Morgan Howell and the art of the big hit single

I don’t know much about art and most of the time I’m not very sure if I know what I like, but the work of English artist Morgan Howell is sure as hell right up my lapsed-obsessive-record-collector street. Howell specialises in painstakingly accurate reproductions of 7 inch singles from the 60s and 70s, by which I don’t mean picture sleeves but the classic flimsy paper housed artefacts that required one to examine the label showing through the central circular hole in the cover if you wanted to identify them. These are three dimensional objects, not paintings, and Howell’s attention to detail is fastidious, down to the authentically distressed and creased canvas that stands in for the paper sleeves and the tiny imperfections round the edges of the labels on the foam board records – the one tiny thing that might tip you off that his artworks aren’t the real thing is their size: 27 inches square, with smaller reproductions available at 16 inches by 16. A very pleasing detail on some of the latter is the inclusion of a rendering of the shiny rounded record spindle you get on some players, which is painted to show the reflection of the room beyond.

I went to an exhibition of Howell’s work at the Williams Art Gallery in Cambridge where the walls were covered in these enormous singles and found it tremendously evocative. Apart from anything else, Howell is to be commended for his taste in subject matter: the reproductions included “Heatwave” by Martha and the Vandellas, Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, The Who’s “I Can’t Explain”, “Gangsters” by The Specials and rather excitingly for me “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” by The Clash, which I’ve previously rambled on about at some length. Buying works of art is a ridiculous bourgeois indulgence but I couldn’t resist splashing out on one of the cheaper reproductions of this one. If you love old singles and you get the chance you should definitely go and see Howell’s work. He even takes commissions!

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