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Behind the Music: Iconic Album Cover Models Edition

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Nirvana's Nevermind album turned 20 this past weekend, which tends to make folks who consider Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to be the groundbreaking album of all time feel extremely old. Besides some great music, Nevermind also boasted that other all-important feature that ensures an album's place in future coffee table books – a memorable album cover. The life and times of Spencer Elden, the aquatic naked baby on Nirvana's album, have been covered extensively amidst all the 20th anniversary super deluxe special box set release hype, so he's not included here. But despite this lack of Spencerness, we hope the following look at some famous album cover models will trigger some warm fuzzy trips down memory lane. [Note: Some of these covers are a little risqué.]

Blind Faith

Blind Faith was one of the earliest so-called "supergroups," consisting of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech, all of whom had impressive resumes that featured names like Cream, Traffic, and the Spencer Davis Group. Blind Faith recorded just one album together, and while hardcore fans probably remember it for its musicianship, the rest of the world will always recall it as the record with the naked pubescent girl on the cover.

Photographer Bob Seidemann, a personal friend of Eric Clapton, spotted a fresh-faced London schoolgirl named Sula Goschen on the London subway one day in 1969 and approached her about posing for an album cover. She was wary at first but ultimately agreed and arranged for Seidemann to come to her home to meet her parents. After chatting with her family, Seidemann decided that Sula was too old (at age 14!) and that her younger sister, 11-year-old Mariora, was the perfect subject. Egged on by her older sister ("He'll buy you a pony!"), Mariora assented and became a part of rock and roll infamy. Today, Mariora (at left) is in her early 50s and works as a certified massage therapist in London.

1984 – Van Halen

Van Halen's 1984, which included the number one hit single "Jump," was the band's last studio album featuring David Lee Roth as lead singer. Originally the band envisioned four dancing chrome women on the cover of their upcoming album and, thanks to a friend of a friend at Warner Brothers records, photographer/artist Margo Nahas was contacted. Nahas had done illustrations of chrome images in the past, but it was another illustration in her portfolio that caught the attention of Eddie and Alex Van Halen and changed the artistic direction of the cover – a portrait of a cigarette-smoking angel. Nahas, who had a fascination with both angels and devils, had taken the photo a few years earlier utilizing Carter Helm, the four-year-old son of her best friend, as her model. Carter didn't like having heaps of gel massaged into his hair, but he perked up when he was given a candy cigarette to pose with. (Yep, the butt he is holding as well as the packs on the table are of the chocolate-wrapped-in-paper variety of faux smokes.) Nahas painted in the angel wings and marble table top (Carter was actually sitting at a picnic table), but that blue sky was courtesy of Mother Nature in Malibu, California.

Country Life – Roxy Music

Although Roxy Music had been successful in their native England for several years, they didn't make a dent in the American charts until they released their fourth album, Country Life. Lead singer Bryan Ferry had ventured to Portugal in order to clear his mind and write songs for the album. He met two German models, Constanze Karoli (cousin of the late Can guitarist Michael Karoli) and Eveline Grunwald, at a club and struck up a friendship with them. After several days of socializing, he asked them if they'd be willing to pose for an album cover he had in mind. His idea was to portray the antithesis of Britain's stodgy Country Life magazine, which usually featured top-hatted men hunting foxes on the cover. The two women eagerly shopped for some lacy lingerie and then posed in a garden lit only by the headlights of the photographer's car. The resulting cover was a sensation throughout Europe, but the scantily clad duo ended up being replaced by extra pine needles on the U.S. version of the album.

Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones

Sticky Fingers was the first Stones album released in the 1970s and also the first on their new eponymous record label. The original cover art was extremely innovative for 1971, and pretty much unthinkable in today's era of CD packaging. The band enlisted Andy Warhol to act as art director, and he came up with the idea of a photo of a close-up of a jeans-clad male crotch. Original pressings of Sticky Fingers had a working zipper on the cover that revealed white briefs underneath. That 3D version of the cover was replaced with a photograph after record stores complained that the zipper was scratching the covers of the other albums in standard sales bins.

That famous bulge, by the way, belonged to Joe Dallesandro, who had been working as a street hustler since his teens when he happened to meet Andy Warhol. Dallesandro became one of Warhol's factory superstars and appeared in several of the artist's underground films. That particular photograph wasn't posed specifically for the album cover; it just happened to be among a series of pictures Warhol had snapped of Joe in a pair of tight-fitting jeans. Today Dallesandro (at left), who identifies as bisexual, manages a hotel in Hollywood with his third wife.

Candy-O – The Cars

Dave Robinson, the drummer for the Cars, was also the band's artistic director. He was a great fan of the famous pin-up posters drawn by Alberto Vargas; when it came time to design the cover for the band's Candy-O album, Robinson contacted the 83-year-old artist and convinced him to come out of retirement. (As it turned out, Vargas' great-niece was a big Cars fan and she urged him to agree to the project.) Vargas needed a photo from which to work, so a leggy model named Nancy Beth was chosen to pose on the hood of a 1972 365 GTC/4 Ferrari at a dealership in Beverly Hills. Beth had second thoughts about appearing semi-nude in record stores at the last minute, however, so another model, Candy Moore, stepped in and loaned her face to the mix. The resulting cover was completely hand-drawn, with no air-brushing, but Elektra execs did insist on a do-over after the first drawing was submitted. They wanted the model to be, er, less anatomically detailed, which is why the girl on the cover appears to have been born without nipples.

Honey – The Ohio Players

The Ohio Players were well known not only for their funky bass-heavy songs, but also for their provocative album covers. Their 1975 album Honey achieved particular infamy not only for the nude model on the cover drenched with actual honey, but also for the rumors that surrounded the photo shoot. Did she actually become stuck to the floor when the honey hardened? Was she stabbed to death by the band, with her final screams dubbed into the intro of the number one hit "Lover Rollercoaster"?

The answer to both questions is a very emphatic NO. Ester Cordet (at left), the cover model, was a Playmate of the Month in October 1974. At the time of the album cover shoot, she was working as a flight attendant for Pacific Southwest Airlines. She is currently alive and well and has been married for many years to motivational guru Robert Ringer.

Breakfast in America – Supertramp

She wasn't scantily clad, but she was still a female used to sell an album. Supertramp had decided at their inception that they would not appear on their album covers – they wanted to remain "imageless," and according to keyboardist Rick Davies, "We wanted to be around a long time, and we didn't want people watching us getting older." After the tracks for Breakfast in America were in the can, their album designer suggested a cover featuring Cheerios cereal pieces rolling down a mountain in a flood of milk. The band rejected that idea and suggested an image of the Statue of Liberty holding a glass of orange juice.

The designer came up with a compromise – a diner waitress with an upraised tray. He chose Kate Murtagh from a catalog that featured character models, and she was dubbed "Libby" as a nod to the band's original Statue of Liberty concept. Ms. Murtagh (at left) still works in TV and film as a character actress.

Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin

Aubrey Powell, part of the legendary creative team known as Hipgnosis, was hired by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and manager Peter Grant to come up with a cover concept for the band's fifth album. He envisioned a scene from a science fiction novel called Childhood's End, which involved a multitude of nude children running off the end of the world. Even though the final album cover appears to feature dozens of kids, it was simply a multiple-exposure photo manipulation of just two tots – five-year-old Stefan Gates and his older sister Samantha.

The pair (far left) was flown to Northern Ireland's Giant Causeway where they crawled naked over the rocks both at dawn and dusk in order to catch a variety of photographic light. Today UK TV viewers know Stefan Gates (near left) as the host of BBC2's Cooking in the Danger Zone. His sister is now a screenwriter living with her husband and daughter in Cape Town, South Africa.

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technology
ABBA Is Going on Tour—As Holograms
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Missed your chance to watch ABBA perform live at the peak of their popularity? You’re in luck: Fans will soon be able to see the group in concert in all their chart-topping, 1970s glory—or rather, they’ll be able to see their holograms. As Mashable reports, a virtual version of the Swedish pop band is getting ready to go on tour.

ABBA split up in 1982, and the band hasn't been on tour since. (Though they did get together for a surprise reunion performance in 2016.) All four members of ABBA are still alive, but apparently not up for reentering the concert circuit when they can earn money on a holographic tour from the comfort of their homes.

The musicians of ABBA have already had the necessary measurements taken to bring their digital selves to life. The final holograms will resemble the band in the late 1970s, with their images projected in front of physical performers. Part of the show will be played live, but the main vocals will be lifted from original ABBA records and recordings of their 1977 Australian tour.

ABBA won’t be the first musical act to perform via hologram. Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Dean Martin have all been revived using the technology, but this may be one of the first times computerized avatars are standing in for big-name performers who are still around. ABBA super-fans will find out if “SOS” still sounds as catchy from the mouths of holograms when the tour launches in 2019.

[h/t Mashable]

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Art
6 Great (and Not-So-Great) Works of Art Made by Robots
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Cold, calculating, unfeeling—none of the stereotypes associated with robots seem to describe makers of great art. But that hasn’t stopped roboticists from trying to engineer the next Picasso in a lab. Some machines and algorithms are capable of crafting works impressive enough to fool even the toughest critics. As for the rest of the robot artists and writers out there, let’s just say they won’t have creative types fearing for their jobs anytime soon. 

1. A BEATLES-ESQUE POP SONG

If you heard the song above at a party or in a crowded store, you might assume it’s just a generic pop tune. But if you listened closer, you’d hear the dissonant vocals and nonsense lyrics that place this number in the sonic equivalent of the uncanny valley. “Daddy’s Car” was composed by an artificial intelligence system from the Sony CSL Research Laboratory. After analyzing sheet music from a variety of artists and genres, the AI generated the words, harmony, and melody for the song. A human composer chose the style (1960s Beatles-style pop) and did the producing and mixing, but other than that the music is all machine. It may not have topped the pop charts, but the song did give us the genius lyric: “Down on the ground, the rainbow led me to the sun.”

2. A NOVEL THAT MADE IT PAST THE FIRST ROUND OF A FICTION CONTEST

Will the next War and Peace be written by a complex computer algorithm? Probably not, but that isn’t to say that AI can’t compose some serviceable fiction with help from human minds. In 2016, a team of Japanese researchers invented a program and fed it the plot, characters, and general structure of an original story. They also wrote sentences for the system to choose from, so the content of the novel relied heavily on humans. But the final product and the work required to string the components together was made possible by AI. The researchers submitted the story to Japan's Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Contest where it made it past the first round of judging. Though one notable Japanese author praised the novel for its structure, he also said there were some character description issues holding it back.

3. A 'NEW' REMBRANDT PAINTING

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In 2016, a 3D printer did something extraordinary: It produced a brand new painting in the spirit of a long-dead artist. The piece, titled “The Next Rembrandt,” would fit right in at an exhibition of art from the 17th-century Dutch painter. But this work is entirely modern. Bas Korsten, creative director at the Amsterdam-based advertising firm J. Walter Thompson, had a computer program analyze 346 Rembrandt paintings over 18 months. Every element of the final image, from the age of the subject and the color of his clothes to the physical brushstrokes, is reminiscent of the artist’s distinct style. But while it’s good enough to fool the amateur art fan, it failed to hold up under scruntiny from Rembrandt experts.

4. DREARY LOVE POETRY

What do you get when you dump thousands of unpublished romance novels into an AI system? Some incredibly bleak poetry, as Google discovered in 2016. The purpose of the neural network was to connect two separate sentences from a book into one whole thought. The result gave us such existential gems as this excerpt:

"there is no one else in the world.
there is no one else in sight.
they were the only ones who mattered.
they were the only ones left.
he had to be with me.
she had to be with him.
i had to do this.
i wanted to kill him.
i started to cry."

To be fair, the algorithm was designed to construct natural-sounding sentences rather than write great verse. But that doesn’t stop the passages from sounding oddly poetic.

5. A CREEPY CHRISTMAS SONG

Christmas songs rely heavily on formulas and cliches, aka ideal neural network fodder. So you’d think that an AI program would be capable of whipping up a fairly decent holiday tune, but a project from the University of Toronto proved this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Their algorithm was prompted to compose the song above based on a digital image of a Christmas tree. From there it somehow came up with trippy lyrics like, “I’ve always been there for the rest of our lives.”

6. A CROWDSOURCED ABSTRACT PAINTING

Art made by a robot.
Instapainter

The image above was painted by the mechanical arm of a robot, but naming the true artist of the piece gets complicated. That’s because the robotic painter was controlled by multiple users on the internet. In 2015, the commissioned art service Instapainting invited the online community at Twitch to crowdsource a painting. The robot, following script commands over a 36-hour period, produced what looks like graffiti-inspired abstract art. More impressive than the painting itself was the fact that the machine was able to paint it at all. Instapainting founder Chris Chen told artnet, “It was a $250 machine slapped together with quickly written software, so running it for that long was an endurance test.”

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