Below is a review of some of Elton John’s album covers. I am using the little known Powley-Prowse Face Pain Scale Reviewing System. This system was invented in 2008 the week I broke my collar bone and went to an Ornette Coleman concert. When I was in the ambulance the paramedic showed me a face pain scale chart and asked me to pick which face best represented my pain scale. I’m pretty sure that this is a flawed system in a country famous for understatement. Anyway, I obviously picked too low on the scale because instead of rushing me to hospital they decided to go and pick someone else up as well.
Later in the week I went to see Ornette Coleman in concert. I thought it was a great concert, but my friend Richard who is a very talented musician didn’t. In fact I think parts of the concert brought him a lot of physical pain. It was then I devised the Powley-Prowse Face Pain Scale. It may seem complicated at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Album One: Honky Chateau
He looks pretty cool here. Almost uniquely in the Elton John album cover oeuvre he actually looks like the kind of guy I could imagine would write good songs.
Album Two: Jump Up!
I think the photographer should have told Elton he had the wrong hat on. Otherwise he sort of looks cool. How come designers thought those neon triangles, lines and squiggles looked neat in the 80s?
Album Three: Victim of Love
Victim of Love? Did his lover make him dress like this at gun point, or was Victim of Fashion too obvious as a title? My main complaint is that I don’t even like the idea of Elton John being dressed up to look sexy and distant. What if I were accidentally attracted to him?
Album Four: The One
Please. Stop. One last time: you are NOT the Queen Mother.
Album Five: Rock of the Westies
What was the look they were going for here? That loveable rogue Sherlock Holmes? Hand model for a jewellery catalogue? Before and after shot for a shaving commercial? Very hard to say. His smile makes me feel slightly uneasy – like he is watching me brush my teeth but he knows something terrible about the toothbrush.
Album Six: Caribou
This is actually quite a cool album cover, but unfortunately Elton John has walked right into the middle of it and spoilt everything. I am not going to say anything about the outfit. The outfit is saying quite enough by itself. How would I describe my feeling about this? It might be the same as my feeling if I opened my front door and I saw that my friend had decided to dress like this on the day I was going to introduce him or her to my grandmother; a kind of dismayed disgust.
Looking through all of these album covers I feel that the essential problem has always been that Elton John doesn’t look very cool, and that people who design album covers are obsessed with selling something that is supposed to be cool. As a result the designers probably either: (a) resent Elton’s lack of coolness and deliberately try to make him look like a tit as a form of revenge, or (b) ignore his lack of coolness, and try and make him look like he’s selling something else such as a photo album for the Queen Mum, or a new book about Miami Vice.
My god I love these covers!
This post is part of a series about the number one songs of 1973 in New Zealand. The series can be found here.