UFO's and the Men Who Fly Them! was a 1996 Man or Astro-Man? 7" EP released jointly by Jezz Thorpe (Drug Racer) and Henry Owings of Chunklet Magazine. It was put out by Drug Racer Records. There was no catalog number, as Drug Racer never used proper catalog numbers--instead every band that recorded on the label chose their favorite drug as the identifying factor. According to Thorpe, Astro-Man chose "Electricity" as their catalog code because it was decided that the band was addicted to licking batteries. Also, the vinyl etchings identify it as 106038/106039. This single featured an off-set printed, die-cut cardstock sleeve that unfolded to reveal a punch-out "flying saucer disc" (assembled in 5 easy steps). The artwork, including the 3-D design was mostly worked out by Chris Bilheimer. Some of the initial design and the final punch-out replication were done by Lance Thingmaker (who also worked on the Return to Chaos packaging). The punch-out UFO led to many a damaged picture sleeve, making it a little tough to find a mint copy of this one.
The cover art for the single was adapted from the cover of a 1964 science fiction short story anthology edited by John W. Campbell, Jr.. Campbell was an American science fiction writer and editor who is credited with creating much of the feel of the Golden Age of Science Fiction through his work with Astounding Science Fiction magazine (later called Analog Science Fiction and Fact) from late 1937 until his death in 1971. The cover art was created by Paul Lehr (1930-1998), considered one of the greatest future-fantasist painters of the post-pulp era. Here is how the book cover looked:
This single changed considerably from concept to creation. An early incarnation treated it as more of a traditional single, with the song "9 Volt" being paired up with mostly throwaway tracks -- the b-side being a pair of sub-par live recordings. An early test press was done. It was referred to as "F. Saucers 1st Test w/ Live Versions" and had the following numbers etched in the dead vinyl: A-106006 and B-106007. There were anywhere from 4 to 6 copies of this test press made. Once the band caught wind of how labor-intensive and epic the packaging would be, they backpedaled on the idea of this being just another mid-'90s throwaway MOAM? single and set their aim a little higher. At the urging of Owings they recorded the Pylon cover song and cut a new test pressing. This second test press was in an edition of 8, and the catalog numbers and track listing matched what we know today as the actual UFOs single.
I have four copies of this single. Depending on the copy, there were two different inserts. One of my copies has both inserts, but another doesn’t have either. The other two only have one—I think you got whatever was on hand at Chunklet HQ when your order went out. Here is a scan of the two inserts. The dark green insert was also printed on pink paper:
According to the Touchable Sound book, there were 4,400 of these made. The single was released on astro silver vinyl (400), anti-freeze green vinyl (400), and translucent black vinyl (3,200). There was also a second pressing on red vinyl (400). Some discographies put the red variation at anywhere from 60 to100 copies. They are pretty hard to track down, so there could be some truth to that. Owings remembers counting the number of sleeves that he had left and ordering exactly that many copies from the pressing plant. Almost 15 years later and no one can remember the exact number. When I bought my copy from Owings 10+ years ago, the number getting thrown around then was 100. So, who knows? In any case, this is one of the best designed and executed singles ever produced. Here are all four varieties:
These were the only "official" colors, but others are also circulating. One of the more common of the impossible to find variations was a transitional pressing plant version that was bright clear green. Here's one of those:
Truth be told, there were a lot of transitional colors. Here's what my collection looked like as of September 2014:
There were marbled colors as the plant went from black to green and from green to silver. There are also a handful of purplish variations, but I may have them all at this point (sorry folks).
There was also some variation in the coloring of the picture sleeve, especially with the second pressing. I'm not sure if this variation in printing was consistent throughout the second pressing, but thought I should mention it here anyway. Here's a picture for comparison:
And here is a blurry photograph of what the sleeve looks like when it is completely unfolded:
On a personal note, it has always bothered me that UFO was pluralized on the front cover as UFO's instead of UFOs. Proof that even a well-designed package could benefit from a decent copy editor. I guess I should just be happy it didn't end up as UFOes or UFOs'.
UPDATE: After years of putting it off, I finally decided to pick up an extra copy for the sole purpose of destroying the picture sleeve and assembling the UFO. The following is a poorly documented photo essay of the process of building a tiny, non-functional space ship:
Here's the donor sleeve, an extra black vinyl copy I picked up at the recently resurfaced Eastside Records in Tempe, Arizona (the same shop behind the awesome Needles in the Cosmic Haystack single):
The sleeve laid out flat. The silver side would become the exterior of the ship.
The first direction:
"Removing the parts of the saucer disc for prepare assembling."
The second, third, and fourth directives:
"Using gluesticks adhesive for proper joining to individual parts."
"Careful attentio must be to tailpiece and entirety of saucer disc to fit together."
"Now only folding to make completion of suarcer disc. Creese only the dotted lines of pieces."
Final sleeve direction:
"Now glonious saucer disc has completed for enjoyment!"
Thanks to Brad Lynham for the picture of the clear green record.