Bell Records Pocket Books 45 RPM Records

bell-records-pocket-books-covers-tequilaBehold this recently acquired stash of Bell Records 45 RPM and 78 RPM 7-inch vinyl records, which were distributed by Pocket Books and featured cover versions or “sound-alike” versions of popular tunes of the time. Sound-alike versions were cheap to produce and, beyond the flat rate the musicians were paid, cost the record company only publishing royalties on top of manufacturing and distribution. A nickel and dime game perhaps, but there was certainly profit to be made if enough unsuspecting customers bought the sound-alikes instead of the real McCoys.  Some of the songs featured in this collection are Jackie Wilson’s That’s Why, here performed by otherwise-lost-to-history act, “The Muses” and the Kingston Trio’s hit, Tom Dooley, performed by the equally anonymous “The Four Dreams.”

bell-records-pocket-books-covers-toreroBesides my obvious fetish obsession for collecting 45 RPM vinyl records, I’m also a lover of old design and printing techniques and especially of limited color print processes. Clever use of photography, typography and illustration are combined with selective overprinting on these to create a wonderful range of variation in these sleeves, which are all printed using two-color lithography on a thick, toothy stock. These pieces and others I’ve seen elsewhere online wreak of enjoyable experimentation. I imagine the bull fighter on the Torero sleeve is a designer or art director in the studio where this was made (possibly in-house at Pocket Books?), having been asked to hold a piece of white art board up to his face and look nervous. The hat could have been stripped in afterward and the rest is type. How simple and fun was that?

In my opinion, time has been nothing but kind to these fun pieces of graphical and musical ephemera. Click the thumbnails below to enjoy.

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