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Location: Portland, Oregon

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Sunday, October 18, 2009


One may learn a great deal from album covers. I spend way, wayyy too much of my time looking at them, since I spend wayyy too much of my time shopping for used vinyl. This has led to the place where the ones you always see have a ritualized sort of joke vocabulary to them.

But also, returning like long-lost friends, I see the ones I saw as a kid, and could not make heads or tails of. I see now that there was good reason for this.

The duo of Hall and Oates have a spaceship. Maybe you'd like to take a ride in what we around here like to call the Halloatesamaship.

Along the way, we'll have some good times, maybe write a song or two, enjoy the upholstery on these couches, and be forever thankful that we stocked up on the proper supplies.

And what would those be? Oh, I don't know...Would you like a RITZ (tm) Brand Cracker? If you are going to be exploring in the Halloatesamaship, you're going to need nutrition, and there's no way to get as much nutrition as the nutrition in a RITZ (tm) Brand Cracker!

I now see that the Halloatesamaship actually is tiny. It's exploring a mixing console, or a series of them. Tiny Hall, Tiny Oates, and the tiniest box of RITZ (tm) Brand Crackers I've ever seen in my life.

You know, it never once occurred to me as a child that possibly this duo's name could have come from their last names. I looked at this record, and it seemed pretty clear to me that they were describing the harmonious blend of two very different types of people who could, under certain circumstances, get together and make music.

Because the guy on the left is very clearly trying to pantomime being a seal, right? And that means therefore that the guy on the right is a 'croft', right?

And what -just going on what little information I have here- do crofts do? They rock out, that's what. That guy is totally fucking rocking out.

Seals, on the other hand, are religious, or something.

Gordon Lightfoot's albums all have a big picture of Gordon Lightfoot on them. This is comforting, lest one were to suddenly forget whether or not one was listening to an album by Gordon Lightfoot.

It being the '70's and all, I became pretty fluent in the vocabulary of Gordon Lightfoot album cover art. Summertime Dream has a dreamy, blurry picture-that-is-made-to-look-like-a-drawing on it, of Gord, looking pensive; smoking. It looks like the logo on a bottle of Lightfoot: The Cologne. Sundown's picture features a somewhat surprised-looking Gord, seated casually on the floor of a barn.

But here, image and word fit perfectly side by side. Well, I mean, just look at him: he is gold, isn't he? Good God, it's Gold Gord!

This one always bothered me. Still does.

Is Billy thinking, man, where'd that stranger go? Is he thinking and how come strangers always leave masks? too? And beds. And boxing gloves.

Or is Billy the stranger? Is he strange because he sleeps with a mask? He looks like he's talking to it, and perhaps he is: "Hey what's happening, mask? Are you a stranger?"

Along with the rest of these ruminations, it occurred to my young mind that maybe Billy Joel had a very boring life, and seemed to have a nightlife about as exciting as my own.

If this was what being an adult was all about, I wanted no part of it.

In keeping with the singer-songwriter thing here, let us consider the case of Kenny. Man, does that guy love livin'!

He is completely ecstatic to be doin' what he's doin', ala all blind artists, who must be consistently photographed with beatific smiles on their faces, since it's so much fun being blind. But on the other hand, this is casual Kenny, just kinda, y'know, what the hell? Let's go put on a multimillion dollar road tour, what with the fireworks, and me looming impossibly tall over my fans! I'll bring my guitar penis!

This photo is possibly inaccurate in how willing or likely your average concert goer is in wanting to touch Kenny. Possibly that is a file photo taken at some other concert.

(By the way, that image of Kenny was found at, which is a weird little site about what certainly seems to be a Ween-esque joke band. They suggest that perhaps they will attend a symposium on how to pose for an album cover hosted by Kenny!)

There have been more embarrassing pictures taken of Rod Stewart than pretty much any other person on earth, I think. Not just on his album covers, but pretty much every time I've seen his image captured on film.

And it doesn't help his case at all that these are pictures of Rod Stewart, if you follow me. It's just not much of a jump to go from "he just looks like he got caught doing something disgusting" to "Rod just got caught doing something disgusting again." His reputation has always preceded him.

If it were anyone else, you'd be like, 'hm. He looks odd. Probably just an awkward time for him.' But this isn't anyone else. This is Rod, and the whole thing just feels wrong.

Ah, mysticism and symbolic imagery. It says so little but means so much, you know? And when you're a little kid walking around Bi-Mart, and you encounter such deep symbolism that you'll never really truly ever figure it out, the first thing your mind goes to is that little kid is gonna poop.

Yup, him and all the rest of those naked children are crawling up those cold rocks, and god knows why, it probably means something about angels or something, and...I'm sorry, but that little pink kid is gonna take a shit!

Well, you try being a big shot designer some time. It's really hard, man...You want people to be happy, but not too happy, you know? You kind of want them to walk away going, "what the fuck was that?" a little bit, secretly, to themselves. And then feeling bad that they didn't get it.

And here, I think, is the very first album cover I ever came to truly know and love. Paul Simon tries out the first of many ways of calling attention away from his male pattern baldness, while caressing a shiny knob. Art Garfunkel's baldness, which was much, much more excruciating based on how his hair is/was, has not yet begun.

Even better though, is the fact that they were encouraged to smile on this cover, which they pretty much never did otherwise. Here, they trotted out those blazers that they owned but could never wear because kids would have thought them "uncool".

Here, we see how rock n' roll is for grown-ups and kids alike! These aren't gritty folk-rockers, these are the two nicest boys in debate club! The finest our school has to offer! Won't you please buy?

And of course, I took this picture one hundred per cent literally. How the hell'd they do that? How the hell didn't everybody die?

I was also obsessed with the name of this band, and thought it the most badass thing ever, leading me to attempt to form a street gang: The Daredevils. We were...In second grade, I believe, and had no idea what sort of things street gangs did. Mayhem, I guess.

We got in some trouble, though, for smashing a bunch of berries onto the across-the-street neighbor's bright, white garage door. We disbanded shortly thereafter.

About the cover, though? Well, it strongly resembles both Lynyrd Skynyrd's Street Survivors and Chicago's Greatest Hits. I like too, how you cannot mistake the goofiness. The goofy just won't let you go, and it's entirely because of the over-the-top mugging. As if to say, We're Joking! Ha! Ha Ha! Look at us Joke!

There's about twelve thousand more of these, of course. I just can't think of them all right now. Get back to this after my next visit to a record store.



Blogger Aunty Christ said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:20 PM  
Blogger LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Man, oh, man, someday we've definitely got to meet up and go vinyl shopping or take a tour of each other's mutual collections. I've had similar questions but different answers on most of these.

Hall & Oates' Bigger Than Both of Us - I always thought the Ritz crackers were a pun for the first single "Rich Girl" off this one. Exactly where they were confused me too. Because Hall appears on the back looking off what appears to be a balcony, I thought it was some Jetsons' style apartment building. But maybe it was him looking at the waving fans on Mars. Now that child protective services have taken custody of balloon boy, they can send him to Hall & Oates so they will finally be able to raise the child together they always wanted. He'd probably enjoy flying in a real space ship.

Billy Joel's The Stranger - What mystified me was that no one other than I was struck by the fact that this and Abbey Road are the only two albums with a guy in a formal suit who is barefoot. I don't know that if you play "Just the Way You Are" that you'll hear Phil Ramone saying "Billy is dead."

Kenny Loggins' Alive - Kenny always reminded me of Grover, my favorite and (I felt) most under-rated Muppet. They were both furry, manic, happy demeanor and had the same throaty and chirpy vocal delivery.

Led Zeppelin's House of the Holy - Wasn't this supposed to be about virgin sacrifice or something?

And here is one of my favorite album covers. Whatever jokes might be made about the fashion and title, it's a great album.

6:27 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

There was an interview I found yesterday with Storm Thorgerson, who designed that 'Zep cover (and many others) for Hipgnosis. I almost included some quotes from him, since he's this curmudgeonly bastard who really doesn't care about the client, just the project. No matter the cost to you, Storm will get it done!

He also designed that 'ALBUM COVER' album cover for XTC. Weird, huh?

10:20 AM  
Blogger Aunty Christ said...

Let's try this again...

Here's some hot Rod Stewart action for you. Even Britt Ekland looks a little disgusted.

If that link still don't work, go here:

10:21 AM  
Blogger George Popham said...

I always get a lot of fun out of doing a little mental archeology and reconstructing the way I explained the world to myself between the ages of 5 and 15... or 20 or 30.

Oh, those Ozark Mountain Daredevils! They, along with Black Oak Arkansas, also seemed to me to have the most bad ass and rocking names in the known universe as well. Hilarious... There is of course, much more that can be done along these lines.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

Kenny Loggins is blind?
Another great post, Rich!

3:08 PM  

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