This might be one of the most startling gatefold album covers of all time. The Ohio Players were not only known for their radio friendly funk (“Love Rollercoaster,” “Fire”), but their incredibly sexy album covers. Whether it was nude women dripping with honey, feeding the horses, or wrapped in a firehose, the band’s sleeves always provided fuel for adolescent fires.
So when 1975’s Greatest Hits landed in the bins, lacivious record store patrons looked forward to cracking open the shrinkwrap and revealing the risque tableau inside. What they saw when they opened up that gatefold, though, was a lynching. An author who goes by the name Cherrybomb asserts in a Dangerous Minds essay on Ohio Players LP covers that the imagery was something of a subliminal message from former label Westbound, who released the album, to the band, who left Westbound for the much bigger Mercury Records in the wake of “Funky Worm’s” 1973 chart success.
That explanation is certainly possible, but I don’t quite understand what message Westbound would have been sending the band. “You left us hanging,” maybe? “When you took your hits and walked out the door, you cut off our air supply”?
More likely is that the photo is an outtake from the sessions for 1972’s Pleasure, the follow-up to the same year’s Pain. Both of those album covers featured model Pat Evans in sadomasochistic scenarios, with Pleasure even featuring the same background as the Greatest Hits sleeve. And so while it’s tempting to conclude that the album cover is a statement of some sort–be it label vs. artist, men vs. women, or race vs. race–my guess is that what we’re looking at is bondage play similar to Pleasure’s chains, which, by the way, are included in Greatest Hits’ interior art.
Regardless, what a startling image.
Ohio Players Greatest Hits regularly sells for $5-$10. Happy hunting.
Categories: From the Stacks