I never liked this cover, but, for me, it exists in a paradoxical sort of “Schrödinger’s cat” dimension, where the record simultaneously wears two completely different covers. (And it’s the other cover that I prefer.)
I’m no physicist and package design is not quantum mechanics. Schrödinger’s cat was a thought experiment in which a cat was simultaneously alive and dead—but, clearly, this 1972 album cover is not a matter of life and death.
So why am I writing (yet again) about an album cover that I don’t much like? I recently learned some new things about both versions of the cover.
In today’s post (part 1 of 2), I’m sharing what I’ve learned about the cover with the illustration.
To my mind’s ear, the song [All the Young Dudes] will always sound as if it’s wafting scratchily from my teenage bedroom, where it’s forever 1970-something and my off-brand record player is set to repeat. I’m lost in the illustration on the cover of Mott’s All the Young Dudes …
… how did the sharp-dressed trio of Gatsby-esque guys on the jacket relate to the title track or, for that matter, glam? Were they the young dudes of the song? Given the obliquity of the lyrics, fans bent on exegesis mined everything, even the record cover, for hidden meanings.
Mark Dery, All the Young Dudes, Why Glam Matters, 2013
I used to think that the illustration had been done by George Underwood, but reading Mark Dery’s 2013 essay, All the Young Dudes, Why Glam Matters, I finally came to understand that it was a vintage illustration that Mick Rock had appropriated (and George Underwood had then tinted) for the design of the cover.
To be sure, they look like college students, maybe 1920s Ivy Leaguers; their fashion dates them, unmistakably, to the Jazz Age. Then, too, the painting itself was done in the jauntily elegant style of ’20s illustrators like J.C. Leyendecker…
Was the image on the Mott LP a reproduction of an old illustration, one of Leyendecker’s Saturday Evening Post covers, maybe? Or just a ’70s take on period style?
Either way, was the designer—in this case, the photographer Mick Rock, portrait painter to the court of glam—putting ironic quotes around the manliness of the
hail-fellow-well-met guys in the picture by dropping them onto an album called All the Young Dudes?
Dery had interviewed Mick Rock and confirmed that the illustration had indeed come from an old issue of Saturday Evening Post.
Reading that, I immediately wanted to see if I could unearth the 1920s illustration that M. Rock had chosen to use. It took some doing, but eventually I did manage to find it.
Although the chaps in the illustration may typify what we now think of as a 1920s look, the illustration did not really come from that decade. It came from a black and white 1917 ad for Society Brand Clothes.
This explains a lot. The slogan — “FOR YOUNG MEN AND MEN WHO STAY YOUNG” — must certainly have stuck M. Rock as an appropriately specific reference. (Young men = young dudes) The old English typeface came from the Society Brand Clothes logo. The bad swash typography that the band’s name was set in, was an anachronistic 1970s touch.
(More about Society Brand Clothes, etc. after the fold…) [Read more…]