The dramatic tone of this 1967 record always made me think that, in typical French fashion, it was about something highly emotional and existentially crushing. Turns out it’s about a teenage girl getting ready for school in the morning while playing Elvis records and wishing Paul McCartney could help with her homework.
But then again, having kids myself, I know that getting ready for school in the morning can be a trial.
I slept through the infamous storm of 1987. I had no idea what had happened until I was woken early in the morning by a phone call from my mum asking me if I was OK. Then I noticed that our electricity had gone out. I still went to work later that day — Spirit of The Blitz and all that, you know.
Poor old Michael Fish, 30 years of forecasting the weather on the BBC — mostly accurately I imagine — and all he gets remembered for now is blowing the call on the biggest storm to hit England in 300 years. It reminds me of that “And you shag one sheep!” joke.
There were several early Brigitte Bardot films on the telly here the other night and from what I saw they weren’t very good (with the exception of Contempt). But I guess when you have Bardot to look at the film being any good is an irrelevant detail.
When I think of living rooms in the 1970s certain things always come to mind: brown shag carpet, G-Plan furniture, spider plants, an Alphonse Mucha poster on the wall, and on a shelf a copy of Motown Chartbusters Vol. Six with the bluebottle-spaceship cover painted by Roger Dean.
As a kid I thought that spaceship was fantastic — though I had no idea what it had to do with Motown — and was a big fan of Dean’s work along with other SF/Fantasy artists like Chris Foss and Patrick Woodroffe whose art adorned the covers of the SF novels I was reading. Before I started spending all my money on records I spent it on collections of their work like Dean’s book Views. My number one artistic wish at the time was to draw Marvel comics, but second would have been to paint like those guys.
Dean is best known for his Prog Rock album covers, particularly those for Yes so he might seem a strange choice of artist for Motown to commission, but the album came out in 1971 early in his career before he was too closely associated with Prog. He had already painted a couple of album covers for Afrobeat group Osibisa so he did have some previous with black music.
Looking at this and the Motown album I’m thinking George Clinton should have got Dean to do some Parliament/Funkadelic sleeves.
Though there was never a set style for the Chartbusters series, most volumes usually had art that was either abstract or generic and a bug-spaceship may not seem like the sort of imagery you’d associate with a soul record. Hiring Dean could have been another of Motown’s attempts to appear more tuned-in and hip to the long-haired generation. In the 60s they’d added psychedelic flourishes to records and released more socially-aware material, and Vol. Six came out the same year as What’s Going On? so this may have been a way of selling some more of that counterculture vibe.
Whatever their reasons they got a sleeve that is highly memorable and distinctive because it’s so unexpected, and I wish they’d given Dean the whole series to do. I also love how the back cover imagines a Motortown Review in the futuristic date of 2008 happening on a spaceship. Unfortunately we know the reality wasn’t quite so far-out.
Once upon a time, two little boys in France named Guy and Thomas saw this on the television and decided that when they grew up they too would be pop stars wearing space helmets. But when they told their friends of their dream all they said was “Don’t be daft, punks!”