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Arts and Entertainment


The '80s spin at 45 rpm
Lakewood author's new book profiles eye-catching record art from the MTV decade
by WKSU's KABIR BHATIA


Reporter
Kabir Bhatia
 
Matthew Chojnacki took a lifelong love of 1980s design, music and records, and turned it into the book "Put the Needle On the Record"
Courtesy of K. Bhatia
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The much-maligned '80s are finally getting their musical due in a local author's new book.  WKSU's Kabir Bhatia has more on the visual appeal of Reagan-era record jackets....

The '80s spin at 45 rpm

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 Matthew Chojnacki has just about always loved records.

 
"For me it was very much an experience growing up.  You know I'd ride my bike to the store, I'd ride all the way home.  Just the adventure of purchasing it and getting it home. That was a two- hour ride.  For me it was a complete experience where it was the art work, it was the liner notes, it was the listening..."
 
The Lakewood financier spends his days in a suit, but the rest of his life revolves at 45 rpm.  Seven years ago, he started going through his 5,000-plus vinyl disks for the best examples of the art that came with seven-inch single records, once the kings of radio and record stores.  Chojnacki picked a few hundred for his book, "Put the Needle on the Record," which hits bookshelves this fall.  The androgynous pouting of Pat Benatar, the subway graffiti lines of Sylvester and the computer-generated “Hysteria” of Def Leppard all sit side by side… regardless of what was in the grooves.
 
"Let's see here... right now I'm pulling out Samantha Fox, right behind that, Frankie Goes to Hollywood; Hall & Oates. It's funny with a lot of these bands, during the ‘80s they were not so revered, kind of like Duran Duran.  More or less they were seen as the Backstreet Boys and N' Sync in the ‘80s.  Now they're kind of revered as these groundbreaking artists, especially visually..."
 
Chojnacki considers the 80s the last hurrah for the venerable picture sleeve, as MTV made artists think visually, yet at the same time, CDs pushed vinyl – and cover art – aside. The likes of LaToya Jackson, Twisted Sister or the Scorpions probably aren't headed to the Rock Hall or packed arenas any time soon.  Feather-haired rockers and detached New Wave acts mingle with pastel explosions of hip-hop art throughout the book.   The Smiths’ stark homage to the 1965 film “The Collector” adorns the cover of one single, as appealing as the Stray Cats’ hot rod worship on another. Chojnacki set about interviewing most of the acts, with mixed results.
 
"Early on, I was such a fan boy for some of these artists, and I had to cut that off because I wanted to tell them how excited I was to talk to them.  But as soon as I said that, it became like a fan/musician experience, and they pulled back a little bit."
 
The book itself is designed with a post-New-Wave look, presenting thematically linked sleeves on adjacent pages, accompanied by credits and a few paragraphs of information.  It's the ultimate Gen-X coffee-table piece, a simultaneous celebration and kiss off to the once-mighty record industry.
 
"I think a record label nowadays might spend a half a day on an image, if that.  Back then they would have an artist actually commissioned.  Prince would have an artist commissioned and actually go on tour with him and work on a piece for several weeks at a time and it was very much a big deal.  I think indie artists are still supporting that movement, but Photoshop's kind of taken over and I think watered down the images."
 
Some of the images in the book have probably never been seen in the U.S.  The book spans all genres, and the globe, in pursuit of artistic thrills.
 
"I do have some very rare singles in the book.  One for instance is a Freddie Mercury single, ‘I Was Born to Love You.'  And it was only released as a promotional 12 inch in Brazil.  There's probably a hundred copies in the world, and I was lucky to get one of them."
 
Most people never get to see rarities like that up close, given their scarcity to start with, and the fact that picture sleeves have shrunk to thumbnails on iTunes.  But there's still a dedicated following for vinyl.
 
"If you go to any show at the Beachland Ballroom, at the Barking Spider, at the Grog Shop, they don't have CDs at the table; they don't have cassettes. They have vinyl..."
 
One of those keeping vinyl alive is Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters.  He was Chojnacki's choice to write the book's foreword, while Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes wrote the afterword.  "Put the Needle on the Record" bookends a musical decade that Chojnacki says deserves to be remembered and celebrated.
Listener Comments:

greetings to all vinyl record lovers--i have thousands, i have had since the fiftys on. i have just opend my music and book store. called clark street music and books, starting to sort tru my stock,its like a tresure hunt. looking forward to further contact....thanks ---al wilson clark st. books and music 827 n.central av. medford,oregon---phone 541-227-6851


Posted by: al wilson (medford,or.) on August 27, 2011 1:08AM
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