Back in 1980, Elvis Costello was my guy and over the years, I’ve bought that year’s Get Happy!! four times; thrice at retail price (yes, I know, they must have seen me coming)– once when first released in America and two times when re-released on CD. However, it was the most recent purchase of the UK F-Beat (XXLP1) vinyl at the Ashford Boot Fair, last week’s sad Radio 4 documentary on brilliant graphic designer Barney Bubbles (who has featured several times in these pages) and a realisation that, in the meantime, I’ve picked up a boatload of second-hand Get Happy!! –related product that prompted this post. The main reason for the Ashford buy was the inclusion of the imperative “Get” poster, heretofore unowned by me. Not only did the original US edition come poster-less, it was printed on normal cardstock without the conceptually important mylar finish on the front, the inner sleeve was on thin paper and, most egregiously, was not “pre-worn” to look as if pulled from the shelf many times. How I suffered. Costello’s US label, Columbia, must have thought the American record buyers wouldn’t “get” the conceit (as with the previous “misprinted” This Year’s Model) and ask for their money back.
If, as the saying goes, “Clothes make the man, but accessories make the gentleman” (let’s assume it is), it is likewise the details that make for the better cover. For example, look carefully at the front cover’s upper right hand corner; notice an arbitrary looking geometric icon. Dynamically, it serves to balance the overall image and performs a similar function (though upside-down) in the upper left corner of the back cover much like a record label trademark. It, like much of the atomic/mod imagery here, is meant to suggest a 50s/60s vintage (see the “High Fidelity” single sleeve particularly), knowingly filtered through a New Wave lens. Further japes include the reversal of tracklisting sides and the artist referring to himself as VAT 245 4945 42, which I imagine was the sales tax ID on Bubbles’ invoice. Incidently, the cover photos were taken with the subjects lying on the ground, the photographer positioned at their heads
The retro lightbulb image is a rejigged version of a large scale in-store paperboard display poster. This one is part of a fold-out postcard sent to Johnny Go’s House o’ Music (where I was working at the time) alerting the store to the second stage of Rykodiscs’s comprehensive CD re-issue program back in the 90s.