Monday, 11 January 2010

Stop! Woah, yeah, wait a minute Mister Postman...

Okay, okay, I admit it. I used to collect stamps. Albeit in a very half-hearted send away for a hundred non rare but fairly obscure impressions from the pages of comics like the Beano.

For a certain generation, the name Stanley Gibbons carries a particular resonance. Countless hours were frittered away trying tp make those dashed "stamp hinges" work without sticking them onto themselves or, worse still onto your fingers and clothes. Heaven forbid you'd crinkle a Djibouti Olympic Squad first day cover through the careless application of a gossamer layer of sticky hinge!

In a (surely doomed to failure) bid to make philately the new rock n roll, the Royal Mail have issued a set of stamps featuring classic album covers - actually, that was ill-informed. I was about to go off one one about who decided these were classics, etc, etc but I've just followed that there link above and the Royal Mail assure us that:

This stamp issue salutes this unique art form and celebrates
some of the greatest examples, used by UK artists.

So that's fine then.

I heard a piece on Radio Scotland just before Christmas where one of the artists, the brilliantly named Storm Thorgerson who was, as we say on the West coast, 'doing his duster' on the issue (aha, wee stamp gag there) of artistic integrity being compromised. I can completely understand his point - I stopped agreeing with him for a minute when he went on about consultation, my thinking being that surely if you've designed the artwork and signed it over to the record company then it becomes public work and you lose control over it, after all, where's the artisitc integrity in a badly done screen print on a cheap gig t-shirt?

However, I have to agree with old Stormin' Thormin's point on the suitability of artwork being used. He said that as a designer he had come up with a concept which would work on a lovely 12inch by 12inch record sleeve - clearly the man has plenty of soul - but would perhaps be compromised on a CD cover and, by extension, compromised further still on a 2inch square stamp. You cannot, after all, beat the thrill of vinyl.


Having looked at the artwork it's clear to me that, for example, Primal Scream's Screamadelica still manages to work on a small scale - the simplicity and the primary colours stand out like a piece of child's artwork, similarly the clean lines and lack of clutter of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells cover art and the iconography of the Clash's London Calling - itself Ray Lowry's homage to the King -but, as Storm says, the pieces of finer detail, whilst still incredibly well reproduced, just don't have the visual impact that they were designed for in the first place. The Stones' Let It Bleed, complete with its Delia Smith cake, just doesn't grab the eye in the same way as the original LP sleeve.

All of this got me thinking...can we not just have billboard sized stamps?










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