Cover Story

I read this month of an exhibition of the ‘world’s worst album covers’ in Huddersfield, England. It was all the work of a record collector who assembled the showcase after going on a lengthy mission to find disastrous LP covers. He wasn’t just interested in bad cover designs: his first rule was that the cover had to make him laugh.

This got me thinking about Okinawan covers and I wondered if there were any from these islands that might have been contenders. There’s one in my own collection that has always struck me as being so hastily put together that it never fails to provoke merriment in our house. This is Satukui Chijuya, a duet album by Koutoku Tsuha and Satoko Oshiro.

Now don’t get me wrong. Koutoku Tsuha is one of the greatest singers and sanshin players of the first generation of Okinawan recording artists. His partner here, Satoko Oshiro, was originally one of his pupils. It’s a fine recording. But unless Oshiro is a giant of a woman – or Tsuha has shrunk alarmingly in his later years – they have clearly not been photographed together. It looks more as if Oshiro is leading her prematurely aged little boy safely through the sugar cane field.

This isn’t the only Okinawan example of photos taken at different times and pasted together but it’s the one that makes me laugh. There are a few other covers that could, I suppose, lay claim to being either disastrous or funny. One in the former camp is the cover for the album Challenge by Akane Murayoshi that came out ten years ago and was reviewed here at the time.

This went a bit overboard with its garish design which does the singer no favours. Sadly, the album itself is no great shakes either. It took a while but to her credit, Murayoshi has completely recovered from this and went on to contribute to one of my albums of the year when she appeared on Ushinawareta Umi e no Banka 2019 along with Hirokazu Matsuda, Seibun Tokuhara, and Mika Uchizato.

My other example is the cover for the compilation Okinawa Sobayasan no BGM. It was released by Respect in 2006 and this is a case of intentionally funny artwork so, in fact, it succeeds very well. The album contains a selection of songs related to the joys of eating Okinawa soba with diversions into the delights of mango and awamori. It also includes the wonderfully tacky ‘Goya Bushi’ by Yoko Yokota.

There may be others, but these are the ones that came to mind, though it would be harsh to say any of them would find a place in an exhibition of ‘worst’ covers. Whether intentionally or not they did make me smile though.

Explore posts in the same categories: Notes from the Ryukyus

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