Friday, 24 July 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 37 (Top Five): Brightest Coloured Album Covers

And to finish in this week’s top five: it’s the brightest, most colourful, mai nly psychedelic-era front covers ever issued. So put on your sun-specks and revel in our handy computer-sized guide to the five albums with the boldest primary colours...

5) Rolling Stones “Dirty Work” (1986). Bit of a cheat this one, seeing as the other four examples on our list are all paintings of one sort or another from the summer of love or thereabouts – the Stones are simply looking middle-aged and leaning on a couch. But get a load of those lycra leggings they’re all wearing! It’s so bright it hurts your eyes. Even Keith Richards, the man in rock surely at least in for a nomination as ‘least likely to succumb to 80s fashions and wear bright green leggings’ is in on the act. What was going on? This album should come with as health warning! And, despite being smaller, it all looks even brighter on the newly re-mastered CD (if you can find it that is, the Stones’ 80s output has disappeared even quicker than it did the first time round...)

4) The Kinks “Face To Face” (1966). The album is dark, brooding, mysterious. It features Ray Davies’ first real autobiographical out-pourings and for the most parts they picture a stark, monochromatic world full of endangered species animal and human or class structures rigidly in place in an uncaring, unfeeling drab world where it always rains. This record sounds not unlike a pen-and-ink drawing full of inky splodges. So what do the Pye artwork executives decide to do? Well, everyone else is going for colourful pictures in a big way so they decide to do the same and splash this album cover full of big butterflies in huge primary colours. If only the idea for the Beatles’ worthy but unsuitable cover for ‘Revolver’ had been swapped for this one it would have been perfect.

3) The Moody Blues “Days Of Future Passed” (1967). The Decca art department have gone even more over-the-top for the Moodies’, with their first ‘proper’ album cover by the ‘classic’ line-up depicting nothing less than spilt paint tins mixed together in a psychedelic frenzy and then plastered over the top with symbols relating vaguely to the album’s contents (time passing and days of the week if you didn’t know). Like the album (which mixes orchestra and rock for almost the first time) it should be a mess and yet...well, it’s still a mess, but it’s quite a distinctive-looking mess at least.

2) The Hollies “Evolution” (1967). If you want to know what psychedelia was all about then you could do worse than study this photograph for hours. The Hollies, never a band to let a fashion pass them by, are pictured in their best floral garb, dressed in beads and acting all summer-of-lovey for the cameras (especially Tony Hicks, surprisingly, given that he’s the one who hated this period of Hollies history more than the others). And Beatle/Apple-friends The Fool aren’t finished there – they top the picture off with overladen swirls that haven’t been seen since 1960s wallpaper went out of fashion and to top it all off even this album’s inner sleeve and back panel feature more psychedelic bright colours spinning off into infinity (or at least the centre of the picture). Evolution is the right word – how the hell did we go back to having front covers like ‘The White Album’ after this?!

1) The Beatles “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967). Say what you will about this album marking a huge step backwards for the fab four (and we’ve said plenty on this site already), Peter Blake’s seminal album cover remains one of the most distinctive, original and influential images of the whole 1960s. Not content with a simple painting or funny costumes the Beatles create a huge life-size pop-art collage featuring life-size blow-ups of many of their favourite celebrities, mystics, heroes and gurus (plus Hitler and Jesus, leaning against the back of the painting next to each other after the band decided that having them on the front cover might upset a few people...) plus Madame Tussaud waxworks of themselves (so bad are the waxworks – and so outdated are the costumes – that most newcomers assume it’s meant to be the Rolling Stones and ask what happened to Bill Wyman). Add a few plants and some exotic instruments and voila, a place at number one in our weekly top five is theirs.

That’s all for another week – we look forward to making your acquaintance again next week so, till then, goodbye!        

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