Albums As Works of Art

Alice Cooper co-founder and Hall Of Fame inductee Dennis Dunaway answers your questions!

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Albums As Works of Art

Post by livinluvin72 » Wed Jun 16, 2021 2:58 am

The AC Group’s albums from Pretties for You to Greatest Hits were all incredible works of art; alas, never to return in the digital age.
I used to look at the albums while listening to the music. There was always a lot to see and in the albums you can tell it was a BAND.
In an interview, you describe writing the word “Killer” with your left hand for that album to give it that crazy look. In your book, you discussed how the MOL packaging backfired with retailers who didn’t get the joke.
Who designed the albums, by that I mean, who came up with what to put on the album covers, sleeves and inner panels? Was it all the band, Shep, professional artists or a combination?
Who had the final word?
Do you have a favorite AC Group album design?

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Re: Albums As Works of Art

Post by Dreary » Wed Jun 16, 2021 3:52 am

livinluvin72 wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 2:58 am
The AC Group’s albums from Pretties for You to Greatest Hits were all incredible works of art; alas, never to return in the digital age.
I used to look at the albums while listening to the music. There was always a lot to see and in the albums you can tell it was a BAND.
In an interview, you describe writing the word “Killer” with your left hand for that album to give it that crazy look. In your book, you discussed how the MOL packaging backfired with retailers who didn’t get the joke.
Who designed the albums, by that I mean, who came up with what to put on the album covers, sleeves and inner panels? Was it all the band, Shep, professional artists or a combination?
Who had the final word?
Do you have a favorite AC Group album design?
Vince and I decided to start the band when we were in art class together. We wanted our band to incorporate artistic ideas into what we did. Glen was up for it, and even though it took a bit more convincing, so was Michael. Neal was easily swayed. And so we had five musicians, plus a lighting tech, a roadie, and a seamstress designer, that all shared our vision. The final piece of the puzzle was our managers and our producer. In that respect, Warner Bros. were into it.
It was like our own high energy art class, and we were a non-stop creative machine.
Joe and Shep shrewdly got artistic control of our album cover art, and we had the final say.
In that mix of brainstorming, it was rarely easy to cite one person as solely having an idea.
That creative approach was there from the very beginning. It was fun and infectious, and therefore easy for others to get it and want to join in.
When we got busier with writing, recording, creating shows, and touring, we found Pacific Eye and Ear to collaborate on our album covers.
And like many things, the Beatles had set that bar very high.

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Re: Albums As Works of Art

Post by SickThings » Wed Jun 16, 2021 5:27 pm

A side note about this: when I made the switch to CDs back in the '80s, I discovered after a while that I no longer knew the names of all of the songs on most albums. I used to know every title from every album because I spent hours and hours looking at the album cover, studying the album cover, memorizing it. I did less of that with CDs. And in this age of MP3s and streaming, I couldn't tell you the title of most of the songs on Detroit Stories or the second Hollywood Vampires album, for example. I know the songs when I hear them, I know the order in which they appear, but more than once in recent years, I've seen someone mention a song from an album that had be thinking, "??? There's no song with that title. Oh, look. There is. Huh." It's even worse with instrumentals for me, like Steve Hunter's albums. Love the albums, love the songs, couldn't tell you what most of the titles are, because I've never really spent time looking at the titles. All because that glorious 12" cover that people spent lots of time with isn't there.

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Re: Albums As Works of Art

Post by Dreary » Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:43 pm

Pretties For You
We wanted Salvador Dali's Geopoliticus Child Watching The Birth of The New Man for the cover but Zappa had just bought Beardsley's Strawberry Cake and I think he might have wanted to get a tax write off.
The photo on the back cover wasn't as good as the shot we had chosen from that session, which took place at an art gallery. Zappa said they had lost the one we liked and so we went to his office and searched for it but with no luck.

Easy Action
It was Neal's idea to emphasize the androgynous image of the group by photographing us from behind with no shirts and long hair, then revealing a surprise on the flip side of the cover. That idea was rather spontaneous and required zero discussion because we all loved it. Cindy says it's her favorite (sexiest) of our album covers.

Love it To Death
We had uplifting songs like "Caught in a Dream", "Long Way To Go", and "Sun Arise". And we had dark songs like "Hallowed Be My Name", "Ballad of Dwight Fry", and "Black Juju". So we initially intended to have all of the uplifting songs on one side and all of the dark songs on the flip side. Therefore, we decided to have the cover photos represent that.
But what we all thought was the best song order detoured the concept.
Roger Prigent shot the photos in a theater in NYC. The stage and screen were white but he aimed a tight spot light on us to get that dark feeling. The other shot was shot in the same place with the houselights on.
The thumb wasn't planned.

Killer
Alice and I very rarely argued but we were exchanging words during the Pete Turner's photo session. Pete had a few colored lights and a couple of fans. Simple but effective, especially reflecting off the chrome jumpsuits that Cindy had made.
Neal was holding Kachina on his arm for the cover shot. Pete's assistant kept waiting for Kachina's tongue to flip out before he would snap the photo. Neal kept telling him he was too late and that he should try to snap the photo before Kachina's tongue came out. He finally tried that. Out of 24 photos, the final one was the only one with Kachina's tongue.

School's Out
We would think of ideas, and by the time they filtered through Alice, then the managers, and then other people, the ideas tended to become someone else's idea. I'm not sure if that's what happened with the school desk idea, but I recall the band talking about it in detail. There was a kid named Todd at school that had such a messy desk that the teacher gave him two desks. One for his crap and one for his books. That's what we imagined. Todd's crappy desk.
Sound Packaging Corp. could have imagined the same concept on their own, and it wouldn't be much of a coincidence. The idea was perfect and they made it happen big time.
The band photo was the street punks that were no longer in school. I was inside of a trash can aiming a pistol at the camera. The shadows made me nearly impossible to find, which I liked.
And the most brilliant idea of all, the record came in panties.

Billion Dollar Babies
After the school desk, the wallet was somewhat of a no brainer.
We wanted the rhinestones to be real but that was far from cost effective so we compromised by at least having the fake rhinestones raised, which still wasn't cheap.
The concept for the band photo was a re-do from our Pontiac Farm days, when I thought we should shatter the cliché concept for hard rock and metal bands that always wore black and had dark album covers. We would wear all white! And to drive the concept home, we would be holding Cindy's bunnies. But that photographer tried to charge way more than we could afford, so we told him to forget it, and that we would reshoot the concept with someone else, and make him sorry!
Of course the bunnies lost their impact in a room full of cash and baby Lola. Cindy wanted to meet David Bailey but she crashed after staying up all night making 5 white satin suits. None of us had much sleep before the early session.
By far, the hardest part was getting that much American money in Britain on a Sunday.

Muscle of Love
Yes, we had final say on our album cover art, and "forget the cost" we wanted a box with a stain! Our insistence backfired when record stores returned them as damaged goods.
Pacific Eye and Ear's idea to do a photo of us as sailors on leave in front of their studio caused a stir when people showed up to stop the Institute of Nude Wrestling from opening in their neighborhood, which we thought was ironic because we were only a few blocks from the Classic Cat and other strip clubs on Sunset Boulevard.
It was toasty warm for the daytime shot, and then it was shivering cold for the nighttime shot.
The real kicker came when Warner Bros. sent us the photo for our approval and the daytime shot had been cropped so severely that I was missing. They had to correct that.
The KP Duty photo on the ship was fun, especially for all of the sailors on board.

Greatest Hits
This was conceived and executed by Earnie Cefalu and his artists at Pacific Eye and Ear. The cover art was by Drew Struzan who also did Welcome to My Nightmare and then went on to do many iconic movie posters for Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. You can spot Drew on the hubcap of the hit men's car.

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Re: Albums As Works of Art

Post by Daggers & Contracts » Thu Jun 17, 2021 12:25 am

SickThings wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 5:27 pm
A side note about this: when I made the switch to CDs back in the '80s, I discovered after a while that I no longer knew the names of all of the songs on most albums. I used to know every title from every album because I spent hours and hours looking at the album cover, studying the album cover, memorizing it. I did less of that with CDs. And in this age of MP3s and streaming, I couldn't tell you the title of most of the songs on Detroit Stories or the second Hollywood Vampires album, for example. I know the songs when I hear them, I know the order in which they appear, but more than once in recent years, I've seen someone mention a song from an album that had be thinking, "??? There's no song with that title. Oh, look. There is. Huh." It's even worse with instrumentals for me, like Steve Hunter's albums. Love the albums, love the songs, couldn't tell you what most of the titles are, because I've never really spent time looking at the titles. All because that glorious 12" cover that people spent lots of time isn't there.
Thanks for the breakdown Dr. D.
As far as album covers as Art I've alway's thought so! :clap:
Roger Daltry gave a commentary on TOGWT that sum's up the advent of Cd's as the death of an Art Form. :nono:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74-pRsow8HA
Happily it has risen from the ashes! :HEART:
I've Got The Answers To All Of Your Questions...

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Re: Albums As Works of Art

Post by SickThings » Thu Jun 17, 2021 2:32 am

Great info, Dennis! Thanks!

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Re: Albums As Works of Art

Post by Babysquid » Fri Jun 18, 2021 3:46 pm

SickThings wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 5:27 pm
A side note about this: when I made the switch to CDs back in the '80s, I discovered after a while that I no longer knew the names of all of the songs on most albums. I used to know every title from every album because I spent hours and hours looking at the album cover, studying the album cover, memorizing it. I did less of that with CDs. And in this age of MP3s and streaming, I couldn't tell you the title of most of the songs on Detroit Stories or the second Hollywood Vampires album, for example. I know the songs when I hear them, I know the order in which they appear, but more than once in recent years, I've seen someone mention a song from an album that had be thinking, "??? There's no song with that title. Oh, look. There is. Huh." It's even worse with instrumentals for me, like Steve Hunter's albums. Love the albums, love the songs, couldn't tell you what most of the titles are, because I've never really spent time looking at the titles. All because that glorious 12" cover that people spent lots of time with isn't there.
The funny thing is I grew up with cassettes and I knew all the titles, times and songwriters for each song. Do you remember the old Warner bros cassette versions of the Lp art? They usually had the entire front sleeve design shrunk so it filled the top half of the cassette cover. The rest of the cover was just black with the artist and title. None of the other artwork was reproduced. I still managed to lose myself in those pictures. So when I got my first CD, which was “Killer”, it was actually bigger than what I’d been used to. Not only that it included the calendar, the band photo and a short bio at the back. It was reading this that I first heard the titles and release years of ‘Pretties for You” and “Easy Action” which I only previously knew as the mythical “cult’ albums mentioned in the notes on the “Beast of” comp. A few months later I found B$B in a second hand record store and I was amazed by the package. Unfortunately I slightly ruined it by trying to write in biro over the signatures so it would look like my copy was actually signed! I only did Dennis before I realized it looked a bit crap.
Of course if you came the other way towards the artwork I totally get what you mean. CDs look so tiny now that I’m used to vinyl, but there was a time that they seemed actually big!
I think the point is that while bigger is generally better a good piece of cover art isn’t as lost on newer generations as those that grew up with vinyl sometimes presume.

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Re: Albums As Works of Art

Post by Dreary » Fri Jun 18, 2021 4:26 pm

Babysquid wrote:
Fri Jun 18, 2021 3:46 pm
SickThings wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 5:27 pm
A side note about this: when I made the switch to CDs back in the '80s, I discovered after a while that I no longer knew the names of all of the songs on most albums. I used to know every title from every album because I spent hours and hours looking at the album cover, studying the album cover, memorizing it. I did less of that with CDs. And in this age of MP3s and streaming, I couldn't tell you the title of most of the songs on Detroit Stories or the second Hollywood Vampires album, for example. I know the songs when I hear them, I know the order in which they appear, but more than once in recent years, I've seen someone mention a song from an album that had be thinking, "??? There's no song with that title. Oh, look. There is. Huh." It's even worse with instrumentals for me, like Steve Hunter's albums. Love the albums, love the songs, couldn't tell you what most of the titles are, because I've never really spent time looking at the titles. All because that glorious 12" cover that people spent lots of time with isn't there.
The funny thing is I grew up with cassettes and I knew all the titles, times and songwriters for each song. Do you remember the old Warner bros cassette versions of the Lp art? They usually had the entire front sleeve design shrunk so it filled the top half of the cassette cover. The rest of the cover was just black with the artist and title. None of the other artwork was reproduced. I still managed to lose myself in those pictures. So when I got my first CD, which was “Killer”, it was actually bigger than what I’d been used to. Not only that it included the calendar, the band photo and a short bio at the back. It was reading this that I first heard the titles and release years of ‘Pretties for You” and “Easy Action” which I only previously knew as the mythical “cult’ albums mentioned in the notes on the “Beast of” comp. A few months later I found B$B in a second hand record store and I was amazed by the package. Unfortunately I slightly ruined it by trying to write in biro over the signatures so it would look like my copy was actually signed! I only did Dennis before I realized it looked a bit crap.
Of course if you came the other way towards the artwork I totally get what you mean. CDs look so tiny now that I’m used to vinyl, but there was a time that they seemed actually big!
I think the point is that while bigger is generally better a good piece of cover art isn’t as lost on newer generations as those that grew up with vinyl sometimes presume.
The same goes for classic films. I went to a Sons of The Desert Laurel and Hardy convention that large-screened a marathon of their films. I had seen all of those films multiple times on a television screen, but this was a whole new experience.

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