On January 18, 1973, the fabulous Forum in Los Angeles played host to Cheech and Chong, Santana, and the Rolling Stones.
That sounds like pretty odd billing, but the three acts all had skin in the game. On December 23 an earthquake hit Nicaragua, killing 6,000 and leaving 250,000 homeless, and the Stones, Santana, and the comedy duo wanted to help with the relief efforts.
Mick Jagger and his wife Bianca, a Nicaragua native, flew to the shattered country to find Bianca’s mother. She survived the quake but lost her home, and Mick and Bianca saw for themselves the carnage left behind by the disaster. Santana’s timbales player, Chepito Areas, also came from Nicaragua, so Santana was motivated to raise money to help the victims. As for Cheech and Chong: They were planning their own “Latinos for Latinos” benefit, so adding them to the bill was a natural. The resulting benefit concert raised over $350,000 for the victims.
This two record set is one of the classic bootlegs, not just for the music but for the cover art. This is the work of William Stout, whose C.V. is simply jaw dropping. Remember Playboy’s Little Annie Fanny? Stout worked on that. Were you a Heavy Metal reader? You’re familiar with Stout’s work. Love the cult classic Return of the Living Dead? Stout was the film’s production designer. It just goes on and on–the guy’s body of work is mind boggling.
In terms of album cover art, it all begins right here for William Stout. For me, that makes All-Meat Music the most important bootleg that the Trademark Of Quality label ever released. Mr. Stout was gracious enough to put down the pencils and chat about this album cover, his time working in the shady world of bootlegs, and what he’s up to today:
Why It Matters: How many William Stout bootleg covers are out there?
William Stout: I created 42 bootleg record album covers: 32 were for Trademark of Quality (TMoQ); 9 for TMoQ subsidiaries; and one for Long Live the Smoking Pig (Led Zeppelin’s Burn Like a Candle).
Working for a record bootlegger in the early ’70s wasn’t just your everyday illustration gig. How did you end up working with TMoQ?
Record Paradise in Hollywood was one of the few places in L.A. that carried import and bootleg LPs. I had recently attended a great concert (Zeppelin, as I recall) and was looking forward to purchasing the bootleg LP of it that was sure to be produced, as I saw several people taping the show. There it was in the “L” bin! I grabbed it and held it up.
“Oh man,” I said out loud. “This cover sucks. I wish someone would get me to do these covers.”
A guy tapped on my shoulder and whispered, “You wanna do bootleg record covers?”
“Selma and Las Palmas, this Friday night, eight o’clock. Be there.” He paused. “Alone.”
The intersection of Selma and Las Palmas at that time was one of the seedier Hollywood neighborhoods. Promptly at eight an old black ’40s coupe with smoked windows pulled up to the corner and stopped. The passenger window opened a crack. A paper sheet came out of it. I took the sheet and read it. It said, “Winter Tour 1973” and had a list of Rolling Stones songs.
A voice inside the car said, “Next Friday, same time.” The window rolled up. Then the window rolled back down a tiny bit. “Alone.”
I drove back to my apartment and began work on the cover. I retitled it All-Meat Music and designed the cover as a tribute to Robert Crumb’s Cheap Thrills cover for Big Brother & The Holding Company. Each song got a picture and each of the five Stones were featured in song illustrations.
The following Friday I was back at Selma and Las Palmas at the appointed time. Alone. The same coupe drove up and stopped. The passenger window cracked a bit. I put the cover in the provided slot, like mailing a letter. A fifty dollar bill came out in response, as if the car was some kind of bizarre ATM machine. Then the coupe drove away.
Rolling Stones-Winter Tour (a.k.a. All-Meat Music) came out within two weeks of the concert. The cover made it stand out and it sold very well. TMoQ commissioned more covers.
Eventually, I gained the trust of the bootleggers and I worked with them face to face, though never knowing their real names. We saw each other regularly–usually, at Record Paradise. We were all friends with the shop’s owners, Roger and Ollie. It was a cool place to hang out.
TMOQ bootlegs were (and remain) wildly popular, but very much in an underground sort of way. Did their outlaw image help or hinder your career, or neither for that matter?
While I was doing them, they had no effect on my career, other than making me a little more famous locally (and much better known in the UK, I later found out). Many years later I got a phone call from Tim Onosko, who was working for Walt Disney Imagineering. He invited me to work full time at WDI as the chief designer of a huge project for Walt Disney World. I asked him how he knew me and my art. He said it was solely from my bootleg record covers. Years later I was contacted by Jimmy Page’s photographer, Ross Halfin. He was interested in buying my original TMoQ cover art. Ross’ offer came at the perfect time. I was in the middle of my burgeoning fine arts career and I needed money to keep painting. I sold him most of the TMoQ original art. He kept some of the covers and flipped the rest.
I never got in trouble for doing the bootleg covers (creating cover art for them was not illegal), though I never mentioned them when I was being considered for doing legit covers at the major music companies.
Today your covers are recognized as the best in the entire TMoQ discography. What was the reaction to them at the time?
My covers really shook up the other bootleggers, as they made TMoQ’s records really stand out from the rest of the bootlegs out there. They attempted to get me to do covers for their records but I decided to stay exclusively with TMoQ for a few reasons. I had a good friendly relationship with the TMoQ guys. The other bootleggers seemed sleazy and unethical. I liked the name Trademark of Quality–and I held them to their name. I tried to make what they did more professional with each release. I also tried to play somewhat to the TMoQ fan base. In my mind I was creating covers and records to be appreciated by hard core fans, collectors, and music & art lovers.
I’ve got a huge retrospective book on my career, Fantastic Worlds of William Stout, coming out in July from Insight Editions. It will include a fully illustrated chapter on my music-related art.I have also finished writing a book on all of my music-related art, my most requested book. I’m now in the process of assembling the images.My book Legends of the Blues has gone into a second printing. I am now finishing up volume two, Legends of the British Blues. The third volume will be Modern Legends of the Blues. Each blues book has 100 portraits and 100 bios and is a total labor of love. Please feel free to visit my website.
Categories: From the Stacks