Sex Sells #1: Cheesecake Album Covers
Take a look at your dad's (or grandpa's) old record collection. You'll find lots of cheesy stuff worthy of Lawrence Welk, maybe a lounge singer or maestro of the Hammond organ. What you'll begin to notice is these records were pretty heavy handed with the cheesecake. Albums were no different than magazines in this regard. Remember the quote from Peeping Tom (1960)?
Mr. Peters: Got a question for you. Which magazine sells the most copies?
Mark Lewis: Those with girls on the front covers and no front covers on the girls.
I've always found it amusing to see ravishing and scantily clad models adorning album covers for tame easy listening music of the 60's. It would make sense on a raucous Ted Nugent or Aerosmith LP, but not on Hammond organ instrumentals .
Then again, once upon a time hi-fi stereos were almost exclusively found in the bachelor dens of the swingin' lounge lizards. Before the rebellious pot smoking youth took control of the music industry, the risqué album cover belonged to the older generation.
The perfect and most recognizable example of this is Whipped Cream and Other Delights by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. This album in particular has the sleaziest version of "Love Potion No. 9" that I've ever experienced. Everyone's dad had this album in the sixties and many an adolescent daydream was born from the cover.
The model is Dolores Erickson. She was pregnant at the time of the photo shoot. She was actually covered with shaving cream (whipped cream kept melting under the lights). The LP was released in 1965 and spent 189 weeks on the charts. (source here)
A personal favorite is Bert Kaempfert's If I Had You, which offered up less cheesecake, but still roped in buyers with a swingin' bachelor's eye view of life in the cocktail lounge era. This album proves you didn't have to be overtly risqué to lure buyers to your album of tame easy listening instrumentals, but you could still be sexually suggestive.
Along the same lines is this Robert Mitchum LP. It's also light on the cheesecake, but as sexually suggestive as any album your ever going to see. This quote from Retrocrush sums it up pretty good: "Funny enough to imagine him singing an album of Calypso tunes, but he's just so fucking cool, sitting there with that clever look in his eyes, knowing that once he's through drinking his rum, he's gonna paint the walls with the sweat of that red dressed honey eagerly awaiting him." (from the Retrocrush list of sexy album covers found here)
When I first saw this next one with its subtitle "the swingin', swingin' pastors..." I thought these were a bunch of men of the cloth. Actually, it's Tony Pastor, a talented tenor saxophonist and band leader. I was sad to learn here that he became ill in the 1960's and spent the rest of his life in seclusion.
Recorded Live at the Open Face Sandwich Club, we have Eddie Mack with a naked chick on the piano. Once again we are presented with the conflicting conceptions of easy listening and a sexually explicit album cover. I can't tell if Eddie's expression is one of embarrassment or glee. I'm inclined to think his smile says "I've hit absolute rock bottom... please help me."
Lester Lanin was king of the dance band. He played at the engagement party for Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier and at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. He even played at the inaugural ball for Eisenhower. USA Today wrote of him in 1992, "For generations of the rich and famous, a society party isn't a society party unless Lanin is there with his back to the tuxedoed crowd." And Lester understood you needed a swingin' chick on the cover to promote record sales.
It seemed no style of music no matter how tame or lame was above using cheesecake to boost sales. Let's take a glance at a few examples that highlight a particular instrument.
the piano (at left)
French sax found here
organ found here
the xylophone found here
the trumpet (at left)
moog found here at Synthtopia's five sexy moog album covers
accordion found here
(notice on this one, the guy is wearing the exact same wardrobe as Pee Wee Herman - just thought I'd point that out)
the trombone (at left)
bongos found here
the saxophone found here
(this woman has apparently been sent into a fit of ecstasy by Charlie's jazz sax)
One more category that deserves mentioning is the cover song compilation albums. Without fail, these collections of cheap cover songs had a pretty gal on the front. The one below features a young Mary Tyler Moore. Go here to see another MTM album cover. (Also check out an early Barbara Eden album cover here)
Rather than the Lawrence Welk variety as many of the above albums, late sixties and seventies compilation albums were often low budget one-take covers of songs by the next generation of pop artists - anything from The Beatles to Cat Stevens was fair game.
The Hot Hits series
Beginning in 1962, the MFP company's motto was "Can you tell the difference between these and the original sounds?" Well, yes of course you could, but that didn't matter to the thousands who bought them. MFP Hot Hits LPs sold hundreds of thousands of copies before the series ended in 1973. Elton John, Larry Adler and allegedly David Bowie all appeared as session musicians and singers. (source here)
Notice the album above contains a cover version of Sabbath's "Paranoid".... kinda unexpected. Anyway, the Hot Hits albums kept coming. By Hot Hits 19 (shown here), the covers were getting more risqué, but sales were declining, and the series didn't make it much further.
However, the Hot Hits series pales in comparison to the Top of the Pops series which released a whopping 92 records! The series lasted from 1968 to 1985 and the collection can be seen here.
From an album sleeve: "This is a swinging, catchy, groovy disc that will set your fingers snapping and your feet tapping. It's bouncy and breezy and bright. So grab this album, take it to a rave-up - and have a ball!"
Here a couple samples from the collection. The first is volume 7 from July 1969 volume and the next is volume 32.
Note: For the absolute best collection of cheesecake vinyl images, the University of Missouri-Kansas City is where to go..... you're welcome.