Green Sleeves: Political, Religious & Cultural Identity
Seven decades of LP covers in Ireland
This section considers a range of areas where identity is key to the album sleeves selected. The vinyl record was used as a means of communicating political, historical, religious and educational content in a period prior to the internet and where television was more limited in its reach and scope. RTÉ was at the forefront of providing these materials in this format but religious organisations were also involved in this process. The vinyl record was also seen as a useful tool to promote the Irish language and reframe it as modern and relevant. In sum these sleeves provide a snapshot of the concerns of the state and society and what messages they sought to promote within the broader society.
The intro and overview page for the Green Sleeves exhibition is here.
Political albums in several genres became increasingly evident in the late 1960s and 1970s – particularly following the 50th anniversary of Irish independence in 1966, and later the start of the Troubles. Often the imagery of these albums sought to contextualise the records as part of an historical and continuing struggle for Irish independence. The Loyalist tradition on the island was also represented in musical form. Notable is the stark visual imagery used on some of the sleeves, but equally interesting is the way in which some of the ballad groups use their own collective identity through photography to promote themselves.
Mercier Press released a series of Catholic Record Club LPs in the late 1960s containing spoken word religious sermons. The covers shown here, designed by Dutch-born graphic designer Cor Klaasen, reflect the modernising influence of the Second Vatican Council on the Catholic Church in Ireland in the late 1960s.
Klaasen created over 30 cover designs for the Catholic Record Club between 1967 and 1971. These two-colour letterpress-printed sleeves demonstrate Klaasen’s skill with cut-out and collage techniques. He used rubylith film, Letratone and Letratape to create striking semi-abstract compositions.
An Irish Identity
Political, religious and historical events were often commemorated by the state broadcaster RTÉ with recorded speeches and commentary released in album form. Also evident are co-productions with commercial entities such as Claddagh Records and individual commemorative releases, such as the Pádraig Pearse album from the CRC Workshops. They had a significant role in supporting and extending an Irish cultural, political and historical identity rooted in an independent Irish state.
Education & Language
Gael-Linn was founded in 1953 to promote Irish language, culture and arts. Gael-Linn Records, which was established three years later, released a variety of traditional music forms and albums in Gaelic.
Irish visual imagery, as distinct from the Irish language, is generally avoided with an emphasis on strong simple illustration, colour, line and on occasion photography.
Comedy albums flourished as a genre during the vinyl record period and comedians such as Frank Kelly regularly appeared in Irish singles chart.
Artwork for many comedy record sleeves featured the use of newspaper and magazine cartoonists. For example, Gene Fitzpatrick’s album in this selection is illustrated by political cartoonist Rowel Friers, whose work appeared in Dublin Opinion, The Sunday Independent and The Irish Times, amongst others.