Tag Archives: The Beatles

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.

Famous Philatelists

An unusual item in the collection of the BPMA is the stamp album of the late, great Freddie Mercury. The talented Queen star collected stamps as a boy and his album is one of the few of his personal belongings that still exists in the public domain. 

A page from Freddie Mercurys childhood stamp album

A page from Freddie Mercury's childhood stamp album

Freddie Mercury’s collection includes stamps from a wide range of countries across the world. Many are from the British Empire and those of particular philatelic interest are from Zanzibar, Mercury’s birthplace. The album also incorporates a wide selection of stamps from Eastern Europe and Commonwealth countries. As pop memorabilia and for cultural reference, Freddie Mercury’s collection is priceless.

A stamp from Zanzibar which appears in Freddie Mercurys album

A stamp from Zanzibar which appears in Freddie Mercury's album

Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on 5 September 1946 in Zanzibar. Bomi – his father – originally inspired his stamp collecting and it’s believed that Freddie built up his own collection between the ages of nine and twelve.

Following Freddie Mercury’s death on 24 November 1991, the majority of his belongings were burnt in line with his family’s Zoroastrian religious beliefs but Bomi decided to keep the stamp album.

Bomi eventually decided to auction his, and Mercury’s stamp collections and the BPMA, then the National Postal Museum, purchased the album on 17 December 1993. The amount paid was donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust which is the AIDS charity that was set-up by Queen band members John Deacon, Brian May and Roger Taylor, along with Mercury’s friend Mary Austin.

In 1999 Freddie Mercury appeared on the 19p stamp in the Millennium Series: The Entertainers’ Tale commemoratives, alongside 1966 England World Cup captain Bobby Moore, a dalek from Doctor Who and silent film star Charlie Chaplain.

Freddie Mercury isn’t the only famous pop star to have collected stamps. John Lennon’s stamp album (from circa 1950), which features over 550 stamps from several countries including New Zealand, India and the United States, is currently held by the National Postal Museum (part of the Smithsonian Museum) in Washington D.C.

A stamp from the UK-Australia Joint Issue of 1988, featuring John Lennon

A stamp from the UK-Australia Joint Issue of 1988, featuring John Lennon

John Lennon has appeared on postage stamps in many countries including the UK-Australia Joint Issue of 1988 celebrating the Bicentenary of Australian Settlement (where Lennon is pictured with William Shakespeare, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge) and The Beatles stamps of 2007. Fans in the United States have set up an online petition to get the US Postal Service to release a stamp commemorating John Lennon’s 70th birthday in 2010.