Friday 4 June 2010

News, Views and Music Issue 63 (Top Five): Art Used On Album Covers

Is music really art? Of course! Are album covers art? Erm, sometimes, at least they are when they’re painted by famous artists. And for the purposes of this top five we mean famous outside painting album covers – otherwise this list would be full of Hipgnosis album covers for Pink Floyd, 10cc and The Hollies!  After all that hard work trying to get hold of a Magritte painting for the cover, it’s perhaps not that surprising that relatively few famous paintings or works  by famous painters have ever made their way onto record covers.But we have (just about) been able to find enough to make up a top five for you:

1) Alan Hull “Phantoms” (1979): This album is even rarer than ‘Pipedream’ and suffered a similar contractual problem after another Magritte painting, ‘Le Musee De Roi’, was chosen for the cover and was thus equally unable to secure a CD re-issue until quite late in the day (2006 in this case). (You might know the album better as an album by the short-lived Alan Hull band ‘Radiator’ called ‘Isn’t It Strange’ from two years before that because, despite the billing, this album is almost completely the same – it was re-issued with the former name (and Magritte painting) to capitalise on the re-united Lindisfarne and their hit with ‘Run For Home’ in 1978). Alas this second Magritte choice isn’t quite as fitting as the first – while the spooky eyes staring out from the distance  and the dark background with face in the middle sums up the title ‘Phantoms’ well, it doesn’t really fit with the slightly harsher and more aggressive mood of the album.

2) The Who “Face Dances” (1979): My, what a good year for art on album covers! This penultimate Who album of the original run featured a quite striking cover with paintings of all four band members (with Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones replacing Keith Moon for the first time) as drawn by 16 different painters. The project was masterminded by our old friend Peter Blake – designer of the ‘Sgt Peppers’ cover and Oasis’ ‘Be Here Now’ – who also drew the first drawing of Kenny Jones on the bottom left-hand corner. The remaining artists are a complete mix of those who were big at the time and forgotten now, those who were unknown at the time and big now and those who are still quite obscure, although a young David Hockney (who drew the far right illustration of Roger Daltrey) is most notable. The best paintings for my part are the highly realistic one of Roger (third across) by David Inshaw, the striking silhouette of John Entwistle (far right) by Patrick Caulfield and best of all the inner-workings-of-Pete-Townshend’s-mind (third across) by ‘Colin Self Of Norwich’ as he bills himself on the sleeve. The painting theme is rounded off by the back cover where each song title is listed on a tube of paint.

3) Paul Simon “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War”, a track on the ‘Hearts and Bones’ album (1983): OK, so the album cover is terrible – one of the worst instances of slapped-together cover art in the AAA canon (a thermal shot of Paul Simon out of focus). But one album track is a suitably impressionistic and surreal take on our old friend Magritte. Paul, suffering uncharacteristic writer’s block (see review no 85 for the full story), turned to everything he could get his hands on to get him writing again – including a caption for a photograph in a book he was reading about the painter. Inspired by the very factual way the caption writer had captured a moment in time, despite Magritte’s penchant for painting surrealistic and non-linear moments, Paul came up with an intriguing (if rather boring!) song that marries several different snapshots of the painter’s imagined time with his wife. The most controversial part of the song is the list of 1950s rock and roll and doo-wop records so beloved of Paul Simon in his youth – although quite what they’re doing in a song about a painter who was in his old age by then has never been fully explained!

4) The Beach Boys “Surf’s Up” (1971): Technically this isn’t a painting by a famous artist at all, but it is at least based on a famous sculpture called ‘The End Of The Trail’ by early 20th century artist James Earle Fraser. Ironically this famous American painting of a tired and weary traveller slowly making his way home on a horse is now probably better known in Europe for being a Beach Boys album cover! The cover was well recived by the music press of the time who saw it as one of the reasons the album was a ‘return to form’ – but, like the album, it’s actually a great deal less distinguished than predecessor ‘Sunflower’, being dark and murky and hard to see in detail. Still, the idea of a tired and bedraggled band trying to get back to where they once belonged does suit the suite of songs in some way.

5) Neil Young “The Painter”, a track on the ‘Prairie Wind’ album (2005): Erm, Err, Um, Oh alright then. Neil Young, he’s famous. And he did write a song about painting. At least it’s sort of about painting – there’s a list of colours and a painter standing back to look at her work in full rather than gazing at the small detail – a neat adjective for looking back at her life and realizing that ‘if you follow every dream you might get lost’. What a shame Neil didn’t use some of those ideas to spruce up what must be one of the most boring album covers of any AAA release: a sheet blowing in the wind against a prairie backdrop. 

So, that’s that for another issue. See you next time for thrills, spills, chills and mandrills – oh no, sorry, that’s a line for our Dr Who issue someday. Err see you next time for new, views, reviews, blue suede shoes and music. See you then!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock

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