Hi-Fi Living

As U-M students, Janet Borgerson, ’86, and Jonathan Schroeder, ’84, often perused the aisles of Schoolkids’ Records, Wazoo Records, and PJ’s Used Records looking for vinyl albums to add to their collection. Many of those albums, as well as several more from Encore Records, now appear in their new book, “Designed for Hi-Fi Living: The Vinyl LP in Midcentury America” (MIT Press, 2017; www.designedforhifiliving.com).

This book presents a selection of vintage album covers from across musical genres and documents the golden age of record cover design.

“The book tells a story of postwar American culture through record albums,” says Schroeder.

Discussion includes the evolution of the modern album cover and makes connections to Cold War culture and the impact of the U.S. contribution to the 1959 Moscow Exhibition, which launched the “kitchen debate.”

“In this context, the book examines the cultural work of a set of midcentury albums as material objects, graphic design icons, and sound recordings,” says Borgerson. “In small and grand ways, from details of kitchen design to voices of the lunar landing, we found that our records express, and make subtle arguments for, the superiority of democratic capitalist freedoms in contrast with Soviet life.”

This gallery includes several covers that were designed to teach people about ideal lifestyles in postwar America as well as excerpts from the liner notes.

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