JOHNNY B'S 25 FAVORITE ALBUM COVERS, NUMBER 8
SALLY CAN'T DANCE-LOU REED (1974, RCA)
This, kids, was the first Lou Reed album I ever owned. Yeah, I could try and be all cool and tell you that I was into the Velvets in the late '60s (when I was 9, in Kentucky, yeah right) or picked up Transformer at age 12...but no. I had, however, started reading CREEM magazine in 1973, and believe you me, Uncle Lou got namechecked every single fricking issue. So when I spied this sitting on the record rack at the town drug store, and was immediately smitten with the vivid colors and vaguely disreputable look of the cover, I had to have it, especially after reading a Circus magazine review which made it sound even more intriguing. Another example of my tendency to get sucked in by cover graphics, and forming an immediate bond with the musician represented. I loved the (I'm assuming) color-pencil illos of Reed, at the height of his bleach-blond phase, and his then-significant other along with the typography, a mix of the fonts Souvenir (same as CREEM used!) and Windsor. Why the artist chose to hand-letter Lou's name at top is a mystery. But this was one striking cover, at least to 14-year-old me.
This was kind of an odd album for Lou- RCA was putting some pressure on him to follow up the successful live album Rock 'n' Roll Animal, which had the label thinking he was about to hit the big time after the huge flop of 1972's Berlin, an ambitious, but depressing and often turgid song cycle. So naturally Lou couldn't be arsed, and reportedly spent most of his time drugged and drunk, contributing songs and his typical singspeak vocals while producer and former Blood, Sweat and Tears guitarist Steven Katz did everything else, and it turned out to be a different, more R&B/soul sound than Reed had used with the VU and with Bowie and Bob Ezrin, described by Robert Christgau as a "grotesque hodgepodge of soul horns, flash guitar, deadpan songspeech, and indifferent rhymes". Reed never really acted like he cared much for the record at all, because he had participated so little in its making, but there are several first-rate cuts on it, and he reunited with John Cale's VU replacement Doug Yule on one of the best cuts, a longish acoustic guitar/sax/bass rumination called "Billy". In fact, this remains the highest-charting album of his career to date, actually denting the top 10, which is no doubt why it was placed by the rack-jobber on my local drugstore's record rack for me to purchase, and to make a Lou Reed fan of me for life.
Instant karma, baby.