Just when Zero to 180 thought it had exhausted all the “you-be-the-artist” album cover possibilities (i.e., connect-the-dots, color-your-own) Canadian contributor, We Willy, shocked this fellow North American by referencing a fairly obscure Canadian cover that masterfully straddles the line between the two do-it-yourself genres:
Discogs.com says LP released in 1969 — web link below, however, says 1964
Could this one long-playing release, Colour Me “Canadian,“ be — as Discogs.com seems to indicate — Bette Graham‘s entire recording output? I am impressed to see that Graham has written all but one of the songs on the album, but is it fair to presume that she is the creative director behind this crackerjack album cover?
And should we be concerned about the variant spellings for Graham’s given name on the front vs. rear covers?
How could have I have lived through the Led Zeppelin era and not have known that their final studio release featured an inner sleeve that (like Donovan‘s Cosmic Wheels) began life as a monochromatic image but (unlike any album before or since) would magically burst with color when washed with water?! My eternal gratitude to Ed Goldstein of Big Car Jack for bringing this serious issue to my attention. But that’s not the whole story – Discogs.com has the info:
“[In Through the Out Door] featured an unusual gimmick: the album had an outer sleeve which was made to look like a plain brown paper bag (reminiscent of similarly packaged bootleg album sleeves with the title rubber stamped on it), and the inner sleeve featured black and white line artwork which, if washed with water, would become permanently fully coloured. There were also six different sleeves featuring a different pair of photos (one on each side), and the external brown paper sleeve meant that it was impossible for record buyers to tell which sleeve they were getting. (There is actually a code on the spine of the album jacket which indicated which sleeve it was—this could sometimes be seen while the record was still sealed.)
The pictures all depicted the same scene in a bar (in which a man burns a Dear John letter), and each photo was taken from the separate point of view of someone who appeared in the other photos. The bar is the Absinthe Bar [i.e., Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House], located at  Bourbon Street in New Orleans, LA. The walls are covered with thousands of yellowed business cards and dollar bills. It was re-created in a London studio for the album sleeve design.”
“Magic Dot” inner sleeve – inspired by Jimmy Page’s daughter’s special coloring books
You can view all six sleeve designs by clicking here — additional related images can also be found at music blog, Stitches and Grooves. According to blogger, Codex99, In Through the Out Door, sadly, “marked not only the end of Led Zeppelin but of [legendary graphic design firm] Hipgnosis, as well.”
Led Zeppelin would record three songs for In Through the Out Door that would not make the final cut but instead be included on their “odds & sods” compilation, Coda, released two years after John Bonham’s tragic passing in 1980. My favorite of the three “rejected” tracks is “Wearing & Tearing” — recorded at Stockholm’s Polar Studios in November, 1978:
“Wearing and Tearing” Led Zeppelin 1978
Interesting to learn that “Wearing and Tearing” (along with fellow reject, “Darlene”) would be released in the UK as a 45 — the only question, though, is whether this single was a legitimate release. Says 45Cat contributor sixtiesbeat, “It’s well known that [matrix] #19421 was set aside for ‘Wearing And Tearing’ to be released at Knebworth in 1979. But as far as I know, the plan was scrapped and no 45s were actually pressed. I suspect that an enterprising bootlegger is trying to re-write history here.” Other 45Cat contributors, however, are not convinced. Yet another musical controversy.
Artsy-craftsy types might find connect-the-dot album covers to be a bit stultifying — where’s the creativity? Connect these dots – and in this precise order, commands the album cover. Sorry, I prefer to make my own decisions.
One Donovan album I have had a hard time finding in second-hand shops is one that tickled my brain as a youngster with its D-I-Y concept: Inside the gatefold of 1973’s Cosmic Wheels, as the Unofficial Donovan website points out, “there’s a copy of The Flammarion woodcut (an anonymous wood engraving) with the note, ‘Get your cosmic crayons, kids, and colour in’.”
Black & white gatefold cover for Donovan’s 1973 album, Cosmic Wheels
With a bit of grit and a modicum of talent, you, too, can transform this monochromatic image into a dazzling cosmological work of wonderment. Clearly, no half measures will do — full and total commitment is required the moment your colored pencil is pressed into service:
Hard to believe that Cosmic Wheels hit the Top 30 on this side of the Atlantic [20 weeks on Billboard‘s album chart, peaking at the #25 position], given the challenge of locating a used copy. An edited version of “I Like You” from Cosmic Wheels would reach #66 in the US and became the last charting single Donovan would have. Billboard‘s “From the Music Capitals of the World” column reported in their April 14, 1973 edition that “Gramophone Record Company held an unusual promotion announcing the new Donovan album, Cosmic Wheels, with a slide and music presentation at the Johannesburg Planetarium.”
Thanks to brother Bryan for pointing out the quality of musical personnel who helped bring these songs to life: Chris Spedding, John ‘Rabbit‘ Bundrick, Cozy Powell, Alan White, Jim Horn, Bobby Keys, Phil Chen, and even Suzi Quatro, among others.
In a bizarre artistic move, Donovan Leitch would release the most scatological recording ever associated with almighty Columbia Records, “Intergalactic Laxative” — a song that would almost certainly incur fines from the FCC if played on radio, even today. I had originally intended to feature this album track (and B-side) as an oddball Dr. Demento-like selection … until I actually heard the song. But since I’m trying to run a clean website, regrettably I must go with the A-side instead: