Leon's Bad Album Covers

In Pirates of the Retail Wasteland, Leon, who no longer needs to buy giant speaker cabinets from thrift stores, as he did in the first book, takes up the hobby of collecting vinyl albums with hideous covers instead. Here are a few examples:

Satan Is Real by the Louvin Brothers - one of the albums on Leon's wall that happens to be real. These guys are actually well-loved by country gospel fans; Bob Dylan even played the title track on his radio show one time.

One album that Leon gets in the book, SAVED! by The Voices of Carbondale, is based on albums like this, which you see in abundance at thirft stores, especially in the South. Autographed copies are actually pretty common. The Voices of Carbondale aren't real (as far as I know), but their album cover would have looked about like this.

Another album in the book that doesn't EXACTLY exist is The Wildewood Singers Sing The Beatles. In the sixties and seventies, adults who got Beatles songs stuck in their heads but didn't want to buy a rock album could buy any number bland choral albums featuring really, really watered down versions of Beatles songs - or other popular hits. Most of them had covers either looking like the one above or featuring a boring pastel painting that looked like it was hijacked from a waiting room. It's easy to think that the 60s were a great time for music today, but that's because radio stations now only play the stuff that holds up reasonably well. Go look up the actual top ten hits from any given week, and you're likely to see a whole bunch of crap you've never heard of now - "grown up" versions of pop hits were often more popular than the originals! Sometimes, these "grown-up" versions of pop songs were unintentionally hilarious, such as this clip from The Lawrence Welk Show, the producers of which clearly didn't know that "One Toke Over the Line, Sweet Jesus" was about drugs, not religion:

With the possible exception of Christmas albums and workout albums, bad religious album covers are certainly the easiest to find in thrift stores now. The above are two of the more famous examples, featuring two of the standards of the genre: the "family photo," (boy, how would you like to get invited over to a house like this one? I can imagine a very dull evening of watching the clock after the parents sit you down in front of "Davey and Goliath.") and the "bad guy turned preacher" genre. These two show up on web pages all over, but I remember seeing dozens of others at thrift stores that I've never seen online. Families in the seventies, it seems, were very much in the habit of putting on sweater vests and praising Jesus on neon pink couches. I missed living in the seventies by about seven months. Sometimes I feel like I really dodged a bullet.

Many of those bland versions of pop songs in the 60s were recorded by the Original Mr. Bland - Pat Boone, who was sort of a non-threatening alternative to Elvis. In the 90s, he recorded a surprisingly entertaining album of big band versions of heavy metal songs like "Enter Sandman," "Holy Diver," and "No More Mr. Nice Guy." In the liner notes, he hinted that this was only volume 1, and it was the best-selling album he'd made in ages. However, it caused quite an uproar among his religious fans; I remember seeing him go on TBN, one of the fifty or so Christian Big Hair channels we got in my town, to explain that, no, he had not started worshipping Satan.

This was a HUGE seller, and is now a staple thrift stores. Odds are very good that your grandparents have a copy of it.

One time I was driving through Connecticut on the way to see Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival. On the way, I saw a billboard that I swear advertised a performance of Cabaret! starring Tony Orlando. I have been wary of Connecticut ever since. Bill Bryson says that one of the reasons to be glad you're alive is that "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" will never be a number one hit again - I fear that he may be being a bit optimistic there.

This is a pretty cool album - just TRY to get "Lost My Cookie At the Disco" out of your head. I'm really just posting it here because I couldn't find a jpg of the album I wanted to post - a record my town library had that taught listeners to disco "the professional way!" Contrary to popular belief, disco was NEVER cool. And, in the 80s and early 90s, it had not yet become campy fun. It did, however, still get a lot of play down at the local roller rink.

Something there is about Barry Manilow trying to be Tom Waits that simply tickles the ol' funny bone. Actually, this is a pretty good album - very jazzy and not at ALL like your average campy, syrupy Barry album - this is Barry with about 90% less schmaltz. It showcases a very different side of Barry with such tender, soulful songs as "When October Goes" and "Say No More." There are even duets with Sarah Vaughn and Mel Torme to give it a bit more street cred. In the liner notes to the CD version, Manilow says it's the album he most wants to be remembered for.

Man, I'll bet this kid and the professor had some AMAZING adventures. The kid probably learned a lot, too. What a summer that must have been!

No comments:

Adam's New Book: Sept 2013