Friday, September 25, 2020

#11 - Quadrophenia: The Who (1973)

Pete Townsend loved concept albums. There’s Tommy, of course. Quadrophenia tells the story of a mod during the ‘60s by the name of Jimmy. The title, meaning “four minds,” comes from Jimmy’s multiple personality disorder (but also represents the four members of the band).

The album would be turned into a movie, though without any music (?!?!).

And, yes, that’s Sting

It’s also been turned into a musical and been recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

As for the album (a double, actually), it’s pretty good. “Love Reign O’er Me,” “The Real Me,” and “5:15” are all great.

The tour was something of a disaster, though, with Moon passing out on stage once and considerable trouble with the equipment.

One of the better moments

The cover was done by Graham Hughes, based on an idea from Roger Daltrey, who often had a say with the covers. Hughes has almost 80 album credits to his name, including more by the Who, a number of the band member’s solo efforts, and some from other acts like Wings, Robert Palmer, and Roxy Music.

The model is Terry Kennett, a 23-year-old paint sprayer Townsend met in a pub. 
Here's a real mod, though one of a rather extreme variety:

And here's the band from, from back in mod days. 

Clockwise, from top left – Moon, Entwhistle, Daltrey, Townsend

This will have to do for parodies:

Saturday, September 19, 2020

#12 - Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin (1969)

Here’s the perfect example of the strengths of a super simple design. Black and white, a single image, a little hint of color in the corners. 

Of course, the image itself is pretty iconic too, taken seconds after the zeppelin Hindenburg burned and crashed in Lakehurst, NJ in 1937. In fact, it’s been called “the most famous news photo ever taken.”

In contrast, here’s a shot of the airship in all its glory.

Would you believe it was 767 feet long, held 5M cubic feet of gas, and carried 87 passengers and crew?

Led Zeppelin would use an outline of the image in their second album, along with a pic of the band mixed in with some WWI German aviators (who, together, look more like a motorcycle gang).

The idea for the cover came from Jimmy Page, and was executed by George Hardie, of the legendary design firm Hipgnosis. 

He’s got 50-some credits to his name, including several more for Led Zeppelin as well as plenty of others (and mostly as art director):

After Hipgnosis, Hardie was a professor of graphic design at the University of Bristol. You’ll see some more of him a little later in this blog.

This was the first album I ever owned (I think I was 12). I still remember every song. And there were some good ones too – “Communication Breakdown,” “Good Times Bad Times,” “You Shook Me” …

What’s interesting about this album is how it was put together. The band had actually been rehearsing for only a month when they entered the studio. Lacking a contract, they paid for everything themselves, spending a mere £2,000 and finishing everything within 36 hours.

The band was the result of the breakup of the Yardbirds, where Jimmy Page had made a name for himself (he’s second from the left):

The band name came from Keith Moon, of the Who, who thought the new group would go over like the proverbial lead balloon.

Parodies? I have a few ...

Friday, September 11, 2020

#13 - Cheap Thrills: Big Brother & the Holding Company (1968)

This is actually another Janis Joplin album, as she was the lead singer and face of the band. With Pearl at #15 that actually puts two of Janis’s albums in the top 20. Who woulda thunkit? 

The original cover was supposed to be a portrait of Janis (and this the back cover), but Janis loved it so much they switched. Here’s the actual back cover:

Janis was a big fan of underground comics, especially of R. Crumb, the artist behind the cover.

In case you’ve never heard of him (honestly, you've never heard of him?), he’s basically the father of underground comics. Fritz the Cat? Mr. Natural? Zap Comix? Yup, it’s all R. (Robert) Crumb.

He’s actually got over 140 album credits (including some for his own band). Here are a couple I like:

The big hit off this baby was “Piece of My Heart.” The album made #1 in the US, and also sold 2 million copies as well.

Brother, brother, brother, Janis, brother:

A coupla homages:

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Friday, September 4, 2020

#14 - Rumors: Fleetwood Mac (1977)

If you were a heterosexual male, spent part of your teen years in the ‘70s, and didn’t have a major crush on Stevie Nicks, there’s something’s wrong with you.

Indeed, the whole group were incredibly beautiful people. Here we’ve got 6’5” Mick Fleetwood, paired with 5’1” Stevie Nicks, doing some sort of dance move. Whatever it is, it’s rather graceful and elegant.

The photographer was Herbert Worthington. 

A friend of Buddy Miles and Jimi Hendrix, he’s got over 60 album credits to his name. Those credits include a few for Fleetwood Mac and a ton for Steve Nicks:

And here’s a special callout for Larry Vigon, who did the wonderful typography. 

He’s got 86 credits overall (and not just for typography), including these covers that I rather like:

As for the album? Ah, it’s just a Grammy winner and 40-million seller. I understand it’s got a few hits – “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” “Don’t Stop,” “You Make Loving Fun” … Nothing special.

Rumors represented a softer, poppier approach for the group. It was also made in one of the most chaotic environments ever – what Wikipedia calls “hedonistic behaviour and interpersonal strife” and someone else called "excess at its most excessive." The band was indeed a walking soap opera fueled by lots and lots of cocaine, but somehow managed to produce some great stuff.

Mick, Stevie, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham

Parodies? Yeah, I was able to find a couple:

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