More Album Cover Outtakes

Artist Charles Burns’ cover for Iggy Pop’s 1990 LP Brick By Brick included references to many of the album’s songs, a joint-smoking Kate Pierson, even Roy Orbison!  

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Iggy Pop’s solo career had become something of a hit and miss affair since the release of 1979’s excellent New Values, but in 1990 he returned with his ninth solo album, the Don Was-produced Brick by Brick, clean and sober, and determined to prove himself one of the hardest working professionals in rock and roll.

With Iggy playing more left-handed guitar than ever, it was an album of solid rockers and upbeat ballads, albeit perhaps a fraction too long (14 tracks), and included a long list of musicians including veteran session musos Charley Drayton (bass) and Kenny Aronoff (drums), John Hiatt, and a couple of guest hard rockers in Slash and Duff McKagan. It was also his first album not to feature a portrait of the ageless rocker on the cover sleeve.

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Upon being given the job by Iggy’s then record label Virgin, the acclaimed American cartoonist and illustrator Charles Burns was sent a cassette of the album with Iggy’s handwritten song titles, as well as Brick By Brick scrawled on the spine. Burns’ listened to it and got to work. The result was a colourful illustration based on many of the song’s lyrics, with a decaying east coast city the underlying feel.

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There’s a blue guy in a packed, claustrophobic street (Main Street Eyes), a glimpse of a starry sky at night (Starry Night), and a few direct references such as “She’s got a joint, she’s got a cute walk” (from ‘Pussy Power’); “The world will sing like a happy bug” (from ‘I Won’t Crap Out’), and “Like a cartoon cat I roam” (from ‘Neon Forest’).

Burns was given a tight deadline, so he had to come up with something fast without any mock-ups or sketches. The finished black and white ink drawing was presented to Iggy in his apartment down on Avenue D in New York. Burns recalls:

He had the album playing on his stereo, and I remember him telling me, “I’m worried about my mom hearing this. There’s a lot of swear words.”

Above, Iggy Pop in his new apartment Tompkins Square East – Don Was, producing his recent album, had asked me to run over to Pop’s house in the same neighborhood I lived & try taking photo for cover– not used, but I liked this clean uplifted finger. Lower East Side Manhattan April 14, 1990. – Allen Ginsberg (photo: Allen Ginsberg courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate).

The woman smoking a joint is based loosely on Kate Pierson from the B-52’s, who joined Iggy on the hit single ‘Candy’. Iggy was inspired to write this classic after reminiscing about his teenage girlfriend, Betsy, and realising that the complexity of their relationship could only be captured as a duet. “I thought, ‘Let’s be fair. Let the girl have her say,'” he said in an interview at the time. “I wanted a girl who would sing with a small-town voice, and Kate has a little twang in her voice that sounds slightly rural and naïve.” 

The contrast between Iggy’s rich baritone and Pierson’s sassy retro cool is poignant, and works well. It was released as the album’s second single in September of 1990 and became the rock icon’s biggest mainstream hit of his career, hitting the US Top 40, and Top 10 in Australia.

N.B: Virgin Records did insist on editing the guy in the centre of the album cover holding the baby wearing a skull mask. In the original version he has black hair and they thought it looked too much like labelmate Roy Orbison who had died recently, and considered it too disrespectful. The edited image became the cover of the 7″ single for ‘Candy’.

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Iggy Pop by Charles Burns

Further Reading:

♥    Charles Burns at Loud Alien Noize

Posted in Album Covers, Iggy Pop, Images | 2 Comments

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name

David Crosby’s debut solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name, was recorded during a traumatic time for the musician. Following the death of his girlfriend Christine Hinton in a car accident, the musician hunkered down in San Francisco with numerous key collaborations from Laurel Canyon and West Coast scene, such as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, and created something of a musical love-in. Croz’s sublime vocals and languorous approach gives the album a blissful, ethereal, and freak-folk charm, with a dark heart. He would not issue another solo album until 18 years later.

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If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971) found a new audience towards the end of the musician’s life, but the story starts with Crosby, Stills and Nash. Almost as soon as they had released their first hugely successful self titled album, the Californian three-part-harmony, and later with the inclusion of Neil Young on the timeless but much darker follow up Déjà Vu (1970), the individual members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were already working on solo projects.

Piqued into action by their incredibly talented colleague’s release of the stunning Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969), and After the Goldrush (1970), Stephen Stills, buzzing with ideas, was the first of the original trio to release his first proper solo (self-titled) album in late-1970. These are all straight ahead, rock singer-songwriter albums. Crosby’s self-produced If I Could Only Remember My Name is a wonderful counterpoint, and so different. It’s jazzy, meandering; a unique and experimental collection of dreamy Californian ambience, featuring angelic chorale-vocal experiments, cosmic storytelling, and effortless rock guitar noodling over transcendental melodies.

Very few albums have as good an acoustic guitar sound as this album, and Crosby’s voice is wild, sleepy and soothing throughout, and while scratchy and at times strained, is always note-perfect. Recorded concurrently with the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty in 1970 at San Francisco’s Wally Heider Studios, the album features a key contribution from exceptional Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, adding his gorgeous pedal steel and electric guitars all over Crosby’s album. He also helped arrange and produce the material for his buddy, adding a resonating warmth and musical joy throughout.

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Garcia, Crosby, Young

The album opens with the mantra song ‘Music is Love’, summarising the collective vibe of the album: a bunch of friends in the studio, there for each other, making the music they love. It’s a beautiful sentiment, basically a jam, originally recorded as a warm up number. It ushers in the sound of the album and features accompanying vocals by Nash and Neil.

The shaggy eight-minute ‘Cowboy Movie’ is a groovy folk-rock allegory about Rita Coolidge, but doesn’t really fit the feel of the album, a white-boy blues that drags, unlike the warm embrace of the next track ‘Tamalpais High (At About 3)’, which finds our hero multi-vox folk-scatting over a jazzy arrangement and Garcia’s mesmerising electric guitar outro. The album really starts here.

Side one closes with the Byrds-ian ‘Laughing’ the centrepiece of the album, and If I Could Only Remember My Name‘s most complete track, it features the luminous Joni Mitchell on vocals, some slide from Garcia, and a singularly incredible multi-layered guitar sound.

The brooding ‘What Are Their Names’ opens side two with a slow build finally hitting something of a vocal pinnacle towards the end, although it sounds longer than it’s four minutes and for what it really is; a nice mood-setter. The delicate beauty of ‘Traction in the Rain’ is a stunner. It’s not just the autoharp, but Crosby, while no Neil Young on guitar, loves his crazy guitar tunings and he’s essentially made up his own here; try not to get lost in this song. The next track ‘Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves)’ is very pretty, but could sit on a CSN album, has no lyrics (spoiler alert), but has exquisite harmonising between Crosby and Nash.

The album closes with two sublime moments. The first is the traditional moment ‘Orleans’, sung in French acapella-style and multi-layered, a lovely arrangement, essentially listing Parisian cathedrals. Crosby’s voice providing a sweeping and swooning effect like an ocean, then halfway through some beautiful guitar joins in. The last song on the album, the moving ‘I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here’, is short but is the essence of the whole album. Crosby is all about vocal stacking, and clearly an incredibly instinctive harmony singer, he improvises a wordless ‘spirit-in-the-room’ musical wake for his late girlfriend; a ghostly and chillingly powerful album closer.

TRACKS:

  1. Music is Love
  2. Cowboy Movie
  3. Tamalpais High (At About 3)
  4. Laughing
  5. What Are Their Names
  6. Traction in the Rain
  7. Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)
  8. Orleans
  9. I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here

Further Listening:

  1. Neil Young – Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969)
  2. Neil Young – After the Goldrush (1970)
  3. Graham Nash – Songs for Beginners (1971)
  4. Stephen Stills – Manassas (1972)
Posted in David Crosby, Neil Young, On This Day | 14 Comments

Iggy Pop / David Bowie Collaborations in 16 Tracks

Iggy Pop and David Bowie were strong musical partners throughout the ’70s and ’80s, and this 16-track compilation provides an insight into the depth and breadth of their collaborations and friendship.

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“Some bands do Stones. Some bands do Chuck Berry. I cover Iggy Pop.” – David Bowie

Bowie was significantly inspired and influenced by The Stooges’ ground-breaking late-60s/early-70s records, even going on to produce their 1973 landmark album Raw Power when they shared the same management company Mainmain.

Bowie famously stuck by Iggy at his lowest ebb in the mid-70s, The Thin White Duke inviting him along on his White Light Tour of 1976 before producing the avant-rock landmark The Idiot, recorded in France, and Lust for Life, written, recorded, and mixed at Hansa Studios in Berlin where the artists were living at the time. Bowie then accompanied Iggy on his triumphant US tour in 1977 playing keyboards alongside the Sales brothers rhythm section and guitarist Ricky Gardiner.

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“The friendship was basically that this guy salvaged me from certain professional and maybe personal annihilation – simple as that.”- Iggy Pop

Together they served each other as perfect foils. Working together allowed Bowie to get darker in his songwriting, musicianship and production than he would in his solo work, and Iggy able to focus his self-destructive instincts into a mature and refined artistry. Their work together resonates up to this day, and would go on to influence music and artists on both sides of the Atlantic.

David Bowie & Iggy Pop16 Collaborations mp3

TRACKS

1. Sister Midnight – (Bowie, Pop, Alomar) Recorded in Château d’Hérouville, France, in July 1976. Opening track off Iggy’s 1977 solo debut comeback album The Idiot. Earlier, Bowie had included this song on his 1976 tour set list.

2. What in the World – (Bowie) Underrated track off Bowie’s Low album released January 1977, features Iggy prominently on backing vocals.

3. Tonight – (Bowie, Pop) This is the album track on Iggy’s second solo album (Lust for Life) and later covered by Bowie with Tina Turner on backing vocals, before serving as the title track to 1984’s Hugh Padgham produced Tonight for reasons that aren’t clear.

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4. Little Miss Emperor – (Bowie, Pop) The first of three co-writes, these tracks lifted from Iggy’s very good Bowie-produced Blah Blah Blah (1986) album.

5. Isolation – (Bowie, Pop) Recorded late April-May 1986, Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland, Blah Blah Blah was Iggy’s most commercially successful album at the time. A highlight.

6. Shades – (Bowie, Pop) Notably includes Kevin Armstrong (Absolute Beginners, Tin Machine, Live Aid) on guitar and co-songwriter, and axe contributions by ex-Pistol Steve Jones.

7. Tiny Girls – (Bowie, Pop) Includes some lovely baroque sax from Bowie throughout, this track off The Idiot conjures up a smoky, late-night Berlin club.

8. Neighborhood Threat – (Bowie, Pop, Gardiner) A track off Iggy’s Lust for Life and another one covered by Bowie and drenched in melodrama, bombast and quite a lot of cheese for Tonight which featured five out of nine tracks with an Iggy Pop credit.

9. Play it Safe – (Bowie, Pop) This track taken from Iggy’s underrated Soldier (1980) LP. Jim Kerr from Simple Minds remembers: “In 1979 Simple Minds went to Rockfield studios in the Welsh countryside to record our second album. It’s probably our most Bowie influenced work. We were in the small studio just teenagers and we were like; Who’s in the big studio? It turned out it was Iggy Pop recording Soldier. One night Iggy comes through our door, talk about worse for wear! Bowie’s with him, holding a can of Heineken, and he goes ‘Skin Up!’ We hung out for a bit and then they disappeared. Twenty minutes later we get a call from the engineer in Studio A, “David would like you all to come round for a football crowd type chorus”. So we pile round pretty drunk, girlfriends and all. Bowie’s taking charge and he’s still got a Heineken and a fag, and we’re all around the mike for this track called Play it Safe. I remember Bowie saying very diplomatically “OK, sounds good. Now, can everyone who doesn’t sing professionally, step away from the mike”. That left me, aged 19, sandwiched between Bowie and Iggy Pop. Not one person had a fucking camera!

10. Bang Bang – (Pop, Kral) This is the non-hit single from Iggy’s flawed Party (1981) album. The track was produced by Tommy Boyce (The Monkees) and Bowie covered it to close out his Never Let Me Down (1987) album. Also recorded at Mountain Studios, Montreux, Bowie performed it regularly on his Glass Spider tour.

11. Tumble and Twirl – (Bowie, Pop) Carlos Alomar stars on this track off Tonight, a fresh 50-50 co-write in 1984 referencing their recent island travels in Bali and Java together in 1983, conjuring up some sharp jungle imagery on this exuberant, horn-driven rave up. Released as the B-side to Bowie’s flop 7″ single Tonight.

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12. Dancing with the Big Boys – (Bowie, Pop, Alomar) Iggy and Dave having fun at the mic in Le Studio Morin-Heights, Quebec, Canada, where Tonight was recorded. Closing track off Tonight includes some fantastic non-sequiturs only Iggy could dream up: “where there’s trouble there’s poetry”, “your family is a football team“, and “this dot marks your location”.

13. Don’t Look Down – (Pop, Williamson) This is Bowie’s cover of a superb Iggy/James Williamson original from Iggy’s essential New Values (1979) LP, this cover ended up on Tonight. Bowie approaches this in reggae fashion and was the incidental music for the Julian Temple-directed mini-film Jazzin’ for Blue Jean.

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14. China Girl – (Bowie, Pop) Iggy’s towering original version off The Idiot, Bowie covered this sumptuously on his mega-hit album Let’s Dance (1983).

15. Lust for Life – (Bowie, Pop) Title track to Iggy’s 1977 album (featuring the Sales brothers, later in Bowie 80s-cleansing rock project Tin Machine). With its punchy Phil Spector style sixties back beat, Lust for Life is now considered the signature Iggy Pop song, and for good reason.

16. Red Money – (Bowie, Pop) Tying things up nicely, this closing track from Bowie’s otherworldly Lodger (1979) album, reworking the compilation opener Sister Midnight, and essentially the closing chapter of the Bowie-Pop Berlin-era recordings.

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Posted in Albums That Never Were, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Downloads, European Rock Pilgrimage, Iggy Pop, Images, Mainman, Mixtapes, Producers, Steve Jones | 21 Comments

Bowie – Deep Cuts Pt.3

Continuing the Bowie Deep Cuts series, Part 3 reveals alternative mixes, unearthed demos, live versions, and album tracks, finding the artist stretching out, yielding some interesting results.

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David Bowie – Deep Cuts Pt.3 mp3

TRACKS

1. Right On Mother – Recorded in late-1970, a curious vaudevillian spirit is displayed on this jaunty non-album demo, which saw official light of day on the Hunky Dory-era box set Divine Symmetry (2022), a 4-CD collection surveying the year leading up to that album’s release.

2. Soul Love – This song was only played a few times on the US leg of the Ziggy tour, and this version was recorded in February 1973 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. Despite the recording being of poor bootleg quality, with an ultra-slow arrangement and off-key Ken Fordham sax solo, Bowie’s soaring vocal (and Ronno’s background vocals) saves the day on this deep cut.

3. Word on a Wing – This Station to Station track is the live version from the New York Nassau Coliseum concert in March 1976. The tour featured the Davis, Alomar, Murray (DAM) trio, and one-off accompaniments by ex-Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye and Canadian guitarist Stacey Heydon.

4. Bring Me the Disco King – Originally the exquisite closing number on Reality (2003), this version was released as the “Lohner Mix” by Nine Inch Nails guitarist Danny Lohner, and featured on the soundtrack to Underworld.

5. Loving the Alien – Opener to Tonight (1984), this sumptuous full-length, fully-remastered version can be found on the Loving the Alien (1983-1987) (2018) box set.

6. Heathen (The Rays) – This ghostly Scott Walker-inspired acoustic arrangement of the yet-to-be-released title track from the February 2002 Tibet House Benefit Concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall, features Gerry Leonard on acoustic guitar, a string octet, and Adam Yauch on bass.

7. Weeping Wall – This instrumental synthesizer piece was composed by Bowie and is lifted off Low (1977). Evoking the misery of the Berlin Wall, it is the only track on that album that features Bowie entirely solo.

8. Somebody Up There Likes Me – Taken from The Gouster (an early version of the Young Americans album) and released within the box set Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) in 2016. This is a slightly stripped-down affair when compared to the official version; no strings, just guitars, piano, heavy sax, Andy Newmark’s drums, and wonderful vocals.

9. Wild is the Wind – The opener for the commanding three-hour Glastonbury performance on 16 June 2000 was this Station to Station classic, which had not been played live since 1983. After a decade of experimentalism in the 90s, he had finally given the crowd what they wanted.

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10. How Lucky You Are (aka Miss Peculiar) – Another demo track taken from last year’s Divine Symmetry, this waltz-time number was recorded around the same time as track 1 on this compilation. The ‘two steps behind’ part is reminiscent of Earthling’sSeven Years in Tibet’.

11. Seven Years in Tibet – Featuring some tasteful Reeves Gabrels guitar work, this live version was recorded at Radio City Music Hall in New York on 15th October 1997, and released on limited edition album LiveAndWell.com (1999).

12. King of the City – A previously unknown and undocumented song, potentially for inclusion on an early manifestation of Hunky Dory, it was also unearthed on the Divine Symmetry box set. Bowie reused some of ‘King of the City’ for one of his greatest ever compositions, ‘Ashes to Ashes’, some 10 years later.

13. The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell – The 2021 remaster of the single edit of the standout track on Hours… (1999), crops out the bridge repeat, and is chosen from the box set Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001) (2021).

14. Absolute Beginners – Recorded in June 1985 at Abbey Road Studios, this is the full eight-minute ‘master’ version from the soundtrack LP, and one of Bowie’s last ever mainstream hits. Overseen by the production team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (Costello, Madness, Dexy’s), the recording features guitarist Kevin Armstrong (Iggy Pop, Tin Machine), and Attractions pianist Steve Nieve.

15. Blackout – Taken from Live in Berlin 1978 (2022), this is a decent bootleg recording of a great song and era; a full-voiced Bowie fronting his awesome seven-piece touring band. Despite the show being recorded on May 16, 1978, following the “Heroes” album release in October 1977, ‘Blackout’ is one of only three tunes from that iconic album appearing on this brief, eight-song, live document.

16. Fill Your Heart – A Biff Rose cover and the opening number from the Friars Club, Aylesbury, on 25 September 1971 – a live set fully documented on Divine Symmetry – it was the first time the singer had performed live with Mick Ronson, Woody Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder (the Spiders From Mars), although this version features only Bowie and Ronson on their acoustics. The song was ultimately recorded featuring Rick Wakeman on a Bechstein grand, and suitably opened side two of Hunky Dory.

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17. The Secret Life of Arabia – The final song on “Heroes” and something of a ‘trailer’ for the forthcoming Lodger (1979) LP, features a killer Carlos Alomar disco guitar riff, and an infectious George Murray bass workout.

18. The London Boys – Not the version off Toy (2021), rather the original recording from 1966 that was issued by Deram as the B-side to ‘Rubber Band’. This fine dark cabaret is built around the bass, organ and drums, and concludes with a soaring cockney vocal and brass-band finale. The mini-classic was to be found on Bowie’s first ever compilation, The World of David Bowie (1970).

19. Mother Grey – This Kinks-esque demo, unearthed on Spying Through a Keyhole as part of the expansive Conversation Piece (2019) box set, dates back to 1968 when our hero was prepping songs for a second Deram album that never eventuated.

20 – The Bewlay Brothers – The colossal Hunky Dory closer gets the ‘2021 alternative mix’ treatment on Divine Symmetry from original producer Ken Scott. Hardly different, Bowie’s vocals are not double-tracked on the chorus, and there appears to be plenty of subtle, yet completely unnecessary delay on the vocal at times.

Lester Bangs: “I saw Bowie the other night.”

Lou Reed: “Lucky you. I think it’s very sad.”

Lester Bangs: “He ripped off all your riffs, obviously.”

Lou Reed: “Everybody steals riffs. You steal yours. David wrote some really great songs.”

Lester Bangs: “Aw c’mon. Anybody can write great songs! Sam the Sham wrote great songs! Did David write anything better than ‘Wooly Bully’?

Lou Reed: “You ever listen to ‘The Bewlay Brothers’ shithead?”

Creem, March 1975.

Posted in Adrian Belew, Albums That Never Were, Andy Newmark, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Downloads, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, Images, Kinks, The, Lou Reed, Mainman, Mick Ronson, Mixtapes, Neu!, Rick Wakeman, Robert Fripp, Scott Walker | 10 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

The album cover image for Lou Reed’s New York was based conceptually on a 1932 photograph by Brassai called “La bande du grand Albert” of a Parisian gang standing in an alley.

The cover for Lou Reed’s iconic New York (1989) album was a collaborative design by Spencer Drate and Judith Salavetz, with the original concept conceived by Lou and his then wife Sylvia Reed.

Long time collaborator Waring Abbott shot Lou in different clothes, stances and styles, superimposed the figures together, and composed the image to look like a real street gang consisting of five Lou’s on the same street scene. The Castellar font treatment is commanding, while the New York title lettering blends into the brick wall background with the rest of the graffiti. The photo is a blue monochrome apart from the shoes/boots which are black, but the colours do seem to vary across different pressings/issues of the album.

The concept was based on an old famous photo of a Parisian street gang by Austro-Hungarian photographer Brassaï, “La bande du grand Albert”. Brassaï found poetry in the derelict and was best known for photographing candid night-time scenes in the Montparnasse district of Paris, an area populated with artists, streetwalkers, petty criminals, and prostitutes. Brassaï was dubbed “the eye of Paris” and made an name for himself by capturing both the seedier sides of the French capital and its high society. With this image, Brassaï immortalises the Parisian bad boys of the early 1930s and exaggerates a menacing sense of darkness by printing the bottom of the image black, extending the picture beyond the edge of the negative.

The images were taken of Lou posing for the portraits in Franklin Place, Lower Manhattan by Waring Abbott in 1988. The street today still has an assortment of graffiti covering the same brick wall, the same recognisable pavement grilles, and, ironically a ‘No Standing Anytime’ sign.

NB: Thanks to emi72 from the Steve Hoffman Music Forum for the information and inspiration.

 

Further Reading:

♥    Lou Reed’s New Sensations (1984) – More Album Cover Outtakes

♥   Lou Reed – Top 50 Solo Songs

♥   Average Guy – Lou in the 80s

♥   #15: Lou Reed – The Bells (1979)

♥    Photos by Waring Abbott

♥   Double Albums: UnDoubled – Rock ‘n Roll Animal & Lou Reed Live

Posted in Album Covers, Images, Lou Reed, Velvet Underground, The | 6 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

This untreated Polaroid of John’s piercing gaze has recently surfaced, believed to have been taken by Andy Warhol.

John Lennon – Imagine (1971)

The photograph for the Imagine album cover was taken by Yoko Ono using a Polaroid camera. It was previously believed that the front cover photo was taken by Andy Warhol who Lennon invited to do a photo shoot of him at his Tittenhurst Park home in Berkshire in 1971 for his second solo album. He did take some photos of John (see below), however Lennon preferred Yoko’s Polaroid snap for the cover. I think I can see why.

John: My album front and back is taken by Yoko as a Polaroid. It’s a new one called a Polaroid close-up. It’s fantastic. She took a photo of me, and then we had this painting off a guy called Geoff Hendricks who only paints sky. And I was standing in front of it, in the hotel room and she superimposed the picture of it on me after, so I was in the cloud with my head. And then I lay down on the window sill to get a lying down picture for the back side, which she wanted with the cloud above my head. And I’m sort of ‘imagining’.

Similarly, Yoko Ono’s Fly (1971) album cover was taken by John also using a Polaroid but through a glass vase. The cover adorned with the same lettering as Imagine, Yoko’s very good Fly LP, featured lots of Lennon participation, and input from guest musicians such as Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton. Recorded around the same time, and both released in September 1971, it is something of a sister album to Imagine, similar to what they did with the couple’s respective Plastic Ono Band LPs a year earlier. 

As for Imagine, it is half candy-floss half vitriol, despite album’s dreamy packaging with clouds, Yoko’s quote, and the postcard of John holding a pig, a well known mock up of Paul’s Ram (earlier in ’71) album cover photograph. It’s the album that includes the vicious McCartney take-down ‘How Do You Sleep?’. Imagine is a mixture of vicious-ness and loveliness, with tracks such as the title track sitting alongside the venomous numbers like Beatles leftover ‘Gimme Some Truth’ or ‘I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama, I Don’t Wanna Die’. That said, it contains some of the best solo work of his career, and could easily have been split into two distinct sides:

Side One (Sugar)

  1. Imagine
  2. Jealous Guy
  3. Oh My Love
  4. How?
  5. Oh Yoko

Side Two (Bile)

  1. Crippled Inside
  2. Gimme Some Truth
  3. I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama, I Don’t Wanna Die
  4. It’s So Hard
  5. How Do You Sleep?

Well worth checking out is another superb conversation between Robert Rodriguez and Ray Connelly on the best Beatles podcast: Something About the Beatles. The most current Episode 249: Ray Connolly’s Lennon, features a riveting conversation celebrating John’s life and discussing a wide array of topics with someone who knew John well.

Further Reading:

♥    ImagineJohn and Yoko making the Imagine album cover artwork.

Posted in Album Covers, Albums That Never Were, Beatles, The, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, On This Day, Paul McCartney, Podcasts | 9 Comments

#13: The Clash – Sandinista! (1980)

Here at The Press we take a look at expansive double albums (in this case ‘triple’) and trim it back to a single, filler-free listening experience, negating the need to reach for the skip button or needle repositioning. In some cases these albums can potentially benefit from a little tightening up. The Clash’s rasta-punk rule book ripper Sandinista! is the next album in our Double Albums: UnDoubled series.

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Preface: Sandinista! is a wonderful listen, and it works best as a great 2½ radio show.

With each album over their relatively short-lived career, The Clash expanded their horizons and developed musically and lyrically. However the four-piece pulled off something exceptional in 1979 with an extraordinary career-best double album that broke their punk shackles: London Calling. Critics and fans adore it to this day, and for good reason, and it was on this landmark album where the band’s love of reggae, ska and R&B showed through. Chart success accompanied the album on both sides of the Atlantic.

However, the certified masterpiece London Calling, proved to be a difficult album to follow.

In December 1980 they issued the ‘anything goes’ follow-up Sandinista!, and it found The Clash expanding their repertoire even further. This 36-track triple album certainly did that – and then some. Was it arrogance? Was it an over-abundance of creativity? Was it a misunderstanding of their record contract? Famously, it sold for not much more than a single disc, and in the end unfortunately did not reduce their obligations to Columbia by three albums, rather sending them towards financial ruin and gloomy inter-band relationships.

The sheer volume and variety of styles spread across this daring and sprawling album is mind-boggling, and in retrospect, a little confusing. From children’s choirs, straight ahead rock, reggae, dub reggae, world music and jazz, to dance beats, gospel, rockabilly rave-ups, calypso, rap, hip-hop; the album even touches on some country & western elements.

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Case in point: Side five includes a sound collage played backwards and dubbed, and side six is where it really goes off the rails. It includes five dub versions of songs we’ve already sat through, and another, a reworked track from their debut LP (kids singing ‘Career Opportunities’). Unsurprisingly a real producer was not present on the sessions (Sandinista! is produced by The Clash), and the album was received with mixed reviews upon release.

Standard Line: There is a good single-album length LP lurking in the murk and indulgence of Sandinista! A cliché, sure, but in this case, a truism – it may also be edited down to an reasonable double album. Keepers include the funky opener (‘The Magnificent Seven’), and its ultra-funky doppelganger ‘Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)’, the blistering Eddy Grant (via The Equals) cover ‘Police on My Back’, a couple of traditional Clash classics penned by secret-weapon guitarist Mick Jones (‘Somebody Got Murdered’, ‘Up in Heaven’), proved the band still had one foot in its punk roots.

There’s also some all time great moments on a more politically oriented side two, from the super catchy ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’, to several stoner Joe Strummer grooves such as ‘One More Time’ and the cool dub version, and shining like beacon is the jubilant politically charged, mini title-track anthem, ‘Washington Bullets’.

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Significant omissions include the bizarre Topper Headon-sung ‘Ivan Meets GI Joe’, and the quite good ‘Lose This Skin’ sung by Tymon Dogg (The Mescaleros). Gone too are multiple heavy dub, echo-y, Jamaican-style remixes of songs found elsewhere on the album like ‘Version Pardner’ and ‘Shepherd’s Delight’, a lulling, slowed-down take on Police & Thieves. Elsewhere, the ill-advised likes of ‘Look Here’, ‘Midnight Log’ and ‘Junkie Slip’ have been removed for this UnTripled folly.

With the utmost respect to this all-time legendary band and what they were trying to do, nobody seemed to care if the overdubs made sense or if the mixes were coherent, let alone engaging in any form of self-editing. It even sounds like no one was insisting that a song be fully completed even before the tape was rolling. The band wanted to do it all, and damn it if they didn’t try.

Sandinista!, UnTripled, compiles two sides of six tracks each (the original album has six songs on each side), a cohesive 49-minute single LP and the extravaganza may now make sense, and importantly, perhaps a little more digestible. Try it, take it in the spirit of the UnDoubled series, but play the real album too. Who knows, it may have even been their second-best album.

Side One:

  1. The Magnificent Seven
  2. Police On My Back
  3. Somebody Got Murdered
  4. Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)
  5. Junco Partner
  6. Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)

Side Two:

  1. Kingston Advice
  2. The Call Up
  3. Washington Bullets
  4. Hitsville UK
  5. Charlie Don’t Surf
  6. One More Time/One More Time (dub)

NB: A big honourable mention to these two great songs that were unlucky to miss the cut: ‘Something About England’ and ‘The Leader’.

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Further Reading:

SANDANISTA! – THE CLASH (1980) – Bob Egan’s incredible Pop Spots: ALBUM COVER LOCATION – Camley Street (under the railroad tracks from St. Pancras Station), London. Photo by Pennie Smith (London Calling) recreation by Bob Egan.

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Posted in Album Covers, Albums That Never Were, Clash, The, Double Albums: Un-Doubled, European Rock Pilgrimage, Images, Mick Jones, Mixtapes, On This Day | Tagged | 39 Comments

Dr. Feelgood – Stupidity (1976)

With the recent passing of Wilko Johnson, best known as guitarist and songwriter for UK rock group Dr. Feelgood, The Press takes a look at one of their finest albums: the chart-topping live document, Stupidity.

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Wilko Johnson, who recently passed away at the age of 75, was the explosive guitarist and songwriter for the original line-up of Dr. Feelgood, a rhythm and blues band that emerged from the London pub rock scene in 1974. The band’s menacing energy and back-to-basics “no fashion” approach were as influential as any at the inception of punk, and were a major inspiration to numerous rock luminaries including John Lydon, Joe Strummer, Richard Hell, and Paul Weller.

While their first two albums, DOWN BY THE JETTY (1975) ★★★★★, and MALPRACTICE (1975) ★★★★½, sold respectably, it was their third album, the live STUPIDITY (1976) ★★★★★, that captured the band in their finest essence while consolidating their popularity, reaching #1 on the UK charts and announcing Dr. Feelgood as top-drawer practitioners of the live circuit.

Hailing from Canvey Island, near Southend, the original core of the band consisted of legendary lead vocalist and blistering harmonica player Lee Brilleaux, bassist John B. Sparks, drummer John Martin aka ‘The Big Figure’, and our hero on guitar and occasional lead vocals. He famously prowled the stage when he played, and on Stupidity, you can almost hear him zipping forward and back with his so-called ‘duck-walk’, his right hand chopping across the strings of his signature black telecaster in his own distinctive finger-picking, rhythm/lead guitar style. In a live setting, the dynamic friction of Lee Brilleaux’s tough vocals and the terse choppiness of Wilko Johnson’s guitar lines, was palpable.

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Stupidity succeeds by perfectly capturing the stripped down, sweaty anarchy of Dr. Feelgood’s live shows in front of boozed-up audiences demanding their rock ‘n roll be loud, fast, and delivered with commitment. The unvarnished performances encapsulate what this great band were capable of distilling on stage, and the memorable short-sharp, Wilko-penned, rock songs are considerably more exciting than their studio-recorded counterparts. They also breath new life into a good dose of blues standards, including Bo Diddley’s I’m a Man, and Rufus Thomas’ Walking the Dog, and the album is swathed in powerhouse guitar, economic solos, and gruff kick-arse vocals. Unlike several live albums of the era, it is unadorned with any polished overdubs or editing.

“Stupidity was the culmination of the revolution against the stack heel and platform shoes brigade, and everything that went with that. We said bollocks to all that, this is how a live band really goes to work.” – Lee Brilleaux

On the vinyl record, side one was recorded at Sheffield City Hall 23rd May 1975, and side two recorded at Southend Kursaal 8th November 1975. Only 20,000 copies of the first edition were released, making it a highly sought after album by collectors. A CD version was released in 1991 entitled Stupidity Dr. Feelgood – Live – 1976-1990, where nine additional songs were added that had been recorded in the period after Wilko left the band in 1977 following disagreements over the tracks to be included on their fourth good album, SNEAKIN’ SUSPICION (1977) ★★★★.

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A wild man, off stage and on, funny, eloquent and charismatic, post-Feelgoods Wilko Johnson would go on to join Ian Dury and the Blockheads, form the The Wilko Johnson Band, release a plethora of solo material, act in Game of Thrones, dodge terminal cancer (he was given 10 months to live in 2013), work with Roger Daltrey on a farewell album, and perform informal unannounced sets at his local pub, the Railway Hotel in Southend. A British great and a true original whose approach to the guitar was influential, precise, manic, intense and driven – he stood out in a sea of 70’s guitarists, and never lost his individualism.

Dr. FeelgoodStupidity (1976) mp3

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side one

  1. Talking About You
  2. 20 Yards Behind
  3. Stupidity
  4. All Through the City
  5. I’m a Man
  6. Walking the Dog
  7. She Does It Right

side two

  1. Going Back Home
  2. I Don’t Mind
  3. Back in the Night
  4. I’m a Hog for You Baby
  5. Checking Up on My Baby
  6. Roxette

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Posted in Clash, The, Dr. Feelgood, Ian Hunter, Mick Jones, Mott the Hoople, Nick Lowe, Ramones, Richard Hell, Sex Pistols, Who, The | 3 Comments

Japan – Tin Drum (1981)

Released on this day in 1981, Japan’s fifth and final studio album Tin Drum found the band embracing a new synth-heavy style, but sounded like nothing else at the time. 

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When English new wave band Japan released TIN DRUM (1981) ★★★★½, they finally became the band they always wanted to be: an art-rock band with searing musicality. With this album, Japan’s sound had by now become rooted in synthesizer and it is their most Eastern-influenced release. It is also arguably the band’s best album, and is considered one of the more important albums from the early-80s British New Romantic era. In retrospect it is a definitive statement on pop music meets modern electronica, with an exotic inspiration coming from Asia or, more precisely, China. 

Tin Drum is an intricate collage of arty soundscapes and exotic instrumentation. There are no trashy glam flourishes like their obscure debut ADOLESCENT SEX (1978) ★★★, and is free of the at times awkward Bryan Ferry posturing on GENTLEMEN TAKE POLAROIDS (1980) ★★★★, this is an album with its own voice, with not a sound out of place.

With communist China as a loose concept, the album is crammed with icy electronics, polyrhythmic percussion and traditional oriental instruments, reinforcing the Red Army concept, and on album highlight ‘Canton’, conjuring images of rural peasants struggling to survive amidst the new order. And then there’s David Sylvian’s graceful vocals, and his brother, Steve Jansen, birth surname Batt, with his tightly structured drumming style. Sylvian found his voice here, his words flowing over the top of synth washes on lovely songs like ‘Visions Of China’, drawing you into Japan’s strange, fractured sound.

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Their most beautiful song, ‘Ghosts’, a UK top 5 hit, is here too. Unlike the other songs on Tin Drum, this haunting track is a deeply introspective, ethereal, and finds Sylvian reflecting on past loves. Achingly atmospheric, ‘Ghosts’ became one of the band’s biggest, and only, hits. Elsewhere, another big standout is ‘Still Life in Mobile Homes’, a strange keyboard and drum-led song that features late-great bassist Mick Karn at his most inventive and melodic, adding icy funk to the spectacular drum and bass-driven track. The album cover finds a perfectly coiffed David Sylvian eating rice from a bowl in a bare room while a peeling poster of Mao looks on.

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With personality conflicts leading to rising tensions within the band, and just as they were beginning to achieve major commercial success both in the UK and internationally, Japan split up. Tin Drum was to be the band’s final studio album until the very good reunion project in 1991 Rain Tree Crow, and following a tour they would disband. If you hear one Japan album, the unique and striking Tin Drum should be it.

JapanTin Drum (1981)

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  1. The Art of Parties
  2. Talking Drum
  3. Ghosts
  4. Canton
  5. Still Life in Mobile Homes
  6. Visions of China
  7. Sons of Pioneers
  8. Cantonese Boy

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Posted in Japan, On This Day, Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums | 8 Comments

The Beatles | 1967

“Nobody else in the group digs When I’m Sixty Four.”

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Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Mick Jagger & Maggie McGivern (who was having an affair with McCartney at the time) at Paul’s home in Cavendish Ave, St. John’s Wood, London, 1967.

Posted in Beatles, The, European Rock Pilgrimage, George Harrison, Images, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, The | 10 Comments

High Fidelity – The Best of Elvis Costello in the ’80s

This 20 track collection covers the albums, artistic phases, evolutions, and bouts of fancy from Elvis Costello in the 1980s – arguably the bespectacled one’s most artistically rewarding decade.

Elvis Costello in 1983

Emerging from Britain’s new wave scene in the late-70s era, Elvis Costello and his blistering three-piece band The Attractions, comprising of bassist Bruce Thomas, Steve Nieve (keys), and Pete Thomas (drums), were ready to join the vanguard for an ’80s takeover. Musically, Costello was up for the challenge.

He immediately consolidated his creative integrity with the warm soul-rock of the Nick Lowe-produced classic, GET HAPPY!! (1980) ★★★★★. With this sprawling 20-track mini-epic, and the almost as great hotchpotch curio TRUST (1981) ★★★★½, Costello cut back on the vitriolic wordplay and break-neck tempos found on his earlier records, rather creating directly emotional songs with a heart, enunciating hook after hook, while encouraging a wider array of musical tricks and treats from his brilliant trio.

Eager to move on musically, Costello then spread his artistic wings with an album recorded in Nashville covering his favourite vintage country numbers, including the minor hit ‘Good Year for the Roses’. The result was ALMOST BLUE (1981) ★★★, his first album not to be produced by long time collaborator Nick Lowe. Overseen by big name country record producer, arranger, and songwriter Billy Sherrill, we can now look back on Costello’s career arc and pinpoint this moment when he took his first real artistic sidestep, akin to the shock of The Juliette Letters some 12 years later, or his many collaborations with artists such as Burt Bacharach or Allen Toussaint. Almost Blue paved the way for our hero to indulge his obsession and quenchless thirst for indomitable explorations into a wide range of musical styles.

Costello then reverted to his pop roots and created his very own “Sgt Pepper” masterpiece, the emotionally lyrical creation IMPERIAL BEDROOM (1982) ★★★★, a challenging collection of moody, evocative songs with intricate arrangements and instrumentation (‘Man Out of Time’, ‘Beyond Belief’), complex melody (‘The Long Honeymoon’, ‘Human Hands’) and broad canvassed jazz and lounge inflections (‘Town Crier’, ‘Tears Before Bedtime’). It was a continuation of the artist’s high level of output and is impeccably produced by Beatles engineer and studio boffin Geoff Emerick. With this record, Elvis had grown up, and it was his most sonically ambitious undertaking yet.

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Then Elvis went all pop in the mid-’80s with the release of the brassy PUNCH THE CLOCK (1983) ★★★½, featuring his biggest US hit to date, the souled-up Mersey beat of ‘Everyday I Write the Book’, and the universally derided GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD (1984) ★★★. Both presided over by the production team of Alan Winstanley and Clive Langer (Madness, Dexy’s Midnight Runners), these albums are somewhat divisive among critics and fans alike, and sound very much “of their time”, plastered with a radio-friendly pop sheen, however the songwriting is up to par and the commercial production is sumptuous, professional, and highly polished.

More detours would ensue with Costello’s first proper solo outing, KING OF AMERICA (1986) ★★★★★. Credited as The Costello Show, the resulting album was as consistently rewarding and cohesive as any in his canon, and the first to be co-produced by guitarist and songwriter T-Bone Burnett. Having temporarily dropped the Attractions, the album features an impressive list of session pros including Jim Keltner, Mitchell Froom, Ron Tutt, Doors bassist Jerry Scheff, and James Burton from Elvis Presley’s T.C.B. band, who provide an American-roots tinged accompaniment to an exquisitely crafted set. The Attractions even perform on one track, the career highlight ‘Suit of Lights’.

The Attractions would reunite for the bristly BLOOD & CHOCOLATE (1986) ★★★★½, his second album for the year, which maintained the quality, and saw Nick Lowe back in the producer’s chair. The artist would adopt the moniker Napoleon Dynamite for his 11th release, and the album contains a collection of lacerating rockers (‘Uncomplicated’, ‘Tokyo Storm Warning’), cinematic noir (‘I Want You’, ‘Battered Old Bird’), disillusioned ballads (‘Poor Napoleon’, ‘Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head’), and pop gold (‘Blue Chair’, ‘I Hope You’re Happy Now’), proving Costello could switch back with self-assurance while anchoring the music to Nieve’s Hammond organ, and his own ragged, rough-edged guitar sound, the signature of his best work.

The band reformation was short lived as he would release another solo album before the decade was out, the eclectic SPIKE (1989) ★★★★. Having switched labels from F-Beat to corporate giant Warner Bros, the sprawling melting pot of densely rich compositions found a garrulous Costello taking in Irish folk (‘Any King’s Shilling’), angry politicising (‘Tramp the Dirt Down’), big band arrangements (‘Stalin Malone’), and New Orleans gospel (‘Deep Dark Truthful Mirror’). He had also recently collaborated with Paul McCartney on the ex-Beatle’s Flowers in the Dirt (1989), and Elvis included some leftover pop vignettes from that project, such as the hit single ‘Veronica’, and ‘Pads Paws and Claws’.

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After a stellar showing throughout the 1980s, Costello would move in several different directions, sometimes all at once, and re-tune his compass multiple times in the ensuing decades as he sustained his monstrous appetite for musical genres. This 20-track high fidelity compilation, highlights the mighty repertoire from a brilliant artist in his most rewarding decade.

Elvis Costello | High Fidelity: Elvis Costello in the 80s mp3

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  1. High Fidelity – Get Happy!! (1980)
  2. Coal-Train Robberies – Spike (1989)
  3. I Hope You’re Happy Now – Blood & Chocolate (1986)
  4. Shipbuilding – Punch the Clock (1983)
  5. New Lace Sleeves – Trust (1981)
  6. Blue Chair – Blood & Chocolate (1986)
  7. New Amsterdam – Get Happy!! (1980)
  8. Brilliant Mistake – King of America (1986)
  9. I’m Your Toy (Hot Burrito #1) – Almost Blue (1981)
  10. American Without Tears – King of America (1986)
  11. Pidgin English – Imperial Bedroom (1982)
  12. Love Field – Goodbye Cruel World (1984)
  13. Everyday I Write the Book – Punch the Clock (1983)
  14. Jack of All Parades – King of America (1986)
  15. Suit of Lights – King of America (1986)
  16. Strict Time – Trust (1981)
  17. Pills and Soap – Punch the Clock (1983)
  18. The Only Flame in Town – Goodbye Cruel World (1984)
  19. Watch Your Step – Trust (1981)
  20. The Loved Ones – Imperial Bedroom (1982)

Running time: 72.03 mins

Further Reading:

♥    More Album Cover Outtakes

♥    Didn’t Know It Was A Cover | Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding

♥    Top 10 Remarkable Songs Off 10 Unremarkable Albums

♥    Elvis Costello

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Posted in Beatles, The, Chet Baker, Doors, The, Downloads, Elvis Costello, Images, Mixtapes, Nick Lowe, Paul McCartney | 12 Comments

Sound & Vision | Bowie’s Album Covers Ranked

From the 1967 self-titled debut to his final masterpiece Blackstar, The Press puts their spin on the album artwork of every David Bowie album, including some honourable (and dishonourable) mentions.

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Bowie’s albums were never just about the music. They concurrently explored new ways of looking at things, experimental and brave, while showcasing the dramatic look and personas he projected throughout his entire career, the covers often defining and enhancing the music and concepts of those very albums; elevating the sleeve design to the status of high art.

When combining all of Bowie’s official and non-official albums over the course of six decades, it’s an expansive body of work to draw on from this quintessential artist who was always different and ever-surprising. All of the studio albums, selected live outings and other Bowie miscellany are included in this Bowie sleeve art list, and all based purely on the aesthetics of the album cover.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

These records deserve a special mention as being visually impressive: the handsome, Warhol-inspired Sound & Vision (1990) Rykodisc box set was beautifully designed by Roger Gorman and features various Bowie guises incorporated into a futuristic overlay; so too the scraggly bearded character depicted on the cover of the excellent Baal (1981) is dark and menacing in tone, suitable for the character he plays in the BBC drama.

The Space Oddity-era image gracing his first ever compilation The World of David Bowie (1970), has a backlit, wild-eyed image of a young Bowie overlaid with the tracklisting. Bowie revisits his The Man Who Sold the World/Hunky Dory-era look on the cover of his triumphant live return to Glastonbury 2000 (2018), while the quirky New Zealand chart-topper Chameleon (1979), has its charms and a timeline of sorts on the back. 


DISHONOURABLE MENTIONS

Less effective are these album sleeves, with special shout out to the truly hideous cut and paste job on the atrocious revision of Changes (1990), more designed for compact disc, however the worst ever Bowie cover is the spooky child-man mashup of Toy (2021), unapproachable, defying explanation. Controversial artist Jonathan Barnbrook’s adequate Best of Bowie (2002), their first collaboration, is a cliched photomontage of various Bowie guises, and the 1991 re-release of Station to Station flirted with the full-sized colour artwork initially rejected by Bowie for the sky looking too artificial. The cropped photo and the monochrome visuals of the original 1976 cover has since been reinstated over the coloured impostor.

Parlophone’s covers are mostly pedestrian (eg: Welcome to the Blackout and I’m Only Dancing), and the live double album of the ’74 Los Angeles gig, Cracked Actor (2017), is no different. It pairs a bad photo with a pasted-in transparent rehash of the Diamond Dogs logo seemingly straight from beginners guide to Paint. Elsewhere the long-forgotten Bowie Rare (1982), and the cartoon design for Images 1966-67 (1973) by Neon Park known for his artwork for Frank Zappa’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh, are very much of their time.


THE BOX SET SERIES 

So far five posthumous box sets (except for 2015’s Five Years) have been released by the David Bowie organisation, and these extensive Parlophone “era” packages are expertly compiled career overviews. However the artwork is mostly direct minimalism adequately representing each era yet displaying little artistic flair deserving of the great man. An off-centre, semi-rare snap accompanying skew-whiff Frutiger lettering does not a great cover make, although the magnificent Brilliant Adventure (2021), featuring Bowie’s own striking artwork and Egon Schiele influence, proves powerful.


ALBUM COVERS | RANKED

32.  The brightly coloured, vibrant design for Reality (2003), was created by Johnathan Barnbrook who packaged the album covers for Bowie’s last four LPs. On this occasion, in collaboration with graphic artist Rex Ray, Barnbrook depicts Bowie as an anime-style character reflecting movement, the idea that reality had become an abstract concept. Regrettably, given the competition, Reality takes the prize for the worst Bowie studio album cover of all.

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31 – 28.  Bowie chastised David Live (1974) upon it’s release claiming he’d never listened to it, even describing it as the final death of Ziggy: “My God, it looks like I’ve just stepped out of the grave. That’s actually how I felt. That record should’ve been called ‘David Bowie is Alive and Well and Living Only in Theory’.” Considering how scary and emaciated Bowie looked at the time, the David Live cover certainly encapsulates exactly that. 

The Mick Haggerty designed Let’s Dance (1983), is much more inviting. It boasts a funky ‘bow-tie’ font and had a newly tanned, gloved Bowie presented to his newfound everyman audience. That was the intention for Black Tie White Noise (1993) too, focusing on an extreme Nick Knight close-crop portrait of the star’s face, a bit like a magazine cover, although it could’ve been so much better, while Tin Machine II (1991), found Bowie having an appendage-related run in with the US censors, requiring its manly genitalia to be airbrushed out by British designer and co-creator Edward Bell.


27.  For the double live album Stage (1978), producer Tony Visconti meticulously recorded and presented the songs in chronological order, thankfully the correct performance order was reinstated when the album was re-released in 2005. A great live album, tour, and ensemble, including the core rhythm section of guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis, and augmented by guitarist Adrian Belew and ex-Utopia keyboardist Roger Powell, the album unfortunately suffers from pedestrian and unimaginative packaging, only using the one photo throughout. The cover shot of Bowie in front of a large cage of tube lights is duplicated on the rear, and those hoping for an incredible world tour montage of our hero at his peak, were sadly disappointed when the inner gatefold reproduced the same photo yet again, but bigger. 


26.  The debut album David Bowie (1967), featured a fresh-faced mod-Bowie head-shot inside a thin blue border, the singer wearing a tailored high-collared jacket looking like he’s posing for his school yearbook photo. The overall effect and cool lettering, not to mention being released on the same day as Sgt Peppers, did not help sales, and the image and album is time-stamped in the mid-60s.

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25.  The provocative original Mercury UK sleeve for the hard rocking The Man Who Sold the World (1971), had the former mod now looking like a world-weary Hollywood starlet reclining on a chaise lounge wearing a dress. More effective when released worldwide by RCA in the wake of Ziggy-mania in 1972, was the black and white ‘Ziggy kick’ album cover, with the preposterous essay on the back.

Originally titled Metrobolist, the random US version designed by Mike Weller was a cartoon of John Wayne with an erased speech bubble that originally said “roll up your sleeves, take a look at your arms” (removed for its drug reference), standing in front of the Cane Hill asylum where Bowie’s schizophrenic half-brother Terry had been committed. 


24.  This album was originally released as his second self-titled album in 1969, and featured an image of Bowie’s disembodied head slapped over Hungarian-French pioneer and leader of the Op Art movement Victor Varasely’s space-age, blue bubble artwork. The RCA edition re-titled Space Oddity (1972), using a great Mick Rock photo from Haddon Hall in Beckenham, complete with spacey typehouse font and Bowie’s own alien image, worked just as well.


23.  Busy and comical, the album cover to Never Let Me Down (1987) complemented the pop-rock calamity contained therein. The cover is a checklist of lyrical moments on the album and the circus-style backdrop would be the central on-stage theme for the supporting Glass Spider tour. “There’s a vaudevillian thing about the cover” Bowie said at the time, and multiple 7″ singles deployed various outtakes from the same photo shoot. Pleasingly, the 2018 Never Let Me Down remix from the Loving the Alien box set had a brand new stripped back image and production to match.


22 – 20.  The “cell” portrait is now the official cover for The Buddha of Suburbia (1993), originally released displaying a montage of characters from the TV series of the same name. This stark update uses a simple dreamlike Outside-era photo by Frank Okenfels. For the cover of Outside (1995), Bowie own self-portrait in charcoal suitably accompanies the murky art rock contained in the grooves of the record.

Lodger (1979), inspired by Egon Schiele’s self-portraits, is a bizarre postcard gatefold featuring a full-length Brian Duffy photo of Bowie as accident victim, contorted with a broken nose and bandaged hand, balanced on a steel frame. Also something of a homage to Roman Polanski’s psychological thriller The Tenant, a professional hi-res image was passed over at the last minute for a Polaroid of deliberately low resolution. 


19 – 16.  The commanding minimalism adorning the cover of Bowie’s final masterpiece Blackstar (2016), was designed by regular collaborator Jonathan Barnbrook and features a giant black star with fragmented stars spelling out BOWIE beneath. It is one of the few Bowie albums not to feature an image of the singer, and brings a sort of finality and a darkness representative of the music contained within. Barnbrook’s Heathen (2002), incorporates upside-down Priori typeface, used for the first time for commercial purposes, over a satanic image of Bowie with digitally enhanced eyes. “The design of the album plays on the anti-religious meaning of Heathen”, said the designer.

The lenticular graphics on the cover of Hours… (1999), was designed by Rex Ray with photography by Tim Bret Day and Frank Ockenfels. It filters a vivid blue 3D wash over two images of Bowie: one, a modern day long-haired David holding a broken, older version of his past self, a nod to Michelangelo’s La Pietá perhaps, and the ethereal sleeve for his experimental Earthling (1997), matches the electronic textures dominating the music. It finds Bowie decked out in Alexander McQueen’s tattered Union Jack long coat overlooking Earth’s grand beauty, chiming in perfectly with a UK enthralled in all things Britpop at the time. David was not shot in the UK however, it was New York where photographer Ockenfels took the photo, and designer Dave De Angelis was responsible for placing Bowie in front of the English evergreens.


15.  Bowie requested Barnbrook design the cover art for his comeback album The Next Day (2013), so he took the cover of his 1977 masterwork “Heroes”, and placed a whopping great white square over the top of it, obscuring the photograph, on top of which is the album title underneath the older LP’s stricken-through name. Bowie was back! Virtually unseen for almost 8 years, January 8, 2013 was the earth-shattering announcement: new single, video and album… still hard to believe now.

Harder to believe was the album packaging. Daring and irreverent, the cover is a lesson in conceptual provocation and minimalism and for an artist who had spent so many years reinventing his image, here he helped us to reinvent our expectations of what album covers could be. The concept and album itself confirmed Bowie as the enigmatic artistic juggernaut he was, and with such bold packaging he seemed to be challenging everyone and everything, including himself.

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14.  One of the first ever covers to feature Bowie posing with his band (he didn’t even do this with the Spiders), the sleeve for Tin Machine (1989) was designed by Roger Gorman (Sound + Vision) and was released with alternative arrangements of Hunt and Tony Sales, Reeves Gabrels and Bowie for the cassette, CD and vinyl (below) editions. The photographer was Masayoshi Sukita (“Heroes”), and the stark image used for Tin Machine’s debut reflected the new era in Bowie’s musical evolution.

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13 – 11.  The sleeve design for Bowie’s pop detour Tonight (1984), was created by Mick Haggerty who had previously worked on Let’s Dance. Bowie’s brief to Haggerty was for a very heroic and exotic image, referencing the Green Lady by Tretchikoff. Tonight certainly owes a clear debt to British artists Gilbert and George (specifically Faith Curse), as it depicted a blue-tinted Bowie before a stained-glass effect oil painting, with roses and lilies amid the bold brush strokes. Tonight’s bold palette artwork is striking even if the album was widely regarded as a stopover album. 

The Young Americans (1975) sleeve was based on Toni Basil’s image on the cover of a Sept ’74 edition of After Dark magazine. David saw the cover photo and said ‘that’s what I want for my next album cover’, duly inspiring him to commission the photographer Eric Stephen Jacobs to shoot and airbrush the glamorous wedge-cut image. The cigarette smoke was drawn in, and a black photo-album border adds to the sublime effect.

For Hunky Dory (1971), illustrator Terry Pastor was asked to do the artwork for the album. Pastor colourised a black and white Brian Ward photo of Bowie in a Marlene Dietrich pose. He used an airbrush and transparent inks and finished it of with retro-font title lettering Letraset (a rub-down transfer lettering that was widely used in the 70’s). Bowie was so pleased with the results, the following year he commissioned Terry to design and colour the iconic Ziggy Stardust album cover using the same technique. Terry reddened the musician’s lips, painted his long hair yellow, and added some eye-shadow.


10.   The glammed-up 60s covers album Pin Ups (1973), featured a masked Bowie with ‘it-girl’ supermodel Twiggy, photographed by her then-manager Justin de Villeneuve, with makeup by the brilliant Pierre La Roche. Taken during the Pin Ups sessions, intended for a fashion magazine cover, Bowie liked the photo so much he decided he’d rather use it for his own album.

“When I showed Bowie the test Polaroids, he asked if he could use it for the Pin Ups record sleeve. I said: ‘I don’t think so, since this is for Vogue. How many albums do you think you will sell?’ ‘A million,’ he replied. ‘This is your next album cover!’ I said. When I got back to London and told Vogue, they never spoke to me again.” – Justin de Villeneuve

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9.   David Bowie’s legendary farewell concert of 3 July 1973, in which he famously broke up the Spiders From Mars on stage at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, was released a decade later as the soundtrack to DA Pennebaker’s concert film Ziggy Stardust The Motion Picture (1983).

The deathly image gracing the cover was designed by Alexander Da’Lama with photography by Nick Sangiamo, and while it appears to be conceived on a budget of approximately two pence, it still seems under-appreciated both as a double live album of Bowie in his glam rock pomp, and as a classic Bowie album sleeve. It features a visually stunning deconstruction gatefold of Ziggy burning to cinders.


8 – 7.  The stark minimalism of Station to Station (1976), uses a Steve Schapiro photo taken on the set of Nicolas Roeg’s sci-fi drama The Man Who Fell to Earth, of Bowie as lead character Thomas Jerome Newton stepping into an alien environment. Bowie took the persona with him. The Thin White Duke was an icy, severe character dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and a waistcoat, appearing to look more “normal” than some of his other alter-egos, red hair slicked back, with a menacingly distant air about him; he used German Expressionist film and art to inspire his look and subsequent white light stage shows. The cover’s heavy white border clashes with the red lettering that squeezes all the words onto one line with no separation between title and artist, and all in uppercase.

The same stylish layout was replicated for the Changes One (1976) compilation, which uses a glamorous photograph by famous American photographer Tom Kelley, who snapped Hollywood celebrities in the 1940s and 1950s including Marilyn Monroe. This Greatest Hits package cemented Bowie’s stardom, hitting top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic, but he would soon decamp to Berlin to reinvent himself as an experimental, electronic art-rocker.

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6.   The superb collage for Bowie’s rock-opus Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980), was rendered in combination with a Brian Duffy photograph of Bowie in the Pierrot costume, designed by Natasha Korniloff, and a painting by British artist Edward Bell. At the photo shoot Bowie initially posed as the perfect Pierrot, although throughout the session he dismantled his look until he was reduced to a dishevelled, smeared, smoking clown.

Much like the Lodger shoot the year before, Bowie had employed Duffy as the photographer in collaboration with a graphic artist. The back of the sleeve references his three previous albums, and Aladdin Sane’s legs (another Duffy photo), summing up the decade nicely. Bowie would wear this outfit in the ground-breaking Ashes to Ashes video, and the influential New Romantic guise drew from his earliest costume experience when he starred in Lindsay Kemp’s Pierrot In Turquoise in the late-60s. A number of photos from the shoot were also featured on three different covers for the Ashes to Ashes 7″ single, the image becoming the dominant visual representation of his Scary Monsters phase.

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5.  One of the more famous images in pop culture is the “Heroes” (1977) album cover. Shot by Japanese photographer Masayoshi Sukita, and inspired by the painting Roquairol by German painter Erich Heckel, the stark black and white image strikes a similar pose to that of Iggy Pop’s The Idiot of the same year, also influenced by Heckel. Complete with its distancing ironic quotation marks, “Heroes” was Bowie at his artistic zenith. With the cocaine paranoia of Los Angeles receding, he had perfected the icy gaze and still had an air of menace about him, before turning all smiley and tanned in the 80s. The “Heroes” cover was famously revisited for the 2013 comeback album The Next Day.

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4.  The iconic artwork to the breakthrough The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972), helped contribute to the Ziggy-mystique with its tinted 50s sci-fi comic look that captures the defiant, jump-suit-dressed, extra-terrestrial rockstar Ziggy having just fallen to Earth. The street is the dark and empty Heddon Street in Soho, Central London, that Bowie and photographer Brian Ward visited one cold and rainy night in January 1972.

Influencing a generation of pretty things, Terry Pastor colour-tinted the black and white photograph of Bowie wearing a green jumpsuit, later featured in a performance on BBC music show The Old Grey Whistle Test, and was hand coloured to appear blue on the sleeve. This instant masterpiece shows Ziggy, guitar in hand, with one knee raised up and resting on a box, the cold, dark and damp street symbolising the bleakness of the apocalyptic concept behind Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and projecting the atmosphere of William Burroughs’ Wild Boys. 

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3.  Like the previous album Station to Station, a Steve Schapiro still from The Man Who Fell to Earth was used for the cover of Low (1977). With its low-profile visual pun and Bowie’s orange hair fading into the gloriously futuristic burnt-orange background, Low was the first instalment of Bowie’s celebrated Berlin trilogy and has rightly been hailed as one of the greatest albums, and covers, of all time.

His songwriting on Low tended to deal with difficult issues. Many of the songs, where there was singing, concern lethargy, depression, estrangement, or self-destructive behaviour, mostly delivered in an atypical monotone vocal. As hauntingly futuristic as the music itself, the cover perfectly blends many aspects of photography, design and the integration of colours between the text, the back drop, and Bowie himself.

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2.   The mercurial image of a shirtless Bowie adorning the cover of Aladdin Sane (1973), complete with a blue and red lightning bolt painted across his ethereally white face, has become one of the most recognisable and ubiquitous images in rock today. The result of a collaboration between make-up artist Pierre Laroche and photographer Brian Duffy, Bowie’s flame haired character Aladdin Sane, described as “Ziggy goes to America”, is airbrushed to the point where you’re not sure if it’s a painting or a photograph.

A teardrop loosely positioned on his clavicle adds to the drama; eyes closed and mouth slightly agape, he projects flamboyance and charming intrigue. The enduring glam-rock image has now become something of a cultural icon and can be found on fridge magnets, caps, calendars, t-shirts, lamps, sneakers, and beer mats, but the visual impact of this creative masterpiece is undeniable, and has become the defining look of Bowie’s long career. 

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1.   Bow-wowie. It’s superstar David painted half dog! screamed the headlines in 1974. Belgian painter, illustrator and comic artist, Guy Peellaert had achieved a degree of fame in 1973 after publishing a best selling book called Rock Dreams, fantasising on unearthly and surreal images of contemporary star idols, in a combination of photomontage and painting. Among its fans were a plethora of celebrities, including Mick Jagger, who commissioned Peellaert to work exclusively on The Rolling Stones’ 1974 album It’s Only Rock and Roll, a fact he mistakenly mentioned to Bowie. You snooze you lose. Peellaert’s art for the Orwellian masterpiece Diamond Dogs (1974), came out in April, six months before the Stones album. You wouldn’t wear a new pair of shoes around David, so said Jagger.

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…it’s an artist from Belgium called Guy Peellaert, who did a book called ‘Rock Dreams’ that I nicked. Well, I didn’t nick the book, but I saw the book at Mick Jagger’s house and I nicked the idea of doing a cover.”David Bowie 1974.

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Peellaert’s tableau featured a flame-haired, half-man/half-dog Bowie, portrayed as a sphinx-like creature with emaciated features and a hard-to-miss canine penis. Even his hands and fingers have the appearance of paws, whilst behind this monstrous figure are two female, human-canine grotesques based on Alzoria Lewis and Johanna Dickens who were billed as The World’s Strangest Family in a variety show in Coney Island, New York from 1930s – 1950s.

Bowie wanted to be photographed in the style of French dancer Josephine Baker based on a photograph of her in 1926 where she appeared lying on the ground and posing like a wild animal. The painting gave the album a startling visual impact, which had been such a feature in Bowie’s recent work, and one that stood out on record shelves. Best described as pop surrealism, the cover conveys a glam-tinged, post-apocalyptic mutant freak show, with just a hint of mayhem. 

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The original gatefold sleeve showed the hybrid creature’s full genitalia which ran afoul of U.S. censors in 1974, who required the artwork to be airbrushed out, but surviving original versions have become sought-after collectables. Accompanying this image was the inner gatefold featuring a dreamlike montage of a cityscape perceived through a haze of deep burnt yellow, accompanied with the lyrics to the album’s opening track, ‘Future Legend’. 

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INTRO Picture by Claude Verheyen. Amsterdam 15 October 1977.

Posted in Album Covers, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Iggy Pop, Images, Kinks, The, Mick Rock, Mick Ronson, Mott the Hoople, Robert Fripp, T.Rex | 24 Comments

John Lennon | September 1962

It’s all in the eyes. This rarely seen photograph of John Lennon on the precipice of superstardom was taken around the back of Paul McCartney’s childhood home in Liverpool 60 years ago to the day.

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We’ve seen a few shots like this before but this photo is of notable interest for being taken 60 years ago today of John around the back of Paul’s home at 20 Forthlin Road, Allerton. Paul’s brother Mike McCartney was the photographer and George and Paul were there too, enjoying a nice cup of tea.

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20 Forthlin Road rear view.

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Further listening:

♥    Something About the Beatles – 243: Double Fantasy Revisited part one

♥    Something About the Beatles – 244: Double Fantasy Revisited part two

Posted in Beatles, The, George Harrison, Images, John Lennon, On This Day, Paul McCartney, Podcasts | 10 Comments

David Bowie | Thank you for the cigs!!

This charming two-page note written by a 30-year old David Bowie to his friend and confidant Tony McGrogan in September ’77 with his shopping list of records, shows he was keeping his finger on the pulse of rock.

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Bowie made it his business to be fully informed about the current music scene, and in this handwritten note on graph paper to Artistic Relations and RCA employee Tony McGrogan on 22 September 1977, he displays some playful penmanship as he lists some interesting and hot new releases he wanted picked up for him:

Dear Tony,

I would be grateful if you could get one of your R.C.A “Go-fors” to get me these following records from, I guess, a PINK Penk Ponk – Pan … (oh, yes! PUNK) record shop. (Before I leave for swizzleland tonight).

Instantly humanising the guy, the letter was written from Tony’s house in Coulsdon, Surrey where Bowie had stayed for three days to attend the funeral of Marc Bolan, who had tragically been killed in a car accident on 16 September 1977. Bolan’s funeral took place on 20 September. It was a crazy time for our hero. To get an idea of where Bowie was at:


July – August: recorded “Heroes” album at Hansa in Berlin and commenced mixing at Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland (to be released in October 1977).

7 September: appeared on Marc Bolan’s TV Show Marc, which was to be Bolan’s last public appearance before his death nine days later. Broadcast on 28 September.

9 September: Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life released on RCA records, co-produced by Bowie.

11 September: recorded Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas television appearance singing Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy with the American crooner.

20 September: Bowie flew from Switzerland to attend Bolan’s funeral service at Golders Green in London.

23 September: “Heroes” 7″ single released on RCA.


After the service Bowie had Tony Mascia and Tony McGrogan drive him past his childhood home at 40 Stansfield Road, Brixton, then on to Haddon Hall in Southend Road, Beckenham, before adjourning further south to Surry to avoid any media intrusion. The following day he was due to fly back to swizzleland (?) but as outlined in this letter, he needed a wake up call, and this 30 year old man does not know what time banks close:

If this is not poss: then get me up at 12: and we’ll get them ourselves. also what time do banks close as I want to cash some trav: cheques.

love B

It’s an interesting list of LPs and singles, as well requesting The Entire [Stiff] Catalogue (singles & albums) inc Elvis Costello. A lot of these albums were released in 1977 and are mostly punk/new wave records, a genre Bowie would fully explore over his next two albums. He also specifies two Not Punk (V. Important) albums, and spells “definitely” incorrectly, before signing off.

Among others, Bowie’s into the now canonised The Stranglers LP No More Heroes, The Clash’s ‘Complete Control’ single, The Damned’s Damned Damned Damned debut, an early Talking Heads single off their 77 album, and John Foxx-era Ultravox, who had only one album out at the time, and let’s not forget The Snivelling Shits ‘Terminal Stupid’ single!

Elsewhere we have Jean Michel Jarre’s seminal Oxygene, Mink DeVille, Van Der Graaf Generator and Bob Marley. Bowie also asks about Tony Wilson’s predominantly punk focused ITV programme “So It Goes” which had just interviewed Iggy Pop the week before Bowie wrote this note.

P.S. thank you for the cigs!!

P.P.S. Definately get me up at 11:30. I have lost my passport. (oh! christ!)

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NB: The man had exquisite taste. I wonder which ones he found. And the fact that he had written this note on the eve his greatest ever song hitting the shops (“Heroes” was released on 23 September) is rather impressive, however the 7″ would reach only #24 in the UK singles charts for reasons that aren’t clear.

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Posted in Album Covers, Clash, The, David Bowie, On This Day, T.Rex, Talking Heads | 13 Comments

Lou Reed | I’m So Free – The 1971 RCA Demos

Fifty years on from his self-titled solo debut album, and nine years since his untimely death, Lou Reed is still nabbing headlines with a collection of rare demos released over the holidays and just as quickly withdrawn in an apparent copyright dump.

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The 17-track album of Lou Reed demos was uploaded by RCA/Sony Music to iTunes in Europe on 23 December 2021, titled I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos. The collection was swiftly removed just a couple of days later and the reason for the album’s very brief release appears to be an apparent copyright dump done in order to extend RCA/Sony Music’s ownership of Reed’s recordings.

Captured on the eve of becoming a 70s rock star, Lou can be heard flexing his considerable songwriting muscle and reinventing his musical career after leaving the Velvet Underground, one of the greatest and most influential bands in rock history.

In 1970, Lou found himself a penniless, strung-out wreck nursing a career on the wane. He famously took a break from the music biz to work in his father’s tax accounting firm as a typist in Long Island. A year later, RCA signed him to a solo contract and sent him to London to record his debut solo LP, accompanied by top-flight session musicians including guitarist Steve Howe, and Rick Wakeman who were both about to join Yes.

I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos contains low-key demo versions of songs that appeared on that album (released in 1972 as Lou Reed) and his breakthrough follow-up – the Bowie-produced Transformer (1972). Two of the tracks, ‘Kill Your Sons’ and ‘She’s My Best Friend’ eventually appeared on Sally Can’t Dance (1974) and Coney Island Baby (1976) respectively, and the collection includes songs that may have appeared in demo form doing the rounds for several years, but most now seeing the light of day for the first time.

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1. Perfect Day (Demo – Takes 1 & 2). An audibly nervous Lou commences with, “Ok“, then starts a quietly ascending acoustic guitar line “Just a summer’s day/drink sangria in the park” before a bum note brings things to an abrupt halt: “Fuck. Sorry about that. I’ll leave out the tricky guitar bits I think. Ok?“. It’s a beautiful version of a song that fully flourished on Transformer with only some minor lyric changes.

2. I’m So Free (Demo). Another track that ended up on Transformer and a favourite. This solo acoustic version is spot on to the recorded version we know and love, minus the Bowie backing vocals and driving Ronson electric guitar.

3. Wild Child (Demo). A lyrical mix of the prosaic and the poetic with a constantly shifting cast of street characters, the kind who would become increasingly familiar over the course of Reed’s subsequent releases. This great song off the solo debut was rightly included on his first compilation album in 1977, the impeccable Walk on the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed.

4. I’m Sticking with You (Demo – Take 2). A song the Velvet Underground performed and recorded, and sung by drummer Maureen Tucker.

5. Lisa Says (Demo). Lou has settled into this recording session beautifully. In good voice and still playing an acoustic guitar for the whole session thus far. Another late-era Velvets ballad that Lou revisited for his solo debut.

6. Going Down (Demo – Take 2). A great underrated classic off Lou Reed, performed beautifully here with Lou in great form on the vocal.

7. I Love You (Demo). This Loaded-era song sounds like it is still in early-draft form: “Smiling faces they can’t be forgotten“, as it sounds clunky lyrically and misses the groove of the lovely full band version (off Lou Reed) which rightly wound up on Walk on the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed. At the end Lou cues a fade-out “Ok Richard.

8. New York Telephone Conversation (Demo). A Transformer joke song, but a clever and amusing one. Does not differ wildly from the Bowie-produced version.

9. She’s My Best Friend (Demo). A song that was originally recorded by the Velvet Underground in 1969, it ended up on Lou’s Coney Island Baby in 1975. It’s one of the standouts on that album. Lou in great voice again here, sounding very comfortable with the piece.

10. Kill Your Sons (Demo). A brutal anti-war song in its early stages: “Kill your sons before they reclaim the land“. This early awkward version was rewritten about his childhood electro-shock therapy and re-recorded from a position of dark drug-addled rock stardom in the early 70s, appearing on the hit album Sally Can’t Dance in 1974.

11. Berlin (Demo). A faithful acoustic version but doesn’t come close to what he achieved on his solo debut. This would appear on a later Reed album too, providing the title track to his 1973 cult-classic song suite.

12. Ocean (Demo – Takes 1 & 2). Another song that was performed by the Velvets, and later crucially by Michael Plater, and was the big closing number on Lou’s solo debut. You can hear Lou feeling around for the essence of this great song.

13. Ride Into the Sun (Demo – Take 2). Recorded by the Velvets in 1969 when Lou gave Doug Yule singing duties, extinguishing the dark beauty of one of his most underrated songs. This low key demo is superior.

14. Hangin’ Around (Demo – Take 2). A slight ditty compared to the ultra-cool, rocking version from Transformer.

15. Love Makes You Feel (Demo – Take 2). A decent song off Lou Reed. Performed beautifully here with Lou again in great form on the vocals.

16. I Can’t Stand It (Demo). Another Loaded outtake, I Can’t Stand It was the opening song and a single off Lou Reed, and given the acoustic treatment here.

17. Walk It And Talk It (Demo). Similar to the Velvets’ 1970 demo, this single wound up edgy and rocking on Lou’s debut. For whatever reason, the record failed to connect. It staggered its way to the 189 spot on the Billboard album chart in 1972, and neither of the singles (“I Can’t Stand It,” “Walk and Talk It”) earned a foothold on either side of the Atlantic. With Transformer later in the year that Lou became a star with his “fluke” hit single Walk on the Wild Side

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Further Reading:

♥     Lou Reed – Top 50 Solo Songs

♥     #14: Lou Reed – Rock n Roll Animal (1974) / Live (1975)

♥    Average Guy – Lou in the 80s

♥    #15: Lou Reed – The Bells (1979)

♥    Lou Reed – Street Hassle

Posted in Albums That Never Were, David Bowie, Downloads, Images, Lou Reed, Mick Ronson, Robert Quine, Velvet Underground, The | 36 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

The retro-yet-modern album cover for Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ Get Happy!! LP was designed based on a photo of Elvis lying on a street grill.

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The packaging for Elvis Costello’s Get Happy!! (1980) sleeve was designed by brilliant graphic artist Barney Bubbles, who had worked with Costello at Stiff and Radar previously, designing the iconic covers for My Aim is True and This Years Model. Barney did not receive a credit in line with his insistence on anonymity. The photo was taken on the group’s first US tour by Keith Morris, one of Britain’s great rock photographers, in 1979.

The cover of this galloping classic was designed to look like an old-school record from the classic soul period, complete with vinyl ring wear marks and mod imagery suggesting a 50s/60s vintage, knowingly filtered through a New Wave lens complete with decorative oblong shapes and fluorescent colours.

Declan MacManus was given the sobriquet Elvis Costello by Stiff Records’ supremo Jake Riviera in 1976 but Bubbles’ visual contribution to the early part of Costello’s career helped to calcify his spiky persona. So too is Bubbles’ visual stamp all over the early Costello catalogue, from the scuff marks pre-printed on Get Happy!!, the graphic tour de force that is Armed Forces, to referencing the visual stylings of Blue Note designer Reid Miles for Almost Blue.

Photos:

Elvis Costello and The Attractions . PHOTO: ESTATE OF KEITH MORRIS/REDFERNS

Further Reading:

♥  Didn’t Know It Was A Cover – Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding 

♥  High Fidelity – Costello in the 80s

Posted in Album Covers, Elvis Costello, Images | 8 Comments

Cliff Richard and Steve Jones – Don’t Talk to Him

Steve Jones accompanied the ageless Sir Cliff Richard on one of his best songs, Don’t Talk to Him.

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This interview and acoustic jam session was from a long-lost broadcast of Jonesy’s Jukebox on indie 103.1 in 2007 when Sir Cliff Richard was interviewed by our hero Steve Jones after meeting in a coffee shop.

The unlikely pair have a friendly chat about Cliff’s career and life, before performing the magnificent melody of Don’t Talk to Him, with Jonesy on guitar and providing background vocals. It was one of the few hits Cliff had a hand in writing back in 1963, and the US radio performance includes guitar by esteemed actor Naveen Andrews. The musicians also perform the British artist’s terrific first single Move It at 29.31, and later, have a stab at The Young Ones.

Jonesy has called this one of his favorite Jukebox shows ever, and I can see why!

Don’t Talk to Him commences at 14:52.

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Posted in Cliff Richard, Performance of the Day, Podcasts, Sex Pistols, Steve Jones | 8 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

These slightly strange unused portraits of David Bowie were taken by photographer Nick Knight in December 1992, originally intended for the cover of his comeback solo album Black Tie White Noise.

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The album cover concept for Bowie’s 1993 dance-rock oddity Black Tie White Noise focused on a simple portrait of the star’s face mirrored down the middle. The front cover is the two right hand sides and the back the two left sides of Bowie’s face. The result are slightly disturbing images that leaves the viewer feeling that something is in a most peculiar way. One, the right hard older brother, the other a space alien from Mars.

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The concept was inspired by Bowie’s distinct eyes, which had different sized pupils the result of a teenage punch to the eye. The above image is the shot used for the mirror effect.

In the end, a different image by Knight, which features the close crop of the singer’s face, slightly tilted, was selected. It was the era when CD’s were all the rage, and due to the size of a compact disc case, it was eventually decided that the consumer needed as much eye contact as possible, comparable to a magazine cover, resulting in one of Bowie’s most pedestrian album sleeves.

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Further viewing:

♥   Nick Knight – Bowie Shoot Footage

Posted in Album Covers, David Bowie | 5 Comments

David Bowie, 1981

On the face of it, 1981 was the quietest year of Bowie’s career so far. Having spent the last ten years redefining the rock landscape, there was no new album nor was there another world tour in support of the critically and commercially successful Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album of the previous year. For Bowie, 41 years ago, things were seemingly coming to an end, but things were also opening up.

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Bowie had, through the latter half of 1980, taken to the stage in the guise of John Merrick the Elephant Man, famously performing to New York’s packed Booth Theatre and three empty front row seats on the night of John Lennon’s murder, before completing the triumphant Broadway run on 3 January 1981 to wide critical acclaim. It’s hard to speculate what impact the tragic loss of a friend had on Bowie and his outlook for the coming year, but clearly time was needed to re-evaluate.

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It was around this time a certain rancour began to permeate his relationship with RCA. It’s true he had becoming increasingly disenchanted with the record label, and his contract was entering its final months, so too was his non-relationship with his management company Mainman, and head honcho Tony Defries, which had soured horribly by the mid-70s. 

Bowie had decided to wait it out. His marriage to Angie had formally ended in divorce, and rather than enduring a creative hangover after the mesmerising 1970s, Bowie was now free to make his next artistic move and explore other avenues of creativity this year; work with Tony Visconti again, record at Hansa in Berlin, divert his attention by acting in a play, record soundtrack work and a noteworthy (yet unlikely) number one hit single collaboration. The interstitial space of 1981 turns out to be one of revaluation before launching into what everyone knows as his most commercially successful popstar phase: 1983’s Let’s Dance and mega-successful Serious Moonlight tour.

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The year started with the release of the first and one of the best David Bowie books related to the analysis of the music; Bowie: An Illustrated Record by Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray. Published in January 1981, the NME writers thoughtfully examine every aspect of Bowie’s provocative and enlightening music over his recording career up until 1980. The writing is engaging and the information is accurate. A critical study of his recorded work, the book includes stunning colour and black and white photos throughout, as well as excellent reproductions of album and single sleeves. It also drills down into collaborative work with the likes of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople, Mick Ronson and Dana Gillespie, as well as referencing rare and collectable items like Bowie Now, and a guide to priceless bootlegs such as The Thin White Duke. Bowie even looked over the manuscript back in the day and corrected assorted factual inaccuracies that cropped up along the way. Not to imply his participation was authorised or endorsed in any way, the opinions expressed are all that of the authors. While countless books have since well and truly updated the Bowie discography (best of all is Nicholas Pegg’s The Complete David Bowie), this illustrated record remains an excellent reference point and a personal treasure.

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Bowie starred as himself in a German film about the teenage heroin addicted Bowie fan Christiane F. (Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo), miming to the Stage version of Station to Station and generally looking extremely cool and otherworldly. Due to his Elephant Man performance commitments, the concert scene was filmed in 1980 in a New York club made to look like a Berlin nightclub. The accompanying soundtrack album featured a top-drawer selection of Bowie songs from the mid-late 70s and was released in April 1981 on RCA. 

He had left New York earlier in the year and settled back into Mountain Studios in Montreux Switzerland, when in July he got together with legendary producer Giorgio Moroder to record the theme song for the Paul Schrader-directed horror movie Cat People. The track, co-written with Moroder, was a minor hit in the UK and US and turned out to be one of the finest Bowie moments of the decade. This wonderful career-high performance by our hero begins with a ambient build up and a baritone croon: “See these eyes of green…”, a near Velvet Underground Venus in Furs steal, “I could stare for a thousand years”, before warming into a refrain, “And I’ve been Putting Out Fire…”, then launching into the exhilarating octave-straddling, “WITH GASOLIIIINE!!!” as the track blasts in.

It worked well as the opener for the Moroder-composed original soundtrack album and was resurrected to extraordinary effect for a key scene in Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 WWII epic Inglorious Bastards. As good as this is, the recording would become a casualty of Bowie’s drive to continually push forward as it was almost immediately eclipsed by the fine but lesser re-recorded version featuring a then-unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan for Let’s Dance. This superb Moroder detour did however open the door for his next collaboration, this time with Queen on the iconic Under Pressure. Also recorded in July 1981, and again at Mountain Studios, the track became a worldwide sensation upon release in October, reaching No.1 on the UK charts, and Bowie’s best showing in the US since Golden Years.

As chance would have it, Queen were spending much of their time writing and recording the underrated Hot Space (1982) album, and one night while sitting on the eastern end of Lake Geneva hanging with Bowie, they adjourned back to the small studio together. A welcome distraction for a band who were encountering their very own musical differences at the time, the musicians picked up their instruments and Bowie provided backup vocals to an album track called Cool Cat before jamming out a few Cream covers with the band. “We had fun kicking around a few fragments of songs we all knew,” Brian May remembered. “But then we decided it would be great to create something new on the spur of the moment.

Originally titled ‘People On Streets’, Bowie took the creative lead, eventually suggesting they go into the vocal booth to sing how they feel the melody should proceed. “Bowie also insisted that he and Freddie Mercury shouldn’t hear what the other had sung, swapping verses blind, which helped give the song its cut-and-paste feel”.

The track was essentially recorded as a demo, with Bowie and Mercury taking it back to the Power Station Studios in New York for overdubs and mixing a few weeks later. The Bowie guest vocal on the rather indiscriminate disco number Cool Cat did not end up being used on the album, in fact his parts were officially removed at Bowie’s behest. While Under Pressure would go on to be a staple of Queen’s setlists (it ended up as the closing track on Hot Space), Bowie did not perform it live until the 1992 memorial concert for Mercury (the dreaded Lord’s Prayer gig), as a duet with Annie Lennox and the surviving members of Queen. 

The misconception is Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) was the end of the Tony Visconti era and Lodger was the end of the Berlin trilogy (actually mostly recorded at the aforementioned Montreux), but rarely receiving a mention is what he did next: Bertolt Brecht’s Baal. Having already covered Brecht’s Alabama Song on the 1978 world tour, then recording it as the B-side the reworked Space Oddity single of 1979, Bowie was offered and immediately accepted the lead role playing the anti-hero Baal in an unusual BBC TV play.

Something of a passion project for Bowie, filming commenced in August in London and the accompanying soundtrack, financed by Bowie, consisted of five tracks from the production all recorded at Berlin’s Hansa Ton Studios in September applying the same recording techniques as “Heroes”, and using a proper 15-piece German pit band of old guys. The result is ornate and lush; the lovely standout Remembering Marie A is an exquisite moment on the EP. Baal was a bold project for the artist, however it is well worth a revisit featuring some of the finest singing of Bowie’s career and was the last studio collaboration for many years with producer Tony Visconti. 

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The year finished with the release of the random compilation album ChangesTwoBowie, in November, something of a companion piece to the faultless ChangesOneBowie from 1976. Bowie was reportedly displeased with the release of this off-kilter mixtape assembled by RCA without his involvement, but there’s nothing wrong with the material contained within. In fact it includes some of his best ever 70s moments, and every single song is a classic (except, of course, John I’m Only Dancing (Again)) although the whole project seems a rather cynical exercise in squeezing a bit more cash out of a huge fanbase at a time when the artist’s stocks were high and was on the move to EMI. He did, however, agree to film a video for Station to Station’s masterful closing track Wild is the Wind which was released as a single by RCA in November to promote this sorta-hits compilation. The video is a good one with an impressive 50s jazz style monochrome video directed by David Mallet (Ashes to Ashes and many many more with DB), and the single was a hit in the UK. Mallet also made a similar one for Baal’s The Drowned Girl and both performances feature Bowie and friends, including Tony Visconti apparently on upright bass and his long-time assistant Coco Schwab on acoustic guitar.

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TRACKS

  1. Station to Station (live) – Christiane F. (Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo): Original Soundtrack
  2. Cat People (Putting Out Fire) – Cat People: Original Soundtrack
  3. Cool Cat (Bowie vocal) – Hot Space – Queen
  4. Under Pressure – Hot Space – Queen
  5. Baal’s Hymn (Der Choral vom großen Baal) – Baal EP
  6. Remembering Marie A. (Erinnerung an die Marie A.) – Baal EP
  7. Wild is the Wind – Changestwobowie

Posted in David Bowie, Downloads, European Rock Pilgrimage, Mainman, Mixtapes, On This Day, Queen, Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums | 24 Comments

Top 5 Songs – The Sales Brothers

Born into show business, hired guns Tony and his brother Hunt Sales were the rhythm section and driving force behind some key moments in rock history. ht2

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, bassist Tony and drummer Hunt’s father was well known comedian Soupy Sales who had a long running American comedy show in the 50s and 60s. Soupy, a jazz aficionado with show biz connections, gave the brothers access to many jazz greats. Tony studied the bass from a young age with Carole Kaye, who was the bass player on River Deep Mountain High, and Hunt took his inspiration on the drums from Shelly Manne and Buddy Rich, going on to develop a style all of his own. Even at this young age Hunt attacked the drums and excelled as a singer. Tony and Hunt might have had a career singing if they never took up the bass and drums as they were notable for their distinctive background-vocal abilities, and by their teens had started a band called Tony & the Tigers.

The brothers appeared on the popular rock music series Hullabaloo, and after one of their appearances they met Jimi Hendrix who invited them to watch him record rock history at Electric Ladyland Studios in New York City. After a minor radio hit in the Detroit area and a couple of TV appearances, the brothers switched gear, eventually teaming up with Todd Rundgren, adding their loping, languid beats to some of the his best early-70s work, including his debut album Runt (1970), and follow-up masterpiece The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971). The brothers had an almost psychic ability to anticipate the groove, like they were of one mind, working simultaneously and pushing the music forward. 

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After a long stint with Rundgren, the Sales brothers joined forces with Iggy Pop providing the crucial rhythm section to the immaculate Bowie-produced Berlin-era record Lust for Life (1977). The brothers then joined Pop on his subsequent supporting tour, recording the Bowie-enhanced live album of the period, TV Eye (1978). Crucially, the Sales brothers formed a key collaboration in 1989, as half of Tin Machine, adding an edge and spontaneity that had been missing from Bowie’s music for quite some time.

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The Sales brothers were hell-raisers and loose cannons with a nihilistic attitude and lifestyle to match. They provided their raw musical instinct and bombastic rock ‘n roll to a plethora of musical greats over the decades including Dr John, Etta James, Harry Dean Stanton, and Tony with Steve Jones and Michael Des Barres in the band Chequered Past.

They even recorded an R&B album together called Hired Guns in 1979 as The Sales Brothers that should have made them both big name stars if Tony hadn’t hit a tree with his car in delaying its release until 2008. Sadly, the Sales brothers’ soul-revue ambitions were derailed, leaving the album a minor footnote in rock history.

These Top 5 Songs serve as a tip-of-the-iceberg introduction to these dedicated and hard working American musicians.

 

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5. Iggy Pop & James Williamson – Lucky Monkeys

Before Lust for Life, the Sales brothers played on a couple of tracks on Iggy’s and ex-Stooge James Williamson’s underrated Kill City, recorded in the aftermath of the Stooges Raw Power sessions, and eventually released in 1977 on Bomp! This is one pulsating ‘Stonesy’ classic.

4. Todd Rundgren – Parole

In 1970, the brothers joined Todd Rundgren’s band, proceeding to tour and record with Rundgren over the next several years, including on the hit single We Gotta Get You a Woman. Both Hunt and Tony play on the cracking rocker Parole, off The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, the album where Todd sends up the singer-songwriting genre while effortlessly affirming his ability as a balladeer of the first water. 

3. Iggy Pop – The Passenger

Lust for Life’s most endearing track was written alternately in the first and third person, as it watches a man riding on a train, seeing a city slip past his window. He is not of the city, just in it, gliding through the city’s “ripped backsides”, staying “under glass”, and seeing “the bright and hollow sky”. Written by guitarist Ricky Gardiner, the track consists of four guitar chords, briskly strummed and punctuated by rests, but never moving from a single progression. Hunt’s drums and Tony’s serpentine bass line holds it all together. There’s no chorus, save for a wordless repeat of the verse melody, as the Sales brothers chime in on backing vocals.

2. Tin Machine – Under the God

Thunderous machine-gun drums and savage riffing sums up Tin Machine’s badass first single, Under the God, perhaps the heaviest and best number this short-lived project ever recorded. Hunt’s drumming is so aggressive it would have been impossible to play it any other way, and he provides a background tenor vocal accompanying Bowie’s own voice and blending very well together. Recorded pre-grunge, Tin Machine was way ahead of its time musically and conceptually. Yet, the audiences wanted Bowie’s hits, and were not prepared for the sonic onslaught and creative bombardment that was Tin Machine’s trademark.

1. Iggy Pop – Lust for Life

This instantly recognisable rock classic that gets better with each listen embraces a high level of sleaze and menace, but also has a celebratory and happy feel overall. Musically the track is confident R&B and is the sound of Iggy Pop’s artistic reinvention, with Hunt Sales on iconic drums and backing vocals…who knew?

 

Further Listening:

♥   Todd Rundgren – Broke Down and Busted (1970)

♥   Todd Rundgren – Slut (1972)

♥   Tin Machine – Pretty Thing (1989)

♥   Tin Machine – Baby Universal (1991)

♥   The Sales Brothers – Shiftin’ Soul (2008)

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Posted in David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Jimi Hendrix, Sex Pistols, Steve Jones, Stooges, The, Todd Rundgren, Top 5 Songs | 15 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

The photograph on the cover of The Kinks’ country-rock masterpiece Muswell Hillbillies was shot at the Archway Tavern in London, a couple of miles away from Muswell Hill in North London where band leader Ray Davies and guitarist Dave Davies grew up.

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Lyrically, Muswell Hillbillies is an album steeped in London imagery set to ironically upbeat American country and blues, however is anything but a tender tribute to the north London suburb that Ray and Dave Davies called home. A traditionalist who distrusts big government, Ray’s sophisticated prose is filled with references to people and places he knew growing up, circling themes of poverty and working-class life, and telling the tale of how the beautiful red-brick Edwardian avenues were becoming more and more gentrified with the destruction and subdivision of old neighbourhoods. 

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They have come to stand for some of the most enduring and heart-clutching pop of all time, and the band’s ninth studio album is no different. The Kinks smile their way through the despair and allow influences from pre-war American popular music to infiltrate their famously English sound. As they lived their lives in Muswell Hill, these Londoners’ dreams kept drifting to America. The music is warm, inviting, and happy and jaunty throughout, and is coloured with an old-time Dixieland horn section (not many bands were doing that in 1971), rockabilly, blues and tin pan alley evoking the trad jazz era. 

“Got no privacy, got no liberty, ‘Cause the twentieth century people took it all away from me”

The song cycle is about a community of people in a particular place, all trying to keep a grip on their lives in the shadow of the era’s enormous faceless institutions. Tracks such as galloping opener 20th Century Man is about a man in the last house in the street to be demolished who tapes explosives to his body, so that if they come to knock the house down, he’ll blow the place up, including himself. He is a disillusioned anti-hero, alienated by every current trend and unhappy about the erosion of his civil liberties. So too the mad, semi-psychotic imagery of Here Come The People In Grey is all about social upheaval, while Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues sums up what someone feels like when they’re not in control of their own life anymore. Elsewhere, the ominous undercurrents of Uncle Son is about people who never had a voice, never had a politician willing to speak for them, who are finding themselves slipping through the cracks of society.

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The front cover picture of Ray, Dave and the band in all their bell-bottom wearing, long hair and bearded 1970s glory, standing at the bar of an old-fashioned English pub, having a pint, surrounded by ‘regulars’ old and young, was taken in The Archway Tavern, about 2 miles away from Muswell Hill. There’s some besuited businessmen in the background, an old man in the foreground, and a casually dressed man staring disdainfully to his right sporting a moustache and an red pullover. When compared to how it looks today, to say the interior has been gentrified beyond recognition is an understatement. 

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The back inset picture, showing the band below a signpost giving direction to Muswell Hill, was taken on the small traffic island at the intersection of Castle Yard and Southwood Lane in Highgate, which remains largely unchanged. 

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The inner gatefold of the album showed the band in Muswell Hill by an iron fence surrounding a leftover wartime bomb site. Sadly, these are long-vanished Victorian streets, and this is what now stands at the corner of Lulot Street (now Lulot Gardens) and Retcar Street in Highgate. These streets were demolished to make way for modern flats in the 1970s.

“They’re putting us in identical little boxes. No character, just uniformity…” 

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References:

♥   Nick Littlewood Facebook

♥   Nigel Ward Facebook

♥   The Kinks – Top 50 Songs

Posted in Album Covers, European Rock Pilgrimage, Images, Kinks, The | 10 Comments

T.Rex | The Slider

Released on this day 50 years ago, the timeless photograph of Marc Bolan on the cover of The Slider was credited to have been taken by Ringo Starr. But was it?

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The iconic photograph of Marc Bolan with his “corkscrew hair” on the cover of T.Rex’s strutting classic The Slider (1972), was credited to Ringo Starr in the album’s liner notes. Ringo was directing the Bolan/T.Rex rockumentary Born to Boogie at the time but record producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie among many others) has stated that it was he, not Ringo, who took the cover image of a top-hatted Bolan on John Lennon’s estate in Ascot one misty day. Tony says:

 “I certainly did! We’d had long breaks while shooting Born To Boogie while Ringo set up different scenes, so Marc gave me his Nikon F camera and we walked out into the woods and I shot three rolls of film. So back in London I’m at Marc’s flat and I see the contact sheets and say: “Oh, those are all the ones I took.” He had a funny look on his face, and goes: “Oh, right. Well, initial the sheets and if I ever use them, I’ll give you a credit.

“Of course, three months later he conveniently forgot and credited the shot to Ringo. I mean, this is my recollection of how things went down. If Ringo wants to challenge me on it, he’s welcome.”

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“Marc was always an opportunist and would name-drop whenever he could. I don’t want to denigrate him as the great rock star that he was, but this is one one of the times that he tried to rewrite history. He used to be really bitchy about me getting credited too much. I think the top hat was an allusion he always made to being a magician. Marc told me that he lived in Paris for six months when he was a male model with a French wizard.”

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Earlier in their career as a folk-rock duo Tyrannosaurus Rex, Visconti supposedly got fed up with writing the name out in full on studio charts and tapes and began to abbreviate it to T.Rex; when Bolan first noticed it, he was angry, but later claimed the idea was his!

Recorded in March and released in July of 1972, the near-perfect The Slider is 50 years old today and still sounds as fresh and crunchy as ever. With lip-smacking aplomb, the album was the zenith of the band’s brief career, containing some of the band’s best and most well known songs via Bolan’s Gibson Les Paul, such as Metal Guru and Telegram Sam both UK chart-toppers, and the heavy guitar rock of Buick Mackane.

The Slider hit number 4 on the UK charts and number 17 in the US, but marked the end of Marc Bolan’s reign as a pop superstar. The band would never achieve these artist and commercial heights again.

It should be noted that one of Bolan’s best ever songs, Thunderwing, was left off the album. It was the B-side to Metal Guru and T.Rex were renowned for their B-sides. This Slider-era classic is one of their finest moments ever put tape.

Posted in Album Covers, David Bowie, Images, Mainman, On This Day, T.Rex | 12 Comments

The Human League | Reproduction

The image on the cover of The Human League’s debut album Reproduction, anticipates their definitive line-up.

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Before the mainstream success of ‘Don’t You Want Me’, one of the most enduringly popular songs of the 80s, and before the twin sultry tones of vocalists Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall, British synth-pop group The Human League began life as a male-dominated, experimental electronic four-piece.

Formed in Sheffield, England in 1977 by Ian Craig Marsh (synthesizer) and Martyn Ware (synthesizer) as Dead Daughters, the duo quickly enlisted film technician Adrian Wright and finally Phil Oakey (vocals/synthesizer) to become The Human League.

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With the release of their undoubtedly impressive debut album Reproduction (1979) on Virgin Records, The Human League quickly gained a considerable cult following in England, including the likes of David Bowie, via visually impressive live performances and strong original material.

Early pioneers of the UK electronic scene, Reproduction was considered both avant-garde (Empire State Human), cutting edge (Blind Youth), and a natural progression of the detached, icy, windswept and austere work of Kraftwerk from earlier in the decade (The World Before Last). The dystopian material has threads of melody that weave their way over robotic synth beats, with tunes delivered either via Phil Oakey’s vocals, at times still finding his voice, or through simple synth motifs.

Coincidentally, the Reproduction album cover anticipates the band we now know and love – one guy and two girls, even though they were a blokey four-piece at the time.

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“We said we wanted an image of a glass dance floor in a discotheque which people were dancing on and beneath this, a lit room full of babies. It was meant to look like a still from a film – like some kind of dystopian vision of the future – but it just looks like they’re treading on babies. We were quite upset but at that time, it was too late to change it.” – Martyn Ware

Strangely, the inner sleeve more than echoes General Zod and chums in their flying mirror thingies in Christopher Reeve’s Superman II (1980) for reasons that aren’t clear.

Reproduction was produced by Colin Thurston who had just completed co-engineering work on Bowie’s “Heroes” and Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life (both 1977), as well as production work on Magazine’s excellent second album Secondhand Daylight (1979). Thurston would go on to produce some major 80s albums such as Duran Duran’s debut and their follow up, Rio, in part defining the sound of the 80s.

With drums made entirely with the Roland System-100 synthesizer, Reproduction has a brilliant Side One, and a Side Two that consists of two long medleys, including a weird cover of the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling which manages to be truly heartfelt and warm through the icy glitter of its instrumentation.

The band quickly delivered the very good follow up Travelogue (1980), however the experimental line-up soon split in half, both moving in a more self-consciously poppy direction – one half Oakey/Wright’s The Human League, the other Ware/Marsh as Heaven 17.

This left Oakey without a band or players, and with Wright promoted to synth, he recruited teenagers Catherall and Sulley (both vocals) in a last ditch attempt to continue the band. With the addition of Ian Burden (synthesizer/bass) and Jo Callis (guitar/synthesizer) the definitive line-up was complete. Their next album, Dare (1981), ushered in global success for the new look Human League, proving to be one of the most successful and best-loved British pop albums of all time.

Although Reproduction was met with limited commercial success upon its original release in 1979, it fared better after the group became commercially successful, and has since been hailed as a milestone in the development of popular electronic music. For those who like the experimental wing of New Wave music, such as Magazine and Kraftwerk, should lend an ear to The Human League’s underrated debut.

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Side One

  1. Almost Medieval – 4:43
  2. Circus of Death – 3:55
  3. The Path of Least Resistance – 3:33
  4. Blind Youth – 3:25
  5. The Word Before Last – 4:04
  6. Empire State Human – 3:17

Side Two

  1. Morale…You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling  – 9:39
  2. Austerity/Girl One (Medley) – 6:44
  3. Zero as a Limit – 4:13

Further Listening:

  Buy The Human League – Reproduction

 Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums

♥  More Album Cover Outtakes

  Producer: Hugh Padgham in the 80s

Posted in Album Covers, Downloads, Human League, The, Images, Producers, Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums | 11 Comments

Mick Jones | I Turned Out a Punk

The guitarist and founding member of one of the most important and influential bands of the rock era recently turned 67. To celebrate, The Press compiles Mick Jones’ best songs with The Clash.

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The late Joe Strummer may have been the heart and soul of The Clash, but lead guitarist, co-singer and co-songwriter Mick Jones always tempered Strummer’s rough edges, in turn softening and broadening the band’s sound and appeal.

A teen-tearaway who used to sneak into Mott the Hoople shows, Jones assembled The Clash in 1976, recruiting bassist Paul Simonon, a passionate reggae fan, and Strummer, the magnetic frontman of local London pub rock band the 101ers, originally playing seedy London punk clubs before eventually adding excellent drummer Topper Headon. When the opening chords of their debut single “White Riot” in March 1977 announced a dangerous new London band was on the scene, the classic line-up was complete.

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The British group, via their first album THE CLASH (1977) ★★★★★, took the anger and frustration of the country’s working class youth of the 1970s and gave it universal meaning, striking a chord that echoed in the minds of young people around the world. The music was angry and message-laden rock, played fast and furiously with a treble-heavy mix that has aged very well, and their appeal is now broader than ever.

With albums like the strong sophomore effort GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE (1978) ★★★★, and more so with their rightly exalted creative apex LONDON CALLING (1979) ★★★★★, The Clash possessed a rare songwriting tension between Strummer and Jones, and a relentless driving energy in the studio and on stage, not to mention their formidable songwriting partnership, and contrasting vocal styles as highlighted on duets like Rudy Can’t Fail.

Strummer was the lead singer and main lyricist in The Clash, but Jones’ musical and songwriting contributions can’t be denied. With an immaculate ear for melody and strong hooks, and a penchant for blistering rock ‘n roll, the guitarist’s input was exceptional time after time across five albums and countless singles, compilations, and EP’s, and with Joe, created the perfect balance within this legendary group. And he has some great hats.

Throw in punchy guitar bursts, an electrifying stage presence, strong musicianship, lyrics that never took the easy path to getting their point across, as highlighted on the outrageous triple sprawl of SANDINISTA (1980) ★★★★, an insatiable appetite for multiple stylings including reggae, dub-punk, rap or pop (Charlie Don’t Surf), and what you get is a band that deserves to be in the upper echelon of the best of the era.

Before their next album appeared, the weird rock jungle collection that is COMBAT ROCK (1982) ★★★, Headon abruptly departed the group, replaced by original drummer Terry Chimes, and while the album would become the band’s biggest seller, particularly in the USA, it was on the accompanying headline tour where cracks were beginning to show. 

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They had achieved the status of a world-renowned rock phenomena both critically and commercially, but uneasy feelings, internal tensions and flagging enthusiasm would eventually send Mick Jones packing less than a year later.

Our hero’s departure from The Clash had a corrosive effect on the band’s creativity to say the least, which soon became evident on 1985’s roundly derided CUT THE CRAP ★★, before Strummer would disband The Clash for good. 

While their career was short lived, they were always respected by the hardcore scenesters and equally by the dabblers, earning the slogan “The only band that matters”, but they famously railed against classic-rock hero worship, in turn redesigning rock history in their own impeccable image. 

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Mick came up smiling, assembling a new group called Big Audio Dynamite (BAD) with Don Letts, whose debut album went on to become a best-seller in 1986. Arguably the member who stayed the busiest after the breakup, Mick went on to form new bands and become a much sought-after producer (eg: The Libertines) who has collaborated with Simonon on the Gorillaz’ 2010 release, Plastic Beach, and more recently with Flaming Lips and The Avalanches. 

 

The Clash – I Turned Out a Punk: The Best of Mick Jones mp3

Somebody Got Murdered One of the best tracks off Sandinista! Sung and written by Mick although Joe Strummer wrote the words and does the spoken word section: Joe Strummer: “We got a phone call from Jack Nitzsche and he said ‘We need a heavy rock number for this movie with Al Pacino’ so I said OK. I went home and there was this guy in a pool of blood out by the car parking kiosk. That night I wrote the lyric. I gave it to Mick and he wrote the tune. We recorded it and Jack Nitzsche never called back.”

Stay Free – One of Mick’s best, and a live favourite, Stay Free was recorded in 1978 in London’s Basing Street studios (aka Sarm West Studios) for the Give ‘Em Enough Rope album. 

Lost in the Supermarket On this highlight from the timeless London Calling album, Joe wrote the lyrics and it includes personal references to his own life growing up in a suburban middle-class family. Mick wrote the music and sings lead. Rarely played live.

I’m Not Down – An underrated catchy classic buried on side 4 of London Calling, this one was written and sung my Mick.

Atom Tan – A lovely little call and response number filled with apocalyptic humour, this is one of the many stylistic variations on Combat Rock. Co-sung/written by Joe and Mick. 

Should I Stay Or Should I Go – Mick’s timeless classic from Combat Rock, this great rockin’ song was released in 1982 as a double A-side single alongside the magnificent Straight to Hell and re-released in 1991 topping the UK singles chart.

The Card Cheat – Recorded late in the London Calling sessions, Mick double-tracked just about everything, creating a Phil Spector-style ‘wall of sound’, a ‘Be My Baby’ beat, and a blistering horn section. The song was never performed live.  

1-2 Crush On You B-side to 1978 single Tommy Gun, written by Mick and the first song Joe attempted to play with his new musical allies during the very first Clash rehearsals. Of greater interest for displaying what the Clash might have sounded like had they not discovered politics.

Train in Vain – The final song on, and the last to be recorded for, London Calling. Originally not listed on the LC sleeve, it was the third and final single from the album, and the first Clash song to reach the United States Top 30. 

Jail Guitar Doors – B-side to the band’s fourth single Clash City Rockers, and  both songs were included on the US release of their self-titled album in 1979. The song takes cues from the New York Dolls’ as well as David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel.

Up in Heaven (Not Only Here) – Anchored by a soaring Mick Jones guitar hook, this great track is off Sandinista! with angry, despairing lyrics written by Joe Strummer. 

Police on My Back – This cover is an intense burst of energy with superb drum work from Topper Headon. Originally written by Eddy Grant and performed by The Equals in 1967, this powerful rocker opens with Mick’s guitar duplicating the sound of a siren and off the occasionally brilliant Sandinista! 

Gates of the West – This obscurity came off the excellent The Cost of Living EP released in 1979, something of a transition release before the landmark London Calling LP, lyrically about their first encounter with the USA.

I should be jumpin’ shoutin’ that I made it all this way
From Camden Town station to Fortieth and Eighth
Not many make it this far and many say we’re great
But just like them we walk on an’ we can’t escape our fate

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Posted in Clash, The, Downloads, Mick Jones, Mixtapes, On This Day | 16 Comments

Steve Hackett | Genesis Revisited

Innovative guitarist Steve Hackett and his band of supremely accomplished musicians brings to life the majestic music of mid-70s Genesis at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre.

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Genesis only ever made it to Australia once, in 1986 – years after guitarist Steve Hackett and singer Peter Gabriel had left the band. So Steve is making it up to fans by once again bringing a whole lot of Genesis magic to Australian shores with an imperious performance of two genre-defining classics in their entirety: 1977’s double live album Seconds Out – the final Genesis record upon which Hackett appeared – and the impeccable Selling England By the Pound (1973) LP. For many Genesis fans, these albums represent the very best the band had to offer.

Last night’s gig at Melbourne’s iconic Palais Theatre, Hackett and his and top-notch 5-piece band treated the audience to some of Genesis’ most memorable moments. They stayed faithful to the original arrangements while fleshing them out with additional instrumentation. From nuanced sensitivity to dramatic progressive rock, this was all about creative musicianship, while immersing us in English eccentricity and intricate songcraft, Hackett and his band effortlessly delivered delicate prose, wondrous melodies, and of course, the soaring lead guitar of our hero always at the centre of their universe.

Playing a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop for the majority of the show, Hackett’s consummate playing is awe inspiring and never flashy, full of texture and atmosphere ahead of showiness or extended soloing.

The show was divided into two parts. The first half of the performance was Second’s Out, which was a special choice as it highlights material lifted from several classic albums in the Genesis canon up to 1977 – perhaps that’s why Steve chose it.

A hugely successful double album at the time, it was recorded on their concert tour in support of 1976’s very good Wind & Wuthering album, and featured Hackett on guitar alongside Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Phil Collins, who had taken on the role of lead vocalist following the departure of Peter Gabriel. The tour also marked Steve’s final recordings with the band as he left to pursue an expansive solo career.

Opening with a series of Genesis classics from Squonk, The Carpet Crawlers and an exquisite version of Afterglow, it was on the beloved The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Foxtrot’s 23-minute magnum opus Supper’s Ready where vocalist Nad Sylvan really shined, bringing the material’s subtle tones and deep emotions to life, with a voice full of character, not far removed from Peter Gabriel’s, without trying to draw unnecessary attention or take away from Hackett’s incendiary guitar work.

The second half featured the entire Selling England By the Pound album in order, opening with Dancing with The Moonlit Knight through an extended take on I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), both of which were superb renditions, the latter featuring Steve stretching out on guitar, as well as a remarkable sax solo from multi-instrumentalist Rob Townsend.

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Simply magnificent versions of landmarks Firth of Fifth and Cinema Show followed, both songs pivotal in Hackett’s significant Genesis contribution, and found Roger King replicating Tony Banks’ keyboard virtuosity, and sound, to brilliant effect. A thunderous Craig Blundell drum solo was included in the Dance on a Volcano encore which segued into one of the greatest musical pieces used to end a concert … Los Endos, before the band lined up to receive extended and rapturous applause. Tonight some of the best ever Genesis material was performed respectfully, but also not slavishly, and it was a wonderful thing to witness this essential music so alive again.

Posted in Genesis, Gigs, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett | 17 Comments

You Must Get Them All | Steve Pringle

Now Reading: Comprehensively immortalised in print by author Steve Pringle, You Must Get Them All is the first book to cover the entire catalogue of Britain’s post-punk colossus The Fall.

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The Fall produced a huge volume of high-quality work between 1978 and 2017 and, whether you can digest it all or not, the band’s enormous influence on the music scene, nor their integrity or refusal to compromise, can not be denied.

You Must Get Them All | The Fall On Record covers it all – from every single LP and track by track analysis in a considered and informative approach, through the legendary Manchester band’s multiple line-up changes, outtakes, setbacks, reinventions, compilations, EPs, singles, live albums, multiple Peel Sessions, almost 20 pages of Who’s Who in The Fall, and of course the one constant: the slashing intensity that was their mercurial frontman, Mark E Smith. Fittingly, ex-drummer Paul Hanley contributed the foreword.

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Originally the content was available via Steve Pringle’s excellent blog You Must Get Them All, however as Steve pointed out recently on the Oh! Brother podcast, the content has been massively updated and now expanded into print.

Perfect for obsessives of The Fall (like myself) and even those who dabble, this 600+ page tome also works as an excellent reference guide, and equally so a quick flick for fans and collectors alike.

The book is available now from Route Publishing who I must say have been extremely responsive in helping me with my panicked enquiries regarding it’s safe arrival on my doorstep in Melbourne, Australia.

Steve Pringle can be found via The Fall In Fives blog, through Twitter and on the excellent thefallinfives radio show.

Further Reading:

♥   The Fall – It’s On Forever

♥   More Album Cover Outtakes – This Nation’s Saving Grace

   The Fall – I Wake Up In The City

♥   The Big Midweek | Life Inside The Fall

♥   The Fall – Top 50 Songs

Posted in Fall, The, Now Reading | 4 Comments

Didn’t Know It Was A Cover | David Gilmour’s There’s No Way Out Of Here

While enjoying some much-needed respite from the claustrophobic Pink Floyd machine, David Gilmour summed up his fraught situation with one of his best solo efforts and the great ‘missing’ Floyd song: ‘There’s No Way Out of Here’ – but it was a cover!

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It’s no secret there were a lot of tensions within Pink Floyd during the making of Animals (1977), and while the band had completed a successful yet gruelling tour of North America, Gilmour and increasingly dominant bassist Roger Waters, were becoming restless within the group restrictions. In fact Gilmour was already turning out a solo album.

The guitarist had a yearning to get together with a bunch of guys in a room, play some tunes, “knock ’em down”, and put out a record. So, he teamed up with former colleagues Rick Wills and Willie Wilson, with whom he played in Joker’s Wild back home in Cambridge before he joined Pink Floyd (later to be part of the “surrogate band” during Floyd’s The Wall dates), and recorded his first solo album at Super Bear Studios in France; the bluesy, rocky outing, David Gilmour (Columbia, 1978).

The album finds our hero in relaxed and enthusiastic form, and is filled with confident, mid-tempo rock songs, highlighting Gilmour’s mesmeric guitar prowess in tone and style, and smouldering vocals. The sessions proved to be an important part in the overall Floyd story. While not included on the album, ‘Comfortably Numb’ was composed during these recording sessions, and sections of the instrumental ‘Raise My Rent’ were later adapted for The Wall centrepiece ‘Hey You’.

“The whole process of compromise is vital for a group, but it was nice not to have everything vetted.”

Stepping out of Pink Floyd’s shadow, Gilmour had championed the British folk-rock band Unicorn, around the time of Wish You Were Here, producing their very good third album Too Many Crooks (1976). One of the tracks on it, ‘No Way Out of Here’ penned by Unicorn bandleader Ken Baker, impressed Gilmour so much that he covered it for inclusion on his solo album, modifying the title to ‘There’s No Way Out of Here’, but preserving the feel, structure and tone of the original. It was even released as a single and Gilmour staged an excellent live performances to help promote it, however without the Pink Floyd ‘handle’, it flopped in the charts.

The track demonstrates just how much of the Floydian sound comes directly from Gilmour. Featuring a simple, yet powerful shifting chord structure, an attractive acoustic slide guitar/harmonica hook, soaring female backing vocals, and guitar fills of crystalline perfection, the cold melancholy of ‘There’s No Way Out of Here’ is easily the finest moment on David Gilmour, and arguably his definitive solo track, cover or not.

 

Further Reading:

♥   A Fleeting Glimpse

♥   Gilmour 1978 album interview

♥   Pink Floyd | Madison Square Garden, 1977

♥  David Gilmour’s Best Songs 

♥  Pink Floyd – Animals (1977)

Progrography – David Gilmour (1978)

Posted in David Gilmour, Didn't Know It Was a Cover, Pink Floyd | 8 Comments

The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue Outtakes & Demos

Defining the sounds of the 70’s by appropriating contemporary rock, funk and disco stylings on Emotional Rescue, these album outtakes and demos capture a band keeping things fresh within a changing musical landscape.

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The logical continuation of their tough and focused Some Girls (1978) album was the Rolling Stones under-appreciated fifteenth studio album Emotional Rescue, released this month in 1980. Peaking at number one on both sides of the Atlantic, the album marked a farewell to a decade the Stones barely made it out of alive.

This is also when ripples of arguments between Keith and Mick would grow into a rumble and the critics were sharpening their knives. However, the disco-infused title track charted high in the US (#3), and was praised by none other than John Lennon just days before he was murdered: “Mick Jagger has put out consistently good work for 20 years, and will they give him a break? Will they ever say, ‘Look at him, he’s 37 and he has a beautiful song, “Emotional Rescue”’? I enjoyed it, a lot of people enjoyed it.” Clearly Prince was a fan too, releasing one of his best albums later in the year with the synth-funk classic, Dirty Mind.

Hey, what am I doing standing here on the corner of West 8th Street and the 6th Avenue and ah, skip it, Keith what are you doing? (whistles)

I think the time has come to get up, get out!

Emotional Rescue is both a pleasure and a scream. The title track, as well as opening the record with the irresistible pimp-swagger of ‘Dance Pt.1′, seemed to generate the misconception that this was the Stones disco album. What it is in actual fact was a Charlie Watts/Bill Wyman rhythmic masterclass, and a Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards’ staccato rock guitar weaving showcase.

The album contains a wide range of styles such as reggae (‘Send it To Me’), ballads (‘All About You’), blues (‘Down in the Hole’), straight ahead rock and roll (‘Let Me Go’), funk (Dance Pt.1), and is more playful than its intense predecessor.

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The Stones recorded a lot of tracks for these sessions and some would find their way onto follow-up albums Tattoo You (1981) and Undercover (1983). With the exception of Where the Boys Go and Summer Romance, which were originally recorded Hollywood 1978, everything else on Emotional Rescue was recorded in Nassau, Bahamas early-’79, then Pathé Marconi in Paris (where Some Girls was recorded) from June to October.

With notable additions of long-time saxophonist Bobby Keys and engineer Chris Kimsey (Sticky Fingers, Some Girls), the sessions essentially included the core Stones band members and keyboardists Nicky Hopkins and the late-great Ian Stewart. The classic Stones line-up. Mick and Keith would spend time mixing and adding overdubs in November and December 1979 at Electric Lady Studios in New York before releasing the album in June 1980.

What we have here is an interesting selection of non-album, previously-circulating, tapes of outtakes and demos from the Emotional Rescue sessions (with 3 super-secret bonus tracks). This is far from a definitive collection, but what’s presented here is exactly what was on those tapes, capturing tracks and performances in-progress from this undervalued Stones era.

The Rolling StonesEmotional Rescue Outtakes & Demos mp3

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Summer Romance – On the acetate made with the final tracks, this rocking demo has an alternative lead vocal and was originally intended to open the album.

Let’s Go Steady – Cover of the Sam Cooke song features a wonderful Keith lead vocal with Kristi Kimsey is on backing vocals. Taken from the early Nassau sessions.

I Think I’m Going Mad – Keith making good use of his MXR Phase 100 pedal, a late-70s signature guitar sound, this is another early recording, along with ‘She’s So Cold’ and ‘All About You’, from the Nassau sessions. Ended up as the B-side to Undercover’s 7″ single She Was Hot.

Indian Girl – Shorter than any previously known version in circulation, the spoken line, “Mr. Gringo, my father he ain’t no Che Guevara”, is missing and the take (thankfully) also features fewer horn overdubs.

Emotional Rescue – A strange mix with a prominent Keith guitar part, eventually stripped off the album version, includes keyboards and backing vocals. Also features an echoey percussion effect at the start.

No Use In Crying – A raw and better version compared to what was used for follow-up album Tattoo You. Inspired lead and backing vocals here from Mick.

Where The Boys Go – Rough and rowdy early take, this has a cockney first-take guide vocal from Mick, with Keith on background vocals. The guitar solo is unedited unlike the tidied-up album version.

We Had It All – Cover of the Troy Seals and Donny Fritts heart-breaker, first released by Waylon Jennings in 1973. Lovely version and great lead vocal from Keith.

Neighbors – This is a monitor mix with early guide vocals and is rollicking and great rocking early version. Wound up on Tattoo You.

Dance – Rough demo. White hot guitar interplay from Ronnie and Keith, it’s basically an instrumental and funky as hell. You can hear Mick in the background whooping up a storm. If this is the Stones doing “disco”, then bring it on.

She’s So Cold – All time great single from Emotional Rescue, this cracking live version was recorded in Naples in 1982 from the Bootleg Collection 1969-1982.

Little T&A – Keith ripping into the instrumental version of a track salvaged for Tattoo You.

It’s Cold Down There – Mick doing his best cod-reggae voice (see ‘Indian Girl’), it’s a mostly-instrumental grinding rhythm that may have inspired Dance Pt.1.

Linda Lu – Cool cover of the rockabilly 1959 Ray Sharpe classic.

Further Reading:

♥   The Rolling Stones – Top 5 Modern-Era Tracks

♥   The Rolling Stones – Fully Finished Studio Outtakes

♥   The Rolling Stones – Still Life

♥   Waiting on a Friend

♥   The Rolling Stones – Drift Away

♥   Stones Alone

♥   More Album Cover Outtakes

♥   #16: Rolling Stones – Dirty Work (1986)

Posted in Downloads, Mixtapes, On This Day, Rolling Stones, The, Ron Wood | 11 Comments

Top 5 Songs – Andy Newmark

Andy Newmark’s prolific treasure trove of session work spans decades with some of the biggest names in the music business. The Press counts down the American drummer’s Top 5 Songs.

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The drummer impacts the music more than anyone else in a band put together, and is often what makes a band or breaks a band. The drummer’s voice is loud, but soft, and people feel it on the dance-floor and on a gut-primal level. But it can sneak past you. If you like some music, or love a band, you’re probably digging the drummer, and in many cases, it’s probably Andy Newmark.

Sitting comfortably alongside the era’s premier rock drummers like Steve Gadd, Jim Keltner, Rick Marotta, Kenney Jones, and Jim Gordon, Newmark’s economic style was influenced by drummers of the calibre of Earl Palmer and Tony Williams, and the undeniable feel of Sam & Dave, The Ventures, Chuck Berry and Otis Redding.

Newmark is one of those drummer who knows how to say a lot with less: a groove-oriented steady beat without unnecessary fireworks, overly gratuitous fills, or showiness. He got his big break with a young Carly Simon, drumming on early albums Anticipation (1971) and No Secrets (1972), before securing a major gig working with Sly and Family Stone on their classic Fresh (1973).

“Play simple, accompany the song”

Sly had inherited the funk torch from James Brown and was in the process of revolutionising the landscape of popular music by fusing jazz, funk, and soul in a combination that had never been heard before, or since. This launched the American-born drummer’s recording career, and he would tour with Sly in support of the album, with the Faces as the support band. It was on the European leg of the tour when Newmark was approached by Faces guitarist Ron Wood with an invitation to work on his first solo album.

Sessions took place outside London and featured Ian McLagan on keys and Keith Richards on guitar among others. Newmark had recently met nimble bassist Willie Weeks and everyone knew and loved him from Donny Hathaway’s seminal Live (1972) album. Weeks subsequently joined the sessions and the album I’ve Got My Own Album to Do (1974) broke things wide open for the Newmark/Weeks rhythm section. They then made a big splash in rock circles from 1973 to 1975 going from one big-name to another including David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Joe Walsh, Richard Thompson, Randy Newman and Rickie Lee Jones. They also recorded and toured with George Harrison in 1974.

However, this was just the beginning of Andy’s prestigious career. Notable sessions would follow throughout the 70’s and 80’s with and without Willie Weeks on bass, including; crunching out assembly-line product for CTI artists like George Benson and Nina Simone; working on the last two John Lennon albums Double Fantasy (1980) and Milk and Honey (1984); securing a formidable partnership with Bryan Ferry for Roxy Music’s Flesh and Blood (1979) and Avalon (1982), and many post-Roxy Ferry albums; stepping in for Nick Mason on Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut (1983), and solo projects with both Roger Waters and David Gilmour.

These Top 5 Songs selections serve as a tip-of-the-iceberg introduction to the great rock drummer.

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5. Ron Wood – I Can Feel the Fire

The swaggering opener off Ron Wood’s excellent first solo album I’ve Got My Own Album to Do (1974) is the loose, reggae-workout I Can Feel the Fire. Along with the Newmark/Weeks rhythm section, the track features Ronnie on vocals and guitar, McLagan, Keith, Mick Taylor on bass, and Jagger and Bowie on background vocals. What a line-up! While the tracks were being cut for the album, George Harrison had come down to give Ronnie his magnificent co-write Far East Man. George then asked Newmark and Weeks to join him at Friar Park to work on his upcoming record Dark Horse (1974). Later that year while on tour with Harrison, John Lennon came to one of the final shows in New York and was introduced to Newmark. This led to working together on…….

4. (Just Like) Starting Over – John Lennon

“Play like Ringo”. The Lennon connection: Several years later in 1980 the call came through producer Jack Douglas’ office requesting the Newmark/Weeks combo for a new project. It turned out to be Double Fantasy, Lennon’s final album. Recording took place at the Hit Factory in New York from 1 August 1980. Willie Weeks was unavailable so Tony Levin was eventually selected to play bass. John was straight and sober by now: positive, funny, talkative, in a great mood, and more importantly, accessible to the musicians. No more getting stoned on coke and weed or drunk every day, John had been out of the music biz raising a child and being a house husband living in New York City’s Dakota building for years. His biggest rush at this point was Brazilian coffee. This was a new crowd for Lennon too. Along with Andy Newmark, there was guitarists Earl Slick and Hugh McCracken, and keyboardist George Small who recorded enough material for two records, all cut in four weeks – Monday to Friday. Lennon was old-school. He wanted early takes, “Let’s not beat this over the head”. He wanted it stripped down to the bare bones, emphasising the groove, and he got it. The album was recorded live with no click track and these well-crafted pop songs were recorded conservatively with a no-fuss yet timeless precision. Listen out for the mid-song breakdown where two extra snare hits were sampled and flown in.

3. Avalon – Roxy Music

This sumptuous all time classic was written by Bryan Ferry who had built up the track alone in England with drum machines, added piano parts, humming vocals, and other overdubs. The track was recorded top to bottom with Newmark’s drums and Neil Jason’s bass playing together over the top of Ferry’s atmospheric drum loops. The disciplined Newmark plays with a cross-stick and improvises on the two and the four on the verse, and in the chorus he’s on the beat and off the beat, playing to a click, but mixing it up. It really is a lesson in groove-oriented drumming. The album was recorded in a week upstairs at New York’s Power Station studio, engineered and mixed by Bob Clearmountain.

2. Young Americans – David Bowie

Young Americans (1975) was recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia where all the hugely successful Philly soul records were made by the famous American songwriting and production team of Gamble and Huff in the 70’s on Philadelphia International Records. Newmark and Weeks play on much of the Bowie album, except the tracks Fame and Across the Universe (recorded later at Electric Lady in NYC with John Lennon), with Mike Garson (keys), David Sanborn (sax) and Carlos Alomar (guitar). According to Newmark: “A besuited Bowie walked in looking like a fashion model, introduced himself, and got to work. He was all business, friendly, but very focussed and articulate. Bowie could talk to each musician individually and be able to articulate exactly what he needed, speaking our language. Visconti was there but mainly in an engineering role with Bowie calling all the shots, completely in charge, essentially producing the sessions.” When the title track breaks down two-thirds of the way through and time stops, Bowie sings, “Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down and cry”, there’s a drum fill that brings the record back in that’s bathed in echo because it’s so out of time. Visconti was noted to have said, “Andy that drum fill is so out of time I had to put reverb and slap-back on it to disguise it”. Oh the good old days!

1. In Time – Sly and the Family Stone

The track breaks down like this: one on the bass drum, four-16th notes on the hi-hat, into the two, with no back beat. Got that? The opener off Fresh was recorded in Sly’s home studio in Bel Air, the former residence of John Phillips (The Mamas and the Papas) and has a weird yet addictive syncopation. Original bassist Larry Graham had left the band by now and it’s no secret everyone was out of it. By now Sly and the Family Stone still had a magical reputation having just released one of the great funk-rock albums ever: There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971).  For In Time, Sly, a non-drummer, sat down at the kit and played it the best he could for Newmark, who then took it away, worked it up and out, and eventually nailed it. Sly encouraged over-indulgence and to get down and dirty. Vamping on one or two chords was the order of the day, Sly was moving away from the straight song-oriented music, more getting off on the pure funkiness. A Rhythm Ace drum machine provides the pre-programmed foundation of the tracks. What sounded to anyone like corny nightclub shtick, Sly heard it as a perfect groove. After Fresh, Newmark never played like this again.

Further Listening:

♥   Carly Simon – The Right Thing to Do (1973)

♥   Sly and the Family Stone – If You Want Me to Stay (1973)

♥   Cat Stevens – (Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard (1977)

♥   George Harrison – Blow Away (1979)

♥   Rickie Lee Jones – Chuck E’s in Love (1979)

♥   Pink Floyd – Two Suns in the Sunset (1983)

♥   John Lennon – Nobody Told Me (1984)

♥   Roger Waters – 5:06AM (Every Stranger’s Eyes) (1984)

♥   Bryan Ferry – Sensation (1985)

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From top left: Hugh McCracken, Andy Newmark, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Jack Douglas, Arthur Jenkins, Jr. From bottom left: Tony Levin, Earl Slick, George Small

Posted in Andy Newmark, Bryan Ferry, David Bowie, Joe Walsh, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Ron Wood, Roxy Music, Sly and the Family Stone, Top 5 Songs | 13 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

Curiously, the cinematic image that would grace the cover of U2’s classic album The Joshua Tree was not taken at California’s namesake national park, but rather some 250 miles north at Zabriskie Point. 

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Many fans assume that the cover was shot in the Joshua Tree National Park, but the band’s fifth album, which catapulted them into superstardom, actually features a shot of the band in the barren desert at the edge of Death Valley.

‘Desert meets civilisation’ was the loose theme when photographer Anton Corbijn, using a panoramic camera, captured the band in November 1986 for an album which had a working title of The Two Americas.

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The band and photographer had embarked on a road trip through the desolate Californian locations of Death Valley, Zabriskie Point and the Mojave Desert to scout imagery that would suit the sleeve for their next project. Having secured some great shots, Corbijn was approached by Bono, who had another idea:

There’s a tree that I really love – it’s called the Joshua Tree. It’ll be brilliant to have it on the front and the band will be on the back.

Legend has it that pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding travellers westward. Bono knew about Joshua from his Bible studies and thought it would be a great title for the album.

They sped down Route 190, and it was near Darwin, California, just west of Death Valley, where they found what they were looking for. Usually found grouped in large numbers, there was a Joshua Tree standing all on its own.

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U2 spent 20 minutes posing with the lone tree before the winter chill drove them back into the bus. While the iconic Joshua Tree did not make it to the front cover, it does appear to the right of the band on the back cover and also directly between them in the middle of the inside gatefold shot. If you look closely you can see a mirror in the bottom left of the photograph, so everybody could check out how they looked. Bono explained:

It was freezing and we had to take our coats off so it would at least look like a desert. That’s one of the reasons we look so grim.

Ultimately, a shot of the band standing in front of Zabriskie Point was chosen as the cover image, and it became one of the most iconic covers in rock history. Sleeve designer and art director Steve Averill, Corbijn and U2 collectively felt the stark black-and-white widescreen of the band in the foreground with the dramatic lunar landscape behind them better reflected where the music was going, and the Joshua Tree title and image itself was nothing more than a happy accident.

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The Joshua Tree is not the only project connected to the location. The 1970 Michelangelo Antonioni film of the same name (soundtrack and album by Pink Floyd) staged an orgy scene at the site. Scenes from the Star Wars TV series The Mandalorean were also shot there, and philosopher Michel Foucault notably called his 1975 acid trip at Zabriskie Point the greatest experience of his life.

Posted in Album Covers, Images, U2 | 15 Comments

Top 5 Songs – Sex Pistols

It’s been well over 40 years since the Sex Pistols’ furious rock and rollercoaster ride and poke in the eye of the establishment changed the world, and no one has come close to equalling their cultural impact or influence on the rock music landscape. The Press counts down the quintessential punk rocker’s Top 5 Songs (and one secret honourable mention).

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There’s been a lot written about the ground breaking punk rock group, and there’s a lot of reasons to love them, including: rescuing rock; saying ‘fuck’ on telly; sarcastic attacks on pretentious affectations at the very foundation of British society; a spectacular 1978 crash-and-burn USA flameout, and the cherry-on-top declining their induction into the stuffy Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and subsequent middle-finger refusal to attend by announcing: “Next to the Sex Pistols the rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain…we’re not coming.” 

No matter how conceived, marketed, groomed and clothed they were, the importance of the Pistols cannot be overstated. So much more than a New York Dolls spin-off, or a shameless Svengali manager (Malcolm McLaren) hype machine. Amid the filth and the fury, these four young Londoners where thrown together and into the deep end, but like Frankenstein’s monster, the band escaped it’s creator and wreaked havoc across the land, sparking a musical revolution, before being hounded to destruction by the villages with flaming torches.

John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, was a hurricane of obnoxiousness, personifying the punk genre. His lyrics were searingly relevant and had a snotty-nosed arrogance and a sneering venomous vocal delivery. The original group was made up of rock and roll tearaway Steve Jones, who’s guitar kicked in windows, bassist Glen Matlock, later replaced by Sid Vicious, and steady drummer Paul Cook. They recorded a dozen timeless guitar rock songs in Virgin’s glittering Wessex studio, with help from Bill Price and pro Roxy Music’s producer Chris Thomas, in a style veering towards bands they admired including the glam of Bowie and Roxy, and straightforward rock and roll of The Faces and Mott the Hoople.

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The result is still one of the finest and most inspiring rock albums of all time. NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS (1977) ★★★★★, was bottled lightening and a revelation, conveying a surging, relentless energy that was the essence and spirit of punk rock, combined with layers of nerve-frazzling guitar pyrotechnics and incensed, snarling lyrics reflecting the despair and disillusionment of society in the 1970s that gripped a sizeable portion of England’s younger generation. It was also the band’s only proper album.     

The Pistols’ rise to prominence and notoriety was meteoric, but echoes of its brief, sordid, and tragic saga remain in the rock annuls to this present day. Danny Boyle’s (very good) Sex Pistols drama, based on Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol the 2017 Steve Jones memoir, supposedly highlights the band’s status as riotous pranksters and antagonists of the British institution, is due to air immanently and is on track to cause quite a storm if the court proceedings and inter-band all-time-low relationship is anything to go by.

The Sex Pistols were a distillation of all the best of what had gone before in teenage rebellion. They were loud, noisy and perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment. They also didn’t care what anyone thought. They came from nowhere to generate a legend and then imploded before they could turn into what they despised. What more could you really ask of any band?

Sex PistolsTop 5 Songs

5. EMI

The last track on Never Mind the Bollocks is a sarcastic commentary on a major record label cashing in on the punk phenomenon. EMI had signed the Pistols to a two year contract in late-1976 but dumped the band due to political pressures and lurid tabloid press only months later. Finally Virgin Records signed them, and released their classic debut album. The Pistols were signed by four labels and dumped by three in their brief existence. Now that’s punk.

4. Holidays in the Sun

The opening track on Bollocks was the band’s fourth and essentially last single (with Rotten on vocals), and was inspired by a ‘holiday’ to Berlin and the Berlin Wall in March 1977, due to being banned in Britain. Despite being a huge hit at the time, peaking at number 8 on the UK charts, it still seems like an underrated gem.

3. Pretty Vacant

If the Monkees had been a punk band, they’d have sounded like this. The Pistols’ third single, released in July 1977 and peaking at number 6, is an anthem of teenage apathy and heralds the timeless Steve Jones brilliant and catchy opening riff. The lyrics are savaging vapid personalities and Rotten phrases the word ‘vacant’ as “va-cunt” sneaking that past the potential censors.

1 and 2. Tie: Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen

As well worn as they are, these are a couple of the greatest rock singles ever. Pop music meets political dissent. Regarding the best, I find it hard to choose between the two lightening rods: Anarchy in the UK and God Save The Queen. They are both landmarks in rock history and both fine exponents of counter-culture zeitgeist. Underneath the shock tactics and theatrical negativity were masterful social critiques carefully designed for maximum impact with just great riffing rock. Steve Jones’ guitars are simply enormous. And what an impact they had. ‘Anarchy’ was the band’s first single and was one hell of a shock at the time when it hit the airwaves in late 1976. But ‘Queen’ is pure in your face rock and roll with its vicious delivery of the (still) highly controversial lyrics on adult apathy, governmental disregard and vapidity. The last sentence no future, no future for you is what a lot youngsters felt, and is still relevant today, even if there are no artists singing about it.

Honourable Mention – Silly Thing

I can’t let this article go by without mentioning the rock and roll treasure that is Silly Thing. Obviously lacking the irreverence and bile of Lydon, it’s co-written by Steve Jones and Paul Cook, and while far from obscure, Silly Thing is perhaps more underrated than anything else, but still a post-Rotten Pistols classic. Recorded in March 1978, it was included in the 1979 soundtrack album The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, and this version is sung by Cooky and has a tuneful ‘unpunk’ descending chord progression.

Another version with Steve Jones taking the lead vocal was recorded in early-79 in the same studio as Never Mind the Bollocks, and engineered by one of the same producers, Bill Price. It was released as a single in March 1979, and is even better than the Swindle cut. It has a charming Johnny Thunders-esque simplicity about it, and is one hell of an ear worm and firm all-time rock favourite.

Posted in Sex Pistols, Steve Jones, Top 5 Songs | 34 Comments

Duderama – No I In Dream (2022)

Duderama’s latest creative endeavour has just been released in Bandcamp: No I In Dream.

PurchaseBandcamp / Amazon

StreamSpotify Soundcloud  / YouTube

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The singles The Gist, Annihilate Together and Unmasked videos below. Treat yourself!

Written, performed and produced by Duderama
Recorded at Surface to Air Studios, Melbourne
Mastering and art design by Duderama

© 2022 Surface to Air Records Inc.

Posted in Bandcamp, Downloads, Duderama | 4 Comments

Frank Zappa – Läther 

Originally conceived as a contractually obliged four-record set in 1977, the ill-fated Läther was eventually released posthumously as a triple album on Rykodisc and remains among the artist’s finest work.

1 Front

Zappa’s career was peppered with conflicts and legal problems with record companies; none more so than the tangled non-release of the sprawling quadruple LP Läther (pronounced “leather”) in 1977. By the mid-70s The Mothers were a thing of the past and Frank was concentrating on his solo career with the release of a wealth of material including the sumptuous live outing Roxy & Elsewhere (1974), the slick One Size Fits All (1975), and the masterpiece of dark, sleazy rock Zoot Allures (1976), among many others. However, the prolific artist was forced to make what amounted to a new career start after his then-record label Warner Bros. prevented the release of his new project before claiming he owed them four more albums.

Warner decided not to pay the amount they contractually owed Zappa, thinking that he’d thrown the package together just to free himself from his recording contract. A lawsuit ensued during which no Zappa material was released for more than a year meanwhile Zappa responded by playing the entire thing on a KROQ-FM radio show in 1977, encouraging fans to: “Don’t buy it, tape it.

Warner Bros, claiming rights over the material, dismembered Läther and staggered the release of four separate yet very good albums over the next two years via DiscReet Records, without Zappa’s approval or any songwriting and production credits, and commissioned cartoonist Gary Panter best known for his work in Raw Comix to create the rather underwhelming artwork.

lather albums

The first of these records was the excellent double live album ZAPPA IN NEW YORK (1978) ★★★★★, the only one of the four produced with some Zappa oversight, and the only one with its packaging and liner notes preserved. Serving as a great introduction to his music with a smoking-hot ensemble, including Terry Bozio on drums and percussionist Ruth Underwood, Zappa takes the opportunity to drastically revisit some of his finest work in different arrangements (eg: ‘Sofa’, ‘The Torture Never Stops’), as well as debuting new material such as ‘Honey Don’t You Want a Man Like Me’ which finds Frank at the height of his comic stagecraft, and the outstanding instrumental piece ‘I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth’, later re-named as the title track to Läther

STUDIO TAN (1978) ★★★½, was released later the same year and consisted of only four tracks featuring the Roxy & Elsewhere band. Side one was taken up by the 20-minute shaggy-dog opera of ‘Greggery Peccary’ which finds Zappa’s juvenile humour and hamfisted parody of rock and roll outshone by some remarkable instrumental passages. The piece was painstakingly assembled in the studio over three years and bridges the comedy of Flo & Eddie with the quirky big-band jazz feel of The Grand Wazoo (1973), while side two’s major highlight is the exhilarating instrumental album closer ‘RDNZL’. 

The next album to receive the Warner Bros treatment was SLEEP DIRT (1979) ★★★★★, consisting of a miscellany of seven tracks recorded between 1974 and 1976. Initially released as an entirely instrumental album (later had vocals added on various CD reissues), it remains perhaps Zappa’s most overlooked gem. The album hosts some major career highlights including the menacing ‘Filthy Habits’ and exquisite ‘Re-Gyptian Strut’, two of Zappa’s best songs, as well as the title track which sparkles around a subdued guitar duo of acoustic virtuosity, before the crowning Zappian instrumental achievement, the 13-minute ‘The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution’. The title wasn’t Frank’s either as he told Record Review in 1979:

I might point out that Sleep Dirt is not the name of the album. That’s just a further violation of the original contract. The original title of that album, as delivered to them, was Hot Rats III. I presume that’s just another snide attempt to undermine the merchandising of it. If you saw an album sitting in the rack with the title Sleep Dirt on it, you probably wouldn’t be too intrigued by it. And based on the job they did with the cover of Studio Tan, they made all of the packaging as unappealing as possible. – FZ 

The final album was ORCHESTRAL FAVORITES (1979) ★★★, another entirely instrumental set consisting of five tracks recorded with a 37-piece orchestra at the UCLA campus theatre in 1975. The album includes familiar Zappa numbers such as a marvellous new arrangement of ‘Duke of Prunes’, originally off 1967’s Absolutely Free, and ‘Strictly Genteel’ the finale of 200 Motels (1971).

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As for Läther, it had a posthumous 3CD release in 1996 and again in 2012 reinstating the originally intended artwork, and according to Gail Zappa’s booklet notes in the CD set; “As originally conceived by Frank, Läther was always a 4-record box set”. It mixes previously available material, alternate mixes and edits, and previously unissued tracks where only the most serious Zappaphiles fans will have a good grip on exactly what has appeared where, when and how.

While the official CD version of Läther is reportedly identical to the test-pressings of the original quadruple album, four bonus tracks were added to the 1996 release, and the title of the song ‘One More Time for the World’ was changed to ‘The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution’, the title under which the same song appears on Sleep Dirt.

References: 

♥   The Official Frank Zappa Messageboards 

♥   Frank Zappa on Allmusic

♥   Frank Zappa: The Central Instrumentalizer Vol I 

♥  Frank Zappa: The Central Instrumentalizer Vol II

♥   Jazz Rock Fusion Guitar

Frank Zappa – Läther (1996) [2012] mp3

2 Back

Disc one

  1. Re-Gyptian Strut – Appears on Sleep Dirt (1979). 4:36
  2. Naval Aviation in Art? – Appears on Orchestral Favorites (1979). 1:32
  3. A Little Green Rosetta – Previously unreleased. 2:48
  4. Duck Duck Goose – Previously unreleased. 3:01
  5. Down in De Dew – Previously unreleased (The Grand Wazoo/Waka Jawaka sessions outtake). 2:57
  6. For the Young Sophisticate – Previously unreleased (Overnite Sensation Outtake). 3:14
  7. Tryin’ to Grow a Chin – Previously unreleased. 3:26
  8. Broken Hearts Are for Assholes – Previously unreleased. 4:40
  9. The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit – Appears on Zappa in New York. 12:41
  10. Lemme Take You to the Beach – Appears on Studio Tan. 2:46
  11. Revised Music for Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra – Appears on Studio Tan. 7:36
  12. RDNZL – Appears on Studio Tan. 8:14

Disc two

  1. Honey, Don’t You Want a Man Like Me? – Different edit of the version that appears on Zappa in New York. The ZINY version is a single performance while the Läther version is a combination of two different performances. 4:56
  2. The Black Page Part 1 – A longer take appears on Zappa in New York with a drum solo included. 1:57
  3. Big Leg Emma – Appears on Zappa in New York. 2:11
  4. Punky’s Whips – Appears on Zappa in New York with a different mix and alternate guitar solo. 11:06
  5. Flambé – A longer version appears on Sleep Dirt under the title ‘Flam Bay’. 2:05
  6. The Purple Lagoon – Appears on Zappa in New York. 16:20
  7. Pedro’s Dowry – Appears on Orchestral Favorites. 7:45
  8. Läther – Appears on Zappa in New York under the title ‘I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth’. 3:50
  9. Spider of Destiny – A longer version appears on Sleep Dirt. 2:40
  10. The Duke of Orchestral Prunes – Appears on Orchestral Favorites. 4:21

Disc three

  1. Filthy Habits – A longer version appears on Sleep Dirt. Outtake from Zoot Allures (1976). 7:12
  2. Titties & Beer – Appears on Zappa in New York (1978). 5:23
  3. The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution (Originally entitled “One More Time for the World”) – A longer version appears on Sleep Dirt. 8:31
  4. The Adventures of Greggery Peccary – Appears on Studio Tan. 21:00

All tracks written by Frank Zappa.

FZ

Posted in Album Covers, Albums That Never Were, Downloads, Frank Zappa | 9 Comments

Queen – News of the World (1977)

The terrifying cover art for Queen’s sixth album, 1977’s News of the World, is an adaptation of a painting by science fiction illustrator Frank Kelly Freas.

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Originally designed for an October 1953 issue of the comic book “Astounding”, it features the robot holding the dead body of a man, and captioned, “Please… fix it, Daddy?” to illustrate the story The Gulf Between by Tom Godwin. The robot killing the man was likened to a child injuring a bug and looking up at his parents saying “what have I done?”

      dce91d7d482b9dfb2dde39f4d537beec--queens-sci-fi-art         astounding

A science fiction artist with an awe-inspiring body of work, Frank Kelly Freas was involved in the science fiction field from 1950 until his death in 2005. He painted everything from pieces for NASA, book covers, magazine covers, buxom beauties, nose art on fighter planes, even Mad Magazine’s Alfred E Newman, as well as the covers for the GURPS books for Lensman and Planet Krishna. He won numerous awards, and was often hailed of “The Dean of Science Fiction Artists.”

Drummer Roger Taylor, a huge fan of science fiction, had the comic book and shared the image with his band mates who were similarly inspired. They contacted Freas and he agreed to alter it for their cover of News of the World.

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The figures in the original painting were cleverly replaced with Queen band members. Freddy Mercury and Brian May were put into the robot’s hand, while John Deacon and Taylor were falling to the ground. You can only see Taylor on the back cover.

rear cover

The LP inner gatefold image is the same robot reaching into the dome while crowds of panic stricken people run for their lives. The inside cover was also used to promote the band’s North American tour of 1977.

It’s one of rock’s great and most identifiable album covers, and has become something of a pop-art curio, even featured heavily in an episode of Family Guy. News of the World is one of the band’s most satisfying albums, and contains definitive Queen stadium-filling stompers like We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, as well as the blistering heavy rock of Sheer Heart Attack.

There is also campy crooning (My Melancholy Blues), bluesy shuffles (Sleeping on the Sidewalk), breezy Latin rhythms (Who Needs You), neo-disco (Fight From the Inside), and mechanical funk (Get Down, Make Love) which the band would explore fully on subsequent albums such as Jazz (1978), The Game (1980), and the unfairly maligned Hot Space (1982). Best of all though is the majestic and underrated Queen classic, It’s Late.

Further Reading:

♥  #3 Greatest Worst Albums of All Time: Queen – Hot Space (1982)

♥  Queen – Deep Cuts Pt.1

Posted in Album Covers, Images, Queen | 11 Comments

Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums

Britain in the 1970s, when bloated supergroups and progressive rock bands roamed the Earth, young pioneers obsessed by European experimental music like Kraftwerk, punk’s attitude, and Bowie’s glam-rock and icy Berlin-trilogy, were distilling these influences and dreaming of a future of pop music with guitars replaced by synthesizers.

Untitled

Sci-fi movies, the other-worldliness of TV shows such as Dr Who and Blakes 7, and JG Ballard’s Crash, captured the zeitgeist and had a profound effect on a generation of would-be electronic musicians. Wendy Carlos’ orchestrated synth-bass soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was also a big inspiration, sinking deep into the psyche of young British musicians. So too the hypnotic and driving Giorgio Moroder’s concept albums with Donna Summer from the mid-late 1970s. The influence Kraftwerk albums like Autobahn and Trans Europe Express had on the European synth-pop movement was the equivalent of Anarchy in the UK for a generation of punk rockers.

Coming out of the supernova of post-punk, the attitude of the Damned, the Clash and the Sex Pistols inspired a generation of young aspiring musicians with an interest in electronic music to do it themselves. The alienated synthesists with their short hair, trench coats and suits, took the attitude of punk and made music nobody had ever heard before. Unfortunately synthesizers in Britain in the mid-70s were expensive and only associated with technically gifted progressive musicians. However advances in technology by the late-70s heralded the invention of the affordable synths like the Korg Micro-Preset, Selena String Synth, and the Transcendent 2000, inspiring many homemade effects units.

Major record labels would largely ignore synth-based music forcing early electronic pioneers such as Joy Division and OMD towards newly formed independents like the Manchester-based Factory Records. Through the likes of The Normal, a short-lived alias for Dan Miller, owner of Mute Records, Depeche Mode and Vince Clarke’s Erasure and Yazoo would sign to the label, opened thousands of minds to the possibilities of electronic dance music, and later Northern Soul.

It embodied a sense of futurism and importantly sounded interesting and like nothing else that had come before. The future of pop music had arrived and then kicked into the stratosphere with the enormous success of the likes of Gary Numan, Ultravox and Visage, who would launch the synthesizer from a post-punk experimental tool to the instrument of choice in the 1980s. Furthermore artists such as the Pet Shop Boys and New Order, and their inscrutable club cool, would spearhead the future of British electronica and beyond.

It was the antithesis of British rock ‘n roll traditions: four guys, guitar/bass/drums, conventional rock and roll trousers, and despite a Battle Royale taking place between the artists, their fans, and the overwhelmingly vicious rock-based British music press of the day and associated rock traditionalists, their dreams had become a reality.

We present here 10 key albums of British synth-pop from the early formative records of a generation of post-punk musicians who had taken the synthesizer from the fringes of experimentation of the 70s to the centre of the pop stage in the 80s.

1. Tubeway ArmyReplicas (1979)

Replicas

A perfect form of synth-pop came along in the form of Gary Numan from London with a massive hit record, gigantic sales and extraordinary success, he was Britain’s first synth pinup pop star bringing electronic music to the masses and making good use of the minimoog. The future had arrived. He loved sci-fi, he was a punk and alien in appearance. Replicas is a flawless record and was no fluke: A Pleasure Principle (1979) and Telekon (1980) would follow to huge commercial success despite being savaged by the music press. Key Tracks: Down in the Park, Are ‘Friends’ Electric.

2. Simple MindsReal to Real Cacophony (1979)

Realtorealcacophony

The great Scottish band Simple Minds began life as Johnny and the Self-Abusers, unsurprisingly changing their name and developing a stark and powerful sound and stage show, and by this their second album was an uncompromising mix of oblique electronic experimentation and ambient atmospherics. It didn’t sell but the band toured extensively and would go on to conquer the world with their versatile European electro-pop sound culminating with their breakthrough classic New Gold Dream 81, 82, 83, 84 (1984). Key Tracks: Real to Real, Calling Your Name.

3. JapanQuiet Life (1979)

Japan-Quiet_Life

The London outfit began life as part of the punk rock scene with their own distinct brand of glam-metal funk. Their third album Quiet Life is the album where their distinctive sound began to emerge, and transformed Japan from past-tense glam rockers into futuristic synth pop idols. The guitars were toned down in favour of the synthesizer and charismatic singer David Sylvian’s voice shifted from strangulated screaming to a cool baritone. Key Tracks: Quiet Life, All Tomorrow’s Parties.

4. John Foxx – Metamatic (1980)

John_Foxx_-_Metamatic_-_LP_album_cover

Ultravox! leader John Foxx left the band in 1979 after their third album System of a Down (1979), under guidance of renowned German producer Conny Plank, failed to achieve the success they desired. Foxx pursued a solo career and in 1980 released this remarkable solo album further exploring themes of urban isolation delivered in a challenging post-glam electronic pop sound. Key Tracks: Underpass, No-One Driving.

5. Human LeagueTravelogue (1980)

Travelogue-cover

After a brief tenure as The Future, Sheffield’s Human League, with key members Phil Oakey on lead vocals and Martyn Ware on synthesizers, were one of the more important early British synth pioneers and influences. This intriguing second album from the band found them covering Mick Ronson but also included plenty of strong original material. Artistic differences led Ware quitting to form Heaven 17. The Human League would later realise the success they deserved with a new lineup and the landmark Dare (1981) album, achieving global fame and crystallising a new synth-pop sound. Key Tracks: Only After Dark, Being Boiled.

6. UltravoxVienna (1980)

Ultravox_-_Vienna

With the departure of John Foxx and the addition of new lead vocalist in the form of versatile former Rich Kid Midge Ure, Ultravox went from arch post-punk to effortlessly stylised synth-pop cool. It all came together here with the exquisite title track leading the way. This was the start of their best-known and most commercially successful lineup throughout the 1980s. Key Tracks: Vienna, Sleepwalk.

7. VisageVisage (1980)

Visage_cover

Incorporating elements of the developing but short-lived ‘new romantic’ scene, top level talent in the form of Midge Ure and Billie Currie from Ultravox, and Barry Adamson  and John McGeoch from Magazine, joined Steve Strange to form Visage scoring a top 10 hit with the Eurodisco synth masterpiece Fade to Grey in 1980, only weeks before Vienna became Ultravox’s biggest hit and best remembered track. With evocative French female vocals, distant sirens and pulsing layers of synthesizers, it was heavily influenced by Kraftwerk’s icy electronics via Bowie’s cutting edge Berlin Trilogy. Key Tracks: Fade to Grey, Mind of a Toy.

8. Depeche ModeSpeak & Spell (1981)

Depeche_Mode_-_Speak_&_Spell

From the unlikely origins in Basildon, Essex, Depeche Mode reinvented synth music as pop with this groundbreaking debut record. Produced by Dan Miller (The Normal) who introduced the band and leader Vince Clarke to the ARP 2600, Moog and Yamaha synthesizers, this band with their UK Top 10 single, would become the biggest pop act of the year. Heavily influenced by early Human League and Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, Clarke unexpectedly quit after this album, however Depeche Mode would go on to enormous commercial worldwide success, particularly in the US, throughout the 80s and 90s. Key Tracks: New Life, I Just Can’t Get Enough.

9. Thomas DolbyThe Golden Age of Wireless (1982)

ThomasDolbyTheGoldenAgeOfWireless

Formerly a session keyboard pro working with the likes of Lene Lovich, Foreigner and even Def Leppard, multi-instrumentalist and studio wiz Thomas Dolby released his first solo album in 1982 packed with thoughtful, introspective, and finely-crafted synth-based pop transmissions to modest sales until the release of the remarkable single She Blinded Me With Science which became a firm favourite in the US. Key Tracks: She Blinded Me With Science, Radio Silence.

10. New OrderPower, Corruption & Lies (1983)

New_Order_-_Power,_Corruption_&_Lies

Emerging out of the ashes of Joy Division, few could have predicted Manchester’s New Order would become one of the seminal groups of the 1980s, essentially inventing the the electro club culture with perfect singles such as Blue Monday which became the best selling 12″ of all time. Departing the tentative steps of 1981’s Movement, this is their first true album and an outstanding set of songs fully realising the creative conflict and originality of their human and electronic sides. Key Tracks: Your Silent Face, 5-8-6.

Further Listening:

Throbbing Gristle – 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979)

Cabaret Voltaire – Red Mecca (1981)

Heaven 17 – Penthouse and Pavement (1981)

Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark – Architecture and Morality (1981)

Soft Cell – Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981)

Yazoo – Upstairs at Eric’s (1982)

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983)

Listen in Spotify:

Posted in Human League, The, Japan, Simple Minds, Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums | 9 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

Kiss – The solo albums (1978)

The painted images used for the Kiss solo albums, all released on 18 September 1978, were based on the cover of a 1977 Kiss world tour glossy. Only Ace Frehley’s image doesn’t match up. A minor detail has been added, can you spot it?  The final artwork was presented and manager Bill Aucoin said Gene needed some blood, so the artist Eraldo Carugati pulled out a brush and little paint kit and completed it on the spot.

Earlier in the year, the band released their first proper compilation album, Double Platinum. Amazingly, inside the gatefold were these images yet again, although much less effective.

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Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)

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While we’re on Kiss, Bob Gruen shot the cover to their third album Dressed To Kill on the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue, New York City on October 26, 1974. The album was hastily recorded and released although contained their rock ‘n roll anthem Rock and Roll All Nite. Can you spot the missing S?

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Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention – Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970)

Zappa commissioned Neon Park to paint the cover of his new album after seeing an advertisement in a men’s pulp magazine. The title came from a cover story ‘Weasels Ripped My Flesh’ about the adventure of a guy, naked to the waist, in the water swarming with weasels, climbing on him and biting him. So Frank said, “This is it. What can you do that’s worse than this?

Man's Life - 1956 09 Sept, Cover by Wil Hulsey.-8x6

Pink Floyd – Obscured By Clouds (1972)

Rather unfathomably, the album cover for Pink Floyd’s Obscured by Clouds is a blurred image of a man in a tree, a screen shot from the French film La Vallée, by Barbet Schroeder. Designed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis, the photograph has been taken out of focus to the point of complete distortion for reasons that aren’t clear. Interestingly Obscured By Clouds marked the last time Pink Floyd lyrics were written by somebody other than Roger Waters until 15 years later, on A Momentary Lapse Of Reason.

Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975)

Two brilliant Neil Young albums, Greatest Hits (2004), rehearsing backstage at The Spectrum, Philadelphia, June, 1970 shot by Joel Bernstein, and the seminal Tonight’s the Night (1975), Neil in seersucker shot by Dutch photographer Gissbert Hanekroot, and the original photographs used for these iconic sleeves. Note Neil’s matching handwritten style on both albums, with the Greatest Hits packaging tipping it’s hat to the 1975 classic. In Shakey, Young’s autobiography, Neil maintains that along with the inserts for Tonight’s the Night, there was a small package of glitter inside the sleeve that was meant to fall out (“our Bowie statement“), spilling when the listener took the record out. A copy of Tonight’s the Night featuring the glitter package is yet to be found.

The Human League – Dare (1981)

The iconic cover design is attributed to ‘Philip and Adrian’ (ie. Oakey and Wright) with photography by Brian Ars and layout and coordination by Ken Ansell. The photography, font, logo, typography, and close-up face idea, not to mention album’s title, closely resembles the cover of fashion magazine Vogue’s April 1979 edition.

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982)

Bruce’s dark and brooding Nebraska album cover suits the music contained therein so very well. It was shot by photographer David Michael Kennedy, who recalls:

The cover shot was taken from the window of an old pick-up truck in the dead of winter. I was on a road trip, and my girlfriends brother was driving. We were in a super great snow storm and within minutes of this shot the storm hit hard and we were in total white out for hours. I thought that image might be my last! This was in the winter of 1975 and I had just finished a rough couple of months in New York City. I decided to take a road trip and have a bit of Rest and Relaxation. At that time I was doing a lot of fashion and advertising work as well as beginning to shoot covers but I really needed to get back to my roots and just do some images for me. So off on the road I went.”

“When Bruce was working on the Nebraska album he had an idea for a landscape in mind for the cover. He was working with Andy Klein as the art director on the cover. Andy was familiar with my portraits and she also was aware of my landscape work so she asked me to put together some of my landscapes to show to Bruce. He fell in love with the image (that became the cover) and knew it was right for the cover.

New Order – Power, Corruption and Lies (1983)

New_Order_-_Power,_Corruption_&_Lies

New Order’s quite brilliant Power, Corruption and Lies album design is a reproduction of Henri Fantin-Latour’s extraordinarily painting from 1882, A Basket of Roses which is part of the National Gallery’s permanent collection in London. Peter Saville designed the sleeve for the band and included a colour-based code to represent New Order and the title in the top right corner of the album.

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Saville had originally planned to use a Renaissance portrait of a dark prince to tie in with the Machiavellian theme of the title, but could not find a suitable portrait. At the gallery Saville picked up a postcard of Fantin-Latour’s painting and his girlfriend mockingly asked him if he was going to use it for the cover. Saville then realised it was a great idea. Saville suggested that the flowers “suggested the means by which power, corruption and lies infiltrate our lives. They’re seductive.”

Pavement – Crooked Rain Crooked Rain (1994)

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Pavement’s homemade album designs are timeless, none more so than their classic 1994 sophomore album Crooked Rain Crooked Rain. “Luck on every finger” is the inscription written below the centre image and the phrase flanks an image of a woman’s hands adorned in turquoise rings and clutching a betting card for horseracing.