By Gary Singh
ASIDE FROM Taco Bravo, the Recycling Center on McGlincy Lane and that large bear on top of Campbell Automotive, the other primary attraction in Campbell is a curious little bastion of activity called On the Corner Music. Located—you guessed it—on a corner of Campbell Avenue across from where Bradley Video bit the dust, this little record shop has peddled its wares for just more than two years now. Aside from offering an eclectic selection of vinyl LPs, the joint also regularly stages art openings, parties and happenings, the latest of which goes down this Friday (Feb. 27, at 8pm; 530 E. Campbell Ave.).
Aptly titled "We Love Music," the art exhibit will showcase 25 local characters who were asked to design unique art on used 12-inch LP covers. The artists include local skateboard legends, a DreamWorks animator, a tattoo artist, current and former club owners, horror-movie aficionados, refugees from the music scene and people who are already working painters, photographers and clothing designers. Individual names are being withheld in order to maintain the surprise bombshell nature of the show.
I grilled the show's organizer, Trisha Leeper, over the phone, and she revealed that each participant was issued a used LP cover and assigned to do whatever he or she wants with it. Some folks are using the artwork already on the cover and transforming it, a la billboard enhancement; some are painting over the original imagery; and others will produce more mixed-media assemblages or sculptures. All proceeds will go to the American Heart Association.
Now, of course, allow me to shed some light the historical context. With the rise of CDs and the ubiquity of iPods and other portable media players, LP covers are almost a forgotten art form. Those who didn't grow up in the era when vinyl reigned supreme tend to take jacket-cover art for granted. Before music videos came about, record covers constituted the only visual connection one had with the music, and many people actually did judge a record by its cover sometimes, identifying with an album through a singular image.
Cover design and packaging were an essential part of how one experienced the record. No one could possibly listen to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Dark Side of the Moon, the Dead Kennedys' Frankenchrist or that one Telly Savalas abomination without at least visualizing what the cover looked like. Everyone can name at least a few albums that they bought primarily or initially just for the cover. When CDs became the dominant medium, graphic designers worldwide went apeshit as their canvases were now shrunk to accommodate the 5-by-5-inch CD cover as opposed to the LP. It appeared that cover art would lose a majority of its significance.
Then in the '90s, with the resurgence of space-age bachelor-pad tunes, crackpot exotica and the Incredibly Strange Music books from RE/Search, more and more folks continued rifling through thrift-store bins to purchase old LPs just for the covers. So, conceptually, the record cover as canvas didn't completely die when the LP format did, which is why these types of art shows are delicious fun for the entire family. There's nothing like a bunch of local underground celebrities producing objets d'art from cultural relics that society has thrown away like yesterday's newspaper and selling them for charity at the only existing vinyl shop in Campbell, Calif.
So next time you're poking around the Goodwill store on San Tomas Aquino Road, and you come across a seemingly unsalvageable copy of something like Alfred Hitchcock's Music to Be Murdered By (Imperial, LP-9052, 1958), or those wretched early '70s astrology records for each zodiac sign, or even the Teach Your Parrot How to Talk LP, don't let the store get rid of the things. Buy 'em and gobble 'em up. They just might serve as visual source material for the next art opening at On the Corner Music. God Bless Campbell, Calif.