The Impulse! Club


"You can't roll a joint on an iPod."

So sayeth Shelby Lynne in her profile from last week's New York Times Magazine. She was distilling her reasons for preferring vinyl records to CDs and other digital forms. The whole pro-vinyl argument is tired, for sure. Those of us who prefer vinyl know we are essentially better than everyone else, so why bother anymore (kidding, sort of...). But I read Shelby's quote at the exact time I was in the middle of The House That Trane Built, the story of Impulse! Records. Impulse! was at the forefront of progressive jazz in the 60s and early 70s. They were the label handling for much of Coltrane's best work, as well as that of Johnny Hartman, Archie Shepp, Yusef Lateef, Charles Mingus, Pharoah Sanders and the great astral goddess Alice Coltrane. In a section of the book, there is a good discussion of the importance Impulse! placed on cover art. Aside from the distinctive logo and orange-and-black spine, they hired high-priced photographers to capture both the mood of the artist and the music inside. They boasted pricey gatefold covers, too, which (to swing full circle back to Shelby Lynne) John Sinclair said were excellent for manicuring marijuana. So, stoners were happy yes. But the most important thing the cover art did was made average listeners feel like they were part of a really cool club (an aesthetic Sub Pop would also utilize). I mean, who wouldn't join a club frequented by this guy?


Or these dudes?


Or this lovely lady?


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