high school when I purchased music singles they were in the cassette single format, also known as cassingles. I rarely gave their covers a second look. Cassingles were simply a means to an end, it was only the music that mattered. Perhaps that’s why I have such a romantic feeling about vinyl singles. There is a magic about that size and format. You can lose yourself in a vinyl cover in a way that cassette tapes never really allowed.
This brings us to what I’m calling “the bestest thing ever”, “Put the Needle on the Record: The 1980s at 45 Revolutions Per Minute” by Matthew Chojnacki. Let me first start with, that is a bad ass name for the book. I don’t know if it was the author or the publisher that came up with that, but whoever did deserves a big thumbs up! If you’re looking to discover the artistic nature of the eighties, look no further. Chojnacki has compiled over 250 vinyl single covers highlighting every musical and artistic corner of the decade. He presents covers together to show trends; the cover of Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” influencing Winger’s “Madalaine”, album sleeves in denim, the cover of La Toya Jackson’s “Heart Don’t Lie” being derived directly from Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”, covers that have the appearance of postcards, the work of Keith Haring, and more!
“Two of music’s most distinguished vocalists and lyricists appear here in ‘autographed’ photos” – Matthew Chojnacki
But hold on folks, because “Put the Needle on the Record” isn’t just filled with beautiful images of vinyl single covers. Chojnacki interviewed loads of people involved with them. Artists, designers, musicians, and whoever else played a hand in the creation of the covers are featured throughout the book. Sometimes offering insight into how the art was created, other times revealing behind the scenes stories, and frequently explaining a meaning to the cover that you may not have seen before. And the whole thing is sandwiched between a great foreword from Jake Shears (of Scissor Sisters) and an equally stellar afterword from Nick Rhodes (of Duran Duran).
“Madonna’s ‘Everybody’ depicted New York’s Lower East Side/East Village, while ‘This is England’ portrayed a Brit city landscape.” – Matthew Chojnacki
“Put the Needle on the Record” is an art book beautiful enough to proudly set out on your coffee table that is loaded with enough thoughtful pop culture journalism to keep your friends on your sofa for far too long.