Doug Thompson: THE FLIP SIDE! THE STRANGEST VINYL ALBUM COVERS!

Doug Thompson headshotLast month, we discussed classic album covers.  This time, we’re on the flip side – some of the strangest album covers.  I imagine that you all have your own favourite for ‘Strangest Album Cover of All Time.  There were so many to choose from.  I know most of you who know me won’t find it hard to believe that I actually have a couple of these albums in my own record archives.  I’m not telling which ones.

 

Album cover designers don’t set out to create crap (although as you’ll see on at least one cover, that was the result).  For each of these covers, someone (qualified I hope), sat down, thought it through and came up with these gems.  Since they’re all now on the internet, these album covers are out there FOREVER!

You may have seen one or two (or even more) of these covers previously, but hey, let’s round them all up for one big blog bonfire.

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STRANGE ALBUM COVER #1

We’ll start with one of the most evil men in history, Charles Manson.  I’ll leave the actual musical contents of his “Lie: The Love And Terror Cult” album to other reviewers.  I’m only concerned here with the cover…and it’s pretty scary.  But hey, The Beach Boys did record the Manson song “Cease To Exist” from this album (although the Boys from the Beach drastically changed the lyrics and the song, now called  “Never Learn Not To Love” was released on The Beach Boys 1969 album “20/20”).  Manson and his ‘girls’ were also quite chummy with Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson for a time until Dennis wised up and cut off all contact.  Even if you didn’t know about the horrific murders Manson ordered his cult to do, you wouldn’t want this record in your collection, believe me.  Just look into those crazed eyes and you’ll see what I mean.  The man is truly crazy..CRAZY! (allegedly).  This album, released in March of 1970 copies the LIFE magazine cover from December 1969 without the ‘F’ in LIFE. The songs had been recorded in 1967 and ’68 mainly at Goldstar, the Hollywood recording studios made famous by another convicted murderer, producer Phil Spector.

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STRANGE ALBUM COVER #2

These album covers are in no particular order, but here’s an ‘oldie and a goodie’ from The Louvin Brothers (Charlie and Ira), a successful country duo who recorded for Capitol Records.  Released originally on vinyl in 1959, “Satan Is Real” was re-released on CD in 1996 and again in 2007 as well as 2011, both of the latter with additional material.  The Louvin Brothers were well known for their spirituals and had many country hits to their credit.  This album, along with songs for an additional album (over 20) were recorded in just seven days by producer Ken Nelson.  Of course everything was mono back in 1958, band and singers were usually recorded together (and often mixed on the fly), plus there was very little overdubbing.   Songs from this album were later covered by Emmylou Harris (“Satan’s Jeweled Crown”) on her 1975 album, “Elite Hotel” while The Byrds covered “The Christian Life” that was on their 1968 country rock album “Sweetheart of The Rodeo”.  One music writer, Scott Walden, even compared The Louvin Brothers to The Velvet Underground, stating “Their comprehension of the tortured throes of a drunkard’s Satan infested soul are no less profound than Lou Reed’s understanding of a heroin junkie wrestling with a world devoid of meaning beyond the piercing tip of the needle.”    Ira Louvin himself designed the cover.  Satan is a 12 foot high cardboard cut out and The Louvin Brothers are standing in a rock quarry while the fire and brimstone behind them is actually several hidden tires soaked in kerosene.

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STRANGE ALBUM COVER #3

In my last column, we profiled the classic Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass album cover “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” released in 1965 as well as some of the copycat covers over the years.  Somehow I missed this one, The Frivolous FiveSour Cream and Other Delights” and frankly, I should have kept on missing it.  Nobody really wants to see five grannies slathered in either whipped cream or shaving cream (hopefully not naked under all that cream).  I wonder what the music sounds like?  If I owned a shrink wrapped copy of this album (which I don’t), I would never open it to find out.  Somewhere in heaven, Mrs. Miller is smiling…off key naturally.

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STRANGE ALBUM COVERS #4

For this album cover, 1981’s “Beastiality” by The Handsome Beasts, I don’t know who to feel sadder for, the pig or the naked guy.  In actual fact, the naked guy is singer Garry Dalloway (or Dalway, it’s spelled both ways apparently).  I had my choice of several album covers from The Handsome Beasts, a British heavy metal band originally from Birmingham, England.  Check out their site for some of the other semi offensive covers (there’s at least one the Catholic Church will definitely not like) www.thehandsomebeasts.co.uk.   The Kerrang dictionary of Heavy Metal called Garry Dalloway (or Dalway), who died of a heart attack in 2005, the ‘original fat bastard’.  Somewhere in New York City, a bemused Mike Myers is smiling.  Get in ma belly!  Oh behave baby, behave!

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STRANGE ALBUM COVER # 5

OK, what genius at Word Records thought this one would sell?  Word is a Waco, Texas label, known for releasing religious and spiritual albums.  I can hear the pitch meeting now, (A LITTLE HARP MUSIC IF YOU PLEASE MAESTRO) “Hi gang, listen I’ve got a group of nine former heroin addicts who used to sing together while strung out. Not always on key either, but what the hell….oops, I mean heck.  Waddya say we record an entire album of gospel songs with ‘em and put it out.  Could be a huge seller, ‘specially in New Yawk City.  Lots of addicts there”.  Redemption indeed.  Two years before recording “The Addicts Sing” album, originally released in 1965, these same Nine Former Addicts toured the United States in a van and gave heartfelt testimonials to the evils of junkiedom to anyone who’d listen.  By the way, if you’re really interested in this album, there are plenty of copies available for sale on ebay.   

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STRANGE ALBUM COVER #6

Here’s one of my all-time favourites, 1979’s “The Ethel Merman Disco Album”.  Oh that disco craze got anybody and everybody into the recording studio.  Broadway belter and sometimes actress Ethel Merman was no exception.  Apparently, all of the songs on this album were recorded in one take (with Ms. Merman of course, not needing an actual microphone.  She was very loud).  The album has become a cult classic and is highly sought out by collectors of camp recordings.  Legendary Hollywood record company A&M, home to Cat Stevens, Peter Frampton, The Carpenters, Quincy Jones, Captain & Tennille, Supertramp, Joe Cocker, Procol Harum, Gino Vanelli and Bryan Adams, released this gem.  Somewhere, counting their hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of A&M to Polygram in 1989, Herb Alpert (the ‘A’) and Jerry Moss (the ‘M’) are laughing their asses off.

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STRANGE ALBUM COVER #7

Paddy RobertsSongs For Gay Dogs” came out in 1963 on British Decca, the same label as The Rolling Stones later recorded for in England.  Paddy was (he died in 1975) a South African singer, songwriter who’d served in the RAF during WWII.  He later became a commercial pilot for BOAC.  He had a top notch reputation as a songwriter, he wrote or co-wrote two British # 1 hits and won 5 Ivor Novello Awards (A huge deal in Britain).  Paddy’s own albums had fairly risqué lyrics for the early ‘60’s.  The only question I have about this album cover is – which one’s the gay dog again?

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STRANGE ALBUM COVER #8

This album cover answers the question “Whatever happened to Pinocchio’s creator Gepetto and what’s Francis the Talking Mule doing there?  Apparently, they teamed up with a kid who looks like a cross between a young Mickey Rooney and a young Bill Clinton and released this album.  Hee haw!

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STRANGE ALBUM COVER #9

The Ohio Players album covers in the ‘70’s with the naked (and semi naked women) covered in syrup or whatever, were sexy as all get out.  This Millie Jackson album cover…not so much.  Nothing says soul more than taking a dump: “Owww baby, I really, really got the blues.”  I have to admit though, that bathroom looks very clean and sanitary.  Jackson had major success for a time in the music business.  Three of her albums were certified Gold (over 500,000 sold).  I have a strong suspicion that 1989’s “Back To The S**t” wasn’t one of those records.  Millie had her own afternoon drive time (3 to 6PM) radio show on KKDA in Dallas, Texas for 13 years (although she actually broadcast from her home in Atlanta, Georgia).  Her final radio program was in January of 2012.  She’s also the mother of R&B singer Keisha Jackson, who I hope never creates a CD cover like her mother’s.

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STRANGE ALBUM COVER #10

And our last album cover for this column is probably one of the most offensive ever released (at least in my opinion).  Pooh Man, aka M C Pooh aka Lawrence Lee Thomas released his album “Funky As I Wanna Be” in 1992.  That’s pretty funky stuff if you ask me.  Not surprisingly, this was Pooh Man’s only charted album (although it only ‘bubbled’ under the Top 200 albums at # 158).  Probably the less said about this, the better.  Woman’s Rights Groups, don’t e-mail me, don’t twitter me.  I hate this cover too.

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STRANGE ALBUM COVERS #11

And just so as we don’t leave on a tasteless note, here’s one from my own collection and the cover really isn’t that strange.  It’s everyone’s favourite chicken man, Colonel Sanders with “Tijuana Picnic”.  It looks like a nice family scene doesn’t it?  It’s a ‘Special products’ promotional album created for Kentucky Fried Chicken stores featuring Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass performing their hits “The Lonely Bull”, “Tijuana Taxi”, “A Taste of Honey”, “Spanish Flea” and about 6 more.  You can still buy this on Amazon starting at $69.99.  I found my sealed copy of this album a couple of years ago at Amoeba, the gigantic record store at the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga in Los Angeles, and bought it simply because I liked the cover and the price was only twenty bucks. I’d also met the Colonel several times in the mid 1960’s (he lived near Toronto for a number of years and was an occasional guest on Larry Solway’s late night radio call-in program, “Speak Your Mind” on CHUM 1050 – a program I produced for two years).  And yes, he always came wearing that famous white suit.       

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Doug’s column appears here every 4th Monday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com.

DBAWIS_ButtonDoug Thompson has spent his entire adult life in broadcasting, both in Canada and the U.S. and has won 152 awards for his work.  He worked with Canadian actor John Candy for 17 years, writing and producing commercials, specials and several weekly radio programs.

Currently, he’s writing and producing the second season of a television program for the Hi Fi channel in Canada called “Hi Fi Salutes”, a series of short biographical documentaries on Canadian musicians, producers and record industry pioneers.  One of those programs recently won a Platinum Award at the World Film Festival in Houston.

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