Friday, November 28, 2014

On Sunset

Between Doheny and Laurel Canyon, the Sunset Strip was littered with giant billboards, much of it my father’s work.  You’d find him above it all like Michelangelo in modern times.  My father was responsible for Tommy by the Who and Marvin Gaye Live over by the Roxy.  He did Chinatown and Aja and 461 Ocean Blvd. 
“Can I come up?”  He looked at me from above.
He was working on So Far by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  Joni Mitchell did the painting for this anthology of hits, but my father brought it to life, made it big and bold and out there for the world to see.  It stood above the Chateau Marmont on the north side of the Strip.  I think he captured Neil a bit better than Joni did; something about Neil, that crazy look of his.  
                                                - From the Novel, Jay and the Americans

Indeed, if you ever drove down the Sunset Strip in the 70s or 80s, you saw my father's work. If I ever needed to find him, I'd drive down the boulevard and there he'd be, up there, somewhere, high above the city in the smog.  My favorite of all was Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.  There was so much detail, so many little stories.  Because of my father I developed a great appreciation for album artwork.  From Peter Saville to Whipped Cream and Other Delights, album art for me is to this day like a stroll through a Soho Gallery or through LACMA. Today's post isn't about the music, it's about the art.  Just a stroll...

Warhol's cover for the Velvet Underground was unlike anything anyone had ever seen.  But it was a time of that.  No one had ever seen the likes of Whipped Cream either (the blatant sensuality was pure 60s bachelor pad).  The late 60s gave us Moby Grape and Sgt. Pepper and Days of Future Past.  Suddenly we didn't even know who an album was by.  By the 1970s, album art had become an expectation, a part of the bargain.  We got post cards and posters (DSOTM, Wish You Were Here); we and Newspapers (Thick as a Brick). Quadrophenia would blast from the speakers and I'd sit cross-legged on the floor and pour through the 32 page matte finished booklet:

Quadrophenia, like Magical Mystery Tour before it, was too British for my American sensibilities, but through the artwork I understood Little Nicole and Jimmy.  Album cover art often plays a role in an AM10, and even more often it elevates an album that no one would remember at all into an art form that fully belongs to the 20th century.

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