Monday, February 8, 2010

Things I miss...

I was thinking about various and sundry items, as I stood clearing some dishes from the sink yesterday. It dawned on me that one of my fondest recollections from bygone years, was album cover art. True, there is a sort of facsimile for CD covers these days, but it is not even on the same existential plane. These days, many artists rely solely on the medium of videos to sell their wares. The CD cover itself is secondary, if anything.

Back in the days before videos, it was the album cover (and of course initial airplay) that actually sold many albums. If you ever wanted to see your idols performing, you'd have to wait until they announced a concert date near your town. If you were lucky, you might get to catch a televised special on them. But the album covers were the items you would pore over as you listened to the LP (vinyl disk) of your favorite artist. Record companies knew this of course and were keen on the one-upmanship game when it came to album releases. They began incorporating items, gimmicks, giveaways along with the albums, to draw even more attraction to them. I remember Alice Cooper's "School's OUT" album, which was shaped like a primary school desk, featured a pair of pink panties wrapped around the album itself.
His "Billion Dollar Babies" album had a large, billion-dollar bill in it. Cheech & Chong's "Big Bambu" album had an enormous spliff-rolling paper in it

The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" album incorporated a zipper into the cover, which of course was a set of bulging jeans. Grand Funk's "We're An American Band" album, contained some limited release, translucent gold albums. Bands such as Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Gentle Giant, Deep Purple, the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd, always featured some very creative and surreal artwork. The live albums were sure to contain several shots of your group doing what they did best. I think what may have prompted this brief introspection, was the trip this Saturday to the Carousel Mall, in Syracuse, NY. There in a Borders Book Store, I saw for sale a vinyl copy of The Clash's 1979 "London Calling" LP. A true classic if there ever was one.

The iconic cover photo by Pennie Smith of Paul Simonon, thrashing his Fender Precision Base against the stage of 'The Palladium' in NYC, was named the best Rock and Roll photograph of all time by Q Magazine in 2002. (21 September 1979 during the "Clash Take the Fifth" US tour). They stated that: "it captures the ultimate rock'n'roll moment - total loss of control". (Okay, maybe these were youngsters who had never witnessed the Kings of Out-Of-Control (The Who) during their heyday... Pete Townsend was the first guitarist to ever smash a guitar in concert and The Who became legendary for it as far back as the mid-sixties. - Crypt.)

The album cover itself was named the ninth best album cover of all time by Q magazine in 2001.
The album cover for London Calling was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of "Classic Album Cover" postage stamps issued in January 2010.

Yeah... I kinda miss some of that nowadays.

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