A Guide To Unused Beatles Album Covers

I loved this. But then I love the Beatles.

All You Need Is The Beatles

It goes without saying that the covers of The Beatles’ albums are iconic. It seems like an obligatory tourist thing when one is in London to stop by the Abbey Road crossing and recreate the cover of the album of the same name. And whenever someone makes a list of the ‘best album covers’, The Beatles feature pretty prominently in them. And not to mention the millions of artists that have recreated the images for their own albums: among them Gorillaz, Queens of the Stone Age, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and, oh, The Rutles.

But like a lot of iconic things, The Beatles’ album covers went through a few changes before settling on the iconic images we all know and love. You may have seen a picture of The Beatles walking the opposite way across Abbey Road, or maybe the uncropped and unstretched Rubber Soul cover. (Or any of the following…

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George Harrison – Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) – a song for the fundamentalists.

france-flag

I thought this was appropriate to both the terrorists and governments!

I can’t help thinking that you don’t solve fascism with bombs. You have to tackle the root causes – Inequality, intolerance, poverty, fundamentalism, war and unemployment.

“Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)”

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul

OM M M M M M M M M M M M M M
M M M My Lord . . .

PLEASE take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Won’t you please
Oh won’t you

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul

OM M M M M M M M M M M M M M
M M M My Lord . . .

PLEASE take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Beatles – Piggies – Lyrics that are very appropriate in this age of greed, bankers and austerity.

Beatles

Snouts in the trough. Head down and forward. Mindless and vacuous. Never questioning, feeling or thinking. Fitting in. Doing what’s right. Getting on. Looking after number one. Making a living and who cares who you have to trample on.

The Beatles were a brilliant band. Such diversity, intelligence and cleverness.

“Piggies”

Have you seen the little piggies
Crawling in the dirt?
And for all the little piggies
Life is getting worse
Always having dirt to play around in

Have you seen the bigger piggies
In their starched white shirts?
You will find the bigger piggies
Stirring up the dirt
Always have clean shirts to play around in

In their styes with all their backing
They don’t care what goes on around
In their eyes there’s something lacking
What they need’s a damn good whacking

Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
Living piggy lives
You can see them out for dinner
With their piggy wives
Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon

The Beatles – Opher’s World pays tribute to genius.

IMG_7559When the Beatles arrived on the scene in 1963 Rock Music was dead in the water. The United States government had effectively shut it down. Through the Payola scandal they had, by threats and coercion prevented the Radio Stations from playing raw Rock ‘n’ Roll. What we were left with was a sanitised Pop scene of clean-cut homely kids in suits that catered for the teenage market. In Britain we had much of the same but watered down. We were a backwater. The charts were full of Bobbys, Cliffs, Tommys and Billys with lovey dovey, chirpy trite Pop with the rebellion squeezed out of it. The raw energy had dissipated.

Then came the Beatles and the excitement was back. Right from the start they were motoring. The first album set a new standard. They might only have been doing their take on the old Rock ‘n’ Roll and R&B but they did it with verve and passion and found a way of revitalising it. Even their own songs were excellent though they were all still young love and heartache. The production was crisp and the rebellious energy was back. Brian Epstein had tidied them up, put them in suits, and trained them to be media friendly but he had not tamed the wild spirit inside. Suddenly Rock ‘n’ Roll was back on the agenda with a vengeance and Britain was no longer a backwater.

The band had synergy. The whole was far greater than the sum of its parts. As individuals the Beatles were all exceptional musicians and composers; together they took that up another notch.

There were signs around the time of Help and A Hard Days Night when it looked as if they might go the way of Elvis and produce nice safe Pop songs. The rawness was beginning to  get watered down. Fortunately Dylan had burst upon the scene and given them a burst of creativity. They had poetry and social content to play with. They had licence to move away from the standard two and a half minute format. They could experiment. There were no limits. And boy did they experiment. They introduced electronic elements, Indian ragas, psychedelic effects, backwards loops, different instrumentation and even Folk elements. Their creativity was unleashed and their position at the forefront of commercial success gave them unlimited opportunity to experiment. The result was a revolution.

The whole music scene in the mid to late sixties underwent an upheaval and the Beatles rode the crest of that wave. The British Underground and American west Coast was on fire with a rampant Youth Culture, new politics, spirituality, civil rights, and a new social vision. The idealism and discarding of the old values can be heard in the music. This was a generation who believed they could change the world, bring peace and love, put an end to war, inequality and the exploitation of minorities and find a new way of doing things. Music was the medium, the unifying force, the message. Revolution was in the air. The Beatles were right there leading the way. Sgt Peppers, the double white album and even Abbey Road and Let it Be capture the spirit of the age. It was experimental, vast in scope, poetic, meaningful, complex, sophisticated, melodic and yet retained all the vitality of Rock. This was Rock Music coming of age and producing compositions on a par with Jazz and classical. The Beatles were an essential ingredient in that mix that became album based Rock Music.

I lived through that age. I bought the singles, EPs and albums as they came out. I can remember the expectation and excitement, the anticipation. I can also remember that those singles were all different and never failed to disappoint. They instantly connected. Each one was a step forward.

They were, and still are, the best band in the world. Nothing has yet surpassed them. The tragedy was that their life as a band was cut short by the loss of Brian Epstein, the disputes, failure of Apple, personalities clashes and the ending of that sixties era. If it hadn’t have been for Chapman they probably would have reformed. Who knows?

537 Essential Rock Albums pt. 11

101. Screaming Jay Hawkins – Cow fingers & mosquito pie

There’ll never be another Screaming Jay either! This is the man who back in the early 1950s started Shock-Rock. He developed an act that was so shocking that it must have scared the life out of that staid old world of ice-cream and apple-pie. He started off on stage springing out of a coffin complete with long cape, voodoo amulets, shrunken skulls, snakes, wide eyes and grimaces. Alan Freed put him on his Rock ‘n’ Roll shows as ‘the Wildman of Rock’ and I can’t imagine what effect having a huge Blackman leaping out of a coffin and gurning at the audience had on all those young teenage white girls.

The songs were in the same vein and his classic ‘I put a spell on you’ which came out in the mid fifties was considered so primitive with its grunting and groaning that it was banned from radio play. That song was covered by everyone on the Beat scene back in the sixties. He put his operatic voice to good use creating some outrageous songs and strange parodies of classics like ‘I love Paris’ which were so weird they were wonderful.

This album collects together most of those classic tracks with ‘I put a spell on you’, ‘Alligator wine’, ‘Frenzy’, ‘There’s something wrong with you’ and ‘Orange coloured sky’ though it does miss off the wonderful ‘Constipation Blues’ (for that you have to go to ‘Feast of the Mau-Mau’) and his much later cover of Tom Wait’s ‘Heart attack and Vine’ that was used in a commercial on TV.

His act has been copied and built on by lots of others including Screaming Lord Sutch and Alice Cooper.

102. Tommy Tucker – Hi Heeled Sneakers

 

Tommy produced two absolutely classic singles that were done in that Jimmy Reed/Slim Harpo style with the infectious beat – ‘Long tall Shorty’ and ‘Hi-heeled sneakers’. Those songs have been done to death by Beat groups and I can see why. They have that easy-going, laid-back jauntiness with a hypnotic bass-line.

Tommy unfortunately died early and never built on the success of his two brilliant singles. The manner of his death was really bizarre. He was touring England in the sixties and died of food poisoning from a hamburger. Surprisingly McDonalds did not feature him or his songs in any advertising (It wasn’t a McDonalds – we didn’t have them here back then!)

This album contains all his early stuff.

103. Bo Carter – Banana in your fruit basket

A lot of the Blues we have recorded was sanitised for general output. The Blues came from rural areas in Mississippi and Louisiana and was the music of the hard-working sharecropping families who worked there. It served many functions – as work-songs – to speed up the repetitive labour in the fields – as dance songs at the country barbeques – as busking songs in the streets – as songs for entertainment in the bars and brothels – and as protest and cathartic anger. I think a lot of these never saw the light of day. They were considered too dangerous to risk putting on vinyl. Life was

Bo Carter was performing back in the early 1930s and specialised in risqué acoustic Blues songs with double entendres. His guitar playing is very highly developed rag-time style. This album, as the name suggests, is full of these type of songs. Some of them are very amusing and some highly inventive. It includes such gems as ‘My pencil won’t write no more’, ‘Pussy cat blues’, ‘Don’t mash my digger so deep’, ‘Pin in your cushion’ and ‘What kind of scent is this?’

104 – Band – Music from Big Pink

The Band started as Rocker Ronnie Hawkin’s backing band before ending up as Bob Dylan’s backing band. Big Pink was the name of the big house in Woodstock where Dylan & the Band used to hang out and rehearse after his motorbike accident in the late sixties.

They went back to playing around with a lot of musical styles that would now be termed Americana. This was at odds with the prevailing psychedelia of the day as well as the styles that Dylan had been developing shortly before. It was as if Dylan needed to shut the door on that and open a new chapter.

The impromptu sessions were recorded in that basement and have since been released by Dylan, mainly due to all the bootleg versions I suspect, as ‘The Basement tapes’.

‘Music from Big Pink’ came out of those sessions as well. It was a studio album featuring a couple of Dylan originals and a new style of music.

This is the album that blew Eric Clapton away so that he moved right away from Progressive Rock. So in that sense it was a bad influence.

It is a great album stuffed full of memorable tracks such as ‘The weight’, ‘Tears of rage’, ‘Long black veil’ and ‘To kingdom come’ as well as the two Dylan tracks ‘This wheel’s on fire’ and ‘I shall be released’.

It’s a great album but I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest it should usurp the whole of Progressive, Acid and Psychedelic Rock.

105. George Harrison – All things must pass

When the Beatles split I don’t think anyone thought that George would emerge with an album of this quality. He came out with all arms flailing and legs pounding. He’d been saving up all his songs and blasted them out on this triple album. One of the tensions in the band was that George did not feel his contributions were valued; it was hard getting them past the Lennon/McCartney machine. Perhaps he wanted to prove to everyone that he was just as good a song-writer.

I’d always valued his efforts and this album continued with those gems. There was ‘Wah-Wah’. ‘Isn’t it a pity’, ‘My sweet Lord’, ‘What is life?’, ‘If not for you’, ‘the art of dying’, ‘Apple scruffs’ and ‘Beware of darkness’.

It was great to see that we were still going to get some decent stuff coming through even if the Beatles were no longer a band.

106. Donovan – Sunshine Superman

Donovan doesn’t get enough recognition for some of his achievements. That is probably because a lot of his stuff was seen as hippie-dippy and Pop trivia. But that isn’t completely fair. Don did some great acoustic stuff on his first couple of albums. His ‘Ballad of a Crystal Man’ and cover of Buffy St Marie’s ‘Universal Soldier’ were brilliant and by no means alone.

Sunshine Superman comes from the mid sixties and was quite a departure and also a real innovation. Donovan captured a real new sound and was probably the first with Psychedelic Folk. I really adore this sound. ‘Sunshine Superman’ with its acid guitar and trippy lyrics set the tone for what was to come. This came out in 1966 in the States – before all the psychedelic stuff took off in 1967.

The Acid scene was set with ‘Season of the Witch’, ‘The Trip’, ‘The fat Angel’, ‘The three Kingfishers’ and the sitar/tabla influence of ‘Ferris wheel’. Bert’s Blues was about Bert Jansch.

It was way ahead of its time, not at all poppy and with some great songs and great vibe.

107. Bert Jansch – Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch came down from Scotland to join the London Folk Blues scene in the mid sixties. He was the wild young Scot with the rough and ready attitude and his playing reflected that. He was immediately up there with the likes of fellow acoustic guitarists John Renbourn and Davey Graham. Davey had recently come back from Morocco with the instrumental ‘Anji’. The three of them set a formidable pace for acoustic folk-blues guitar playing and soon got recording contracts.

I see the first two albums as being very similar – ‘Bert Jansch’ was the first and ‘It don’t bother me’ was his second album and both were released in 1965.

I selected ‘Bert Jansch’ because of the iconic songs that it featured although both albums had a similar sound, style and feel. I remember when I was 16 years old sitting on the bed in my tiny bedroom playing this album over and over again. It was totally different to all the Rock, Blues, Pop, Folk and Beat music I was listening to. I think it was Neil Furby, a friend from school, who introduced me to both Bert and John Renbourn. Shortly after that I started going up to Les Cousins in Greek Street and to the Barge at Kingston to catch them all. It was at one of those Les Cousins concerts that I first caught the young mercurial Roy Harper.

The songs that really grabbed me were ‘Needle of death’, ‘Do you hear me now’, ‘Your love is strong’, ‘Running from home’ and the instrumental copied from Davey Graham and re-titled ‘Angie’.

This album is very evocative to me of the mid-sixties with all its social changes.

108. Grateful Dead – American Beauty

The Grateful Dead started out as the Warlocks as an R&B outfit. They rapidly transformed into an Acid Rock band and provided the feedback for Ken Kesey’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests.

They were a leading light at all the San Franciscan Free events and one of the original and first Acid Rock bands to get signed. They were a great live band with Jerry Garcia’s guitar style creating wafting patterns as the band free-formed through their elongated trippy soundscapes.

Their fans were rabid and became known as Deadheads.

I personally never really got into their early albums and did not think that they ever truly captured their sound on vinyl.

In the mid-seventies they underwent a change of style into a more country influenced sound. This album ‘American Beauty’ comes from that period. It features great tracks like ‘Box of rain’, ‘Sweet Magnolia’ and the infamous ‘Truckin’’.

109. Chuck Berry – On stage

This was the first Chuck Berry album I bought and I reckon it captures the excitement of Chuck’s early act though there is some conjecture as to the recording. It was actually studio recorded tracks with audience sound dubbed in. I still find it absolutely electric.

Chuck was the most exciting act around with all his stage moves with that guitar – the machine gun, duck-walk and splayed leg antics – as well as the distinctive guitar blues based riffs. He was right up there with Bo and Little Richard.

This album starts with the stormin’ ‘Go Go Go’ and went on with ‘Memphis Tennessee’, ‘Maybelline’, ‘Rockin’ on the railroad’, ‘Jaguar and the thunderbird’, ‘Sweet little sixteen’ and ‘All aboard’.

Whether it was authentically live or not it worked for me.

110. Bo Diddley – Bo’s big 20

Where would the British Beat groups be without Bo Diddley. Bo was short for Bad Boy and Bo certainly lived up to his name. He started as a boxer and street busker in McComb Mississippi before becoming discovered, moving to Chicago, encountering Muddy Waters and becoming a Blues Rocker. No one ever has quite that swagger that Bo Diddley had. He was one for the garish clothes and outrageous home-made guitars with weird tuning, weird effects, weird fur, weird shapes and incredible rhythms.

All these top 20 Bo Diddley compositions, plus a lot more, were the staple diet of British Beat Bands back in the 1960s. Along with his maraca man Jerome Green and the Beautiful Duchess in slinky dresses on bass he took the place over like a hurricane coming through. There was never a more boastful set of songs with ‘Bo Diddley’, ‘Hey Bo Diddle’, ‘Bo’s a lumberjack’, ‘Run run Diddley daddy’ and ‘I’m the greatest lover in the world’. Yet nobody deserved to be shouting out loud about their talents. This was the man who had written and performed all those great Rock songs that will go down in history – ‘I’m a man’, ‘500% more man’, ‘Cops and Robbers’, ‘Pretty Thing’, ‘Say man’, ‘Pills’, ‘Roadrunner’, ‘You can’t judge a book by the cover, ‘I can tell’, ‘Who do you love?’ and a load more.

A lot of them are on here and they sound as good as ever!