A Look at Cheesy Album Cover Design

The Reels -  Beautiful
The Reels - Beautiful

I had a song in my head. And after checking out iTunes I realised I had a version of the song somewhere in our rambling album collection (the song was This Guy’s in Love with You – classic Burt Bacharach). After hunting around I found the album and had to smile. This album cover (above) has to be one of the cheesiest I’ve ever seen. Of course the Reels were so generally tongue-in-cheek in their style and choice of music, they deliberately made the design of it so – the album is full of cutesy covers such as Where is the Love? and Last Night (I couldn’t get to sleep) done in their trademark 80’s electronic keyboard style with Dave Mason’s weedy voice warbling on top. The whole package is so twee that you just have to smile which was their intention.

So after that re-discovery I started to dig around for any other cheesy (intentional or unintentional) album covers in the collection. Of course with a collection that spans The Go-Betweens, the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Cocteau Twins, Theolonius Monk, Nina Simone, and lots of classical, it wasn’t easy but I’ve pulled out a few. Some of these variously didn’t age well, suffered from the limited design techniques of the time or just were a ridiculous idea to begin with – the following exemplifies this…

Whipped Cream and Other Delights
Whipped Cream and Other Delights - Herb Alpert

Oh dear. What were they thinking????

“Hey, I’ve got a great idea! Let’s get a sexy chick and smother her with washing detergent suds so that it looks like whipped cream!!! And then get her to lick it with one hand, hold a rose in the other, and look at the camera with a sexy, come-on glance!!!” “Hang on, not enough suds…let’s just blob some on her head, she’s showing a bit of nipple there…whoops some got on your hair deary…never mind…ok…one, two, three, SNAP!” “THAT’s IT!!!” Yeah, I bet she was proud to have that photo in her portfolio…

Every 1s a Winner
Every 1s a Winner - Hot Chocolate

Ok. Guess where the exact centre of the album is. Go on.

Yes, right on Errol Brown’s crutch. Nice. And the way that he’s thrust it out for emphasis just takes the (chocolate) cake. This one suffers from the whims of fashion over the time – scarves over chest hair, whoever thought of that!

Back then they were pretty much restricted design-wise to doing nothing more sophisticated than superimposing text on a photograph. No photoshopping layers or cloning tool and deep etching was a pretty crude affair. But after saying that, the elegance of some album covers exceeds those done today (but that’s another post).

Baroque to Beatles
Baroque to Beatles

I don’t think they know what they’re doing here, whether it’s the quasi-hippy sitting on the ground but dressed in business tie and shirt, standing up in a double-breasted suit or sitting cross-legged in stripy socks, they just haven’t worked out what image they wanted to project. Someone call the stylist!

The Ballet
The Ballet

I don’t know what this is doing in our collection – possibly waiting for an opportunity like this! It looks like the deadline for printing the cover came up without anyone realising it. “Holy crap, the pressing’s been done, it’s due out in the stores in a month – what are we going to do?!!!” “Hey, my kid does ballet. How about we just take a photo of her in a pose? But who’s gonna take the photo?”  “The photographer isn’t available; she’s doing a shoot in Africa.” “No worries I’ve got my box brownie. I’ll just set it up in the lounge room…hm a bit dark, the chandelier’s not bright enough…let’s just direct the lamp light…Larry, get on the coffee table and point the lamp down and over here onto Cindy”…”Sweetie, have you done your homework?” “Hm, Dad?” SNAP “Great! That’s done.” “Hey I think the camera looked a little crooked?” “Don’t worry about it. Get it developed and sent to the printers pronto.”

Switched on Bach
Switched on Bach
Switched on Bach II
Switched on Bach II

These two are pretty funny actually, particularly the second one with Bach in a space helmut. They speak for themselves really.

Saturday Night Fever
Saturday Night Fever

This cover would have been difficult to do design-wise. The title would have been created all by hand:- painstakingly masked and airbrushed. And those teeth would have been dodged on the photo and individually airbrushed to make them so very, very white. Oh, hang on, they really did have teeth like that…ok, just a lot of manually applied tooth whitener and hand brushing with a toothbrush then…

Devo
Devo

This one is endearingly cheesy. Silver suits, red flower-pot hats…you just have to love them for it.

Hawaiian Dance Party
Hawaiian Dance Party

Look at that deep etching!!! (That’s the cutting out of the lady so that it could be superimposed onto the background photo to make her look like she’s been photographed on the beach rather than in a studio). Look at that black line around her – we are not fooled! And what’s with the pouty orgasmic pose holding the phallic object? Are you trying to tell us that if we listen and dance to this music we’ll feel like we’re dancing on a tropical beach in the arms of a willing babe ready for our next move? No, I don’t think so.

Lime Spiders - Weirdo Libido
Lime Spiders - Weirdo Libido

Severely suffering from the post-psychedelic resurgence of the early 80s, this one has everything:- acidic colours, double exposures, photographic projections onto the band members, elaborate hand-lettered type in an arc, scrawled lettering in lipstick red over the surface. Bring it on!!!

Texas Blues Anthology
Texas Blues Anthology

What IS this? What’s with the blob? Yeah I know it’s two faces but why are they incorporated into a blob? Someone has gone to a lot of work drawing this up by hand and for what reason? Not sure.

The Reals - Great Gift Ideas
The Reals - Great Gift Ideas

And to finish off:- another Reels cover that looks like they had great fun pulling out their homely Christmas decorations and cutting up wrapping paper. I really like it. The primary colours, hand lettering and punkish layout scream of the 80s.

If anyone can think of more classics, please inform me…

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