When I think about this album cover I imagine that the three blokes sitting there are the sleaziest looking buggers around, but now, upon seeing it again up close, I realise that, though, they’d never have become Top Models they’re not so bad after all.
They do, nonetheless, epitomise the hippie in all his many grotty guises. The inside photo does them no favours:
What is striking and most impressive about this cover – from Harry Diltz – is that within the confines of their combined poses we are able to, approximately, ascertain all we need to know about David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash.
Forget about the weatherboard house and the dilapidated couch – they’re nothing but props. You might be right in saying that the poses themselves are, well, posed, and, thus, not real; but irrespective of the photographer or painter’s cleverness the ‘real’ person can never be completely suppressed. Make sense? (I’m not making this up, just read Henry James’ short story “The Real Thing”.) What we see when looking at these three coke-heads is not three pals passing the time, but three millionaires in the midst of a cultural revolution, of which they are at the forefront and, yes, are most willing to take advantage of said revolution.
Too much information?
Right, all you need do is glance at Stephen Stills’s eyes – he’s the bloke in the middle – to get a sense of him. Look at him impatiently staring off to the side. Look at his jaw, a little clenched maybe? And the crossed leg, he’s the one who’s protecting himself from the situation, resenting being so close to his ‘pals’. (If you’ve heard even a few CS&N stories you’ll know they could barely stand being in the same room as one another.)
And Crosby with his fucked up mo’, freaking us all out, almost forty years later. Look at him slouching to the side (just) a little, like an annoying drunk who won’t stop pissing in your ear. See the lazy eyelids and the tiny pinprick pupils, squinty bastard! You wouldn’t trust him with your mother, let alone your daughter.
There’s Nash set apart – higher – than his band-mates, trying to project something akin to seriousness when, in fact, the man is as dumb as a sack of hammers. He had ladies and drugs and cash on his mind. My God, he sounds like 50 Cent!
And this is the idea that I like most about this cover art/photography: what it can tell us about the music we are about to hear and the people responsible for it. Often the cover tells us nothing, and this cover is misleading, in that it does not suggest harmony, when in actuality, the ten songs on the album are nothing if not recordings of perfect harmonies. Nonetheless we do learn that, though the music is all but flawless, we shouldn’t necessarily trust these hippies and all their love-one-another carry on.