45 RPM Record Label Designs

45 RPM Record Label Designs

You could jump straight into the Label Gallery, but I’d read on if I were you.

My Label’s Got A Hole In It…

Mar-V-lus So much attention has been given to album cover art over the past several years that it has practically been transformed into an actual genre. You can’t go into an artsy bookstore without seeing at least a dozen titles on the subject. The clincher has to be that, in New York City, there was a celebrated gallery exhibit dedicated to the format.

Being an avid record collector — and I mean collector in the squirrel sense of the word and not the Sotheby’s sense — I thought I would try to assemble an exhibit of record label art worthy of a Taschen coffee table book. And since the LP format is already grossly documented, I chose the large hole, seven-inch 45 RPM record label instead. In this exhibit, I show-off around a hundred or so quirky, interesting, beautiful, absurd, and otherwise notable 45 rpm record labels from my personal collection ranging in date from around 1955 to 1982. Though there are a few famous names here, the focus of this exhibit is on design and typography–not the significance of the artist or song.

All of the labels are shown actual size and in their current, imperfect state–no retouching has taken place. I’ve included personal commentaries and other vital information with each label as well as notes about the printing process used to create them. These printing notes were determined to the best of my ability using a 5x loupe and a lot of straining, so please forgive my frequent use of the word “possibly” in describing over-prints and such.

Since most record companies had more than one artists releasing singles all the time, record labels were often printed in bulk with the record company name, logo, and background design only. The artist and song title info for each release was normally over-printed onto these stock labels separately as needed. Simpler labels were usually printed all at once with artist/title info as part of the black plate.

I would like to thank Steve Weir of Weir Design for donating some of his rejects to this exhibit and for reaffirming that used record bingeing is not necessarily a bad thing.

I would also like to thank Charles G. Hill for turning me on to the Both Sides Now LP discography site with a wealth of label trivia as well as his own Single File project.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the two most significant sources for my research: All Music Guide – an invaluable tool for lovers of any kind of music; and the Goldmine Price Guide to 45 rpm Records – industrial strength date and price information.

Enjoy the show!


Label Gallery

3 replies on “45 RPM Record Label Designs”

I did a quick search while thinking of doing something similar myself. It looks like you’ve got an incredible collection going already. Would you accept contributions to the photo collection?

Hi Joshua, I’ve been thinking of creating a new community-driven Flickr archive of label art for a while now. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities, just a time constraint. Will keep you in mind if/when it happens.

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