A Tale of Three Album Covers

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I just read in the latest copy of Stereophile that there is a new audiophile version of the classic Beach Boys album Summer Days (and Summer Nights) from the 1965 Capitol Records release. It is the perfect album cover to depict the Southern California lifestyle, whether on the beach, on the bike path, or out sailing on a sunny warm summer day. The cover shows the Beach Boys out sailing on a beautiful California day. It was all about fun and sun in the great outdoors.

But it brought to mind a similar album cover that was just all wrong. The 1957 release of Miles Davis’ second collaboration with Gil Evans (the first was Birth of the Cool, in 1949). The original album cover of Miles’ first Columbia Records outing shows an attractive white woman and child on a sailboat on a similarly sunny, beautiful day. Miles and Gil Evans, though exponents of the new “cool” sound that was to become associated with California, nevertheless were based in New York, recorded the album in New York with the creme de la creme of big apple jazz musicians. Davis hated the cover, going to Columbia producer George Avakian, asking him “Why’d you put that white bitch on there”. BTW Avakian was the guy who signed Miles to Columbia after hearing his moody, electrifying performance of “Round Midnight” at the Newport Jazz Festival a couple of years before. Avakian, though taken aback, changed the album cover to one of the trumpeter in action. By the way, both album cover versions are available, though the original one is only on vinyl to the best of my knowledge. The original cover was withheld for many years, and only came out after Davis died in 1991.

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