July 07, 2019

The Dying Art of Album Covers — Part Three

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Beatles Abbey Road Cover

The Beatles have always had interesting album covers. At three of them caused a great deal of controversy. We may get to others in the future, but today we will focus on the cover of Abbey Road.

When Paul McCartney did a pencil sketch of what he wanted on the cover of Abbey Road, he never imagined what demons he would unleash. It did seem pretty simple and straight forward. The fab four walking across Abbey Road.

The only problem that anyone foresaw was crowd control and traffic. That was easily solved when the police blocked off the area and gave the photographer just ten minutes to take his best shots. Despite having to balance himself on a step ladder while taking the legendary photo, the work was accomplished in the allotted time. Everyone was happy with the results.

Then just before the album was released a very shocking story came out on the new wires. I remember it well because at the very time I was on the air on WDAS FM. Frankly I was very reluctant to mention it on the air because to me it seemed very unreal. Finally it was decided that it should be read to our listeners just so they wouldn’t hear about it elsewhere. I read it with a disclaimer that there was no evidence that it was true.

The story stated that someone (whose name I’d just as soon not mention) had proof that Paul McCartney was dead. The claim further related that Paul died in an auto accident in 1966 and a lookalike named William Campbell had taken his place.

Despite the outlandish claim, the rumors just would not go away. It reached a fever pitch when the Abbey Road album was released. Those who were convinced that the rumors were factual pointed to the clues on the album cover. Rather than prove the conspiracy theorists to be right, the so called evidence seemed pretty flimsy.

Paul was out of step with the others. Really? He is also left handed and was carrying a cigarette in his right hand. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t shoes. Dead men don’t wear shoes apparently. . Perhaps the dumbest theory was that the VW pictured in the photo was F 28. The claim there was that Paul would have been 28 had he lived. Well, actually he would have been 27, but never let the facts get in the way of a good theory. There’s was more lame thoughts, but I will spare you. By now you are already certain that Paul was dead.


Miles Davis Bitches Brew Cover

There was some symbolism in the art work on the ground breaking album by Miles Davis called BITCHES BREW. In 1970 jazz giant Davis wanted an album cover that captured the new direction in Jazz fusion that was on the record. At the time of the release of the album it was thought that art work was that of some unknown African artist. It found out later that the art was that of a German painter named Mati Klarwein. The painting shows the conflict of the music and racial tensions that existed at the time. It is a look forward as Miles shocked the world with is new Jazz fusion music. It was not well received by Jazz fans or critics, but led the way to not only selling a million copies, but laid the ground work the Jazz fusion groups that followed.


Santana Abbaxas Cover

The BITCHES BREW album cover caught the eye of Santana. He loved African music that spiced up his own music and thinking that the art work on BITCHES BREW was African art, used another painting by Mati Klarwein on his ABRAXAS album. While it apparently depicted Africans, no one knows for sure who Mati had in mind when he did the paintings. It almost doesn’t matter. Both album covers were a perfect match for the music inside.


Argent Ring of Hands Cover

There is no real big story behind the album done by Argent called RING OF HANDS. It is one of many album covers that uses the hand or hands as the focal point of the cover. George Harrison, Genesis, Bon Jovi, J. Geils and Jerry Garcia are just a few names that used the hand on their album cover. The thing that as always struck me as odd about RING OF HANDS was that the hands on the cover were not in a ring, but stacked. Nice cover in any case.

This is Part Three in a series. To view the rest in this Album Cover series, click here.

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