The Pier: Album & Cover Art History Vol. 3
Welcome to The Pier’s Album & Cover Art History – Volume 3 as we take a look at another five iconic album covers and releases with their concepts & back-story.
In this feature, you’ll read how the album’s art has more depth to its meaning than just cool visuals thrown together. They’re cultural statements bringing the visual aesthetics to the music; further branding the band. There are great stories to these covers and the albums. We pulled the curtain back with how the aligning art plays an integral part to the overall meaning of the album.
Enjoy the read below and let us know in the comments which Album & Cover-Art you’d like us to explore in the future! If you find you’re not familiar with or you don’t own any of these albums, then we encourage you to read this feature as a recommendation of what to add to your music collection!
Read all volumes to The Pier’s Album & Cover Art History:
Ballyhoo! – Do It For The Money
Record Label: Hooligan Records
Release Date: January 24th, 2006
Do it for the Money captures the raw, energetic rebelliousness of a young Ballyhoo!, with their second album release. For some, this phase of Ballyhoo! is radically different from where they are now, but it is a key time period, just as their sound started to catch on in the music scene.
The band struggled to get the funds to record a full album session, but they kept at it for two years and recorded for a few hours at a time at Right On Recording in Baltimore, MD as they scraped together the money. Somehow, they ended up with some great songs that brought their name into the spotlight and started the momentum that got them to where they are today.
Howi Spangler, lead singer and guitarist, explains the process: “We were always on the clock and certain things were rushed. Despite the long period to record it, there wasn’t much time to really polish anything. Luckily, we played a lot and knew the songs really well, getting most of the songs done in a couple takes.”
The title, “Do it for the Money”, was a bit of an ironic statement about the nature of the music industry. No band, especially in their formative years, can survive if they’re only in it to make money.
As far as the racy cover-art, depicting the band in all their naked glory, Howi describes it best: “We still get questions about the cover-art, which is what I intended. I remember thinking that I wanted it to be a conversation starter. I had this vision of us naked and grasping dollar bills. It’s not clever by any means, but it’s certainly ridiculous. We set up a shoot with Sam Bassett, a photographer from New York City. We found a rundown lot in Newark, NJ and took our pants off. I remember us laughing so hard. Cars were driving by and slowing down at the sight of 4 pasty naked white boys, posing for a camera. We wore tighty-whities and I told the guys to shove it into their butt-cracks so it would be easier for me to Photoshop. This was my first real go at Photoshop and you don’t have to look too close to see that I clearly did a bad job of giving (bassist) JR Gregory abs for fun. I slapped the black censor bars over our man-parts and voila!”
It has been years since that album, which means the guys have grown into their sound and style, but still cherish the old days.
“These days we probably wouldn’t do a cover like that, but looking back, I wouldn’t have done it differently. I’m very proud of that album and what it did for us. Whenever I listen to it now, it takes me back. We did the first sessions for it over 10 years ago. Those were wild times.”
Written by: Erin Walsh
Watch: Ballyhoo! – “I Lately Notice”
Dirty Heads – Any Port In a Storm
Record Label: Executive Music Group
Release Date: September 23rd, 2008
Any Port in a Storm is the commercial debut album by the Dirty Heads in 2008. The Special Edition, re-released in 2010, became a breakthrough piece for the group while the added single “Lay Me Down” played on radio stations nationwide. The album’s hit single “Lay Me Down”, featured Rome Ramirez of Sublime with Rome & had the longest reign at #1 for an Independent Record Label artist in the history of the Billboard Alternative Chart. It was also the first song by an independent artist, in history, to reach #1 on Billboard’s Rock Songs chart. As a result, the single went Gold, having reached 500,000 sales. The first physical pressing of the single was featured as Track 1 on The Pier Compilation Vol. 1 released in August of 2009.
Other highlights from the album include the first single, “Stand Tall”, being featured on the soundtrack to the major motion picture of 2007’s ‘Surfs Up’. Another song from the album, “Hip Hop Misfits” made the sound-track to Mathew McConaughey’s 2008 independent film, ‘Surfer Dude’.
The Story behind the album is an odd one, composed of several lucky breaks. After vocalist Jared Watson and guitarist/vocalist Dustin Bushnell first met in high school, the two started doing acoustic shows at the age of 21, catching the attention of good management & before long, Warner Bros. Now with a major label, developing their catalog, the music industry took a dive and the label put the band on the back burner, shelving their music. By this time, the record was already mixed and mastered, funded by the label & the group expected the record to be retained. However, Dirty Heads executive over at Warner Bros acknowledged the label was never going to do anything the with the record & made a grand gesture of giving the band their the album back. The group now had a master in hand; one produced by Mario Caldato, Jr., (Mario C. of the Beastie Boys) with tracks that featured Rome Ramirez, Slash, and one of the last recorded works of the late musician, Billy Preston. The band quickly got new producers and released Any Port in a Storm on Sept 23rd 2008.
The band re-released Port with eight additional tracks, including “Lay Me Down”. Re-done, the cover-art picked up maroon-colored special edition borders and the art for the album featured the same photograph by Dove Shore, but now with a darker background.
The photograph on the cover art was by Dove Shore, taken during their first ever music video for the albums first single, “Stand Tall.” It captures drummer Matt Ochoa sitting in a canoe painted with graffiti while Jared Watson stands tall, opposite of Matt, on the boat’s other bow. Centered against the sun on the horizon, he points forward to Duddy B pulling the band with a rope over his shoulder as the group sets sail on their musical journey. The photo is a great metaphor with an image of the members sailing over dry desert towards the horizon of their endeavors. The future is bright, but the journey is no easy sail.
Written by: Aaron Solomon
Watch: Dirty Heads – “Stand Tall”
The Aggrolites – Rugged Road
Record Label: Young Cub Records
Release Date: February 22nd, 2011
On the album cover, we see a couple of guys heading to a show, and on the right corner of the picture, we see “Dirty Reggae” written in graffiti on the brick wall. ‘The Aggrolites’ are on the venue’s Marquee and the road they’re on is Rugged Road as displayed on the street sign. Both phrases, with Rugged Road and Dirty Reggae, define The Aggrolites and their journey to success.
The Aggrolites have been around for over 10 years after playing as a supporting band to the Jamaican legend Derrick Morgan. They released Rugged Road as the band’s fifth studio album, and the first on Young Cub Records, representing the culmination of this bands’ journey along the way.
The album was released in 2011, originally intended to be a set of two 45’s, but turned into a collection of songs on LP and CD format. The cover of the album, Rugged Road, was created by Jeannie Epipham and was originally intended as the albums’ release tour poster, but also became the albums final cover art. It contained a really cool foldout poster in the CD insert. The album was recorded in Boston, MA with producer Craig ‘Dubfader’ Welsch at Young Cub Studios. In fact, the album was recorded on a street called Rug Road. In a 2011 interview with The Pier, organist Roger Rivas admits “we were kind of just kicking around ideas and it just became ‘Rugged.’ It’s a pretty simple answer, not anything that’s deep or super thought out. It’s just a cool name that rolls off the tongue.” Indeed it was not only cool, but it wasn’t the only album to be named after a street and include the band literally walking down said street…
With a new direction for this album, bass player Jeff Roffredo said the band wanted to “lay down these new rhythms on reel to reel tape, playing all together, in one room to create a vibe that can’t be copied by any of the newest advances in recording technology.”
Written by: Andrew McClatchy
Watch: The Aggrolites – “Trial and Error”
Passafire – Submersible
Release Date: 2007
Record Label: LAW Records
Hailing out of Savannah, Georgia, Passafire first began their musical journey while current members, Nick Kubley (Drums) and Ted Bowne (Vocals/Guitar), were students at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Years after they formed in 2003, their unique sound of progressive-rock with a heavy reggae and dub influence caught the attention of Kona Town’s, Pepper. Soon after, Passafire’s sophomore album, Submersible, became the band’s first release under Pepper’s LAW Records. The album was recorded at Long Island Studios in Lexington, Kentucky, and would eventually be selected as a Top Ten Best Reggae Album of 2007 by iTunes Reggae.
The album cover artwork was done by Justin Siddons, whom Passafire’s drummer, Nick, met in his first year of art school. The art features a man’s head halfway above a body of water with a tree growing from his scalp. The Pier spoke with Nick’s brother, Will Kubley, Passafire’s bassist, on why they chose Justin for the job. Will explained, “We liked his clean, illustrative style and decided to give him a shot. The colors, design, everything was perfect for what we wanted. That artwork has really endured and our fans really connected with it.”
Written by: David Garcia
Watch: Passafire – “Ghost Man”
Reel Big Fish – Turn The Radio Off
Record Label: Mojo Records
Release Date: August 13th, 1996
Turn the Radio Off is the sophomore release from Southern California third wave ska band, Reel Big Fish. The cover art sets the tone for the album showing a radio DJ being threatened with a firearm by a disgruntled listener.
Reel Big Fish enjoyed real big success after the release of Turn the Radio Off and the albums opening song, “Sell Out”, exploded on the music scene, including a popular video on MTV, and reached 57th on the Billboard charts, remaining on the list for thirty two weeks. The song can also be heard on the video games FIFA 2000, Aggressive Inline, and Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure.
The cover-art features radio personality Jed the Fish, former host of afternoon drive on KROQ-FM in Los Angeles, held a gunpoint by Carla Yacenda, the former girlfriend of Reel Big Fish’s lead singer, Aaron Barrett. Jed the Fish was a KROQ staple that remained on the air for thirty-five years and is currently a disc jockey for KCSN in Los Angeles. The cover-art concept came from Barrett and music industry guru Vince Pileggi. Photography was done by none other than Sheryl Nields, who has gone on to have an illustrious career being featured in GQ Magazine, Delta Sky, Complex among many others. Her resume includes photo shoots with Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Britney Spears, Adrien Brody, Milla Jovovich, Shakira, Alyssa Milano, James Franco and many others.
Over half of the album is re-recorded versions of tracks from the band’s first album Everything Sucks. A song entitled Turn the Radio Off was written and recorded for the band’s 2005 release We’re Not Happy ‘til You’re Not Happy. The version with no parental advisory sticker boasts an all white cover with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution incorrectly labeled as “Article I” (Article I establishes the power of the legislative branch).
Written by: Blake Taylor
Watch: Reel Big Fish – “Sell Out”
Read all volumes to The Pier’s Album & Cover Art History: