Tag Archives: popular music

If philately is the new black, GPO posters are the rock ‘n’ roll!

Royal Mail’s Classic Album Covers stamp issue isn’t the first time that the Post Office has gone ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ – it also happened back in the 1930s when the Post Office began a wide-ranging artist-commissioning programme to drive its public information campaigns. This led to some of the most exciting work produced in what is now known as ‘mid-century modern’ poster design.

The BPMA is fortunate in holding a treasure trove of Twentieth-Century poster design, a small portion of which was the subject of our recent exhibition, Designs on Delivery: GPO Posters 1930-1960. The exhibition included many excellent examples of public information campaign posters produced by the Post Office and we were delighted with the positive response to it. The Guardian online included a slideshow version of highlights from the exhibition and the winter issue of Illustration Magazine featured an article on our poster collection.

A GPO poster encouraging people to pack parcels carefully is illustrated by a shattered cow-shaped milk jug. The cow has a tear in its eye.

Please Pack Parcels Very Carefully by Tom Eckersley

Also smitten were the designers at ‘poptastic’ greetings card producer Umpen Editions who have developed ‘Post Modern’, a new range of cards based on eight posters from our collection. This includes several featured in the exhibition. The ever-popular, if heart-rending (please somebody put him back together!!!) ‘please pack parcels very carefully’ broken dog design by Tom Eckersley is included, making this design now available in greetings card, print-on-demand poster, fridge magnet, and fridge magnet with virtual gift formats.  A cow design from the same campaign is featured, as is Pat Keely’s poster artwork for the GPO film, Night Mail. Lesser known, but equally visually appealing work by artists Harry Stevens and Robert Broomfield are in the range, along with a wartime poster image from artist Hans Schleger (aka Zero). We are delighted with the new cards – everyone in the office has their own personal favourite.

The poster for Night Mail shows a railway track and railway signals at night.

Pat Keely's poster for Night Mail

Poster campaigns, public information films, and documentary photography emerged from the Post Office during the 1930’s under the auspices of its first Public Relations Officer, Sir Stephen Tallents, who joined the department in 1933 towards the end of George V’s reign. Indeed it was the social change, coupled with developments in mass communications techniques and processes which had occurred earlier during the King’s reign which enabled production not only of some of philately’s now most loved stamp issues (‘British Empire Exhibition’, ‘Seahorses’ and ‘PUC Pound’ issues for example) but that also laid the basis for a subsequent ‘heyday’ of GPO poster design.

The events and innovations of this extraordinary period in philatelic design history will be the focus of the BPMA’s major exhibition for 2010: Empire Mail: George V and the GPO at London’s Guildhall Art Gallery. The exhibition, part of the London 2010 Festival of Stamps, will look at the passions of King George V, the ‘philatelist king’, alongside an extraordinary period of innovation in the General Post Office which took place during his reign.

The Post Modern card range will be available shortly from the BPMA’s webshop.

Classic Album Covers stamps

Today Royal Mail released the first new set of commemorative stamps for 2010: Classic Album Covers. Design was the theme of the first set of commemoratives for 2009, British Design Classics, and so the art of the album sleeve designer, rather than the music, is focus of Classic Album Covers.

10 stamps featuring classic British album covers.

The album covers featured are The Division Bell – Pink Floyd, A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay, Parklife – Blur, Power Corruption and Lies – New Order, Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones, London Calling – The Clash, Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield, IV – Led Zeppelin, Screamadelica – Primal Scream and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie.

Like stamps themselves, album covers are pieces of art which everyone owns and enjoys. It is also appropriate that as more and more music is downloaded, and the album cover – indeed the entire concept of the album – becomes less important to music consumers, that the classic covers from a time when the album was king are celebrated.

Royal Mail selected the covers of 10 classic British albums by researching dozens of polls and listings of best album covers, and then consulted the editors of some of the UK’s leading music publications, together with designers and design writers. The final selection features albums from the Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed (1969), to Coldplay’s 2002 album A Rush of Blood to the Head.

There has been much debate online about the selection of albums featured on these stamps. Why no Dark Side of the Moon or Beatles? Royal Mail’s Philip Parker gave the answer to the first question on the Creative Review blog. Dark Side of the Moon was too dark and “the operational equipment that sorts mail would not have been able to ‘read’ the phosphor that is overprinted, and hence would have rejected the mail”, he said.

Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury on a stamp, 1999

Freddie Mercury on a stamp.

As for The Beatles, their albums were celebrated on a set of stamps in 2007 (the Norvic Philatelic blog has the details). Interestingly, The Beatles stamps were only the second British stamps to celebrate popular music. The first was a stamp featuring childhood philatelist and Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, part of The Entertainer’s Tale, released in 1999.

Classic Album Covers is now available from Royal Mail’s website.