The fifth album of The Rolling Stones is another classic icon of the cover culture, with its famous "Zipper" artwork, as much as the first appearance of the "Tongue & Lips" logo.
The sleeve was a gatefold, with a real zipper placed on the front cover. Logically, opening the mock belt buckle revealed the same guy in his underwear (cotton briefs to be precise), while the back showed his butt.
Obviously, Jagger and his friend wanted to push further their reputation of bad boys, and it is said that Mick refused a few ideas before settling for this one, proposed by his friend Andy Wharol (Craig Braun, the designer, had previously proposed to use a plastic wrapping with heat-sensitive liquid cristals, "so you could make your own little Joshua Light Show").
Note that the photography wasn't from Warhol, but taken by Billy Name.
Beyond from the vain speculations about who the model was (not Mick Jagger, but presumably a friend of Warhol, an actor named Joe d'Alessandro, This sleeve became an object of veneration.
First for its obvious sexual aspect of course : it perfectly expressed the provocative edge of the band.
But also because it was saying something about fame : people were experiencing the fact that opening a record of a band is just like entering its privacy, a privacy that stars needs to sacrifice, and sell as a consumer product...
This was quite a critical statement in fact, that still resonnates strongly nowadays, in a period where selling oneself has become more and more alienating, as much as artistically pointless : current stars are offering their bodies to their followers, but without the "excuse" of pushing boundaries for the sake of sexual liberation, or for some artistic advancement of society. Most of them just do it for fame, and for money. But in the same time, few of them do agree to become an object of curiosity in the media... a paradoxical fact that this sleeve emphasized in a clever way, back in 1971!
This zipper idea was also another example of Wharol's "participative" idea of artwork for music, just like his famous banana sleeve for the Velvet Underground, in 1967.
With this one, in the exact same fashion, the consumer/fan had to actively become part of the art-work, by opening the zipper. And because the inner pages of the sleeve were sticked together, the fan had to literally violates the intimacy of the band by tearing the sleeve open if he wanted to see the whole underwear picture... There too, the message was clear.
So it was yet another brilliant and provocative idea. But it also became famous for its prosaic downsides : first because the zipper was damaging the vinyl inside when you where opening it.
Even the piece of cardboard placed behind the zipper by Braun wasn't enough to avoid the damage (amusingly it was damaging the track "'Sister Morphine").
When the US company Atlantic Records threatened to refuse to distribute it, and to sue the designer, Craig Braun had the idea of shipping the record with the zipper pulled down, so that it shall only damage the label, and not the music. But this wasn't enough, as the zipper was also damaging the other records in the bins!
Now, more than fourty years later, it has to be remembered how provocative was such a cover in these days. Lots of record stores in the US simply refused to put the record in their shop windows because a picture of a man in a pair of jeans cropped this way was too sexy!
The regular 'Zipper' cover was also completely banned in Spain, and an alternative cover was used instead, created by John Pasche, and photographed by Phil Jude.
Quite a funny thing because if the Spanish visual was far less sexual, it wasn't a softer idea! (By the way, Franco's Spain also banned the song 'Sister Morphine', and 'Let It Rock' (Live) was used instead).
|French Front Cover|
There was also a few variation for the typography of the title itself. In some country, the stamp-like titles were replaced by some used typewriter letters, like for the French pressing above.
Another striking novelty here was on the inner sleeve : while the picture of the band was nice and interestingly composed, it remained quite classical. But the mouth logo, created by Ernie Cefalu (then working with Braun), and drawn here by John Pasche, had a considerable impact, and became part of the vernacular.
While its authors doesn't states it clearly, one can guess it was inspired by the prominent lips of Mick Jagger. But it also expressed a mix of irreverence and sensuality that was exactly fitting the tonalty of the band.