Along the broad and crowded highway of record collecting there are some fascinating diversions. One I enjoy involves albums that appear with different sleeves in different parts of the world. It is not a particular obsession of mine; I have several, but we need to know each other better for them to be revealed in the dappled light of the blogshere. Still, when I come across alternate covers, I tend to grab them if the price is right.
Some show a pleasing attention to detail. My hypothesis (citation needed) is that this Godley and Creme album accurately represents how learner driver ‘L’ plates looked in the UK and Australia, circa 1978.
Other ‘alternate versions’ are much easier to understand and frequently relate, as Jane Austen may have said, to Censorship and Sensibility. Blind Faith and Jimi Hendrix both had releases offensive to those elevated guardians who protect us from corruption by album covers, resulting in less salacious alternatives being released. A striking example in this category remains Roxy Music’s “Country Life”.
This 1974 album was always going to cause controversy – still does if you believe the on-line forums – so an alternative was prepared for the US market. Whether models Constanze Karoli and Eveline Grunwald received royalties for either version is unknown to this writer. The alternative cover used the photo from the original back of the LP and is considered by some to be more aesthetically pleasing, if less eye-catching.
Yet the grandaddy of all alternate covers has to be the 1973 album by British heavy prog band Atomic Rooster. For the previous album “Made in England”, Vincent Crane recruited respected soul blues belter Chris Farlowe. The singer appears again on “Nice ‘n’ Greasy” bringing a suitably powerful soul feel to much of the material. Perhaps this accounts for its rather lowly status amongst fans of heavy prog who do not cherish pollution of their Hammond organ solos. For mine it is certainly a lesser Rooster album; I just cannot find a connection with Mr Farlowe’s hystrionic delivery even in this overtly theatrical context.
The cover most people know does relate to the title, though why one would describe a fried egg with a cigarette butt stubbed into it as ‘nice’ is beyond me.
In the US this was the fourth Atomic Rooster album as the first didn’t get a release at the time. They opted for a rooster-in-space theme with planets and rockets. Hold that rocket image, you’ll need it (and a stiff drink) in a moment.
So far we have two covers. But wait, there’s more: the original European cover. This is quite a different visual concept from the first, though the rocket motif does get a boost. But really I am prevaricating now and that is because in any poll of the worst, most tasteless, ridiculous covers of all time, this album would doubtless earn a podium finish. If you are of a sensitive disposition, now’s the time for that bracer…
It is tempting to deconstruct this folly, but I’ll resist. Other than to note that in the two mainstream resources I consulted (allmusic.com and Wikipedia), this cover has fallen off the Atomic Rooster discography. Points for good taste, sure, but also a disturbing example of “Censorship and Sensibility” in practice?
OK. Move on.
Sometimes the alternate version is not particularly noteworthy and one wonders, why the change? Perhaps the artwork did not arrive from the source country. Maybe the international record company simply wanted to place their thumb-print on the project; sort of keeping an eye on things.
The Uriah Heep cover is one of my favourites. The inner sleeve is made of reflective silver cardboard so that the album does function as a mirror of sorts. One can indeed look at oneself, though the image is rather distorted. Or are those distended curves and blurry details more true than I care to admit?
If you talk to record buffs, one recurring theme is the collection as an extension of the collector.
“It’s part of who I am”.
A reflection of personality, an expression of identity.
Which begs the question: what would a true image of ourselves – our real inner selves – actually look like? That would be a remarkable record cover indeed.
Roxy Music “Country Life” [Atlantic 1974]
Godly & Creme “L” [Mercury/Polydor 1978]
Atomic Rooster “Nice ‘n’ Greasy” [Dawn / Elektra / Brain 1973]
Uriah Heep “Look At Yourself” [Bronze/Mercury 1971]
© Bruce Jenkins / Vinyl Connection 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bruce Jenkins/Vinyl Connection with appropriate and specific links back to the original content. Copyright is not claimed for images of album covers / LPs.