8 ALBUM COVERS WITH GROUP PORTRAITS

From the time TheBeatles opted to use Klaus Voorman’s charming portraits of the fab four on their seminal 1966 album, bands have commissioned visual artists to represent themselves on their musical offerings.

Here is a selection.

*

With graphics by Linda Guymon and Art Direction by Richard Roth, this 1975 compilation of Rolling Stones ‘Rarities’ manages to be both fascinating and a trifle disturbing. Not so much instinctual as insectual.

*

The debut album by Stealer’s Wheel (featuring Gerry Rafferty, as the 1979 Pickwick re-issue helpfully informs us) came out in 1972 and had some success based on the single “Stuck in the middle” which featured the immortal lines:

Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right

Here I am, Stuck in the middle with you

Why these lines popped into my head I cannot imagine. Unless it’s the upcoming Federal election.

Artwork by Patrick (just the one name for him) with Art Direction by Mike Doud.

“I’d rather be a zebra than a cow, yes I would, if I only could, I surely would”.

*

Hailing from the UK cathedral city of Canterbury, the highly regarded progressive rock band cleverly incorporated both the literary and the literal with their 1976 2LP compilation album. Caravan songs quite often tell as story, so invoking Chaucer’s famous medieval text was cheeky yet appropriate. Placing the band and associates within the mounted pilgrimage makes for a wonderful gatefold tableau.

*

Moving from equine transport to automobiles we find Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention seeing how many musicians can fit in a vintage car. The occasion was their 1972 album Just Another Band From L.A. It is not easy to determine whether the band are a garnish or whether they have just run over a very large hamburger.

*

Skyhooks appear to have enjoyed a faster mode of transport than the previous bands, according to the cover of their 1974 debut Living In The Seventies. The iconic cover was by Niels Hutchison.

Some years ago I posted this cover with the later live album where the actual band members recreated this scene. Mr Hutchison was kind enough to offer some further insights into the art.

My name is Niels Hutchison, & I did the original artwork for the “Living in the 70s” cover. The “Live in the 80s” cover is a ‘tableau vivant’ of the original. (The practice became common after the invention of photography, with people mimicking the poses of famous paintings.) The same cover appeared again in 1984, with the brown background overprinted with a semi-metallic gold ink for a commemorative ‘gold’ album.

One reason I’m posting this is I googled my own name. (Be warned, kids!) Both my names are mis-spelt in the post above, but it’s not your fault. They appear wrongly on the record’s gatefold. (There is also another error there – I was commissioned by the band, not their label, & assigned no copyright over the artwork to Mushroom Records.) Ah, the sloppy practices of the music industry…!

*

Scarcely even blinking, let alone moving as they listen to themselves on the radio, Aussie blues-rock legends Carson released a live album from their appearance at the 1973 Sunbury Rock Festival on Sunday 27th January. Do you think the art by Stephen Nelson owes something to the work of Robert Crumb?

*

Of the nine studio albums by New Zealand art rock supremos Split Enz, no less than three have original ‘portraits’ of the band as their cover art. The one I’ve chosen is by band member and co-founder Phil Judd (he of the very short tie), with artwork by Graeme Webber. The painting adorns their 1975 debut. I love the way its quirkiness, kookiness even, reflects the crazy energy of that record yet also hints at the underlying dis-ease and melancholy of songs like ‘Time for a change’ or ‘Spellbound’. If you don’t know this record, and respond to the descriptors strewn about this paragraph, get a copy. It’s fabulous.

Did that read ‘debut’? That’s entirely correct for Aus and NZ, but not quite accurate for the UK and elsewhere, where Split Enz toured and built a small but loyal following. In Blighty, Mental Notes was a different beast, one that combined re-recorded tracks from the first LP (produced by Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music) with songs from the sophomore Enz album, Second Thoughts.

For this 1976 version the cover was re-used, though re-gigged to accommodate some small but significant changes. Time for a game of spot-the-difference?

*

These favourites are from the Vinyl Connection collection, but there are many other painted band portraits. Do share your responses to this exhibition plus any others in this category you have enjoyed.

Oh, and for those wondering about the feature image for this post, it is from the inner gatefold of the UK Mental Notes and was included to illustrate that the painting was less odd than the in-the-flesh photograph.

*

23 comments

  1. I thought Judd painted the Mental Notes cove4. Have you heard the new Tim Finn/Eddie Rayner project Forenzics?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are correct, of course. Thanks Graham.

      I saw a clip of Forenzics. Pretty good, I thought. That’s the sum total of my exposure, thus far.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fun idea for a post. In my completely unbiased opinion, of course, the cover of “Revolver” wins hands down! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Phil Judd did indeed do the Cover Painting, while Graeme Webber is credited for Artwork. I’ve always loved this sleeve (not to mention music it wraps around!!), The Skyhooks one is very cool also but boy is it hard to go past Revolver 🙂
      As always, a great post Vinyl Connection!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you very much for the compliment and the confirmation of an editorial slip up (now rectified).
        Cheers.

        Like

  3. chris delprete · · Reply

    You mentioned Robert Crumb. I love his band portraits strewn amid the cover of ‘Cheap Thrills’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice one! That could have qualified for sure.
      Cheers, Chris!

      Like

  4. It won’t surprise you to hear that I love this. And since you dubbed my most recent blog post ‘classic Augenblick’, I’ll call this ‘classic Vinyl Connection’, of the features of which, in addition to insights about music and album art, is wit and wordplay (‘not so much instinctual as insectual’, ‘underlying dis-ease’…). I like all of these examples, with the Beatles and Stones topping the list (just as you have them). As for the Split Enz Spot the Difference, I see two band members with less hair and, I think, one completely new band member…either that or he lost a lot of weight and ditched his glasses. As for other examples of musical artists appearing as art on their album covers, I of course have to mention Joni Mitchell’s self portraits. A good example is Turbulent Indigo, which invokes a work by Van Gogh. Two others I like are Queen’s News of the World and The Talking Heads’ Little Creatures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘News of the World’ is an excellent get. Although I have the Talking Heads, I’d never quite clicked that it is an off-beat portrait of the band. Although this conversation has prompted another album that does fit the bill, by Osbisa.

      If I go for the same theme but with solo artists, Joni will be front and centre!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Really cool topic! I like this Caravan erm… caravan 😛 My favorite of this type would probably be a woodcut group portrait of Jethro Tull adorning their “Stand up” album.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! How could I forget that wonderful Tull LP?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The Patrick who painted The Stealer’s Wheel cover is, of course, the excellent Scottish artist and play writer, John Byrne. Here’s a short article on him… https://dangerousminds.net/comments/the_fabulous_album_cover_art_of_playwright_john_patrick_byrne

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You know I enjoy reading all your posts, but these album cover posts also provide some play-along fun that I can’t get enough of. All of these are great; the old-school cartoony Carson and Mothers especially appeal to me. I had no idea just how many illustrated band portrait covers I had in my own collection until this post sent me exploring. Here I’ll hold myself to citing a few good ones that I ‘know’ you also have in your stacks:

    ELP: Trilogy
    Leaf Hound: Growers of Mushroom
    The Monkees: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd

    And just one you likely don’t have:

    Cheap Trick: Rockford

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brilliant, Vic. Always a joy to see your lil’ baby-head on a comment. And you, sir, have just guaranteed a Part Two of this post!

      Like

  8. Cahoots. Moondog Matinee …….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PS. Fascinating for me to see Moondog Matinee. It was my first Band LP but we got the plain black cover with the ‘neon’ sign.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cahoots came to my mind first , then Moondog … When The Eagle Flies (Your fave Traffic album. I think I like it a little more than you), Who By Numbers, Face Dances, Hymn Of the Seventh Galaxy, Sweetnighter …..

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh man, you are on a roll. Sweetnighter is a fabulous get (my first Weather Report!), as is the Return To Forever.
          Believe it or not, thanks to you and Victim of the Fury we are now within a squeak of a three part series. Come on, CB. Just a couple more!!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Exact same page with RTF a nd WR.
            The others were off top of head. Looked through the pile for these. Road to Ruin, Stand Up, Getting To This. And a perfect fit for the post, Dutch Masters. Ill check back for further finds on your part.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. Ya got me goin’, CB. Found a handful more. Stand by…!

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Great series of posts on album cover artists, Bruce! I hope the ‘final’ set will still be followed by some encores…. 😀 – About the Mothers album, allow me to squeeze in the name of the artist: the brilliant Cal Schenkel. Many greetings from Belgium!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Just Another Band From L.A.’, was in the first post in the series, Guy, and it was remiss of me not to have mentioned Cal Schenkel’s name.
      Really glad you enjoyed it. I think we might return for a solo artists version some time in the future. Enjoy Spring in Belgium. Lovely country.

      Like

Comments and responses welcome for all posts: present or past. Please join in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: