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Issue Date: October 2011

Audio Visual

Matthew Chojnacki's book shines a light on the lost art of 45 rpm record sleeves.
Jim Vickers

The 1980s began with an MTV-fueled leap forward in visual art and closed with the demise of the vinyl record. For pop music lovers, that meant a decade's worth of 45 rpm record sleeves that were as artistic as they were temporary.

"Each was only available for a couple months on store shelves," explains Matthew Chojnacki, who owns more than 5,000 7- and 12-inch singles. "Album covers have shrunk, but they're still around. ... As much work was frequently put into the singles covers."

Over the years, Chojnacki would often find himself flipping through his collection simply to enjoy the art. But when he searched for books on the subject, he found few and none that focused exclusively on the '80s.

So, the 36-year-old Lakewood resident and vice president of finance at Hugo Boss spent the past seven years creating one, Put The Needle on the Record: The 1980s at 45 Revolutions Per Minute (Schiffer, $39.99), a 271-page book that captures the era in pictures and words.

Many of the sleeves featured are accompanied by brief musician interviews, all of which Chojnacki conducted. Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears wrote the book's forward and Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes wrote its afterward.

"Some artists you thought would be impossible to get, like Annie Lennox, she jumped on kind of early," Chojnacki recalls. "And then other artists that you thought you could get, like Debbie Gibson, took over a year."

The record sleeves are presented in no particular order, though the ones on each left-hand page bear a thematic resemblance to the ones on the right. For example, the sleeve for Paul Hardcastle's "19" is next to the one for R.E.M.'s "Orange Crush." Both covers featured actual military photos from Vietnam.

"I probably spent a good year putting sleeves next to each other," he says. "I won't say I was obsessed, but I thought that was a fun kind of hook."

Chojnacki's organizing principle ensures music fans won't simply flip to their favorite genre but instead browse the range of artistic styles and interesting pairings. There is, however, an index in the back for locating favorites after a first read.

"Even though Whodini, a rap act, might be across from the Misfits, of course it doesn't relate, but it does visually, and that was the point," Chojnacki says. "It's a music book, but it's an art book first and foremost."

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