Saturday, April 15, 2017

Teenage Album Art

My first audio CD, if memory serves me right, was Def Leppard's Euphoria, purchased soon after its release in 1999. Before that, barring three or four secondhand LPs, my music collection was entirely in the form of audio cassettes. And about 90 percent of that was blank cassettes, recorded over with music I had borrowed from Dipanjan.

Dipanjan was my classmate. His brother played in a band, and as a result he had an enviable music collection. This was a time when music stores in Calcutta mostly stocked two kinds of albums: recent releases, and much older music (Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Nat King Cole). Dipanjan lent me the first Beatles album I ever listened to (Rubber Soul – to this day my favourite Beatles album) and introduced me to many of my favourite artists and bands.

I would only keep a cassette for three or four days before returning it and borrowing another. In that time, I had to decide which songs, if any, I wanted to record and keep. Blank cassettes were cheaper than pre-recorded cassettes but still fairly expensive, so only a few albums got the honour of being recorded in their entirety. Mostly, I made mixtapes, and for some of the mixtapes, I made album covers. My father recently scanned two of them for me.


I was 13 or 14 when I made the first one. We were studying metamorphic rocks in Geography, and I thought I had made an exceptionally clever pun. The Gothic watercolour drawing might suggest a heavy metal mixtape, but I only went for that look because I thought listening to heavy metal was cool. In reality, the album is filled with the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Bon Jovi. The second, made a year or two later, was named after a Pink Floyd song.

While I was still in my wannabe metalhead phase, I heard the phrase acid rock somewhere and assumed it was a particularly extreme version of hard rock. Accordingly, I asked Dipanjan if he had any acid rock albums, and Dipanjan, in his infinite wisdom, gave me The Worst of Jefferson Airplane. The album name and cover did nothing to dispel my illusions about acid rock, but when I put it on, it was all folksy ballads and gentle psychedelia. I loved it. The Worst of Jefferson Airplane is one of the albums I recorded in its entirety.