Secret 7″ is a charity exhibition and auction where leading artists and designers create their own record sleeves for one of seven iconic tracks. The 2020 edition was the 7th and final edition, with all proceeds going to the Help Refugees charity.
Artists and designers could choose one (or more) of seven tracks: Aretha Franklin ‘One Step Ahead’, Bob Dylan ‘Blind Willie McTell’, Foo Fighters ‘This Is A Call’, The Internet ‘Come Over’, Koffee ‘Toast’, Miles Davis ‘Miles Runs The Voodoo Down’, and Vampire Weekend ‘Harmony Hall’.
The only rules were not to mention the musician or the song title on the cover, and to keep the work anonymous until after the auction. Anything else was allowed, including the use of unusual materials / mediums. For example, two of my favourites were a cover made of LEGO bricks and one made out of clay.
A cover for Bob Dylan
The cover I made and was lucky to have included in the exhibition was for Bob Dylan’s ‘Blind Willie McTell’ classic song. I listened to it many times, writing down notes and questions: “Why does Blind Willie McTell sing the blues like no one else? Is it because of his twelve string guitar? Is it because he still remembers the plantations? Or is he God, extending his hand towards us? Or maybe his blues is some kind of a Trojan horse?…”
Just like Bob Dylan’s song, great art often raises more questions than gives answers. This was what I was hoping to achieve with my artwork as well.
All the records were auctioned online at the end of the exhibition (held at NOW Gallery on Greenwich Peninsula). Over £134,000 was raised to support the Help Refugees charity. A few friends were hoping to win my cover, but in the end it went to a very generous unknown donor — thank you very much!
Being a popular event, over 6000 works were submitted, but there was room for only 700 of them (including a good number already reserved for famous guest artists supporting the cause). I sent five works myself, you can see below the four covers that didn’t make the cut.
I did two covers for the Miles Davis ‘Miles Runs The Voodoo Down’ song. The first one is inspired by Miles’s words to his band during the recording, “Keep it tight”.
The second Miles Davis cover is inspired by the 4/4 time signature and the “incendiary” spirit of the whole “Bitches Brew” album.
Aretha Franklin’s ‘One Step Ahead’ made me think of impossible stairs (or Penrose stairs), shaped like a heart, or a lady’s red lips.
For a second version for Bob Dylan’s ‘Blind Willie McTell’, I chose the iconic lyrics “power and greed and corruptible seed”. The lettering starts on the front and ends on the back cover.
Here are a few of my sketchbook pages, showing some of the early ideas and the process behind each of the covers. The final illustrations were drawn using Procreate on an iPad Pro.