Page first published,
Smash Song Hits
by Rodgers & Hart performed by the Imperial Orchestra conducted
by Richard Rodgers
Steinweiss logo on the Columbia covers.
In the beginning
for many LP records a convenient basic design was used which only needed
filling in names of artist(s), composer(s), compositions and reference
number on the tombstone of Columbia's covers.
Steinweiss cover for the 10 inch Columbia release in 1950 of music by
Sibelius and Rachmaninoff performed by Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia
label in the style of the Continental label.
Steinweiss 'signature' written in the so called Steinweiss scrawl
as it appeared on Remington releases.
catalog, published in the fall of 1952, showing the new design. The
cover is by Alex Steinweiss of course.
first label Alex Steinweiss designed for Remington Records. Inc. It
is Remington's third label and has Don Gabor's signature. It also shows
the crown which was retained from the early label. But the style bears
Alex Steinweiss's signature.
The fourth label
designed for the MUSIRAMA recordings.
Weekly added The REMINGTON Site to their Hall of Fame - Best of the
1939, 22 year old Alexander Steinweiss proposed to Columbia to make
a change in the presentation and packaging of the 78 RPM record albums.
Sleeves for single disks were often made of plain paper or had more
elaborate designs which served as advertisements not directly linked
to the recorded music pressed on the disk.
Big record companies everywhere put their disks in sleeves with
elaborate designs. Here four examples of European 78 RPM record
sleeves from the 1930s: Columbia (Great Britain), Polydor (Deutsche
Grammophon), His Master's Voice (advertising the HMV reentrant horn)
and Telefunken (with the image of violinist Georg Kulenkampff).
releases in albums were rather simple if compared to the stylish 78
RPM sleeves. Below is the Columbia album CX 120, later renamed MX-120,
of Liszt's Todtentanz, performed by pianist Edward Kilenyi and conductor
Selmar Meyrowitz, on 2 x 12" 78 RPM disks.
why not adorn these albums with graphics too? Steinweiss's idea was
to use original artwork (drawings and paintings) on the front of
the albums specifically related to the recorded work(s).
This approach was quite a change, even if compared to the more luxurious
gold or silver imprint of the nomenclature in a serif or gothic font
on the black, green, brown or beige heavy books.
design of the albums was derived from the photo album design with
a plain and simple layout and lettering as this European release of
HMV (Victor in the USA) shows.
Isolde Menges performs Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata, accompanied
by pianist Arthur de Greef.
His Master's Voice D 1066/69 electrical recording, date November 10,
album is testimony of the revolution in album design. It shows Alex
Steinweiss's style to the full.
Pianist Oscar Levant plays George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with
the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy on Columbia MX251
(on LP ML4026).
NOTE: This is not the world's first album cover ever, because that
was for a 1939 collection of songs by Rodgers and Hart. It is also
not the factual best selling cover of the Rhapsody played by Alec
Templeton with André Kostelanetz which I only have in its plain
edition and was released only much later on LP in January 1952, ML4455.
The Templeton album which was illustrated by Steinweiss shows a small,
white piano under a street lamp which is in fact a trumpet, the suggestion
of the New York skyline in black, plus the lettering which is, as
always with Steinweiss, an integral part of the design.
though Steinweiss's idea seems a logical step, the idea itself was revolutionnary
and had a vast impact on the record business. The new look skyrocketed
the sales of a Rodgers & Hart album (with orchestra conducted by
Richard Rogers) which was already on the shelves but now it was apealing
that day on, of every new release sales were boosted above average and
the artistic packaging became an important part of the record. Soon
this idea was adopted by every record company.
being that young and your idea is accepted by an important company.
The idea is provocative, it is revolutionary, and it links a commercial
concept to a high artistic quality. That is thrilling. At first sight
there is a slight reminiscence of cubism and art deco, but it follows
its own development. It breaks with old fashioned thinking. Now the
liner notes of the albums are also styled in a modern way as is shown
by the later release of a box with two 12 inch shellac records with
the recording of Suite No. 1 from Peer Gynt (Grieg), Eugene Ormandy
conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra (Columbia Masterworks Set MX-291).
In 1948, almost 10 years after Alex Steinweiss proposed the illustrated
album cover, Columbia presented the LP format to the public. The advantage
over the 78 RPM album was first of all the increased capacity. A symphony
on 4 x 78 RPM records could now be engraved on a single long playing
disc. The new medium did not need the fat, heavy albums any longer but
could do with a simpler sleeve. Many standard sleeves for 78 RPM records
in albums were made of Kraft paper, folded together and glued either
at the spine and top, or at the top or bottom and as some state with
a strip folded inside the sleeve. If this method was applied to sleeves
for the new LP record, it could damage the vinyl. (In my collection
of 78s all albums and sleeves, post- and prewar, have so called flip
back seems, this means that the seams or strips were glued on the outside
instead of the inside!)
a new sleeve had to be designed for the LP. Columbia asked Steinweiss
to design a cover specifically for a single Long Playing Record. That
is what he did. He also designed the box set, both for 33 RPM records
and for shellac as is shown in the picture of Set MX 291.
Steinweiss with a few of his designs for Columbia records, photographed
by William P. Gottlieb in 1947.
Courtesy of William P. Gottlieb. (Copyright W.P.Gottlieb.)
Steinweiss (March 24, 1917, Brooklyn, New York) graduated from
Abraham Lincoln High School and was trained by Leon Friend, the
school's first art department chairman. Young Alex received a
scholarship from Parsons School of Design (New York). He graduated
in 1937, and was for two years assistant to Joseph Binder. In
1939 he was retained as Art Director at Columbia Records, and
was appointed Advertising Manager for Columbia Records in 1943.
From 1943 until the end of the war he was Exhibits Engineer in
the US Navy TADC (Tactical Air Direction Center). In 1945 he settled
as a free lance designer and consultant, painter and ceramist,
working for a variety of companies and industries, including Columbia
Records, and was a free lancer ever since. In 1981 he was appointed
to the Board of Trustees of the Ringling School of Art, Sarasota,
Florida. He was appointed honorary member of the Board of Directors
of Asclo Opera, also in Sarasota. Numerous are the entries in
reference books, and articles in magazines beginning in 1940 in
Printer's Ink (1940), Art and Industry (1942), Who's Who in America
(supplement, October 1943), Down Beat (1947), Graphis Annual,
Professional Cartooning, Modern Publicity, etc. He exhibited in
galleries and museums in the US and Europe (Great Britain, France,
Germany, and other countries). Right from 1939 on he received
many awards, a total of at least twenty, the last was in 1993
in Sarasota where he was honored by Temple Emanu-el along with
9 other Sarasota visual artists.- Data from the biographical
synopsis sent by Alex Steinweiss and received in the summer of
2002. - R.A.B.
first design was a sleeve made of rather thin Kraft paper with the opening
at the top (1948).
Steinweiss came up with the folded cardboard which became the standard
of the industry in the USA. His basic design was soon varied upon (in
all sorts of forms with the fold at the spine, the two separate sheets
with a reinforcement at the spine and/or a reinforcement at the top
and bottom seem), but it remained in essence the same, up to this day.
Generally a larger sheet with the printed art was folded and glued over
the edges. The square sheet with the liner notes was glued on the back,
as the drawing shows. The reverse way was also done: the sheet with
the liner notes, larger than the actual cardboard, was folded over the
edges and the square sheet with the artwork was glued on the front.
In some designs the top and bottom seams were reinforced with a small
strip of some strong fabric which was glued into the seam.
Europe various solutions were devised. Early Dutch Philips covers were
of the gatefold kind, as were several VOX productions from Great Britain.
Deutsche Grammophon had the gatefold with the record compartment glued
at the edges with blue linen tape. The records were slipped into a compartment
made of somewhat less rough paper. Electrola had a gatefold similar
to that of Deutsche Grammophon, also later lined with a plastic sheet
(polyurethane?), however not stitched but glued at the edges and the
seems bonded with a light colored linen tape.
later editions of Deutsche Grammophon, from about 1954 on, the gatefold
had the stitched compartment lined with plastic sheet. This design had
an appeal of quality but many times it was the cause of a damaged, scuffed
or scratched record as the LP had to be grabbed at the periphery and
pulled out of the flat opening of the compartment. Often the sheets
were not opened correctly and the record was slipped in wrongly. The
best way to go about is to place the right part of the cover on a flat
surface, open the gatefold, then separate the plastic lining and gently
take out the record. Form follows function. In hindsight this adagio
did not entirely apply to the Deutsche Grammophon covers. The designers
may have thought differently at the time, the same as so many designs
of today forget about the functionality. Go to the super market and
get irritated by products with a confusing, weird packaging, so the
client gets lost. Or browse the world wide web and stumble upon several
didactically ill designed pages which take up too much time for the
visitor who has to find out and understand the way of thought of the
person who built the page and who makes navigation more difficult than
is in fact necessary. Not with Alex Steinweiss. His design solutions
are practical. His artwork is communicative, almost interactive in the
modern sense, because of balanced composition and fine detail.
7", 10" and 12" of the popular Polydor records had simple
covers, also stitched at the sides, the opening at the top. This was
in fact a follow up of the heavy felt like covers of the 78 RPM quality
labels from before World War Two which were stitched also at the sides.
EMI, Decca and Philips in England and Dutch Philips were put in so called
flipback covers. In Germany Telefunken and RCA had also a folded cover.
The fold was at the bottom and the sides were glued together. The opening
was at the top.
said, in the USA however many Columbia LP records (and in the beginning
those of most manufacturers) were put into flimsy, all purpose sleeves
with a basic graphic design. It sufficed to print the names of the artists,
the title and the reference number on the front and some liner notes
or a list of other available records on the back. Many early Remington
releases in 1950 and 1951 were also slipped into thin, floppy all purpose,
generic sleeves with only different titles printed on the front. Some
of the early recordings had already their own art created specifically
in relation to the music.
earliest Remington release of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 conducted
by H. Arthur Brown (RLP-199-13) in a floppy paper sleeve, yet already
with specific artwork.
second cover of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique conducted by H.
Arthur Brown is by Einhorn.
pre-Steinweiss cardboard cover of the recording of Hans Wolf conducting
Symphony No. 2 by Johannes Brahms on RLP-199-19. Cover by Sherman
pre-Steinweiss cover of RLP-199-50 with Debussy Preludes played
The initials of the designer
are EDL, the year is 1951.
The later cover for Debussy's Preludes Book 1 designed by Curt John
Witt in the new Steinweiss setup.
of the designs for the early Remington red-label productions were made
by a man named Freeman. Other names that came up were of Sherman
Alpert, Raboni, and for Plymouth it was Roy E. La Gione.
When profits had been made, the product's appeal could be improved upon
to further boost the turnover. Now new sleeves were designed by someone
whose initials were E.D.L., by Einhorn and already by
Curt John Witt who also made many covers for the Plymouth releases
which often contained the recorded material originally issued on Remington.
Instead of pictures of the artists and listings of other recordings
available, now the covers had liner notes. As no initials or a name
of the author was mentioned, it is unclear who wrote the liner notes.
It is possible that also some were written by George Curtiss,
Don Gabor's cousin
and managing director of the Webster pressing plant in Massachusetts.
the competition was growing, producer Don Gabor was convinced that he
needed the full attention of the buyer and that he should have covers
well designed and that the style should have distinctive features in order
to be recognized so the discs would be able to compete with the products
of the big companies. So why not ask the man who designed the covers for
Columbia Masterworks, Alex Steinweiss, to develop a corporate image and
a basic design for the covers and the label of Remington records.
first label Alex Steinweiss designed for Remington.
Alex Steinweiss designed a new basic layout for the label, the covers
of Remington LPs, and for the company's business presentation. In fact
Steinweiss designed a complete corporate image for Don Gabor's company.
He designed the third Remington label, the black-gold label with the
letters REMINGTON placed in boxes arranged in a circle at the periphery
of the label, including a box with a crown. Above the nomenclature (in
the upper half of the label) the text "A Don Gabor Production"
was placed in Steinweiss hand-drawn lettering, later copyrighted as
same elements adorned the covers. On the left the letters REMINGTON
were placed in boxes in a vertical row, topped by a box with the same
"A Don Gabor Production" and at the bottom a box with the
crown. Furthermore the logo with laurels was replaced by a new oval
emblem with the text Complete Audible Range Reproduction, a logo
that was to suggest the same quality as Full Frequency Range Recording
(English Decca and London), New Orthophonic High Fidelity(RCA),
Living Presence(Mercury), Full Dimensional Sound (Capitol),
by Alex Steinweiss: 'A Don Gabor Production', the crown, the vertical
row of boxes which spelled REMINGTON, plus the heading on the stationery
(and other documents) with the slogan 'music for millions', the
capital R on the catalog with the Remington logo, and the black/gold
sticker with the important text 'factory sealed', they were, from
July 1952 on, the elements defining the corporate image of Remington
Records Inc. The Musirama recordings were announced in the 1953
catalog and the new label was introduced in the following year.
better recordings were made under the supervision of both Laszlo
Halasz and Don Gabor, and improved microphone placement was
used (and probably devised) by Gabor's technician Robert Blake (Blake
later recorded for the Everest label as a few covers indicate). This
microphone technique was named MUSIRAMA, indicated by a triangular logo
put on the cover. MUSIRAMA was also added to the label. The earlier
"A Don Gabor Production" logo with laurels was replaced by
the atomic symbol and the wording "3 dimensional sound".
The graphics of the labels are extremely beautiful because of the combination
of a serif typeface for the label name - REMINGTON - and a sans serif,
gothic type for reference numbers and the description of the contents
of the recording. Steinweiss also designed a basic layout for the back
of the cover to complement the new style of the MUSIRAMA editions: frames,
typefaces for titles, liner notes and reference numbers, positioning
of logo, etc.
Steinweiss is noted for his Columbia covers and one easily gets the
impression that this was the only label he worked for. But it is significant
that he designed the covers for other labels as well. And he worked
with other designers and artists like Curt John Witt (later covers
indicate "Curt John Witt Design House"; he also designed for
Allegro Royale and Opera Society), Leonard Slonevski, Wattly and
Otto Rado. And Albitz and H. Kaebitz. From Kaebitz's hand
is the cover of Symphony Fantastique. It displays a sinister purple
color, and a cross adorned with faces. He also designed the covers for
the Young Violinist's Edition of
and Theodore Pashkus. Albitz is the artist of Kilenyi's
Liszt album where on a purple background the shapes of a grand piano
and candles with flickering flames indicate the romanticism which was
seen a couple of years earlier in the 1945 biopic of Liszt's contemporary
Chopin, "A song to Remember", where Merle Oberon (as George Sand)
walked into the non-lit room and places the candelabras on the grand
piano, thus revealing that Frederick Chopin (Cornel Wilde) was playing
instead of Franz Liszt, what everybody expected. (The piano part was
played by José Irturbi).
The Albitz Covers - 1954
Gabor and Laszlo Halasz supervised the MUSIRAMA recordings made
with the RIAS Symphony in Berlin. It is not sure if Gabor was
present during all recordings, but it is known from the Varèse-Sarabande
'The Remington Series', that Gabor was present in Berlin on several
occasions, while Halasz was always present when recordings of
the orchestra were made. At times also Remington recording engineer
Robert Blake traveled to Berlin.
Gabor and Halasz were of European origin and they certainly took
part in the Berlin cultural life after production hours. In Berlin
there was still a lot of suffering going on, because of the vast
destruction of the city during the years of war. But there was
also a new élan to rebuild Berlin and its
culture, and a new Germany. The will to move forward and make
things better was also illustrated in 1953 with the uprising in
the Russian sector. That was the Berlin in which Gabor and Halasz
arrived and where they were going to make recordings in 1954,
in West Berlin.
and Halasz were moving in artistic circles meeting other producers
(for example those of the Bertelsmann firm); radio people (when
they were negotiating the recording of the Glazunov Violin Concerto
performed by Roman Totenberg); musicians like cellist Eberhard
Finke, leader of the 12 Cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic, violinist
Saschko Gawriloff and members of the Koeckert Quartet. In this
way they got acquainted with the artistic and intellectual life
in Berlin of 1954. It is very plausible that they also met with
Ruth Geiss who was married to Hans Albitz. Hans
and Ruth Albitz were a young designer couple. They were in their
early thirties at the time and had already made a name for themselves
is known that Gabor - together with Steinweiss - supervised the
creation of record covers. Records were pressed in the Remington
pressing plant in Massachusetts. The covers were printed there
as well. Spending time in Berlin making recordings would postpone
several releases of new material. And that is probably why Gabor
asked the Albitz couple, or specifically Ruth Albitz, to
do a few covers for recordings that were in the making or had
already been taped with the RIAS Symphony. Another reason could
be that Gabor always had an eye for the unusual to have the Remington
label stand out. Covers designed in Europe could add to the quality
and the origin of the recordings. And on top of that, Gabor loved
covers for the respective recordings of the RIAS Symphony Orchestra
with conductor Manuel Rosenthal, pianist Edward Kilenyi and conductor
Jonel Perlea, and the recording made with Gerhard Becker, all
bear the name Albitz. Although there are people in America with
the name Albitz, these covers must have been designed by the Albitz
couple, and specifically the Gerhard Becker recording by Ruth
Albitz. The style of that cover reminds one of the cover for the
book 'Sei Schön und Charmant' (Be Beautiful and Charming)
by author Alma Archer, with drawings by Ruth Albitz-Geiss. The
influence of her husband is seen in the more formal designs of
that the cover for the recording of French Overtures conducted
by Gerhard Becker does not indicate the designer, and that the
cover for the orchestral Medley from The Beggar Student, also
conducted by Gerhard Becker, was designed by Otto Rado.
could have followed the same procedure in case of the covers for
the recordings of George Sebastian (Symphonie fantastique, Wagner
Overtures, Wagner Favorites). Could well be that H. Kaebitz is
also a German graphic designer who was recruted during one of
H. Kaebitz is also responsible for the cover for the recording
of La Boîte à joujoux (Debussy) conducted by Jonel
Perlea. Kaebitz made the covers for the Young Violinist's Series
(Shermont and Schulhof) as well. So the stay in Berlin was fruitful
in more than one aspect. - Rudolf A. Bruil - February, 2014
also the wonderful
Facebook Page - Made by Women - of Iria Costas who pointed
me to the art of Ruth Albitz-Geiss.)
(19242002) designed three covers for Don Gabor, two for a Remington
releases and another for a Pontiac release, around 1952. He later became
famous for designs for the Metropolitan Museum, the United States Pavilion
at the Osaka World Fair, for 'Man Planet Space' in Montreal, 1967. He
also designed the 'Quadra' typeface and more than 400 book jackets for
McGraw-Hill's book division.
Also an artist named Riser provided record jacket art.
Goldblatt (19242006) designed the cover for the recording
of Liszt and Brahms by Karl Rucht conducting the RIAS Symphony Orchestra
himself designed covers, and he coordinated the work of the other artists
as well. In the beginning existing covers were adapted to the new lay
out. But as soon as new recordings were to be released, new artwork
was made and even particular covers that were already restyled, were
replaced by covers with new art work. The most significant example is
Edward Kilenyi's recording of the Chopin Waltzes which could be obtained
in (at least) two different editions.
noted cover by Alex Steinweiss for Remington R-199-126 with the
Steinweiss Scrawl in abundance: Violinist Michèle Auclair
plays Kreisler Encores accompanied by pianist Otto Schulhof.
designs made by Steinweiss for Remington are not always as elaborate
as most of the covers he did for Columbia Records. But there are exceptions
of course. An example is the beautiful cover for R-199-128 with
violinist Michèle Auclair and cellist Gaspar Cassado playing
However, the similarities in style are obvious. The Remington covers
have an originality of their own which is also brought about by the
vertical logo (designed by Steinweiss) on the left of the cover which
had to be "integrated" in the artwork. Integration also applied to the
triangle of the MUSIRAMA logo which was added lateron.
designs of the Remington covers are at times a bit simple and reflect
a somewhat childish optimism, one could say. To a large extend this
style was imposed by the technique of plate production and the printing
process available in those days, a technique which had its restrictions.
The intensity and shade of colors varied as in those days the Pantone
Matching System (PMS) - which was devised by Lawrence Herbert in 1963
and has been the reference for designers, art directors, and printers
ever since - did not yet exist. The mixing of the paint was not always
done in the same manner. So if you encounter a pale cover, there is
no deliberate argument behind it. It is just a print from ink/paint
of a slightly different mix.
covers witness the personalities of the various designing artists who
(often guided by Steinweiss) and reflected the nature of the music in
"golden" laminated cover by Steinweiss at the occasion
of the 5th Anniversary of Columbia's Long Playing record, September
1953, with popular music of Tchaikovsky conducted by Eugene Ormandy.
The style for the LPs of Columbia is often more sophisticated and
more serious by the use of darker tones. By exception this cover
has the designer's name written in his famous scrawl which is unusual
for Columbia covers.
As free lance art director of Columbia Alex Steinweiss also supervised
the work of other artists like he supervised several designers for
the Remington label. This cover of Gershwin's Concerto in F with
pianist Oscar Levant and Andre Kostelanetz conducting the Philharmonic
Symphony Orchestra of New York on Columbia ML 4025 is by artist
Velde and created in 1950 more or less in the Steinweiss vein.
covers distinguish themselves by the hand writing (the Steinweiss scrawl):
names of artists, location of recording, the works recorded. So even
if his name is not mentioned, the original artist is generally recognized.
Steinweiss is the one who at times uses more pastel colors and fine
lines as for the covers of Scheherazade with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra
and the cover of Piano Encores (not displayed).
from Los Angeles prepared a new publication about Alex Steinweiss
and his work: The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover compiled
and written by Kevin Reagan, Steven Heller and Alex Steinweiss,
published October, 2009. It is a celebration of ninety year old
Alexander Steinweiss who personally signed every book (which has
the shape of an old illustrated 78 RPM record album but is somewhat
larger in size). The book itself is extremely well designed and
printed, and is overflowing with innumerable reproductions of covers
and other Steinweiss graphics.
who did many covers for Remington, has his own signature of style. His
designs initially have calmness and simplicity like the cover for Beethoven's
Pastoral Symphony (displayed at the end of this page). He also designed
one of the covers for the Waltzes of Chopin on R-199-82 (not displayed).
Lateron his designs have bright and intense colors and straight lines:
Chopin's 4 Scherzi played by Jorge Bolet and the recording with music
of American composers Ward and Stein. He just uses a few colors evoking
the modernism of Gershwin's Concerto in F. He could have been the artist
who designed the Prokofiev cover on which no name is mentioned. Some covers
just state Curt John Witt, while other covers mention: "Design House
- Curt John Witt". Witt worked for other labels as well. He designed
the cover for The Opera Society's edition of the 2 10" LP set in a gatefold
of Gluck's "Orpheus and Eurydice" performed by The Netherlands Philharmonic
Orchestra and Chorus under Nicolas Goldschmidt and Dutch singers Léon
Combé, Corry Bijster and Anette de la Bije.(The Opera Society was
a label of the Concert Hall Society/Musical Masterpieces Society.) See:
The Covers of Curt John Witt.
His work can also be found on many covers of Eli Oberstein's
on Allegro/Royale releases.
John Witt's cover design for The Opera Society recording of Orpheus
and Eurydice (Gluck) - M142 OP25.
cover Otto Rado did for Westminster's release of Rimsky-Korsakov's
Scheherazade conducted by Argeo Quadri and the front of the
album of St. Matthew Passion Hermann Scherchen conducting also
He also did the cover for Urania 7112
released in 1954 with Fritz Kirmse performing Malipiero's Violin
Concerto with Rudolf Kleinert conducting the Orchestra of Radio
Leipzig, and Saschko Gawriloff as soloist in Rakov's Violin
Concerto with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted
by Arthur Rother.
and Wattly use styles which have a more common and plain quality
if compared to the other, brighter designs.
the cover of the recording of Dvorak's 4th (8th) Symphony designer Otto
Rado beautifully expressed a pastoral mood. In that way he accentuates
the sense of beauty.
His love for the use of gold can also be seen in the cover for Westminster's
1953 Scheherazade release (WL 5234, Argeo Quadri conducting).
For Westminster's recording of Bach's Dt. Matthew Passion under Hermann
Scherchen he created a simple illustration with an added perspective
of the divine light (WAL 401). Rado also worked for the Urania label
as illustrated by the release of the Violin Concertos of Rakov and Malipiero.
Extraordinary is his art for the 3 LP Remington box of
Aida conducted by Franco Capuana. That is a collectible item
for reasons of bothperformance and cover design.
example of - obviously - a new creative phase in the output of Alexander
Steinweiss: The cover of the recording of Benjamin Britten's Les
Illuminations and Norman Dello Joio's Meditations Ecclesiastes.
Signed in the famous 'Steinweiss scrawl' as used for early Columbia
and Remington records.
Janice Harsanyi, Soprano, and
the Princeton Chamber Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Harsanyi -
Decca DL 710138.
arrangement of the label name and graphic motifs in a circle was more
or less initiated by Steinweiss in the creation of the style for the Remington
labels. From then on this arrangement is a trait of Steinweiss's style.
He applied the same idea in the labels for American Decca. The inner sleeves
have a luxurious design explaining to the eye that it is about a recording
in Decca's Gold Label Series.
very personal style of Alex Steinweiss is also seen in the early album
covers for Bob Whyte's Everest records and the design of the early labels
of the Everest releases. Again he arranged the label's name in a circle
and he choose specific colors. To add to the significance of the Everest
releases the label mentioned "A CERTIFIED STEREO-MASTER RECORDING"
(somewhat like the CARR emblem and the MUSIRAMA logo on the Remington
labels). The early Everest issues had this very distinctive basic design,
the specific fonts included.
Positioning a record label in the market is
not just done by hiring able artists and selecting interesting repertoire.
It is the total package that counts. In order to catch the eye of
the prospective buyer, Everest started with the most luxurious album
design: silver back, silver inner sleeve with a dowel as is shown
here for the release of Raoul Poliakin's album with Waltz Masterpieces,
It soon turned out to be an expensive construction to manufacture.
But not only that. The opening of the inner sleeve was not at the
top à la française, but positioned at the spine
of the cover. In practice the record could force itself through
the spine and easily damage cover and record.
Leopold Stokowsky conducts Villa-Lobos' masterpiece Uirapuru on
SDBR 3016. Steinweiss cover.
label for the Khachaturian Piano Concerto with Peter Katin and
Hugo Rignold had a less elaborate label, less costly in creating
and printing it - SDBR 3055.
lay out of the liner notes about the music and performers consisted
of three colums. The technical information was also framed in three
columns but printed in a different font..
only stereo compatible issues were released the dominant indication
STEREO was omitted as the cover of the Petrouchka recording by Sir
Eugene Goossens shows (SDBR 3033). But then also the quality of
the pressings became less and less and eventually the label became
the budget label where quality of mastering and vinyl did not matter
and Everest lost the glory it originally had.
on the Columbia records were actually simple and plain. They followed
a common pattern. But that was going to evolve. In this context it would
be logical to assume that the later labels for Columbia, mentioning
composers, works, and performers, reference numbers, Side One and Two,
etc. were designed by Alex Steinweiss as well. That is however not the
case. The famous Columbia 6-Eye labels were created by famous designer
Sadamitsu Neil Fujita when working for Columbia Records in the
nineteen fifties. He started off as a painter but choose for design
to make a living and designed for Columbia. After he had left Columbia
in 1957 he worked for Command Records, various publishing houses, etc.
Neil Fujita, Graphic Designer was interviewed by Steven Heller
application of artwork and the use of very distinctive graphics for
the early Everest covers is the more remarkable while by that time the
trend was gradually changing towards the use of photographs combined
with graphics and finally just using pictures with lettering.
the early years of advertising, objects and people were depicted in
drawings in black and white and later in color.
When new, more cost effective printing techniques became available,
art directors and copywriters started to work together with photographers
who were commissioned to shoot photos along the lines of the art director's
concept. Gradually the graphic artist was replaced by the photographer
completely. The art director designed the basic layout and choose the
picture and the various typefaces. This trend was initiated by RCA in
the early nineteenfifties, and was followed by many a record company.
cover of RCA LM-1815 - With Love From A Chorus - was listed in
September 1954. It set the trend of using photography instead
of graphics and specific artwork.
are the covers of Daphnis and Chloe (Ravel) performed by the Boston
Symphony under Charles Munch on LM-1893 nfrom 1955, and My True
Love Sings on LM-1998 released in 1956.
earliest examples of the use of photographs exclusively can be found
on several RCA covers. From 1954 is the release of With Love From
A Chorus on LM-1815, sung by the Robert Shaw Chorale. Also famous
is the cover of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe by the Boston Symphony
Orchestra and the Robert Shaw Chorale under conductor Charles Munch
on LM-1893 from 1955. It has a distinct new style, as has the RCA cover
of the 1956 release of My True Love Sings again by the Robert
Shaw Chorale on LM-1998.
left Victor LM 1817 from 1954 with an inspiring, sexy photograph covering
Gaité Parisienne performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted
by Arthur Fiedler. This recording was one of the first RCA stereo
recordings but could only be released as a Living Stereo issue in
1958 when the stereo format was launched. Later another recording
was done with Fiedler and released on LSC 2267 with a new cover.
then on also older recordings were reissued in covers adorned with photographs.
This was however not the case with the release of Offenbach's Gaité
Parisienne conducted by Arthur Fiedler of which there was an earlier
recording from 1950 issued on LM 1001. The release on LM 1817 was a
new recording and had a sexy picture of a voluptuous leg of a cancan
early designs with the Robert Shaw Chorale on RCA from 1954 and 1956
may have inspired many a photographer and designer, like famous Dutch
photographer Paul Huf when he made the covers for the Philips
S-L Series with model Ann Pickford from England and typography
by Harry van Borssum, launched in 1956.
Paul Huf took the application of photography to a new creative and artistic
level. As Philips' Phonografische Industrie was issuing much
of the Columbia catalog in Europe, original US releases were sent to
Baarn in the Netherlands. And these also may have triggered the decision
to hire Paul Huf to follow the new trend.
of the inspiration by the RCA covers could be Huf's cover for the Piano
Concertos of Franz Liszt performed by pianist Cor de Groot and the Recidency
Orchestra conducted by Willem van Otterloo, reminiscing the lady in
red on the early RCA cover. The same applies to his cover for Ballet
Music by Delibes and Gounod with conductor Jean Fournet. Nevertheless
Paul Huf's is a very artistic and imaginative, and above all a very
original style. In a similar style is the photography for the Philips
S-L edition of Scheherazade played by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted
by Eugene Ormandy.
naturally had covers designed in the same vein which was pioneered by
RCA as shows the late release on LP of Oscar Levant's Gershwin recordings
originally made in the 78 RPM era. The photographer was Hal Reif.
different covers for Buck Clayton's most famous Jam Session on Philips
B 07022 L: Buck Clayton and Joe Newman (trumpets), Urbie Green and
Henderson Chambers (trombones), Lem Davis (alto sax), Julian Dash
(tenor sax), Charlie Fowlkes (baritone sax), Sir Charles Thompson
(piano), Freddie Green (piano), Walter Page (bass), and Jo Jones
(Drums). The titles: The Huckle-Buck, and Robin's Nest.
example of the new trend to use photography in combination with graphics,
and the use of plain photography is the release by Philips of the Columbia
recording CL 548 which was first issued in the spring of 1954. The early
hybrid design (graphics and pictures) of Philips B 07022 L, was eventually
replaced by a powerful picture of Buck Clayton playing the trumpet.
The second edition was pressed from new plates and released around 1957.
Although Alex Steinweiss already combined graphics and bits of photographic
images in the nineteen forties on the 78 RPM albums.
the late 1950s many an old Remington recording had a new disguise with
a photograph on the cover and were now available on one or several of
Gabor's other labels like Masterseal, Paris, Webster, and Palace.
In 1958 the Remington label was discontinued.
Below is the cover of Palace M-601 with Tchaikovsky (Romeo and Juliet
Overture) and Grieg (Peer Gynt Suite No. 1), performed by the Viennese
Symphonic Orchestra under fake conductor Kurt Baumann, a substitute
for Kurt Wöss (Tchaikovsky) as well as H. Arthur Brown (Grieg).
Don Gabor had revived his Continental label in the nineteen sixties
he once in a while issued a beautiful gatefold edition like this disk
with Gypsy Music played by Markoff and his Romany Strings on CST-2005.
the craze of using photography had more or less passed, new generations
of artists were designing labels and covers and corporate house-styles.
Now al styles and techniques were used side by side, many times inspired
by the pioneers of the early days.
Many record collectors and artists regret that the small size of the
jewel case of the CD gives less opportunity to make an artistic cover.
But within the restrictions there are quite a few remarkable CD covers
and booklets. Yet, the CD with art work and the small lettering is sometimes
qualified as neat or cute, while an LP cover can be utterly impressive.
is that the great Alex Steinweiss was the creator of the basic design
for a budget label like Don Gabor's Remington LP records.
He did this from 1952 on, till about 1958 when the Remington label ceased
to exist. By doing this he added to the importance of the label and
made Remington records easily recognizable. His basic concept had to
be filled in by other artists and designers as well. He gave them enough
freedom to express their own artistry.
A. Bruil - Page first published, September 2001 - and updated since.
All covers from my private record collection, except for Plymouth P-12-113.
Sunday, July 17th, 2011, the media reported that Alex Steinweiss had
died at the age of 94 in Sarasota, Florida, where he had lived already
for many decades. See
Steinweiss Obituary - Steven Heller's Article in New York Times of July