Variations on a Theme: The Art of Roy Lichtenstein

dreamworks-recordsRoy Lichtenstein was one of the most notable pop artists of the 1960s. His paintings were typically based on comic strip panels and parodied everything from war to romance. On May 13, 2013, Lichtenstein’s Woman with a Flowered Hat sold for $56.1 million, a record price for his work.

Like his contemporary, the late Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein’s work has been used for album covers. It has also been imitated many times over the years. Lichtenstein also designed the logo for Dreamworks Records (above right). It was his last commission before his death in 1997.

In 2010, the indie pop/rock band Elsinore used a painting by Brittany Pyle as the cover for their album Yes, Yes, Yes (shown below). The painting was done by Pyle for a college class and based on the same original graphic novel piece that Roy Lichtenstein used when he created his painting Kiss V. As a result, the band was contacted the Manager of Intellectual Property for the Estate of Roy Lichtenstein claiming a copyright violation.

The band contacted the popular website Boing Boing, which posted the details of the copyright demand from the Lichtenstein estate. Readers overwhelmingly encouraged the band to keep their cover. After the public attention, the Lichtenstein sent the band the following message:

Dear Daniel,

We will agree to the use of the image on your album cover with “an homage to Roy Lichtenstein’s Kiss V” included in the liner notes.
Please be sure to spell the artist’s name correctly.

Below are eight album covers that were either created by Lichtenstein or inspired by his work. The first four are by Lichtenstein. The second four are obvious imitations.

Ray Martin and His Orchestra – Comic Strip Favorites (1966)
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Steve Reich – The Four Sections: Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1990)
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Bobby “O” – I Cry For You (1983)
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Various – The Music of Roy Lichtenstein (2003)
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Aira Mitsuki – 6 Force (2010)
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Elsinore – Yes, Yes, Yes (2010)
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Melody Club – Goodbye to Romance (2009)
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The Fratellis – We Need Medicine! (2013)
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Variations on a Theme: Solar Eclipse

With a solar eclipse just minutes away, wondered how many album covers and single sleeves have featured the image of an eclipse over the years. A few came to mind immediately. However, I was surprised to discover that there are quite a few of them. I have posted a few from the AAX gallery below. It will be interesting to see how many albums will feature photographs from today’s event.

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Variations on a Theme: Male Nudity

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There is probably nothing more likely to be censored on an album cover than male nudity. A penis is certain to get a mosaic blur or a sticker placed over it. Artists who use images of naked men on their albums may do it for shock value.

Probably the most noteworthy album cover featuring frontal male nudity is Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins (right), which was released by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1968. The cover caused a major controversy. It was distributed in a brown wrapper and even seized as obscene material in some jurisdictions. The thing that made the album more controversial than other albums that featured nudity was John Lennon’s penis. It was something that had simply not been done before.

Today, artists do not risk having their albums declared obscene for featuring a naked man. Many brick and mortar retailers would refuse to display the album on their shelves and online retailers would censor the image. However, there would be very little controversy. Of course, showing an erection or a sex act would be an entirely different matter.  

I recently noticed that three forthcoming albums feature male nudity. Two use frontal nudity and one is a photograph of a naked man shown from behind. Although there are many other recent examples, I think that these three covers may show a trend for 2012.

Hot Panda – Go Outside (2012)

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Crocodiles – Endless Flowers
(2012)

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Stefan Dettl – Summer of Love
(2012)

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Variations on a Theme: Blurry People

In no particular order, here are 11 interesting album covers depicting blurry people. From out of focus camera shots to post production techniques and additional design elements. For some, it’s to hide the naughty bits (sigh). For others, it’s to create the illusion of rapid movement and/or two heads! And others, well, it’s to jazz up a boring head shot or the designer discovered a new plugin in Photoshop. Or maybe they were under the influence when they used their camera.

My favorites would have to be Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (come on, who wouldn’t like Joan Jett naked?), Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Uffie. What are yours?

Mary Chapin Carpenter – Shooting Straight in the Dark (1990)


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Aequi


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James Blake – James Blake (2011)

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  Fiona Apple – Tidal (1996)

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Placebo – Meds (2006)

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  Smashing Pumpkins – Pisces Iscariot (1994)

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Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Naked (2004)
 


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randysrodeo


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Fatboy Slim – Everybody Needs a 303 (1996)

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  DJ Sammy – Heaven (2002)

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Velocity Girl – Copacetic (1993)

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  Emmylou Harris – Hard Bargain (2011)

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Uffie – Wordy Rappinghood (2011)
 


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Variations on a Theme: The Nude Series: Inked

Inked bodies, tattooed birthday suits, and artistically painted flesh make up this installment of The Nude Series. My favorite is Joss Stone, followed by Bullets and Octane, but I’m quite like the last one for the clever play on words and cool band name (Johnny Depp’s character Rango should cover them!). Oh heck, I like them all.

Joss Stone – Introducing Joss Stone (2007)


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benditlikebender


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Jocelyn Eve Stoker (or Joss Stone to those in the know!) went au naturelle for her third studio album. I assume she has been painted “silver/gray” to blend in with the wall, and then the painted swirly and “hippie-like” designs have been accented along with her red hair. Totally awesome!

The album’s lead single Tell Me ’bout It, was, incredibly, Stone’s first solo single to make the Billboard Hot 100 in the US (come on America, what are you playing at?). The album itself debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 in it’s opening week, becoming the highest debut for a British female solo artist on the chart, surpassing the record previously by Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black.

Kelli Ali – Tigermouth (2003)

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  Poison – Hollyweird (2002)

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Lead singer of the trip-hop group Sneaker Pimps, female vocalist Kelli Ali, kindly went topless for us (just in case a sleeve might get in the way, God bless her!) so we could see the pair of tigers tattooed on her left arm. Now that’s dedication! Tigermouth, so named for her “unique canine dentition” (that’s special cat-like teeth), was Ali’s debut solo album.

Next we have American hard rock band Poison’s sixth studio album, Hollyweird, sporting the obligatory motorcycle with flames and skull, a nude woman in boots, and a snake, albeit tattooed. There’s also four terrifying monster heads in the background and a “Bret Michael looking” cowboy hat present, just in case you still weren’t entirely sure what sort of album you might be getting yourself into.

Buckcherry – Buckcherry (1999)


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Another American rock band, Buckcherry, for their eponymous debut album, decided to use an illustration of a hot, luscious, decorated, painted, red-haired beauty (OMG, it’s Joss Stone!). Such decorative and patterned “full” body tattoos were common throughout Polynesia and other parts of the world, and accentuating weapons, sorry, features such as the breasts is nothing new that isn’t being done today without ink or paint.

Bullets and Octane
In the Mouth of the Young (2006)
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  Bang Tango
From the Hip (2006)

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And lastly, we have two very contrasting covers, both from 2006. One, quite tattooed and in areas that could easily be bare or visible in public, the other small and lonely, discrete and intimate. I have covered punk/hard rock/thrash metal band Bullets and Octane’s cover in an earlier Déjà Vu entry. Suffice to say, that baby will probably grow up to be a hulking WWE star with arms thicker than his head (see what I did there?!).

The cover for American funk-infused hard rock and glam metal band Bang Tango’s fifth and last studio album, From the Hip, also “features” a tattoo, on a hip. It’s a Chinese dragon. While “features” may be a slightly strong word to use here, the album title and model’s tattoo are indelibly inked … err … linked, and the first thing my eyes looked at was her hip, honest! 🙂

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Variations on a Theme: The Nude Series: Bare Bottoms

Having trawled though almost two thousand suggested album covers for “The Nude Series” (gee life is tough), here is the first in the series — bare bottoms!. Now, I appreciate a nice bare bottom as much as the next man (or woman), but only as long as it’s done tastefully. So, without further ado, here are twelve delightful derrieres, brilliant buttocks, perky posteriors, tasty tushies, awesome asses and beautiful behinds. OK, I’m running out of alliterative synonyms… on with the show… err… article.

Robert Palmer – Pressure Drop (1975)
Now On – Tomorrow Already (2008)


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For more information on arguably the most famous album cover featuring a naked behind, Robert Palmer’s Pressure Drop, please check out Fritz’s excellent Déjà vu: Now On vs. Robert Palmer. It’s nice to know that Now On went the extra mile and used three different models. Good for them. And us.

The Strokes – Is This It (2001)
(Non-US version)
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  Mark Pritchard & Om’Mas Keith
Wind It Up (EP) (2009)
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American rock band The Strokes
debut album cover, by Colin Lane, features a photograph of a woman’s nude bottom and hip, with a leather-gloved hand suggestively resting on it. The model was later revealed to be Lane’s then-girlfriend. In what was purely a band decision, an alternative cover of a microscopic close-up of particle collisions was used for the American market. The Strokes’ 2003 biography mentions the fear of objections from America’s conservative retail industry and right-wing lobby as reasons for the artwork’s alteration. And now my “other” favorite (Akercocke’s is the other), the deliciously green “tattooed” smoothie presented by electronic music producer Mark Pritchard and hip hop artist Om’Mas Keith. It’s so different! And green! I want one!

Wolfmother – White Unicorn (2006)

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The cover of Australian rock band Wolfmother‘s single White Unicorn is from The Moon’s Rapture (1994), by the late great fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. Another of his works, The Sea Witch (1967), graces Wolfmother’s self-titled debut album. The 2008 live bootleg Mammoth, continues the tradition with The Mammoth (1973). If you happen to have a Frazetta original lying around, it’s worth millions. In July 2010, Conan the Destroyer (1971) sold for US $1.5 million.

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  The New Pornographers – Myriad Harbour (2007)
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The cover art for British band Whitesnake‘s Lovehunter was created by fantasy artist Chris Achilleos. At the time, the cover was controversial and Achilleos refused to do album covers for many years. The original Lovehunter artwork was stolen in the 1980s and has yet to be recovered. The same concept of a naked woman riding a serpent was used years earlier in Jon Lord’s Sarabande. And hey! Guess what? Lord was a member of Whitesnake at the time of Lovehunter. Now with a name like The New Pornographers, you’d expect a bare bum somewhere. They obliged and threw in a spaceman for free. Thank you, you Canadian indie rock band you, that’s awesome!

Scorpions – Best of Scorpions (1978)

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German heavy metal, hard-rock band Scorpions have sold over 100 million albums worldwide and released eighteen studio and four live albums (and 23 compilation albums!). Their first compilation album, back in 1978, continued heavy metal’s time honored tradition of female nudity. The Scorpions most famous cover is the very controversial Virgin Killers (1976), which Fritz has written about in great detail here.

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  Akercocke – Choronzon (2003)thumb
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British trip-hop outfit UNKLE‘s fifth studio album reveals a thong wearing beauty. The album has been released in three versions; standard, limited edition, and a 2011 re-release entitled Where Did the Night Go – Another Night Out, which depicts (tasteful) female frontal nudity (view here). Another exquisite bottom is used on 2010’s The Answer EP. The photography for these covers is the result of the collaborative work of Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones. Akercocke, an English “progressive blackened death metal band” (I have no idea what that means), have what I think is the best of them all on their third album; a gluteus maximus in glorious motion (oh dear, more alliteration).

And one last thought. I’m not sure exactly why it is, but male rears seem to be lacking. They’re very rare (homophone intended), so much so that I couldn’t find any to use in this article. Is this because it is an unproven design or marketing angle that no one is willing to try. I’m sure there are superb male butt models out there, and I’d love to see someone (Lady GaGa perhaps) break the female dominance of bare cheeks on covers.

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Variations on a Theme: Bananas!

There are a bunch of banana themed album covers out there in album cover land (pun intended). In fact, there are thousands of them. Boring fruit salad, dessert-themed, split-in-a-sundae uninspiring concepts, many with accompanying names and titles such as the Peel Sessions or Go Bananas. And yet, many others merely include a stock standard yellow banana, and fewer still a prominent one.

Let’s face it. There’s not much you can do with a banana, or a can of soup, or Marilyn Monroe, or Mickey Mouse. Isn’t that right Mr Warhol? As a teaser for an upcoming “Noah’s Ark: Monkeys” post, here is a small collection of “bananas” I consider important, different or well skinned… err… peeled… err… done.

First up, is what has to be, in my opinion, the album cover world’s sexiest banana, courtesy of The Dandy Warhols, The cover of their fourth album is a tribute to The Velvet Underground’s debut album (see last image) and an homage to Andy Warhol. But oh my, that is one nice looking zipper, skintight jumpsuit, unblemished flesh, and great curves… the Liz Hurley of bananas!

The Dandy Warhols – Welcome to the Monkey House (2003)


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And here we have Katy Perry using a banana as a phone. She also does this with a watermelon in an alternate cover. Silly girl! Everyone knows watermelons are only for tweeting! Cris Rea flaunts no banana, just a banana skin, and the members of James chow into some (an average Cavendish banana is around 90 to 100 calories). And a Velvet Underground compilation album which, like Welcome to the Monkey House, pays tribute to their debut album.

Katy Perry – Hot n Cold (2008)
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  Chris Rea – God’s Great Banana Skin (1992)thumb
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Laid (1993)


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  Lou Reed & The Velvet Underground
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The album cover for The Velvet Underground & Nico is recognizable for featuring a Warhol print. Early copies of the album (now rare collector’s items) invited the owner to “Peel slowly and see”; peeling back the banana skin revealed a flesh-colored banana underneath. Largely ignored upon it’s release, the album has since become one of the most influential and critically acclaimed rock albums in history, ranked at #13 by Rolling Stone in their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The Velvet Undergound – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)


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Variations on a Theme: Psychedelic

What else can I say other than to throw on your shades, kick back and enjoy the kaleidoscopic, hallucinogenic, super-bright, over-saturated, rainbow-colored cover-art fest about to unfold before your eyes.

WARNING: These images may induce prolonged spells of euphoria to the observer. In such cases of extreme psychedelia, do not panic, become paranoid, or get the munchies. Be groovy and calmly apply one dose of this reality check for adults, and up to three doses for children and teenagers. Do NOT exceed recommended amounts.

Julie Crochetière – Steady Ground (2011)

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Munich Syndrome – Electronic Ecstasy (2010) thumb Buy Now   The Band – Stage Fright
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The B-52s – Cosmic Thing (1989)

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Black Moth Super Rainbow
– Dandelion Gum
 (2007)
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  Acid Mothers Temple & the
 Melting Paraiso U.F.O. –
Electric Love Machine / Cosmo Chiva (2002)
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Squarepusher – Numbers Lucent EP (2009)

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Variations on a Theme: The Eyes Have It

The cover for Saliva’s new album Under Your Skin, posted earlier by zeefritz, got me thinking of albums with prominent or strange eyes and eyeballs. So with a little digging, here’s a selection for you to vote on.

If you can think of any others, please leave a comment. Green “cat people” eyes, big baby blues, eyes on hands, a bloodshot eye used as a gobstopper, terrified and surprised eyes — what’s your favorite? Get voting. Results will be posted in a week’s time.

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Variations on a Theme: Being Human

For the last six weeks, I have been avidly watching the first season of the Syfy supernatural thriller Being Human, which is an adaption of the acclaimed BBC drama Being Human (UK), which in turn just so happens to also be currently airing for the last five weeks (Series 3). It’s almost surreal to watch them together each week. I highly recommend them both. They’re darkly comedic, twisty-plot-driven, unexpectedly surprising, and refreshingly entertaining with excellent music choices ! “At times frightening, witty, and romantic” says Space. I like my description better.

Being HumanIn a nutshell, the show revolves around three roommates living in Boston (or Bristol) who appear to be in their twenties, who try to live normal lives despite being a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost. When I first saw the promotional “banner” for the North American adaption, with the slight morphing of each character into their supernatural state, I thought “What a great idea for a blog!” My only criteria is that no soundtracks covers are allowed. Feel free to list your variations in the comments below.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll EP (2009)

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Stars – The Five Ghosts (2010)

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The Bronx – The Bronx (2003)

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Honorable mentions: Ozzy Osbourne Let It Die and Bark at the Moon, Mercyful Fate Return of the Vampire, Unholy Ghost Torrential Reign, Phish The Story of the Ghost.

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