Plymouth record expert selects worst album covers
COWS, accordions, and a bloke in a gorilla outfit – they all feature in record expert Robin Ash's list of the worst album sleeves of all time.
Mr Ash, of Eggbuckland-based Beatnik Bay Records and Books, collects weird and wonderful records and likes to share them with readers of The Herald.
Previously he's revealed his lists of the most bizarre festive LPs, and sports-themed recording – and now he's decided it's the most bonkers covers that should be celebrated and wants to know if readers can top any of his choices.
So he's dusted off his copies of Spectacular Accordions and Live at the Montague. But Robin stressed that no matter how bad an album jacket may be, and these are pretty bad, the music is often great.
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And, with downloads taking over, LP cover art is becoming a thing of the past.
"Some record sleeves become iconic images," he said. "Designs for The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden and Sex Pistols spring to mind.
"But other LPs are not so great, although I have a lot of affection for all these. A lot of modern covers are lazy; there's a lack of imagination.
"I've tried to choose ones which are pretty bad – without being too disturbing."
Robin's top 12 kicks off with the horrendously dressed Kaye Family.
The mum-dad-son-daughter combo are captured live in a Cardiff social club, in 1974, bashing out 24 tracks including their take on From Russia with Love.
"This is a pretty bewildering recording with the drums amplified to ear splitting levels and a vocal mix that could cause disorientation in some listeners," said Robin. "It's like a cross between cabaret and punk.
"Every Christmas friends come around and we play albums and vote for the worst one – this usually wins.
"I'd love to know more about them."
The Mighty Accordion Band's 1959 LP They Said it Couldn't be Done has "a fairly mad sleeve" featuring a man in a gorilla suit.
"Gorilla costumes were in vogue in the late 1950s, made popular by US comic Ernie Kovacs who frequently featured 'gorilla' musicians in his TV shows," said Robin. "Jack Lemmon and Frank Sinatra both performed inside the suits.
"And accordion LPs seem to have more than their fair share of strange sleeves.
"Spectacular Accordions, from 1960, features a girl in the yellow leotard."
Also featuring girls, lots of them, in a digger bucket, is well-regarded jazz trumpeter Jonah Jones' with his album I Dig Chicks!
"Known as King Louis Two, a reference to Louis Armstrong, the art department may have taken the title too literally," said Robin.
Italian rockers I Cugini di Campagna (The County Cousins) pair silver suits with afro hair on their 1976 collection.
"This may be a look they now regret," said Robin.
Also Italian, Renato's A Song for You comes complete with a clumsy cut-out of the singer stuck on a tourist shot of Pisa's leaning tower.
Renato Pagliari, who later hit Number One as part of Renee and Renato, was actually born in Biera, but lived in Sutton Coalfield where he was dubbed "the Mario Lanza of the Midlands".
"Quality control is a little lacking on the sleeve design," said Robin. "But he has signed it with 'To Trixie, lots of love and baccio (kisses), xxx'."
Bollards' eponymous 1977 album shows the Bristol band riding motorbikes, dressed in flares and ultra-wide collars.
"They're the sort of band that make the Wurzels sound sophisticated," said Robin. "You know you're in trouble when the supplier of the motorbikes gets a bigger sleeve credit than the producer.
"On the unfortunately named Bumpkin Record label, it contains songs called Jock the Ripper and Scrumpy Rules OK."
Better musically, if not pictorially, is Live at the Montague, from 1971.
"The Montague Arms was a pub in the East End of London," said Robin. "Delights of this LP include a stand-up comedian who sings like Tom Jones, the pub owner on drums, and an organ player called Peter London who defies expectation and sings and plays like a dream."
Meanwhile, Robin points out that matching suits worked for the Beatles – but perhaps not for Midlands band Hogarth's World. "They look like they've wandered accidently into an estate agent's photo shoot," he said.
Ron and Rosalind's Shadows-like guitar instrumentals would have been out of step with the current trends of 1980, when their album was pressed. "But at least they had the foresight to add their names to their guitars to avoid confusion," said Robin. "And they've signed 'To Susan, lots of love'. But someone's also written on it 'On sale at the football club Millbrook'."
The Original Tennessee Three certainly were original, but the country trio weren't from Tennessee – they were from Jersey.
Perhaps that's why their 1973 waxing features a "supreme champion" cow called Dunedin's Moonlight.
"Pink Floyd had the same idea," said Robin. "It worked pretty well for them. I'm not so sure about this one."
Lastly, TV magician Paul Daniels' brother Trevor is pictured "looking very relaxed" on his keyboard.
"He used to play accordion as part of a double act with his brother, but presumably gave that up in favour of an instrument that can double as a comfortable sofa," said Robin.
Do you know anything about any of these acts? Maybe you saw them? Or have you a favourite worst album cover? Nominations to email@example.com or comment below and let us know your favourite or worst cover.