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About the cover art of the ‘Black and Blue’ album (by Charles Yoe)

Controversy does not haunt the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones haunt controversy. Sure, the music is offensive to some bluebloods, but the quickest way to piss off a whole bunch of people all at once is with a controversial album cover. Many people who will never listen to a song can see that and get offended. And the Stones were good at that when they wanted to be. And even when the cover art and title were not inherently offensive it only takes a little marketing to make it so. And so it was with Black and Blue.

rolling stones black and blue ad anita morris

The title of this 1976 album could have sprung naturally from a number of places. In 1976 The Rolling Stones were black and blue. Keith Richards was spiralling even further into the haze of drug-induced indifference. Getting US visas to tour was harder than ever. Mick Taylor’s heroin addiction had gotten so bad he feared for his life if he stayed with the Stones. He quit the band. The black reggae and funk sounds along with the blues roots of this album make the title a descriptive natural.

Mick Jagger explained the title another way. Asked in 1976 why the album is called Black and Blue, Jagger provided the official explanation, “Because it’s black and it’s blue… Well, black and blue… It’s a play on Blonde On Blonde. Blue for the blues – the blues have always been part of our music. Mmmm… it’s as good a title as any other, isn’t it? They could have called it Cowbell for all I care. It was good because we thought of this cover picture: the sky… and the night… black night, blue sky…” There you have it. Black and Blue was released in the US on 15 April 1976 and in the UK on 23 April 1976.

It’s a Stones album, so, of course, there was controversy, this one related to the title and how the album was advertised. On July 1, 1976 Rolling Stone ran an ad featuring model Anita Russell sitting upon the opened gatefold of The Rolling Stones recently released album Black and Blue. She is bound, legs spread, her hands tied above her head with rope, wearing a strategically torn dress and dark makeup suggesting she may have been bruised by a beating.

rolling stones anita russell black and blue cover magazine
Anita Morris

In 1976 this racy ad pushed the boundaries of propriety, today it would be a capital offense unless it was a scene from 50 Shades of Gray. Russell said she did not expect to get the booking for the ad. She attended a casting with Jagger and photographer Ara Gallant in New York. On the way in Russell passed the model Pat Cleveland (left) on the stairs and felt sure Cleveland would get the job. “Mick told me I was too pretty, so I smeared my makeup and said, ‘See, I’m not so pretty.’ Then he told me to put my arms up and told me to make a face like I’m growling.”

She got the job. A few days later, Russell met with Jagger, Richards and Gallant to take the photo. “I knew about ‘I’m black and blue from the Rolling Stones’, and I knew that the bruises meant I’d been beaten and tied. But I wasn’t a model who could only pose and look pretty, and I wasn’t insulted because I knew it was tongue-in-cheek,” she says. Jagger took one for the team and tied Russell up himself for the bondage-themed photo shoot, according to Russell. (Ref. black and blue cover)

Russell said Jagger asked her out but she declined. “I didn’t want to get passed around from star to star, but I thought he was cuter than in his photographs.” As if the title and initial ads were not controversial enough (the ad can be found in the July 1, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone) the Stones used it on a 14 x 48-foot billboard on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. That was never going to fly. The giant billboard was blatantly sadomasochistic and even more controversial. It contained the same image of Russell and the LP, but added the text, “I’m ‘Black and Blue’ from the Rolling Stones – and I love it!” If not for the Stones prior history with controversy it would seem a bit odd that no one in the Stones PR camp thought the billboard would bother anyone.

Both the ad and billboard met with immediate outrage. Women Against Violence Against Women’s (WAVAW) Julie London was quoted in the August 1976 Houston-based newsletter Breakthrough saying “This campaign exploits and sensationalizes violence against a woman for the purpose of increased record sales. The ad contributes to the myth that women like to be beaten and condones a permissive attitude towards the brutalization of women.” The Breakthrough newsletter also reported on a coordinated campaign of WAVAW protests which included “strong releases demanding immediate removal” and women visiting the offices of Atlantic Records and Ryan Outdoor Advertising.

rolling stones black and blue marquee

The September/October 1976 issue of Mother Jones reported “that five stealth women “armed with buckets of fire-engine-red paint” visited the billboard one night and triumphantly defaced it, scrawling “This is a crime against women” near the text and also painting over Jagger’s face. For good measure, Mother Jones notes the stealth artists also painted the “women’s movement symbol” next to the Stones’ iconic tongue logo.” Atlantic Records, the band’s label, pulled the campaign. Warner Bros. vice chairperson David Geffen said the ad campaign would be suspended. Bob Greenberg, Atlantic Records’ West Coast general manager, said: “It was not the intention of Atlantic, Mick [Jagger] or the Rolling Stones to offend anyone.”

rolling stones black and blue national lampoon magazine
National Lampoon magazine, August 1976

The band apologized. By way of an explanation, Jagger said he’d applied the simulated bruises himself. The controversial cat was out of the bag and news about the billboard and its message had already earned the band worldwide press coverage. Russell’s comment on the ordeal was. “People should have more of a sense of humor.” She played along with the outrage and posed for National Lampoon’s August 1976 “Compulsory Summer Sex Issue” magazine cover that demonstrated some sense of humor by imagining Jagger tied up, this time with Russell looking on and laughing.
(Ref. black and blue cover)

Yashuro Wakabayashi was tapped by the Stones for the cover of this new album. A collaborator on Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, Hiro, as he was better known, was one of the most reknown fashion photographers of his day. Hiro shot the photos for the front and back covers as well as the gatefold of Black And Blue on Sanibel Island Beach on Sanibel Island near Ft. Meyers, Florida in February 1976. Numerous photos from the Sanibel photo shoot survive on the Internet. A sampling is provided below.

Buyers initially found a cover with two-thirds of Jagger’s face, Richards in full right profile with Bill Wyman in the background, all in close-up against the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico and an azure sky. This was a most unusually framed album cover. There was no Charlie Watts, no Ron Wood, and most confounding, only a partial Jagger. The flipside was no less confounding with the faces of Charlie Watts looking straight ahead and Ron Wood in profile along with a small portion of Jagger’s face. It was only once the album was spread open to its gatefold size that Hiro’s photo could be seen. I get it, it is a gatefold cover!

The vinyl album was the Stones first gatefold cover (Love You Live would follow with another gatefold) with a wraparound photo of headshots of the, once again, five members of the band. This is all the more unusual because it was not a double LP, for which gatefolds are usually reserved. After Mick Taylor told the Stones he was leaving the band, the Stones began to audition replacements. Initially, the Stones said Ron Wood was only ‘sitting in’ and was not a permanent member of the group. This is believed to have been a polite lie told to smooth things over with The Faces, who were struggling to stay together at the time. Wood had played on the 1975 tour and was clearly Taylor’s replacement.

Once he was formally designated as Taylor’s replacement he made his album photo debut on Black and Blue. Richards and Wood appear as photographic bookends in profile on the gatefold. Richards appears to be stage-whispering into the left ear of a disinterested-looking Jagger. Meanwhile a shadowy and inscrutable Wyman lurks in the background in what appears to be the cape of Sesame Street’s Count von Count or perhaps he is a vampire with a dramatic cape and Mr. T’s necklace. Watts has assumed his well-polished poker-faced gaze as Wood appears to be keeping a respectful distance from the suit bedecked drummer. (Ref. black and blue cover)

The presence of Jagger and Richards dominates the cover art, although when the album is thrown open it is dominated by the front and center visage of a lion-maned, blue-eyed Jagger. In the upper right corner “The Rolling Stones” appears in white font over the blue font album title ‘Black And Blue’. The And is enclosed between parallel blue lines. A tongue logo appears in the lower left corner of the gatefold. One writer described this as “their greatest album artwork.” He said, “Jagger out-blank-stares Wyman while showing off those pouty lips, a mischievous-looking and (probably) drugged-out Richards whispers something in the singer’s ear as new recruit Ron Wood stares him down and the clear skies and crystal waters of Florida’s Sanibel Island creates the bluest shade of blue you’ve ever seen.”

An contributor said, “The Black & Blue Cover is not only one of the Stones’ finest record covers but one of the best and most original covers in Rock album history. As a photographer, as much as a lifetime Stones fan, I find the photograph simply excellent, portraying with true originality the bold, in-your-face Stones, stripped of all the bs and imposed vanity, long before that trend became fashionable. I also find the cover a perfect match to the songs on Black and Blue, and an honest commitment to the brand-new member Ronnie.” All righty, then. (Ref. black and blue cover)

rolling stones black and blue 1976

The inner gatefold photo was taken at dusk on the beach of Sanibel Island. On the left side of the gatefold we find four Stones, Wyman, Wood, Watts and Richards. Wyman wears a t-shirt and a white jacket with a colorful front over white pants. He appears to be sporting his Mr. T necklace. Left hand stuffed into his jacket pocket he has created a spiraling swirl of light with either a lighted cigarette or a small handheld light. The pattern is most likely made by a light based on its thickness, what appears to be a light in Watts’ hand and a cigarette in Richards’ right hand and the light created by his left hand. Wood sports a silver/white lame suit worn over an orange/brown shirt.

rolling stones black and blue gatefold

A drink in his left hand he uses his light source to make a figure eight. Watts is, again, nattily attired in a white suit with light stripes, his right arm by his side, he traces an O or a zero in the dusky air. Standing a couple of feet way is Richards in a t-shirt with a white jacket over white pants, a bundle of brown cloth at the side of his left foot. He has traced a zig-zag pattern in the gloaming. Wood appears to be having the most fun with his light traces. On the right side of the gatefold, Jagger stands alone, left arm near his side. Right arm extended above his head. He is clad in white pants, shirt and jacket. The pattern of light he traces resembles a cowboy’s lariat.

The inner sleeve of the album shows the track list for Black and Blue. The track list form itself is from the Stones Mobile Studio (The Mobile Studio Limited, 17 Berners Street, London WIP 3DD, Telephone: 01-637 3771) which first came about in 1968 when the Stones, tired of the expense and the 9-to-5 limitations of a regular studio, decided to use Jagger’s new country house, Stargroves, in England to record their music. Road manager and pianist Ian Stewart suggested putting a control room into a van that could then be brought to the house. The top of the form is where the engineers and their assistants are identified. The producer was the “Glimmer Twins” and the writers were identified as Jagger & Richard (no ‘s’) for all tracks but #3 “Cherry Oh Baby” which is credited to E. Donaldson.

The recording locations were Musicland, Munich, Mobile (the Stones Mobile Studio), Rotterdam, Casino, Montreux. Hiro (Yashuro Wakabayashi) is identified as the photographer and Bea Feitler is credited with lay-out in the Additional Remarks cell of side 1 of the sleeve. Ron Wood courtesy of Warner Bros. Records and Billy Preston of A&M Records are given credits in the ‘Additional Remarks’ cell on side 2 of the sleeve. (Ref. black and blue cover)

The bulk of the sleeve is given to the ‘Track Identification Chart.” This identifies the sixteen tracks the recorder has, organized into eight columns with two tracks per column. The boxes that comprise the rows, show what was put on each track for each song (also called tracks). Track no. 1 was “Hot Stuff” it is 5 minutes 21 seconds in length and was recorded in Musicland, Munich on 30 March, 1975. Charlie Watts’ drums were recorded on tracks 1 & 2.

The bass drum was recorded on track 3 and Bill Wyman on bass guitar is found on track 4. Ollie E. Brown’s O/D (overdub) percussion are on track 5 and Keith Richard’s electric guitar is on tracks 6 & 7. FX denotes special effects. Harvey Mandel’s electric lead guitar is on tracks 8 & 9. O/D Back-up vocals by Billy (Preston), Ronnie, Keith, Mick are found on tracks 10 & 11. Keith’s O/D electric guitar wah-wah is on track 12, Billy Preston’s O/D piano is on track 13. Mick Jagger’s lead vocal is on track 14 and the last two tracks hold O/D percussion with Bill, Mick, Stu, and Charlie.

This does not mean all these elements were recorded at the same time, it simply describes which elements are assigned to which tracks. If you look the track list over you’ll see the rhythm section with Watts and Wyman on the left with Keith next on the lower number tracks. Jagger’s vocals tend to be found on the double digit tracks. One contributor hypothesized that if you’re looking at the console “Keith Richards is at the far left, controlling Charlie, Bill and himself, Keith Harwood or Glyn Johns is in the center, fiddling with the technical effects and sends, and Mick is likely sitting on the far right tending to the faders containing his vocals.”

The day the Stones left to record in Germany Mick Taylor announced he was leaving the band. The Black and Blue sessions have been described as an audition for his replacement. Candidates listed on the inner sleeve include Harvey Mandel, Wayne Perkins, and Ronnie Wood. (Ref. black and blue cover)

rolling stones black and blue insert

The album included a two-sided black on white insert including the lyrics to the songs and song credits. The band name and album title appear in the upper right corner. The side 2 lyrics sheet included the logo in the lower right corner. The song lyrics are in all caps. Ron Wood gets an inspiration credit for “Hey Negrita” and Billy Preston gets one for “Melody.”

Beatriz Feitler (February 5, 1938 – April 8, 1982) was a Brazilian designer and art director best known for her work in Harper’s Bazaar, Ms., Rolling Stone and the premiere issue of the modern Vanity Fair. She did the cover design for this album. Yasuhiro Wakabayashi, professionally known as Hiro, is an American commercial photographer. He is known for his fashion and still life photography from the mid-1960s onward. He was born in Shanghai in 1930 to Japanese parents. Ara Gallant (1932–1990) was an American hairstylist who was noted for perfecting the “flying hair” technique while working for Vogue in the 1960s. He later became a fashion photographer, he took the photos for the controversial marketing campaign.

rolling stones black and blue feitler wakabayashi gallant
Bea Feitler, Yashuro Wakabayashi (Hiro), Ara Gallant (Ira Gallantz)