Design as virus 18: Sound Effects


BBC Sound Effects No 1 (1969). Design by Roy Curtis-Bramwell.

I used to own this album, the first in a series of sound effects collections from the BBC tape library intended for use by musicians, theatre technicians and anyone else who might need a recording of a thunderstorm, fire alarm or creaking door. Going through my diminished stock of vinyl recently reminded me that I got rid of my rather battered copy some time ago. Now that we can sample any sound we come across these library albums are a lot less useful than they were in the analogue era. One result of their ubiquity was that some of the sounds became distractingly familiar; I still can’t listen to Hawkwind’s Warrior on the Edge of Time album without recognising all the cues (wind, seagulls, etc) borrowed from this collection.


Sound Affects (1980) by The Jam. Design by Bill Smith with The Jam. Photography by Martyn Goddard & Andrew Rosen.

And speaking of borrowings, the cover design has proved as durable as the sounds. The Jam purloined the grid design and the title for their fourth album in 1980, although the florid typeface of the original was evidently too circusy for the group’s Mod sensibilities. The music inside also tips into pastiche, this being the album featuring Start!, Paul Weller’s plundering of The Beatles’ Taxman.


Good Vibrations (2013). Design by Julian House.

Roy Curtis-Bramwell’s grid of photos and drawings was reworked recently by retro-master Julian House in one of a number of poster designs for Good Vibrations, a BBC feature film. House’s designs for the Ghost Box CDs also feature a similar grid arrangement of enigmatic details in their booklet artwork. I hadn’t considered until now that the Ghost Box details may have their origin in the Sound Effects covers.


Detail from the sleeve of Seven Songs (1982) by 23 Skidoo. Design by Neville Brody.

All of which had me trying to think of other examples of this idea. The only one that came to mind was the row of seven symbols on Neville Brody’s sleeve for the first 23 Skidoo album. Brody said these don’t necessarily relate to the seven tracks on the album although it’s possible to view them that way. (The running dog appeared later on Brody’s design for the Throbbing Gristle album box.) As usual, if you know of any further examples then please leave a comment.

There’s more about the BBC albums (and pictures of the rest of the series) here.

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The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Design as virus 17: Boris and Roger Dean
Design as virus 16: Prisms
Design as virus 15: David Pelham’s Clockwork Orange
Design as virus 14: Curse of the Dead
Design as virus 13: Tsunehisa Kimura
Design as virus 12: Barney’s faces
Design as virus 11: Burne Hogarth
Design as virus 10: Victor Moscoso
Design as virus 9: Mondrian fashions
Design as virus 8: Keep Calm and Carry On
Design as virus 7: eyes and triangles
Design as virus 6: Cassandre
Design as virus 5: Gideon Glaser
Design as virus 4: Metamorphoses
Design as virus 3: the sincerest form of flattery
Design as virus 2: album covers
Design as virus 1: Victorian borders

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