Orphic Egg album covers

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This is one record label I’d not come across before. According to this page Orphic Egg “was a subsidiary label for London Records which was formed in 1972 and lasted about a year. The label was formed to try to capture classical music for the counterculture youth of the time (often called “heads”). Liner notes were written by hip rock critics respected by the youth.” According to Discogs the first release, The Baroque Head, was 1971. The covers below follow in chronological order through to 1973. With the exception of the Edgard Varèse album all the releases are compilations of older recordings grouped by composer or theme.

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Discogs doesn’t give credits for all the cover art but the series was the work of several different illustrators with George McGinnis being responsible for the design. Jason Roberts’ cover for the Mussorgsky album is a suitably wild piece of late psychedelia for a collection that includes Night On Bald Mountain. There’s a nod there to the Chernobog from Disney’s Fantasia, while the Scriabin cover is an overt swipe from an original piece by Jean Delville. The Mussorgsky album is also notable for the bizarre and unique conjunction of music conducted by Herbert Von Karajan and liner notes by Lester Bangs. I have to wonder what the haughty maestro of the Berlin Philharmonic would have made of the sleeve if he ever saw it.

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A hustle here, a hustle there…

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Male hustler standing on street corner (1967) photographed by William Gale Gedney.

One of those irresistible confluences of disparate things occurred this week. Watching Todd Haynes’ fabulous Velvet Goldmine for about the tenth time at the weekend had me listening to Lou Reed’s Transformer album the day after. The sight of these New York street photos by William Gale Gedney a couple of days later immediately brought to mind the lyrics of Walk On The Wild Side. The Guardian brought things full circle by posting the 1973 Lester Bangs interview with Lou Reed in which Transformer is discussed, and Reed gives the quote about the glam trend of appearing gay which Ewan McGregor’s Curt Wild character—an amalgam of small parts of Reed and a huge dose of Iggy Pop—paraphrases in Velvet Goldmine:

Wax eloquent, for once and finally, he did. Listen kids, you may think you’ve got your identity crises and sexual lateral squeeze plays touchdown cold just because you came out in rouge ‘n’ glitter for Dave Bowie’s latest show, but listen to your Papa Lou. He’s gotta nother think for you punk knowitalls: “The makeup thing is just a style thing now, like platform shoes. If people have homosexuality in them, it won’t necessarily involve makeup in the first place. You can’t fake being gay, because being gay means you’re going to have to suck cock, or get fucked. I think there’s a very basic thing in a guy if he’s straight where he’s just going to say no: ‘I’ll act gay, I’ll do this and I’ll do that, but I can’t do that.’ Just like a gay person if they wanted to act straight and everything, but if you said, ‘Okay, go ahead, go to bed with a girl,’ they’re going to have to get an erection first, and they can’t do that.”

Never one to mince words is our Lou. YouTube has a video of Reed’s song which sets the music to shots of the real-life people mentioned in his lyrics, hustling Little Joe included. Those of a sensitive disposition should be warned that the surrounding videos seem to be filled with penises. The William Gedney photos are from a substantial collection at Duke University among which there’s a set from a gay march and rally commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Stonewall Riot in 1979.

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Male hustler standing on street corner and lighting cigarette; has shirt open (1967) photographed by William Gale Gedney.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lonesome Cowboys
Les Demi Dieux revisited
Les Demi Dieux