The Durutti Column: The Return of The Durutti Column
I was told about this album from someone I had just met via email. I dropped into the conversation that I ran Sleevage and he mentioned this was his favourite album sleeve. I should add Sleevage to my email footer as crowd sourcing sleeves to post about is much easier than real research.
I was happy enough that the sleeve was constructed out of sandpaper as that seems both impractical and expensive. However to find out it was a Factory Records design and actually assembled by Ian Curtis of Joy Division (who needed the extra cash) while the rest of the band watched porn in the same room. (source) made the sleeve even more interesting. Even if this last story is untrue it shows that an album with a story is much more interesting that one without.
Here’s the back cover which is also devoid of information.
FACT 14 refers to the Factory records number system which you can read about here. There were two FACT 14s the other being Martin Hannett’s “Testcard”.
The first edition on sandpaper was limited 2000. The sandpaper sleeve comes in various editions: Some with spray-painted FACT 14 in black or in white, some without spray-paint. This makes for a very rare collectors item. Sadly The Durutti Column isn’t as “cult” as Joy Division so don’t expect to pay off the mortgage with it.
If you were to buy the album from Amazon now sadly this is what you’ll get. An ugly interpretation of the sandpaper.
The official TDC site has this on the album’s page. I’m not sure if this is a photo of a limited edition re-packaging or the album itself was a photo. Anyone know for certain?
The credit for designer was hard to track down. Each site I went to credited different people. Discogs has Steve Horsfall, while Wikipedia has Peter Saville and Tony Wilson and the official The Durutti Column site has the designers as Dave Rowbotham and Anthony Wilson credited with the sandpaper sleeve concept.
So Peter if you’re reading this please set the records straight. For now I won’t credit anyone individually until I hear otherwise.
The one thing we do know for certain is that the cover was inspired by the 1959 bookMémoires by Guy Debord a Marxist theorist, French writer, filmmaker, hypergraphist and founding member of the groups Lettrist International and Situationist International. Cover is below.
With a Wikipedia entry like that you can imagine what kind of dinner conversation Guy would have had. You don’t see ideas like hypergraphist or Psychogeography being theorised any more. I understand these concepts properly you could say Tomato’s work fits into this nicely. Especially projects like mmm… Skyscraper I Love You.
Compare this to a double page spread from Mémoires.
While I like to think my music knowledge as expansive, I’d be lying if I said I knew of The Durutti Column before this. It seems I say the same thing for almost every album that get reviewed here :) I’ve sampled some tunes on the official Myspace page and a fan page and it’s nothing like I expected. It’s quite chilled. I’m not sure if this is the same sound as they had 30 years ago though.
What I love about the cover and the idea behind the original Memoires is that the sleeve would leave it’s mark and potentially ruin other albums it sits next to. Like Stick Fingers, with the zipper that ruined the record, these impractical design solutions were created back in a period where experimentation in music and design for music was encouraged instead of feared.
Final Useless Fact: The Durruti Column was the most famous column of anarchist fighters during the Spanish Civil War. The band intentionally spelt it incorrectly.
Thanks Jon for the info on the sleeve.