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LIFE-CHANGING LINER NOTES/ALBUM COVERS PART 2

YESTERDAY, I BEGAN recollections of LP and CD covers and liner notes residing in my memory. Today in Part 2, we’ll learn more about Switched-On Bach, Handel’s Water Music, and an unforgettable Holst’s Planets. 

As noted by Wikipedia, “Switched-On Bach reached number 10 on the US Billboard 200 chart and topped the Billboard Classical Albums chart from 1969 to 1972. By June 1974, it had sold over one million copies, and in 1986 became the second classical album to be certified platinum. In 1970, it won Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album, Best Classical Performance – Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (With or Without Orchestra), and Best Engineered Classical Recording.”

The musical renderings were radical at the time, and so was their composer Wendy Carlos: “In 1979,” Wikipedia notes, “Carlos raised public awareness of transgender issues by disclosing she had been living as a woman since at least 1968, and in 1972 had undergone sex reassignment surgery.”

“After Carlos came out as a transgender woman in 1979,” Wikipedia says, “reissues of Switched-On Bach amended the artist credit to reflect her chosen name, as was the case with the rest of her discography up to that point.”

A Pair of Album Covers. Wikipedia observes, Switched-On Bach was released with two different covers which had nothing to do with transgender. In fact, both feature a man dressed as Bach in front of a Moog synthesizer.

The original album cover.

Carlos and Elkind objected to the original cover and had it replaced, finding it “was a clownish, trivializing image of a mugging Bach, supposedly hearing some absurd sound from his earphones.” 

They also objected to the fact that the synthesizer was incorrectly set up: “[The earphones] were plugged into the input, not output, of a 914 filter module, which in turn was connected to nothing, [assuring] that silence is all that would have greeted Johann Sebastian’s ears.”

The revised cover resolved these problems.

From the Sublime to the Teen-Angst Ridiculous. In the 1970s, the Westminster Gold series issued budget-price recordings of classical standards. These were memorable for their album covers, done with tongue firmly in cheek. For example, Handel’s Water Music was portrayed, logically enough, by a running faucet. Wagner’s Das Rheingold portrayed three fetching Rheinmaidens evidently having just left the depths of the river. 

Cleverly enough, Haydn’s Military Symphony #100 and Farewell Symphony #45, had a sailor and his girlfriend embracing in the back seat of a VW Beetle. 

And my favorite was Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

The Planets. Image from wimwords.com

Gee, I had a Ray-gun flashlight just like hers. I’m also reminded of Tom Lehrer’s lyric for The Wiener Schnitzel Waltz: “It was I who stepped on your dress, la l-la./The skirts all came off, I confess, la l-la./Revealing for all of the others to see/Just what it was that endeared you to me…”

For others of the wonderful Westminster Gold series, see musiceureka.wordpress.com and sharkonarts.blogspot.com. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022  

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