Record Covers From the PHoM Vault: A Visual Journey
By Jocelyn Marcia NgMarch 2023 PHOTO ESSAY
THE USE OF album cover art was credited to Columbia art director, Alex Steinweiss, who introduced the concept in 1938, replacing the generic covers used before. These covers, made from folded paperboard, also display information such as album title, artist name, record label and catalogue number. The back sleeve cover sometimes included information about the artist, songwriters and/or lyrics. Besides protecting the album covers, it became a way to make a visual impression.
Prior to album covers, early 78 rpm shellac records were packaged in brown paper, occasionally with a circular cut out in the centre to display the label of the record. These covers sometimes promoted record labels or shops that sold records, specifically designed for a country/region or were simply plain.
Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) Album Covers
Radio TV Malaysia also produced records. The following is a five-record series originally called Music of Malaya which was eventually changed to Music of Malaysia with covers designed by Griffin Hendroff from the Department of Information.
Seven-inch EP records
In Malaysia, vinyl records became popular and more commercially available with the introduction of the affordable seven-inch EP records in the late 1950s. The packaging of these records featured portrait photographs or illustrations of the artists that were intended to introduce the artist.
12-inch Long Play records
In the 1970s, new trends emerged as 12-inch long play (LP) records known as “albums” became popular. Graphic designers were hired to create album covers and concepts that reflected the theme/ soul of the album. Malaysia’s first album art designer, Mustaffa Ahmad Hidzir (Tapa), was hired by EMI in 1978 and has designed more than 300 album covers since. Koh Lee Meng, Dino Chua and Griffin Hendroff are among other Malaysians who have designed album covers.
Jocelyn Marcia Ng
is a music graduate from USM. She is the Head of the Resource Centre in Penang House of Music.