Hugh Masekela – Hugh Masekela’s Next Album album art
Hugh Masekela’s Next Album is the straightforward – if not to say unimaginative – title of the fourth studio album by South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela (1939–2018) Recorded in New York City, it was released in December 1966 by MGM Records.
The cover photo is my all-time favorite: Masekela in a black suit and a striped tie, standing barefooted on Times Square, his arm resting on a life-sized stuffed zebra, with his trumpet in one hand and a spear in the other. It’s the epitome of cool.
The title typeface is Radium. Photo-Lettering, Inc. presented it in Alphabet Thesaurus Vol. 2 (1965) as Xenotype 3486, without any design credits, and named it Radium in their One Line catalog (1971). As with most of PLINC’s “xenotypes”, it’s not an original design, but a phototype adaptation of a historical alphabet. In the case of Radium, I tracked down the model in Art Alphabets and Lettering (1914), a source book by American calligrapher and engraver John M. Bergling, where it’s shown as an untitled “modern alphabet”. There is no digital version by PLINC. David Nalle’s Beaumains (Scriptorium, 2011) is based on the same historical source.
Radium preserves the original H with its blackletter/minuscule-like construction. For the cover design, this letter was replaced by a more conventional form. The track list below the green title in Radium is set in caps from Folio schmalfett. I haven’t been able to find a credit for this iconic cover, neither for the photo nor the design. If you know more, please let us know in a comment
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1 Comment on “Hugh Masekela – Hugh Masekela’s Next Album album art”
His music resembled the growing Afro-funk scene of the period more so than the South African township music Masekela grew up listening to. He was still advertised as South African, but the imagery was playful. One prime example is the cover photo of Hugh Masekela’s Next Album. Masekela is pictured standing barefoot next to an oversized toy zebra with a spear in hand in what appears to be Times Square. In his other hand, he holds his trumpet while sporting a modern suit with tie. The album cover is meant to be ironic as Masekela looks out of place, and this is representative of how Masekela was advertised early in his career. It seems that the record label was struggling to address Masekela’s background in their advertising, choosing to portray him as, “a fish out of water.” This period was short-lived and abandoned once Masekela began recording for his own label.
The typeface choice ties in with this: Radium was probably chosen for its perceived “exotic” look. Of course Radium has nothing to do with South Africa, and is rather a product of the Art Nouveau aesthetic, and especially its German variety of Jugendstil.