La Muse de l’existentialisme et Miles.
This striking promo art for French singer Juliette Gréco and Disques Fontana (a subsidiary of the Dutch label Philips Records) was created by the famous illustrator O’Kley in 1956. The art was reused for record covers, as you see below. Gréco, an actress as well as singer, was a fixture in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris, and her acquaintanceships with such figures as Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty earned her the nickname La Muse de l’existentialisme—the existentialists’ muse. She was also, according to Miles Davis, one of the great loves of his life, and the feeling was reciprocated, so that wins major points right there because Miles was the bomb.
Moving on to the art, O’Kley was a pseudonym for Nantes-born Pierre Gilardeau, the man behind some of the most collectable Folies Bergère posters. He also illustrated many book covers and movie posters, and after a long career just died in 2007. We’ve tracked down some good examples of his art and we’ll get back to him a bit later. You can see another Fontana post here.
Spread-eagled Aslan art helped cure the guilt of buying pirated music.
We said we were done with France for the moment, but we’re veering back there briefly today to show you this Cure album sleeve featuring art from the French painter Aslan. Live at Paradiso is a bootleg, same as the other Aslan-fronted Cure record we showed you back in January. The people who pressed this weren’t messing around, either—they opted for one of the artist’s more explicit paintings. No complaints here, but we bet Aslan was a bit annoyed when he saw his work appropriated yet again. It wouldn’t be the last time. We’ll get to more bootleg sleeves a bit later.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, my next feat will be to make several career-killing mistakes.
Above is a 1957 promo photo of American dancer/singer Rose Hardaway, who came from nowheresville Arkansas and achieved international stardom that saw her perform on the glittering stages of New York, London, and Paris. Unfortunately, she also spent a lot of time in tabloids, district courts, and eventually federal prison, but perhaps we’ll get to that later. Instead, as a bonus, below is the sleeve of the 1960 album she made with The Sammy Lowe Orchestra It’s Time for Rose Hardaway, which has one of the great covers of the period.
Mr. Bonfils goes for Washington.
According to Robert Bonfils’ website this is an example of his early work. We find it surprising, but there can’t be a more authoritative source (though that source has been neglected for years). Anyway, since the last Bonfils pieces we showed you were quite racy we thought we’d present his other side. This cheerful and classy LP sleeve for Dinah Washington’s Blazing Ballads is from 1952.
If the song had been anywhere near as good as the cover art it would have sold millions.
Today we’re back to the recently deceased Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon, bringing another of his album sleeves to light. Unlike the amazing Cure bootleg we posted before, this appears to be licensed usage of Aslan’s work by the French group Super Nana for their 1987 maxi single “Lachez les chiens.” The title has something to do with dogs, apparently, which is appropriate, because this song is a bag of flaming poo. Even our fine appreciation for dance music can’t help us enjoy this awful electro disco effort. Just our opinion, though—you can listen for yourself here, if you’re inclined. We’ll have more from Aslan soon.
Barbara Nichols gets a leg up.
Berlin After Dark is an obscure record, but the sleeve caught our eye because the cover star boldly showing every millimeter of leg she possesses looked familiar. Turns out she’s American actress Barbara Nichols. She doesn’t sing on the record, but it was not uncommon during the period when this was released (1962) to use celebrity photos on record sleeves. Four years ago we put together a collection of sixty album covers featuring famous actresses (with the difference that they all actually sang on the records) and you can see those examples here. We also have two great promos of Barbara Nichols, once again showing a lot of leg, here.
Aslan art makes unlikely appearance on Cure album sleeve.
A couple of weeks ago we said we’d get back to more Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan album sleeves, so above is a rather eye-catching one for a collection of Cure songs entitled The Spell’s Unbroken. It’s a live release that was recorded in Birmingham, England in 1985 and pressed in Germany in 1986, and it’s got such Cure goodies as “Kyoto Song,” “Let’s Go to Bed,” and the excellent “In Between Days,” as well some more obscure tracks. The album is unofficial—or a bootleg, if you prefer that term—so in theory it was pressed and sold without the band’s participation. We also assume Gourdon hadn’t a clue about the art. And wouldn’t you know it—the record sells for exorbitant amounts of money, routinely over a hundred dollars. We don’t know about you, but that’s enough to cure us of any urge to buy it.
Alain Gourdon finds a musical outlet.
You know we love the French illustrator Aslan’s, aka Alain Gourdon’s work around here. We shared some of his genius here, here, and here. Today we thought we’d show you some of the work he did for Fontana Records, a subsidiary of the Dutch label Philips Records. These six pieces were used by Fontana during the early 1960s for its
Après Minuit series, which featured such performers as Johnny Hallyday, Juliette Gréco, and Serge Gainsbourg. Aslan’s work was used for other record pressings as well, fronting bootleg music by the Cure, Joy Division, as well as legal releases by other groups. We’ll show you some of those later.
Touch of Evil sleeve art perfectly captures the film's mood.
Above, a Japanese soundtrack sleeve for Orson Welles’ universally lauded 1958 post-noir thriller Touch of Evil, with music from Henry Mancini. Top marks for the beautiful design on this.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
2009—Farrah Fawcett Dies
American actress Farrah Fawcett, who started as a model but became famous after one season playing detective Jill Munroe on the television show Charlie's Angels
after a long battle with cancer.
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
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