About simon robinson

Having worked as a graphic designer in the music industry, mainly in the reissue sector, I now concentrate on the design and publication of books about popular culture - and even write some of them.

Bizarre exhibition

Just to mention collector Steve is returning to the scene of his first successful exhibition, this time at part of the Huddersfield Literature Festival.

The exhibition runs 10am til 4pm Thursday 23rd March – Sunday 2nd April at the Huddersfield Literature Festival Hub, Huddersfield Piazza, Princess Alexandra Walk HD1 2RS.

If you can get along a really good laugh is guaranteed, plus you can help visitors select the three most bizarre covers!

Easy On The Eye managed to spirit away the first 100 or so sleeves from the collection a couple of weeks ago to get these scanned at high resolution for the book, in time for them to be collected for the display.

workstation

We recently met up with sleeve collector Steve Goldman to bring back 100 or so covers in connection with the Art Of The Bizarre Record Sleeve book project. The idea was to work on these to give us a good start on the book then make further selections. The sleeves will either be scanned, photographed (or both!). This batch needs to be done sharpish so we can get them back to Steve ready for him to start work on his next exhibition. Easy On The Eye Books are lucky to have a dedicated scanning workstation. This is not quite such an indulgence as it might seem as all the kit is reused! The scanner is the core of the system, an Epson large format machine made primarily for the American market as it exactly scans a single US tabloid sheet. This was purchased years ago when I was a partner at RPM Records and had got fed up of trying to splice together album sleeves for the many reissues we were doing. I realised the Epson could scan an album cover in one pass, so it is now brilliant for a project like Steve’s book.

The scanner is linked to an aging Macintosh G5 tower, a computer which was phased out in 2006! I picked this up second hand several years ago to supplement my older G4 machines. My last G4 has now had to be retired as it cannot run current software. Nor can the G5 really, but it doesn’t have to. Instead it just runs the Epson scanning software and my last pre-subscription version of Photoshop. This means the scans can be checked quickly on screen before I move on. For this I have another vintage item, the Apple studio display. This design dates back to 1998 and uses LCD technology but again it doesn’t need to be 100% colour accurate, just good enough to let me know if the scan is going to be OK or needs redoing to adjust any levels. I’d love to find the matching Apple Cinema display in working order but these seem to have quickly become prized design icon objects and priced accordingly!

Any work done on the scanner is copied over to my current workstation using a memory stick. I could use the cloud server in theory but the G5 has such vintage versions of the browsers now it’s too much hassle!

I have some of my own scan presets on the Epson system to give me a fairly good starting point for the sleeve scans. Sleeves do present a problem in that the scanner picks up all the original 4 colour screens from the printing process. I have found that using the descreening option on the Epson tends to blur the results more than I like, so instead I usually scan much larger than needed. This adds to the time for each scan but when done, the scan can be reduced a lot in Photoshop which usually eliminates any screen clashes.

Because we need such a lot of images for the book, I am also using a Sony A5000 camera to photograph the less troublesome covers. This is on a tripod and speeds things up a lot. If I am not happy with the results, I add it to the scanning pile. Again the camera was second hand, bought of a woman who had only used it for Vlogging! It is my fourth Sony digital camera and I mainly went for it as it is much more portable, I like to have a camera handy at all times (if I had the cash I would be shopping for an A7C…).

And the Schweppes boxes? Well using the scanner I like to keep on my feet rather than sit, so I used three old wooden Schweppes delivery boxes to make a temporary stand for the monitor, keyboard and mouse, but quickly got so used to this that I have kept it going! If I run out of room for storing 45s it’s going to be a tough choice…

Having fun

Another of Brian Smith’s great images. But for once is NOT shown in the Brain Smith Blues Photo Book! Why you may ask? Well, when we first began investigating Brian’s material it quickly became clear that his archive fell into two distinct phases. There was the collection of black and white blues photographs made up to around 1966. Then there was his second phase of work which began after a period away from photography, when he moved into colour in the 1970s. This was also very extensive and covers a longer period as well. So we decided to tackle the mono work first and if there is enough interest, and we feel there might be, a follow up of the colour work might be on the cards. But in the meantime, Brian continues to work with blues labels on their reissues and this striking new CD sleeve is from JSP Records uses Brian’s colour photos on the front and back inlays, and the booklet inside. So we thought we’d show it off here anyway! It’s a scary thought that while we sort of looked upon this material as modern when deciding on the book contents, these shots are already over thirty years old. What was it Cher sang about turning back time? Thanks to Brian and JSP for the artwork scans.

Spencer Davis Group

Another of Brian Smith’s great images. This is an early appearance of Spencer Davis on the stage of The Twisted Wheel in 1965, with Stevie Winwood on the right. It has been used for the sleeve of a new collection of Spencer Davis BBC archive sessions by the 1960s Records lab and works quite well we think. They have used other shots from Brian in the past. The original shot is shown in the Brain Smith Blues Photo Book.

New year

A new year and a new start, as we can finally put our health issues behind us and begin to clear the log jam of Easy book titles! First out of the blocks will be the Brain Smith Blues Photo Book, and that’s a couple of revised pages shown in the spread above. If you have not yet subscribed to the mailing list this is recommended as newsletters will be sent out there first with news of the project before being posted to the wider public here (a couple have already been sent) as well as some special merchandise. Blues fans will know, but that’s Willie Dixon on stage in 1962 in the spread, shot by Brian from the side of the stage at Manchester Free Trade Hall. It’s a great atmospheric image and shot under terrible lighting with a very modest camera and no flash. Brian had to wait for the big ABC TV cameras to move out of the way before he could grab the frame.

Brian himself has also been getting over some health issues after an operation and we wish him well. He has been sort out another of his images being loaned to a CD firm doing a collection of Long John Baldry material, we will post details when we are allowed. In the meantime a big thank you to just about everyone for their patience over this title’s long delay.

Backstage glamour

Here’s another nice spread from the Brain Smith Blues Photo Book, updating those posted here in earlier days. We don’t know the name of the lady in the centre, she worked for the promoters Harold Davison, and adds a little glamour to this great backstage shot of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee at the Free Trade Hall in 1964.

Next to them in this spread is Alex Harvey, whom our designer was delighted to spot amongst Brian’s surviving negatives. “I am about a decade behind Brian, and Alex was actually one of the first live bands I ever saw in 1971.” This is the ONLY shot Brian took. As he explains, film and money were short and the venue was packed! But Alex was an important player in the UK soul and blues scene and we felt the shot was well worth including.

Easy Books are now gearing up again after another period where health issues have had a big impact, as Ann who handles all the office side of matters (from accounts to packaging!) has been waiting for a hip replacement for a couple of years through covid. She has at last had her operation done and is getting on well, so we can at last move this title forward to the print stage.

Newsletter

We recently sent out a Newsletter to subscribers of the Barry Plummer Deep Purple Photobook project with exclusive news and previews. While we use professional mailing list providers to keep this information secure, inevitably some people’s operating systems still shunt emails like this into junk folders. So if you have not seen it yet, do check there! Don’t forget you can subscribe to updates on most of our forthcoming titles on the relevant pages.

in the pipeline

Just a teaser cover for a project which is some way away, likely 2023, but the book trade does work on very long lead times. It is a personal look at the art of the vinyl album from the collection of designer Simon Robinson. “I’ve been fascinated by album covers ever since I bought my first records as a school kid. Most people collect albums for the music but I also pick up interesting sleeves regardless of content. So this is a selection from the shelves, chosen from what I would consider to be well designed covers (with a few mad ones as well!). I am avoiding the well documented covers in the main and am aiming for a more eclectic selection…”

More on this later.

And The Savages

Just when you think all the photographs for Boom Boom Boom Boom have been laid out! This one turns up. In truth it was there all the time but an email from the Carlo Little website about Brian Smith’s Lord Sutch photographs then sparked a recollection. “Didn’t I once snap his backing band The Savages at The Twisted Wheel? Have you seen the photograph while you’ve been sorting all the images out?” Well in all honesty I didn’t recall it. “I think they were in the backstage DJ area chatting to Roger Eagle, when he asked them to turn round and make faces at me….”

Well, in that case I had better look through the folder where I’d put all the images of club members larking about. And sure enough there it was, hiding in plain view. I had assumed it to be four friends of Brian and Roger’s looning for the camera. It turns out to be a rare photograph of Lord Sutch’s backing band, with drummer Carlo Little in the centre at the back. I’ve spent a couple of hours cleaning it up and now we’re sending it off to Iris at the website to see if she can identify the rest of the group. And pin a date on it.

That was the easy part, now we have to get our designer to jiggle stuff around to fit it in to what is essentially a finished layout. Won’t he love doing that? And then we can start arguing about how “blues” was Lord Sutch!

Boom Boom Boom Boom. The Blues Photographs of Brian Smith is all but ready for the printers. Join the mailing list for newsletter updates and exclusive merchandise offers.