Monday, 4 November 2013

The Most Parodied AAA Album Covers (News, Views and Music 218 Top Ten)

If copying is the sincerest form of flattery, then this week's top ten albums are in rude health. I was planning to research a rough 'most copied album covers' for you this week - before I found the job had already been done for me by another site (see for actual pictures of all these album sleeves). While I dispute a tiny minority of their claims (is the first Gorillaz album really a homage to 'Let It Be' just because it has four faces in four boxes on the cover? And do re-issues of albums that are slightly different or compilations that use the same cover as a 'normal' album really pastiches?), but looking at all these covers gathered together in the same place is a joy. As usual the top ten of album covers is dominated by The Beatles (all their albums have had at least one parody over the years, if only because of their close-cousins-from-a-parallel-world The Rutles) The Rutles but there's a few surprises on the list too...Incidentally, my favourite spoof AAA album cover of all time remains Krusty The Klown's flop album 'Krustrophenia' in 'The Simpsons episode 'Behind The Laughter' where the spiky-haired comedian is seen in silhouette sitting on a motorbike in a homage to a certain album by The Who!

1) The Beatles "Abbey Road" (193 copies)

When The Beatles finally got together and nixed the idea of flying Everest to be pictured sat on top of a snowy mountain for their latest album cover, they were a bit reluctant to accept Paul McCartney's brainwave of simply walking outside Abbey Road studios and walking along the crossing they passed every day. After all, wasn't it just a little too bland for a Beatles cover? (only five albums earlier they'd used the collage cover for 'Sgt Peppers'!) But a lack of interest and time meant that, like the rooftop concert for 'Let It Be', the band simply did the easiest thing they could so they could get back to work. The image has become synonymous with the end of the Beatles' career (John's in trademark white, George in trademark denim) and is both easily recognisable and copyable. Nearly 200 copycat covers have been done over the years, with a new cover by Paul McCartney himself (for his 'Paul Is Live' CD in 1993) and an honorary mention for our a capella favourites The King's Singers, whose scary cover for 'The Beatles Connection' (with the fab four's head replaced with strawberries, hammers and blackbirds is particularly scary). Our favourite covers from the list, though, include 'Teletubbies Rock!' (where TinkyWinky, La La, Dipsy and Po shuffle along a level crossing in Teletubby land), 'Ghostbuster Road' (do the Ghostbusters actually sing on this record or is it just full of incidental music?!), 'Abbey Patch' by 'Atmospheric Ruminations' (who actually go to the trouble of making papier mache models of the four Beatles and then shooting them from another angle so that they appear in 3D), 'Sesame Road' (Seasame Street's version of Abbey Road - Macca probably won't be pleased he's been replaced by Oscar The Grouch!), 'Gallifrey Road' by Monstar (where silhouettes of four Dr Whos walk out of a Tardis parked on the corner), 'Longuna De Trapo' (where the Beatles have been flattened by a steamroller!), Lt John Pike's 'Pepper Spray Cop' (in which Ringo has turned round to mace Paul) and 'Abbey Beach' by Brighton UK where three of the Beatles are re-created out of sand! Best of all, though, has to be 'Six Cool Cats' by Kids Cool It where the entire Top Cat gang walk across the famed level crossing! This entry's Rutles spoof: 'Shabby Road' in which Dirk isn't wearing any shoes - but is rather overshadowed by Stig not wearing any trousers!

2) The Beatles "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" (82 copies)

This album cover is arguably even more famous but rather more difficult to copy. Indeed hours seem to have gone into some of these copycat covers - although others have just cheated and replaced the Beatles' heads using photoshop. Pop artist extraordinary Peter Blake designed the cover (he's had art exhibitions in far flung places hometown of Ormskirk!) with The Beatles 'appearing' as Sgt Pepper's band and playing to a whole host of famous faces chosen by each of the fab four and then 'blown up' into life size (sadly Lennon's suggestion of Hitler was vetoed!) The Beatles themselves stand on and stare, courtesy of their Madame Tussaud waxworks. There are no AAA entries this time around, unless you count The Rolling Stones' 'Their Satanic Majesties' (which isn't actually anything like 'Peppers' inside or out despite 40 years of music critics telling us otherwise!) and no - I don't recognise the Monkees album in the listings either although it's gloriously made with lots of characters from their TV series appearing in the crowd and, err, Big Bird from Sesame Street (is it a bootleg?) Our favourite entries for this list include The Simpsons' 'Yellow Album' (featuring almost the entire town of Springfield on the cover, which is quite an achievement!) and the Edwardian feel various artists album 'Sgt Pepper Knew My Father'. This entries' Rutles Spoof: 'Sgt Rutter's Only Dart Club Band', complete with a waxwork model of the band from the 'Hard Day's Rut' era!

3) The Beatles "With The Beatles/Meet The Beatles" (39 copies)

This is the cover that made The Beatles, in my opinion. If the one shot for 'Please Please Me' (of the Beatles clowning around the offices of EMI studios) is a neat twist on the usual teen cash-in album, then here is the public's first hint that there's more to The Beatles than meets the eye. Robert Whittaker's polo-necked pose wasn't shot at a studio but at his house, with the curtains drawn to achieve complete darkness. Sadly, being an American site, 'Am I Right' have plumped for the American album that used the cover, 'Meet The Beatles' so you'll have to look for that in the list (don't worry, the writing may be different but thew covers are identical!) Unfortunately not all the Beatles could fit on the same row so new boy Ringo had to kneel beneath the other three, a fact picked up by almost all the cover parodies here. Our favourites include the spitting image puppets of the trio Genesis that were roped into appearing on the band's album 'Land Of Confusion', the wonderful under-rated band 'The Nazz' who spoofed the album cover for a joke but latewr ended up using the shot for their compilation 'Open Our Eyes' (their finest single, The Residents (who scribble all sorts of fangs, tattoos and cross-eyes for their album 'Meet The Residents' and 'The ZomBeatles' whose scary album 'Meat The Zombeatles' is positively frightening (John Paul and George are OK but check out how terrifying 'Ringo' is!) This entries' Rutles spoof: 'Meet The Rutles', their most straightforward sleeve.

4) The Beatles "The White Album" (36 copies)

You wouldn't think there'd be that many copies of a plain white cover with a number on top would you? Paul McCartney's idea, again, to shoot down in the flames the idea that the Beatles had to top themselves with each cover following 'Peppers', the album was never intended as a 'limited edition' so the numbers printed on top are actually a joke (and the low numbered ones - most of them at least passing through the Beatles' own hands on their way to a celebrity or relative - deeply rare today). Again, this is a nice easy album cover to copy and many people have including DJ Danger Mpouse's clever 'mash-up' of 'The Wgite Album' and Prince's 'Black Album' to create...'The Grey Album', Lola and the Red Hots who must be colourblind (they've called their record 'The Red Album') and 'This Is Spinal Tap' (OK, this one's all in black but you get the idea!) Shockingly The Rutles never spoofed this album!

5) The Beatles "Let It Be" (30 copies)

The black cover round the outside that splits off the band members from each other isn't perhaps the most identifiable Beatles album cover but it sums up the album contents well: only one other Beatles cover has the band featured individually rather than together (unless you count the collage poster given away with 'The White Album'). The Rolling Stones stole the title for 'Let It Bleed', but it's actually their thermal-image cover for 'Emotional Rescue' that has been included on the site. Our favourite parodies include the soundtrack to cult anime 'Rayearth' (in which Ringo is replaced by a cuddly monster), 'Let It Stink' by Bad Breath (which carries on the good work of ZombieBeatles) and 'The MiniBeatles', a fab four covers project by pre-teens. This entries' Rutles spoof: 'Let It Rot'.

6) The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" (25 copies)

The Beach Boys' most critically acclaimed album only ever seems to come in for one criticism, despite being one of their weaker 60s albums: the cover. Feeding goats down at San Diego Zoo isn't what most people think about when listening to this magnum opus of heartbreak and romantic disillusionment, but it does make for an easily copyable album cover. Then again, about half of the selections on this list have chickened out and simply used the album's recognisable green font and strip of colour at the top of the album. Our favourite entries for this list include Beach Boys bootleg 'Remember The Zoo?' (which seems to star the zoo's giraffe over the band themselves), Various Artists set 'Do or DIY'? (where the band's features have been replaced with those of The Muppets!) and The Lancashire Hotpots, who get full marks for going to the trouble of finding the right place in the right zoo with the right animals and get as close as they can to wearing the right clothes (although Mike Love doesn't actually wear his trademark cap on the cover!) Scariest entry: 'Charles Manson Live In prison' in which the serial killer and former friend of Dennis Wilson is pictured with his guitar underneath a familiar looking green font.

7) The Who "Live At Leeds" (24 copies)

This album cover was designed from the first to look like an unassuming bootleg, with it's tatty paper cover and a 'stamped' cover(like many 'recordings of unofficial origin' as bootlegs were called in the 1970s). Like 'The White Album' it's easily copyable and seems to have been used by many bands for live albums around the North West including a bona fide bootleg of AAA band Lindisfarne during an actual gig at Leeds in 1978! You'd think, though, that all these copycat covers would have gone to the trouble of actually getting the distinctive 'stamp' shape of the original logo right!

8) Pink Floyd "Dark Side Of The Moon" (24 copies)

I thought there'd be more copycat covers for one of the best known album covers of all time - perhaps Hipgnosis' 'prism' cover was just too hard to replicate! Indeed, most of the people who've gone to the trouble of spoofing the cover are spoofing the contents too, with most of these collections of Pink Floyd cover songs. Our favourites include Cab City Combo's 'Pork Side Of The Moon' (in which a slice of ham replaces the usual prism), 'Cheater Pint' (in which a pint of beer replaces the usual prism) and 'Dark Side Of The Goons' (in which Peter Sellers Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe's compilation of Goon Show highlights features a piece of cheese replacing the usual prism - well, it's made on the moon isn't it?!)

9) The Beatles "A Hard Day's Night" (22 copies)

A selection of stills from the film, the original album cover of 'A Hard Day's Night' went some way to showing off The Beatles as four individuals rather than a collective, with Lennon particularly in top form posing for the pictures. The Beatles themselves weren't adverse to a bit of humour either with George Harrison turning his back to the camera! Interestingly the list seems fairly split between the 'blue' of the original LP and 'red' of the spin-off EPs that came from the album with notable examples including Peter Sellers' second entry on this list fpor his compilation album 'A Hard Day's Night' (in which Richard III recites the Beatles lyrics to the song), 'Time Machine' by Vinyl King (in which 16 pairs of Beatle boots are on display) and Bugs Bunny and Friends Sing The Beatles (where Bugs, Daffy Tweety Pie and the Tasmanian Devil look rather fetching in Beatles wigs!) This entries' Rutles spoof: 'A Hard Day's Rut', which does a good job of spoofing all the poses on the original album!

10) The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" (21 copies)

Finally, we end with a pair of trousers. Perhaps the most famous pair of trousers in rock, sporting on the original vinyl a special zip that let you 'undress' the cover on the front (the inside sleeve features a pair of underpants long rumoured to feature Mick Jagger but actually one of cover artist Andy Warhol's friends). Looking at the list, it's surprising how many covers have aped the Stones probably without even realising it - Madonna would most likely be amazed to be told that her cover of her underwear for 'Like A Virgin' was first done 17 years earlier or Bruce Sptingsteen's 'Born In The USA' a full 20 years earlier. To be honest there's less variation amongst the album covers here, although the various artists album 'Bossa 'n' Stones' at least has the good grace to replace the ubiquitous pair of jeans with a bikini so we'll plump for them as the best here.

And that's that from us, although the 'Am I Right' site does carry on with spoof covers for 'Revolver' 'Help!' and Pink Floyd's 'Atom Heart Mother'. See you for more news views and music next week!

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