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We have seen so many copies of Switched-On Bach over the years that we couldn’t begin to count them. The 1968 album of Moog synthesizer renditions of Bach’s music had sold more than a million copies by the mid-70s, topping Billboard’s classical chart for years and peaking at #10 on the pop chart.

Wendy Carlos had worked with Robert Moog on the development of his synthesizer, and even used one to make experimental recordings and music for television commercials.

For many record collectors the album remains an introduction to the instrument. For us it also remains one of the goofiest album covers of all time.

For starters, this is not Wendy Carlos dressed as Bach on the cover. Carlos, who became one of the first figures to publicly speak about being transgender in a Playboy interview in 1979, is never photographed on her albums and has rarely made public appearance during her long career. She has only given one live performance.

We can’t help but wonder where the man on the jacket is today. He’s one of those famous record album people, like the man seen on the cover of Abbey Road who didn’t like the Beatles music. or the couple seen on the Woodstock soundtrack who are still together. Oh, Moog Bach guy, where are you now?

You may be surprised to learn that the cover seen here is not the album’s original jacket. The first pressing of this unexpected hit features Moog Bach guy seated, apparently displeased with what he was hearing. Carlos and collaborator Benjamin Folkman objected to the image, which they felt insinuated that the music was not to be taken seriously.

Seated or standing, this scene featuring Moog Bach guy remains silly. What’s he reading? We can’t tell the title of the big book on his bench. Why does he keep flowers in front of his Moog console? Seems like they would get in the way. It’s nice that he took time to put a lace doily on the table before setting up his synthesizer, because otherwise it could have damaged the finish. He really should be more careful where he puts his candles, though, because it seems precariously close to the dried plant on top of his bookcase.

And the cat! Have you ever noticed there’s cat in the room! We only noticed it yesterday. This is absolutely our favorite thing about this album now. Moog Bach guy has a cat that sort of looks like a little version of himself. Did they have trouble getting it to sit still? It doesn’t seem to have moved in either version of the cover. Maybe the cat really liked the music.

 

 

“Aimless Love” by John Prine (back cover)

Seasick Steve live at Third Man

Carole King “Music” (inside the gatefold)

“It’s A Lifetime” by Craig Nuttycombe

“Poor Man’s Paradise” by Tracy Nelson

“Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”

“Dirty Dog”

…which is named for the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ second album, which was released in 1974. But it could also be named for Wet Willie’s album of the same year, Keep on Smilin’. The albums, each with a random old person on the jacket, contained career peaks for the respective southern rock groups. The Daredevils had their biggest sales with “Jackie Blue” and the title track from the Wet Willie album was not only their highest-charting hit, it became a sort of signature tune for the group.

Recently, we have noticed some local records which are hoping for the same good fortune. All three albums by the Evening Rig seem to fall under the “It’ll Shine When It Shines” style, as does Erik Koskinen‘s excellent LP, American Theater. A third entry is Tabah‘s debut album, Symmetry Somewhere, which came out earlier this year.

Recent events in North Carolina are a mere skirmish compared to what happened on January 18, 1958. On that evening a Klan rally was welcomed by more than five hundred Lumbee men, members of a state-recognized tribe. The cross burning was interrupted and the Klansmen scattered — their ‘grand dragon’ James W. “Catfish” Cole abandoning his wife in his flee for safety.

Two of the Lumbee men, one a World War II veteran, appeared in the following week’s Life magazine proudly displaying a Klan banner. The events were celebrated in song by Malvina Reynolds, later appearing on a great album called Malvina Reynolds Sings the Truth. A copy this which was here in the record shop until yesterday, but before we could record “Battle of Maxton Field” someone purchased it. Fortunately for the purpose of this post the song was also sung by Pete Seeger on his album Gazette so there’s a recording we can share with you today.

A sweet sounding, sardonically biting satire of the Ku Klux Klan from 1966 has an unsettling relevance today. “Your Friendly, Liberal Neighborhood Ku Klux Klan” by the Chad Mitchell Trio lampooned the Klan’s effort to present itself as anything other than a terrorist organization in the 1960s. You may recognize one of the voices in this recording: it’s John Denver early in his career.

Satisfying as satire can be, the Klan caused terror in many parts of the country in the early 60s. After the murder of civil rights activist Viola Luizzo, who left behind five children at home in Detroit when she went to participate in the Selma to Montgomery Marches, President Lyndon Johnson addressed the nation with clear language after he made history as the first President since Ulysses S. Grant to prosecute members of the KKK. Addressing the nation he called the organization “hooded society of bigots,” and “terrorists.”

We’ll leave today’s post with a song more fitting to the terror the Klan has brought to this country for far too long. Richie Havens recorded “The Klan” on his second album, Something Else Again. It was first written by Alan and David Arkin. We think of Alan Arkin as the merciless criminal in Wait Until Dark or the retirement home evictee from Little Miss Sunshine, but before he was an actor Arkin was a folk singer with the revival group The Tarriers. Havens performs the song with his characteristic fervor, effectively captures some of the fear caused by this terrorist organization.

 

The blooming canna lilies out front really cheer us up every time we go outside with Irene. The ones in our garden at home attract a lot of butterflies and even a few hummingbirds, but these might be a little too close to Lake Street for the wildlife.

Last night the Minnesota Orchestra began its annual Sommerfest with a live performance of the 2009 Star Trek score. Once again, they’ve invited your friendly neighborhood record store to provide some entertainment for the mezzanine. Once again there will be listening stations in Orchestra Hall and this year we’ve selected some albums connected to each night’s musical program. Also throughout the lobby are giant versions of popular games like chess, Connect Four and Scrabble.

You can check out the whole calendar for the Orchestra’s Sommerfest program on their website here. And when you visit Orchestra Hall between now and the first week of August you can take a rest and listen to albums like Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space during the intermission.

The first thing which caught our eye on this sleeve inside a copy of the Jackson 5’s Looking Back LP was the mail-in opportunity to be “Jermaine’s Personal Soul-Mate,” since by most accounts Jermaine had a lot of ‘soul-mates’ in those days. Michael, on the other hand, was too little for that. As he famously said in an interview years later when asked about whether there was an actual Billie Jean:

Billie Jean is kind of anonymous. It represents a lot of girls. They used to call them groupies in the ’60s. They would hang around backstage doors, and any band that would come to town they would have a relationship with, and I think I wrote this out of experience with my brothers when I was little. There were a lot of Billie Jeans out there. Every girl claimed that their son was related to one of my brothers.

Anyways, the best thing about this sleeve is the word “Tito-riffic!” Unfortunately, our search online didn’t turn up the Tito poster advertised in this sleeve, so we’ll have to imagine what “Tito-rific!” looks like.

We did, however, come across this poster for a City Councilman in Boston. Tito Jackson, who is about twenty-two years younger than the third oldest member of the famous Jacksons, is of no relation. He has successfully made a name for himself in his district, and is running for Mayor of Boston this fall.

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