VERTICAL VOYEUR

This next instalment in the ‘vertical gatefold’ series brings together a varied collection of LP covers that feature, um, bodies. A progression from Buffalo’s body parts, you might say, though each is a little challenging or even risqué in its own way.

First up is a double album of the Velvet Underground recorded live in 1969, but only released in 1974 to cash in on Lou Reed’s solo success. I guess it could be classified as an early ‘upskirt’, yet I’ve always seen this artwork as a nod towards Reed’s seedy world, both the early ‘Venus in Furs’ S&M and the later songs of hookers, chancers and addicts epitomised by ‘Walk on the wild side’.

Even more cheeky, is Funkadelic’s Free Your Mind… And Your Ass Will Follow. The woman is photographed against a sky blue background, reaching towards the sun. What is fascinating is that if you cover up the bottom (!) and view just the part visible in the record racks, there’s nothing racy at all, just a bare-armed woman with wonderfully fly hair.

That’s what I love about these ‘portrait’ format covers: often the message is enhanced, extended or even totally altered by the addition of an extra panel. As a warmup, let loose your imagination as you look at the front cover of the third Ohio Players record, released in December 1972. It is called Pleasure.

The third cover in this opening trilogy is from obscure German prog-fusion band Kollektiv. This prized 1973 LP was purchased from Pipé Records in Melbourne back in the uni dropout days of the mid-70s. The music is fabulous: complex, creative, engaging, timeless. But anyone who feels entirely comfortable with the cover image should probably seek help.

So. Back to Dayton’s finest funksters. 

The Ohio Players were formed w a y back, but came to prominence in the mid-70s with a smooth, horn-rich dance funk that filled clubs. I’m not a big fan, myself. But I really like the early seventies albums—a stripped back, lean, mean funk sound that works because it makes you work.

Their second album, Pain, was released in February 1972 and drew comment as much for its gatefold sleeve as for the grooves inside.

The photo—provocative and sexy— was taken by Joel Brodsky and featured model Pat Evans. This was confronting stuff in the early 70s: a powerful bald black woman dominating a very flexible male companion. Perhaps it was a kind of album blaxploitation, or simply stirring the pot. However it was viewed, some folks simply didn’t want to see; the LP was banned in parts of middle America.

Were the Ohio Players bothered?

Here’s the next album, from later the same year, and the fourth, from 1973.

 

It’s probably not necessary to spell out how the ‘completed’ pictures change the story. 

What is fascinating, however, is the story of the feature model, Pat Evans*.

I was unable to discover who took this stunning portrait. If anyone knows, please advise so the appropriate credit can be added

“When I first started modelling, nobody wanted me,” she admits. “I had long hair and they were into very dark skin and Afros at the time. They said, ‘You’re not black enough.’”

What is not well-known is that Ms Evans is not African-American, but Native American. Nor did she become a modelling star overnight. After being rejected by several black modelling agencies, Evans was signed by Stewart Models, a top white agency. 

Twiggy was signed to them, so I thought there was no way I would get in there. But they took me the same day. Aside from Twiggy, I was the highest paid model at the agency. From there, my career just took off

Although rapidly scaling the greasy modelling pole, Evans became disenchanted with what she saw as “hair worshipers”. In a bold impulse, she cut hers off completely.

Fearing losing work, and somewhat regretting breaking out the shaving kit, Evans took to wearing wigs. Eventually, inevitably, this came unstuck, but the feared reprisals did not take place. 

On the contrary, “it was like an overnight sensation; I was in every newspaper the next day and every magazine.” 

The catwalk is not an easy life, and Evans’ freely shared opinions did not endear her to some industry power-brokers, resulting in a downturn in modelling work. Fortunately her skills as a stylist and make-up artist had developed into a very marketable commodity, and Evans found work with artists and performers including Isaac Hayes and Nona Hendryx. She also started her own highly successful modelling agency, specialising ‘minority’ groups.

The link between blaxploitation and these arresting album covers would require more insight than this record collector has, yet one can’t help but see Pat Evans as the Pam Grier of modelling… and record covers.

As for the Ohio Players, when they moved from the Westbound label to Mercury, the covers shifted from gatefold to centrefold. ‘Nuff said.

* Quotes from Art Nouveau Magazine, ‘The Bald and the Beautiful’, published on-line November 2011, accessed 30 June 2018.

 

24 comments

  1. Great article, esp. learning the backstory of Pat Evans. Also, the scrolling format of blogposts is perfect for viewing the top half of these covers before revealing the bottom (sometimes in more ways than one!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cheers Rick. I reckon one of the reasons searches bring up so few ‘vertical’ gatefolds is the screen size issue, solved by scrolling of course. This series is a humble attempt to augment those searches. (smile)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bruce, it looks as though the guy who took the pic of Pat Evans above is Anthony Barboza: https://timeline.com/photographer-anthony-barboza-black-artists-inclusion-e2a4f96a7842; sounds as though those pics of Evans kickstarted both their careers. Re: Ohio Players, I liked a lot of their stuff that played on AM radio in the 1970s, and have to say that I’m glad I didn’t know what the accompanying album art looked like…!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Radio hath pathways for the ears and absence for the eyes. Sometimes not a bad thing, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Is it hot in here or is it me? Now, I knew nothing of this woman till I read this. And being the inquiring sort, I had to do a little research. And it turns out she dated Leonard Nimoy way back when! She even wrote a brief (26 pages) memoir about it called “In This Garden: Me and Mr. Spock.” Lucky guy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And after all that, she just retired. Hope she’s happy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She could have retired with me then we’d both be happy!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. I reckon it’d be quite the task to find a more risqué cover than those Ohio Players… they really took the vertical gatefold idea and ran with it, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure did. The centrefold years are much less interesting: more t&a than s&m!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Good on Funkadelic for that, witty and well played. I always felt like I was on another planet listening to them (and often was). Enjoyed this on my phone, up and down.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Vertical gatefolds and scrolling. A match made in silicon heaven.
      Cheers Bill.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Ha, ha. From my glass of white to yours. Kim Crawford sauv blanc. Good morning!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. smoke gets in your……..

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This post has sent me on a series of journeys since it went up, VC. First, having little familiarity with Ohio Players, I decided to look up the one album I do remember, Honey, to see if it also was a vertical gatefold. It was and how! Then I saw the inside foldout and, well… time to collect some vinyl!!!

    Next I went down a Parliament/Funkadelic hole from which I had some trouble emerging. Never had Free Your Mind… but three other F’s and two P’s came off the shelves and into my ears while at work today. Finally, I spent the last hour and a half in the pool getting my funk on with The Gap Band and Rick James. All Pleasure, no Pain.

    I much appreciate that you ‘Show Me the Way’ like this. ‘It’s a Plain Shame’ but I guess I need to be led sometimes. That’s cool though, right? As long as these ‘Lines on My Face’ come from smiling, who cares how I got here. ‘Do You Feel Like (I) Do’ on that matter, VC?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Down the rabbit hole or up the vertical spout, eh Vic? Glad you enjoyed the soundtrack. I’ll confess to you (don’t tell anyone) that I own precisely no Ohio Players albums. I just followed the gatefold trail on the basis of seeing ‘Ecstasy’ in the record shop I worked in as a late teen. I didn’t know what to make of it at all.

      What a funky afternoon. Love the idea of cooling off with some hot funk.

      Looks a bit like a box of inverted commas was spilled into your third para there, Vic. Though some of those sentences sound strangely like song titles. Have you been doing some writing?

      Like

  8. chris delprete · · Reply

    What a trip! Those were the records I dare not bring home as a young teen. A young teen who hid ‘Body Love’ way back in the collection (bloody Pipe record shop taste makers wouldn’t let me leave without it) and would only bring out ‘Electric Ladyland’ (import copy) after dark and only then on headphones so as not to attract too much parental attention. Sometimes I dreaded those words “What are you listening to son?” The Beatles were a safe bet (group and solo) but any Black Sabbath or their ilk would elicit a good stern lecture. That said the one song that really raised the parental hackles was ‘Hold Your Head Up’ by Argent, something about “damn repetition and lack of musicality” from my musician father.

    Like

  9. I’ve enjoyed this vertical series Bruce.
    To borrow your line about the message being altered/extended/enhanced when you see the extra panel of the cover, I find the same could be said with each additional post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very kind, Geoff. We do love our cover art ’round these parts!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve held my tongue long enough. This kind of stuff brings out the Tarzan in CB. Streetwalkers ‘Downtown Flyers’ fits your theme to a tee. I think you know this band. Keep them coming Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Classic! Never seen that album before, but it fits the bill perfectly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I will try to control myself if you post more fold outs. I got attacked by my Gal the other day. She’s 5’8″. I’m still licking my wounds.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. As a fan of casual LP nudity I have long wanted all the Ohio Players LPs – but I have genuinely never seen one in the wild. I like their stuff musically too, ‘Fopp’ is great, but let’s not try and kid anyone here!

    In fact I am ashamed to say I don’t own any of these at all.

    I would volunteer the Moondog album from 1969 for your series though. I love the cover as much as I love the LP. I found mine for £2 in the classical section of a market stall about 25 years ago, not a bad investment that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Moondog from 1969… well done laddie! Rare as hen’s teeth these days, I imagine.
      As are the Ohio Players LPs. I’ve never seen them either – this was a rare example of wanting to include them as part of the series and straying outside the collection. Pat Evans’ story is fascinating, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Pat Evans story was fascinating, I’d never have guessed her ethnicity at all.

        My Moondog album has a sticker on it to say it once belonged to a local radio station – those were the days, eh?

        Liked by 1 person

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