Considering a world of smart jazz argot and slick-dressed guys that were nicknamed Bird (Charlie Parker: well, the genius of modern music actually looked like a bum if nobody took care of his wardrobe), The High Priest (Thelonious Monk), The Baron (Charles Mingus), Tootie (Albert Heath), Klook (Kenny Clarke), Bags (Milt Jackson, in case you don’t know, it referred to the prominent pouches under his eyes) or Possum Head (Dear Mr. Donaldson, whatever they say, you look pretty handsome to me…), it isn’t a surprising fact that a serious amount of wordplay went into the design of the record album covers of the fifties and sixties. Of course, this world includes label bosses who were intent on marketing and sales. Depending on your taste, the wordplay veers between catchy or far-fetched, cool or, in retrospect, rather silly. Mostly cool and funny in my mind. Here are some examples that I found in my record collection:
Horace Silver was a spiritual guy, hence Horace-Scope, That Healin’ Feelin’ and, in the eighties, Spiritualizing The Senses and Music To Ease Your Disease. It does, doesn’t it? I wish all supermarkets would swing like the one organist Hank Marr gets his groceries from. One hell of an album by Miles Davis. But Dear Mr. Davis, what happened to your surly, existentialist attitude?
Lee Morgan points the way. Drummer Grassella Oliphant only has two albums to his name as a leader and what did they do? Take advantage of his first name!
Forget Marlboro, Chesterfield, Camel, smoke Lucky’s, right Lucky? The forrest, the forrest, the forrest’s on fire. Mann’s album cover refers to the popular action movie starring James Coburn, Our Man Flint. (the US answer to James Bond) You better watch that flute.
Try to find some yourself. It’s fun!