Friday, April 9, 2021

Warhol's Sticky Fingers

The Velvets iconic Warhol LP cover changed the game. Up to that point, rock album covers were banal photos of the bands; with The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds coming to mind. There's a nostalgic flair to many of these LPs, but rock music didn't have the sway or the panache apparent in the jazz covers of the 50s or, as an example, Sinatra's two classically hip covers, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning and Come Fly With Me. All indicators point to the banana as the turning point in graphic design for rock albums, despite the LP's dismal sales of 30,000.

At a party in 1969, though, Andy Warhol told Mick Jagger in his off-hand, matter-of-fact manner that it might be "fun" to have a real zipper on a record sleeve. Never one to shy away from sexuality, it's no surprise that the snake-hipped Lothario, Jagger, was on it, and a year later he suggested the idea for Sticky Fingers: the fulsome cover of a man's crotch clad in tight jeans plays off the innuendo of the album's title and opens to reveal a Warhol Polaroid of white briefs. The Sticky Fingers cover is an enduring example of imaginative and provocative packaging and has joined the ranks of album design mythology.

Given that Jagger was regarded as the sexiest man in rock, it is commonly assumed to be his "likeness," but the true identity of the well-endowed cover model has been a mystery for nearly 50 years. It all began when Warhol arranged to photograph several men from the waist down at Interview's offices at 33 Union Square West. After the photo shoots, Andy never let on the identity of the man on the cover, or even whether the jeans model and the underwear model were one and the same. There's an idea that although others may have known the model's identity, Warhol did not. Odds on favorites for the model are Warhol Superstar Joe Dellasandro and or make-up artist Cory Tippin, indeed an odd, anonymous claim to their 15 minutes.