Oh, there is lots going on
As statements of intent go, they don’t come much more potent and honest as the What’s Going On cover. To the naked eye, it mightn’t look radical – just another picture of a bearded guy in latex. But, should you flick back through your excellent collection of Marvin Gaye records before this 1971 release, you’ll notice that every single cover was shot in a nice clean studio, Gaye in a suit, and this is the first one featuring his trademark facial arrangement. Plus, if you really squint, you’ll notice the beads of cold rain in his hair, and spattered down the side of his gigantic jacket collars. That means that this iconic photograph was taken on a rainy day – no one ever takes iconic pictures on rainy days! Essentially Gaye is declaring the album sleeve unimportant, as, it seems, are his Motown bosses. The whisper on the street being that Berry Gordy – legendary record honcho – thought it was rubbish, which clearly explains the no-expense-spent sleeve. It went on to sell about a million trillion copies, of course, rainy-face cover or not.
Enjoy a fantastic live performance after the jump…
Sorry Collins, no room at the inn
It’s difficult to pinpoint the coolest area of a band. Is it around the frontman/woman? Or is it at the back with the mentalist thrashing around on the drums? One thing is for sure, wherever Phil Collins lays his hat, it isn’t there. And, Ringo couldn’t plump Lennon, Harrison, nor McCartney for cool points either. Some people, however, have managed to occupy the front of stage, and the back of house, and have sparkled in both areas. Here is a rundown of our favourite drummers-slash-singers…
1 Chaka Khan
We all knew that Chaka Khan was a whole hunk of woman, with a voice so sharp and funky that it could cut through concrete, but who knew she could play the drums excellently as well? The perfect wife.
The Pasadenas, Tribute (Right On)
Long before Duffy and Winehouse began looting Motown back catalogues for ideas, these guys were already at it. As pop/soul songs go, this one is an absolute belter, only slightly ruined by the band’s decision to dress up like cast members from Grease. An underrated pop group.
Hey, check out the grown up!
In the early 70s, Stevie Wonder – the funny little blind kid who could play one heck of a harmonica – suddenly went all moody and started playing robotronic instruments like synthesizers and electronic mouth organs. How did the cutesy foot stomping prodigy do it? Was he really a robot? No he wasn’t, he did it by demanding that Mr Motown and his goons take him seriously as “an artiste”. Hence, this was his first album with total creative control – or second if you count Where I’m Coming From (which we don’t) – and he marked it with an album cover so dour, so straight faced, that young kids have been copycatting the look for their Facebook profiles ever since. The pensive seriousness of his face suggests that this is the work of an adult – an actual adult who’s just grown a beard. While the smiling pictures in his mirrored shades hint towards a cheerier side – they’re saying, “don’t fret, kids, it’s still me – Little Stevie!” Either way, it was the great man’s first brilliant record. The first of many.
Enjoy a cut from the album after the jump…
Hmmm, a curious woman…
It’s a known fact that since vinyl morphed into CD, then CD into zany online downloads, hardly anyone can be bothered making a decent record cover. What’s the point? No one’s going to see it. Time was when artists – actual professional artists, with visions– were commissioned to create something magical. Now it’s just some bloke with a digital camera telling the pop star to look moodily into the distance. Rubbish. BUT, every so often, something will come along and very nearly raise an eyebrow, such as the above Amy Winehouse cover. A Motown inspired record, the sleeve shows her looking made up, yet bony and whithered (as is her trademark), sitting on a school chair, in front of a blackboard (RIP). As usual, some little scamps have been monkeying around, drawing pictures that have been rubbed out – see, there’s a hilarious stick man in the bottom right hand corner. And yet, the big question remains: is she playing the role of teacher? Or is she a student?
Or did a man with a digital camera just tell her to sit in a chair and look moody?
There’s a reminder of what she was like before all the junk took a hold after the jump…