A Body Of Work : AS Design x Toyah x Cherry Red

In 2020, AS Design started work on the first of what is (so far, at time of writing) ten music reissues by our long-time collaborator, Toyah.

On the day of the announcement of the tenth release, and a couple of weeks after learning one of the previous ones had won an award, we deep-dive into a three-year labour of love.

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Jul 1, 2023

A body of work : a brief history...

The series of releases came about when Toyah’s back catalogue of music initially put out on the Safari Records label was bought by Cherry Red Records.

We’d previously worked with Cherry Red on some (what now seem like basic) CD reissues from around 2005-2012. But for the first time, these reissues were to be fully remastered, expanded, deluxe vinyl, CD and DVD collectors’ items.

How was it different this time? Because previously Safari had been reluctant to part with the licences for (or put the work into finding) anything other than music that was pretty widely-available or had been on vinyl or cassette in the 70s/80s.

Toyah’s archivist, Craig Astley, had been working with original Toyah band co-founder and writer Joel Bogen for several years, frequently travelling from the North East to Joel’s London home to listen to demos, outtakes, unreleased tracks and to create and curate definitive dream tracklists for what was to be a complete Safari reissue programme. Craig had a wishlist of tracks and versions he hoped to locate.

Sadly, didn’t come to light and the plans lay dormant for a few years.

Enter Cherry Red, who bought out Safari and greenlit the project as one of their top priorities for the Safari artists’ archive.

Toyah and Craig met with Cherry Red and project coordinator Danny Keene to discuss the releases, and work began on sifting through the archive which Cherry Red acquired.

We started work on the first release, Toyah’s debut LP Sheep Farming In Barnett, in August 2020.

Two collectors, one dream...

Not only did Craig spend years curating these tracklists, he’d spent decades collecting Toyah records, tapes, CDs, VHS, DVDs, magazines, books, tour programmes, calendars, posters, t shirts. You name it, he had it… even Toyah’s 80s makeup range!

Craig and AS Design’s Alan Sawyers have been best friends since they were 17 (current age “NOT 17″). Both have had a near-unhealthy interest in collecting and are no strangers to shelling out money to buy multiple editions of the same release by their favourite artists.

Over the years, especially in the latest wave of vinyl-mania, that money is being spent on releases that are – in a word – lazy. Major labels and some of the world’s biggest artists putting little-to-no work into making releases appealing for fans to buy (for the second, third, fourth time…).

So when the opportunity came along to make these releases as collectable and valuable as possible, Craig and Alan didn’t hesitate.

Here are a few of the things we’ve done to make these releases the kind of pieces we’d happy queue up in the rain to buy (that’s still a thing every Record Store Day) and what makes Toyah fans crash the Cherry Red website every new release day…

Pictured below: Sheep Farming In Barnet (2020) included 30 bonus tracks and numerous unseen images, plus recreated front and back sleeves that would avoid using scanned images that had off-white backgrounds, text that would get cut-off by printer bleed, and old label copy/credits etc.

Trainspottin'

We use the term ‘trainspotter differences’ to refer to minor tweaks that only true fans that will spot. Easter-eggs if you like.

Every one of these releases to date has had front cover artwork that has been recreated.

Some recreations are true to the original, with the purpose of recreating them being to avoid using scans that don’t replicate well in print. All logos and type has been recreated.

However, with some releases, like The Blue Meaning, we recreated the album sleeves with minor amends. On this one in particular, the photo used was one frame later as the negative used on the original sleeve was missing in the Safari archive purchased by Cherry Red.

Why do we do this? It prints better as mentioned than a scan. But also because we can, and we have access to hundreds of unseen images. And because there isn’t a rule to say that a reissue has to be a direct replica of its original (unless of course written in the licensing agreement, then there is a rule).

All imagery across the releases has scanned in one form or another – either from original vinyl release or from negatives/transparencies. Each image used has been cleaned up by AS Design’s Nic Sawyers, some having been badly scratched, dusty, ripped or even mouldy.

Pictured below: The Blue Meaning (1980 LP left and 2021 reissue right)… It’s almost un-noticeable, but it’s there. We also had to recolour parts of the alternative image to recreate the style of the original. We think it enhances and modernises the cover art whilst staying true to the original.

Creating simple consistencies

When creating a series of anything… it’s important to look at the small detail as well as the more obvious things.

For example, with these reissues, we’ve been as consistent as possible with things like:

  • The layout for tracklistings on the back of the CD/DVD packages – there are too many tracks to list in order to recreate the back sleeve of the original, so each release has a coloured background with 2-3 columns depending on the number of discs. And where there is an original LP sleeve available, we have recreated this on one of the digipak panels instead. Room permitting and where appropriate, we added icons to the back covers.
  • The stickers all pick colours, logos and fonts from the release.
  • The CD/DVD spines have the Cherry Red logo and catalogue number in the same place each time (yes they vary once printed and manufactured). There’s nothing more frustrating than a label starting a series like this then suddenly switching them or changing the sizing. The Toyah logo appears on all releases and the album title in its original typeface/style.

Pictured below: Examples of the CD/DVD back covers and all the spines to date (trainspotter hint: the CD/DVD digipaks inside the Anthem and Changeling box sets are different to the standalone editions).

Old... but so brand new

A highlight of working on these releases has been creating a duo of live albums that became a mini-series of their own.

Live At Drury Lane and Toyah At The Rainbow were twins in many ways… both were initially broadcast on TV and both were only ever released on video (Rainbow also on Laserdisc).

For the first time, both were given vinyl, CD and DVD releases.

Approaching these, we wanted to create them as ‘new’ releases, as neither really had any ‘music release’ artwork other than the video inlays, which were likely to have been thrown together by the BBC.

Craig and Alan met to discuss both releases before artwork design begun… to chat about what imagery was available in order to make these releases as iconic as Toyah’s other Safari music releases.

Here are a few things we did with Rainbow and Drury Lane.

  • Both releases got brand new cover art with nods to the original BBC videos.
  • The back covers of the CD/DVD packages feature a stage/smoke machine continuation of the front cover, which also continues inside the digipaks.
  • Both releases were given a ‘room setting’ image as a nod to the time the oroginal concerts were broadcast on TV. Another trainspotter reference: the time on the VCR in the Rainbow artwork is the date of the concert, 21st February.
  • Drury Lane has a different DVD/CD cover to the LP – the vinyl uses a photo on the front and back sleeve, whilst the CD/DVD combines both.

Pictured below: Live At The Rainbow (2022) digipak artwork with smoke machine continuation from front cover onto the back and inside.

 

Award winning and out of this world

In June 2023, we found out that Key Production, who create the physical vinyl and CD/DVD releases for Cherry Red and many other labels, had won an award for the 2022 box set of Toyah’s Anthem album.

This was a fantastic accolade to the work that went into the release by all involved – and a ‘life imitating art’ moment for Craig and Alan, who were already referring to the box set as AWARD WINNING!

In the same month, a box set for The Changeling also went off to print, for a September release.

And whilst the work that went into Anthem was truly worth of the Making Vinyl packaging award it won, The Changeling was, in Toyah’s own words, OUT OF THIS WORLD.

Many tracks, video footage and images, all thought to be lost, were unearthed for this release.

In this video on the AS Design YouTube channel, Toyah gives a special mention to AS Design’s Nathan Cockburn, who had worked on releases since the tail-end of the Anthem project (Nathan created the exploded box set packshot), contributed significantly to The Changeling.

The album’s original front cover image was created in 1982 by photographer, Bob Carlos Clarke, who took a black and white photo and hand-coloured it to create the iconic sleeve art.

Because of the way the artwork was produced, no colour alternatives (and only one black and white outtake) were ever released or even leaked.

Only a few months ago, after The Changeling reissue had already been planned (we had already finished the LP and sent it off to Key), a box containing unused black and white shots was discovered by Craig, who had already spent years curating these releases in terms of audio and image content. The discovery was a shock even to him.

Rather than use the untouched mono photos, we wanted to try and represent these images in the way they would have been treated by the original artist in 1982… but in 2023.

So Nathan spent weeks re-colouring multiple black and white outtakes, down to the pixel, spending hours perfecting each image digitally.

The result is fantastic and these images are a major part of the appeal of this release – adding real value to what was originally planned to be an LP plus a 2CD/DVD.

The discovery and recolourisation of these images, along with its numerous unreleased tracks, made it feasible to release The Changeling as a box set, which created the perfect opportunity to showcase the newly treated images as alternative front cover art for the box, LP picture disc, demo recordings LP and the exclusive 2CD/DVD that only comes in the box set.

Pictured below: The Changeling (2023) in all its glory – Box Set, Standalone Pink Vinyl and Standalone 2CD+DVD. Across this release there are alternative front covers used on the box, picture disc and box set digipak, as well as the bonus CD and 12″ x 12″  print.