Designer Label

John Walters celebrates a Blue Note LP design classic – Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder (1964)The Sidewinder  - Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder (1964) is a Blue Note LP design classic. Its thick card sleeve and heavy vinyl contents radiate instant cool. The music delivers what Reid Miles’s cover promises: urbane mid-century modernism that’s both cerebral and sensual.

The Sidewinder may not have the depth of Kind of Blue or the intensity of A Love Supreme, but Blue Note aimed at a different target. Morgan’s music is a kind of design as well as art. Its structure is a grid that reveals its workings: precise unison sax/trumpet lines that split into punchy harmonies; melodic bass parts; and hi-fi drums that dance and swing.

You appreciate the music’s sound and spaces in much the same way you take in the cover, which squeezes a crop of Morgan between big type and the top edge of the sleeve.

The title track was a hit, and the demands of success spelled the beginning of the end for Blue Note. Its owners sold the company in 1966, prompting its decline, fall and eventual resurrection in the hands of obsessive DJs and collectors. Both music and cover remain as cool as ever.

John is the editor of Eye magazine. Designer Label appears in Port issue 5