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Tower Records Poster "Summer 1974" Original Print Series Rare Frank Carson

Tower Records Poster "Summer 1974" Original Print Series Rare Frank Carson

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This original lithograph was published by Tower Records in the summer of 1974. I know of two versions of this one, one says "Summer" in the scroll at the top. The other one says "Fresno." This one is "Summer."

It was part of an early series of art prints celebrating music, stores and seasons.These early Tower Records calendars and art prints are big, rich and magnificent. Frank Carson's art is lush and fanciful, and they are printed on beautiful heavy paper and feature stunning lithography. Tower's notoriety, the art's high quality and relatively low quantities in the early years -- not to mention their intrinsic beauty -- guarantee they will appreciate nicely for many years if not forever.

Tower created these highly collectible posters for most of its long tenure as the "greatest record store in the known world." The exact number of prints that were done is unknown, but early print runs when Tower had just a few stores were not high. They might be one-offs celebrating a concert, a poster created for use in-store to publicize a certain release or just a fun thing printed up because somebody liked a band and wanted to do something nice for them. Cat Stevens, the Jefferson Airplane and Bob Dylan were just a few of the artists whose image or work graced early Tower prints.

Starting in around 1975, the prints morphed into calendars which Tower published until just before its demise in 2006. Most were produced in cooperation with the radio stations, who would pay or trade for printing plate changes which enabled the insertion of their station logo on a certain number of the calendars that would be distributed by their local Towers and through station promotions. They were highly sought-after and often turned up in TV sitcoms and movies, such as the music movie FM or the long-running TV sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati.

Artist Frank Carson did virtually all of the art from the mid-'60s into the '90s. They are quite beautiful, evolving from early shots of bountiful hippie chicks employing deco and art nouveau themes to bountiful contemporary chicks surrounded by pop art and symbols of popular culture. Carson disappeared from the Sacramento art scene in the late '80s, after which a number of different approaches were used to adorn the calendars, from hiring notable fine artists like Jerald Silva to holding competitions between store artists and employees.

These art prints and calendars are increasingly rare. They are mementos of the days when Tower's aisles teemed with a record biz vibe as customers, store employees and record company salesmen bought, sold and talked music and recordings. It was a highly enjoyable communal ritual that is sorely missed.

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