MY TOP 10 ALBUM COVER CRUSHES
As a very young music aficionado, I spent countless hours holding and analyzing vinyl LP cover art and I am far from alone in this pastime.
The format was always so perfect for viewing in fact, that to this day there has been a resurgence for collecting vinyl LP's both older and newly pressed reissues. Partly due to the overall sound quality inherent in the physical medium, partly the fact that many of today's fans were not around to experience first-hand the time when vinyl was king of the castle but are still loving the bands of the era, but primarily for most fans, it just makes sense to hold and look at a treasured work of art in your hands that has a larger scale than a CD, a cassette, or hell, even an 8 track tape ever had.
My move through vinyl started with small 45 R.P.M. records with their accompanying storybooks for kid fare such as The Little Match Girl, The Tin Soldier (incredibly dismal when I think of them now) and a variety of Marvel and D.C. comic superhero tales. Then it was on to fantastic singles by The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, Chuck Berry and The Electric Light Orchestra.
Meanwhile my LP format started with such wondrous family hand me downs as classics from Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jimi Hendrix, Iron Butterfly, and a variety of other great lounge, psychedelic and British Invasion gems. Adding to the pile were bad ass James Bond soundtracks and some good old Redd Foxx "Blue Humor" comedy oddities that provided plenty of kid-time guffaws and snickers for me and my pals. We listened endlessly (and with my friend's parents approval in fact) to Redd's You Gotta Wash Your Ass!—still in print after all these years!
One thing that finally kicked in by the time adolescence rolled around was that my friends and I realized that there was more to admire beyond the suits and fedoras of a too cool Frank Sinatra or the mind blowingly trippy Disraeli Gears, and that was how some of the albums we really loved had some wonderful eye candy, as in the visuals that could assist in our enjoyment of the sounds we so loved within the LP sleeves.
Yes, we now had minor crushes that extended beyond our baby sitters or our mini skirted neighbors' wives.
Here then are my top ten innocent adolescent 12" vinyl LP crushes. Some were released earlier than when I acquired them, and others were bought by me upon release. There are a few ties. Note that many of these choices at the time required a bit more analysis of what was going on, while others, little to nothing beyond the sheer visual impact. Also, these mostly overlap as the very same ones that my close pals admired around the same time...
#10) LINDA RONSTADT: SILK PURSE / LINDA RONSTADT (3RD ALBUM)
With The Stone Pony's one big hit, a version of Monkee Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum," catapulting them to fame, and then as the band was winding down with key members leaving, Linda Ronstadt had already been in the spotlight and moving towards becoming a solo artist on the verge of superstardom.
These two albums, tied for my 10th place, are both winners. In Silk Purse, she mucks around with a few equally charming mammals of the family Suidae, and on the sepia toned cover of her self titled 3rd album, she possesses eyes as big as the hoop earrings she's sporting.
09) OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN MELLOW / MAKING A GOOD THING BETTER
Here are the two sides of Olivia, the wistful and mellow girl and the happy go lucky optimist. What can I say, I have always been a fan—and at least I didn't pick her album, Physical.
08) CLAUDINE LONGET: THE LOOK OF LOVE
Claudine's sad and tragic story is for another time and place. Rather, I like to think of the singer/actress who so beautifully appeared alongside Peter Sellers in his film, The Party and released some of the prettiest songs and albums I have ever heard.
#7) MARTIN DENNY: AFRO-DESIA / QUIET VILLAGE
For his style of Tiki Exotica music, Martin Denny had found the perfect model in Sandy Warner, who graced the first 12 and a total of 16 of Denny's albums including his very first, Exotica which was a huge selling #1 album.
In the essential book Incredibly Strange Music, Denny explained, ‘She was a stunning model, extremely photogenic. She posed for at least the first dozen albums I did. They always changed her looks to fit the mood of the package.’
#6) THE RUNAWAYS: QUEENS OF NOISE
The band put together by one of my favorite characters in all of pop music, Kim Fowley, really made quite an impression at the time, and I really didn't realize it then, but those sure look like stripper poles the ladies are grooving with. There was a point where we had to pick our favorite Runaway after looking at this cover. Without hesitation I picked singer Cherie Currie. My buddy Stan picked Joan Jett, and and I'm sure someone out there picked the metal goddess Lita Ford. Whatever the choice, good luck with that fantasy after you get your asses kicked guys!
#5) BLONDIE: BLONDIE / PLASTIC LETTERS
Debbie Harry has always photographed really well. Jumping off a picture like some late '50/early '60s Beatnik meets secret agent ingenue, I always thought the Marilyn comparisons, while meant to be flattering, were a bit of a disservice to just how beautiful and cool Debbie has always been.
#4) THE OHIO PLAYERS: HONEY / CONTRADICTION
Another iconic classic that made quite an impression was the Honey LP. I was always a really huge fan of The Ohio Players brand of funky R&B but I'm not exactly sure why I was so obsessed (as was a friend of mine) with these guys beyond the music? Perhaps it was the fact that their guitarist, Sugar, sported one of the biggest Afros to have ever graced pop music (and I always wanted one too), that their cool bass player was only named Jones and sported a white turban, or was it some of the other member's names, Diamond, Pee Wee or Satch...or could it just have been because they released covers that had naked women covered in honey?
The band that defined FUNK.
#3) ROXY MUSIC: COUNTRY LIFE
One of the more controversial album covers upon its release in 1974 with little secret as to why it was. Thankfully, folks do not live on covers alone and the music on the album is equally as grand and creatively spectacular a statement of "Art Rock" as ever has been made.
By this time Roxy Music was firing on all cylinders and this was their most successful album up to this point and helped Roxy to crack the American Top 40 at #37.
Laughingly, Country Life had a censored cover in the U.S. which featured just the bushes, sans the girls and not surprisingly, this has never been the preferred cover among purchasers and fans.
#2) CARLY SIMON: NO SECRETS
This is the album that contains the infamous "You're So Vain" (still a song subject to much speculation about who the song is about, and which has an uncredited Mick Jagger on background vocals. Mick is supposedly one of the three vain men of which Carly has said this song is about).
Staring at this cover upon its release really brought on a cedar chest full of ideas and conflicting thoughts about just what it was that made this such a maddeningly appealing album cover for me and my friends. Was it the big floppy hat? Her long cool brown hair? The menacing and pointy black fence of doom? The Led Zeppelin font? The idea of Carly marrying James Taylor? Her secret hand gesture??
Whatever it is, Carly Simon has the look and the big bag of a girl with an agenda who is on a mission of letting it all hang out, and I am proud to place her at my coveted number two spot.
#1) HERB ALPERT: WHIPPED CREAM & OTHER DELIGHTS
As my all time numero uno, this one really takes the cake...but really, how can anyone who first sees this iconic cover not be completely smitten by a seemingly naked girl covered in whipped cream, enticingly posed as a wedding cake and inviting the viewer to partake in a slice or two, not too mention the "Other Delights"? From the top of her whipped bow on her sixties gal hair, to a very groovy green on green color scheme (and a wildly fantastic font as well), everything is as perfect as you could possibly ask for in memorable timeless imagery. I was suckered in and you can only imagine how many folks have also been taken in by this image? Word is it is the most popular and recognizable cover in pop music history. One of my earliest recollections ever of cover art making a profound impact.
For the record, the girl on the cover is model Dolores Erickson.