THE NATION'S NIGHTMARE
"Traffic in Narcotics"/"Crime on the Waterfront"
1951 / CBS Radio / Columbia Special Products XTV 15688
Original early microgroove 12" LP vinyl record
Tough-to-find very early Andy Warhol record jacket art commission — and arguably the most desirable because it features a theme that would become very strongly associated with Warhol and the artistic scene within which he was a central figure: recreational narcotics. Warhol's drawing depicts a junkie shooting up. Remember, this record is from 1952.
The record jacket features two illustrations by Warhol on the front — his second illustration is two guys in a fight on the waterfront — and the same two graphics also appear on the labels of the record.
Andy Warhol won a competition organized by CBS Radio to illustrate a New York Times advertisement published on September 13, 1951 for the radio shows "Traffic in Narcotics" and "Crime on the Waterfront," narrated by Bill Downs, broadcast on CBS Radio on the same evening. The advertisement is reproduced on the back of the record jacket.
Warhol won his first art award for this, The Art Directors Club Award in 1952.
The commission came from legendary CBS creative director Lou Dorfsman, who recounts the story in this interesting interview:
"... radio was the big business of CBS then, television was the step-child growing up... and you could see that one was going to take over, there was no question about that, so we wanted to keep radio alive and vital. Andy Warhol had the visual impact that I wanted for such a subject. There's a gritty quality about the style. Ben Shahn brought the same thing to it; that's where I cast Andy in that role. I'd say, "What about a guy shooting up? Here's the layout I'm doing and I don't want to restrict you." I just explained to him what the program was all about and left it to him. A big difference between an artist and a graphic designer... is that the artist works in quiet desperation all by himself and advertising is a big collaboration. Silk screening Monroe twelve different ways and different color breakdowns is fine — it's a graphic design schtick. To me that's graphic design, I could do that. Would I have thought of doing twelve Monroes? I don't think so. I wouldn't have thought of it as a great accomplishment but they're very gorgeous women..."
"The Nation's Nightmare" appears be the first album jacket to feature Warhol's work. He would continue to do album jackets throughout his life, the most well known being the 1967 Velvet Underground album featuring a banana and the 1971 Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers, which featured an actual metal zipper affixed to the image of a man wearing jeans.